Friday, July 23, 2010
Gordon Campbell’s “Review” of B.C.’s Special Prosecutor Appointment Process - and The BC Rail Scandal. A Continuing Policy of Public Fraud?
By Robin Mathews
July 23, 2010
Nothing, it appears, is done honestly in the conduct of public affairs in British Columbia.
Yesterday’s ‘Campbell Group Lies’ have to be covered up today. Day after day after day … after day.
The sludge of corruption gets deeper ... and deeper. Mainstream Press and Media grovel shamelessly. “Cover-up” and collusion, are, apparently, their only remaining expertise.
The Stephen Owen “Review” of the Special Prosecution process (July 8, 2010) almost looked real. Except ….
Except … to begin, the reason for it was – I believe - lied about.
Except … the appointment of “pro bono” review expert, Stephen Owen, created, I allege, a conflict of interest.
Except … a “Review” was not conducted; it was “faked” … not one serious critic is on the list of 25 “experts” consulted.
Except … not a single change exists that will clean the system.
Except – after years of gross misuse of the system – a lunge was made at cover-up, at papering over – without a shred of concretely-based change involved. As Hamlet says: “words, words … words”.
Begin at the beginning.
The Special Prosecutor appointment system was set in place to keep touchy criminal cases squeaky-clean– especially those involving the potential for influence from legislators, top civil servants, police (and such like people).
To assure pure administration of justice, regular Crown Prosecutors would be circumvented. Top private criminal lawyers would be chosen – untainted, untouched by partisanship, independent, free of contact with anyone sensitive – whether legislators, top civil servants, police and/or the accused. Special Prosecutors would be without bias or the potential to be perceived as biased. “Oh Brave New World that has such creatures in it.”
Except …. Except the system – at least since the arrival to power of Gordon Campbell – very likely became almost completely soiled. The system, it seems, was made to order. Couldn’t Campbell forces appoint cover-up, lackey, time-serving Crown Prosecutors – “Special” only in the respect that they were specially appointed to make sure that no one connected to Campbell policy would ever be exposed publicly? Except, as well, couldn’t they be “Special” only in the respect that they were in a tight group of “troffers” (men and women feeding at the public trough) who would be protected by the Attorney General, the press, the Law Society … and the high courts of B.C.?
That was what the “Review” should have investigated. How often since 2001 has the system been used to protect the Gordon Campbell forces? How often has a lackey been put in place to cover up? Who are the repeat appointees? How much (exactly) have they been paid? What abuse – precisely – has taken place? Not a single answer is given by Stephen Owen: of course.
The “Review” was not undertaken to determine those things. It was undertaken to bury them, I insist, in a flurry of words, mostly written in congratulation.
Stephen Owen, a vice president at UBC in charge (among other things) of good relations with governments, could hardly say something negative about the Gordon Campbell government without threatening its relations with UBC. His job description says that he has “responsibility for guiding and enhancing engagement with government at all levels”. As a result his most ‘profitable’ strategy would be to flatter the Campbell government and the Special Prosecutor Appointment system instead of criticizing them and exposing their deep failures. That, coincidentally, is what he does.
Among normal people that is described as what one may expect from a conflict of interest.
If the system is to be continued at all, one change is absolutely necessary. Every appointment to the role of Special (Crown) Prosecutor must be subject to a required fair, open, full public scrutiny to assure real independence and absence of bias or the potential for the perception of bias in the appointee. Instead, with the cracks barely papered over, the dangerous, in-group, incestuous system that almost guarantees corrupt practice will continue.
The “Report” makes clear that there must be no “inappropriate relationship between the Special Prosecutor and the person(s) under investigation”, but it says almost nothing about the relationship between the Special Prosecutor and those who have appointed him! It states very clearly that the public should have no right to suggest Special Prosecutors, keeping the process enclosed within the present incestuous groups.
There is only one kind of (disguised) reference to the BC Rail Scandal and the Basi, Virk, and Basi case. That is the insistence that timeliness must be a part of the responsibility of Special Prosecutors.
As if, however, to exempt that most exaggerated case in question at the moment – the Basi, Virk, and Basi case, being prosecuted by an appointee wrongfully placed in position – Stephen Owen interviewed one of the Special Prosecution team in that case, Janet Winteringham, but did not stoop to interview anyone from the Defence team.
The basis of the cover-up, called a “Review” was, moreover, make-believe.
The system was becoming an open sore, visibly rotten. The first big public indication was the Wally Oppal/Bountiful Bigamy Fiasco. [It is never, ever mentioned by the press and media.] A cabinet member whose major actions had to be approved by cabinet, Attorney General Wally Oppal went on a long “people’s crusade”. He would corner and catch the wicked bigamists at Bountiful community and assure public approval for the Campbell government. Votes.
Confident, it seems, that no one really looked at the Special Prosecutor appointment system, Mr. Oppal apparently thrust aside procedure, ignored the person named in the legislation as appointer of Special Prosecutors, and went in search….
He wanted, it seems, (in violation of the integrity of the system) to find someone, anyone, to blast the bigamists at Bountiful … and win votes.
Mr. Oppal has been a lawyer, a Supreme Court judge, an Appeals Court judge, and was now Attorney General. We might say he is deeply experienced in the law and in the interpretation of law.
His first choice to be Special Prosecutor said “No way! Religiously-based bigamy has, first, to be decided by testing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Mr. Oppal moved on, improperly. His second choice said … the same thing as the first. Mr. Oppal moved on, improperly, refusing the expert advice he had sought. Finally, he found a Special Prosecutor willing to do his bidding: Terrence Robertson. [Look for this name again, farther on.]
The case was taken to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Defence counsel told the story of Wally Oppal’s [the cabinet’s] bias and willful abandoning of Prosecutors – and the case was stopped in its tracks, the judge referring to Mr. Oppal’s Special Prosecutor shopping. At least one of the accused in the case has begun a civil action against Wally Oppal, alleging a series of insults and injuries.
The Oppal matter is extremely serious (and, therefore, never mentioned by mainstream press and media). It is probably one of the never-mentioned bases of the “fake” Review. A former high court judge, become the Attorney General, allegedly engaged in open abuse of the Special Prosecutor system. So gross is the alleged impropriety that it throws the whole appointment system into serious question. Maybe the system should be done away with. But it won’t be because it is too useful for government – and too lucrative for the “troffers”.
Hiding in the tall grass is another brooding abuse of the Special Prosecutor system. That is the December, 2003, wrongful appointment of William Berardino in the BC Rail Scandal. He then worked with RCMP, as is normal. He delayed a year after the search warrant “raids” on the legislature offices of Dave Basi and Bobby Virk before laying charges. He (with his “team”) has provided the basis of charges and the more than three and a half years of pre-trial hearings leading to the beginning of the constantly impeded trial of the accused that began on May 18.
He was appointed by a ministry in which the Attorney General had been his partner and colleague in private practice for seven years, in which the Deputy Attorney General had been his partner and colleague in private practice for eleven years. The Deputy Attorney General (in the same private firm as the appointee) had worked in the first election campaign of the to-be Attorney General, Geoff Plant - who shortly after named him Deputy AG.
The Special Prosecutor, in 2005, contributed to the election campaign of the man who was to become the successor of Attorney General, Geoff Plant. After complaint, recently, the Law Society of British Columbia cleared William Berardino of all wrong-doing in the contribution. The press which should have questioned the outcome … remained silent….
In the Spring of 2007, Gordon Campbell stepped into the Basi, Virk, and Basi pre-trial judicial process in a move of brazen impropriety. He ended [unilaterally] the working protocol for vetting materials from the cabinet that Defence counsel sought by disclosure application. He appointed, as sole authority, Deputy Attorney General Allan Seckel. Campbell said that Seckel would consult with the Special Prosecutor in the matter. [We remember that Allan Seckel and William Berardino had been partners and colleagues in private practice for eleven years.] Allan Seckel has since been raised to the position of the most powerful civil servant in the province. In October of 2009, he became Deputy Minister to the premier, Cabinet Secretary, and Head of the B.C. Public Service. Loyalty pays.
When I wrote to the present Attorney General, Michael de Jong, reporting the details of William Berardino’s improper appointment, I was answered by assistant deputy Attorney General Robert Gillen. Mr. Gillen, I believe, simply lied to get rid of me. He said the matter is sub judice and so he would make no comment. But an appointment made in December of 2003, a year before charges were laid and at least two years before pre-trial hearings began cannot, I believe, be considered “sub judice” (‘under judgement’).
I wrote back to Attorney General Michael de Jong asking for his own reply to the materials I submitted. Michael de Jong has refused to answer my letter. He cannot be accused of lying if he makes no reply at all, can he?
The same response came from the Chief Justice, the Associate Chief Justice, and the judge presiding over the Basi, Virk, and Basi case. A court officer writing on behalf of the judges reported that since the three judges had nothing to do with the appointment of William Berardino, there was nothing for them to do! I wrote back to the Chief Justice and (now) Associate Chief Justice Anne Mackenzie, also presiding judge, asking for action. They have not answered in any form.
A reasonable and prudent Canadian might ask questions here. Just one question might be how a fair trial can be conducted with an improperly appointed Special Prosecutor, apparently protected by both the Attorney General and top judges – including the one presiding at the trial of which the Special Prosecutor is a part?
Whatever … Michael de Jong set up a Review of the Special Prosecutor process. He did so – the press loyally reported - because the Special Prosecutor, appointed to investigate allegations of financial impropriety in the (then-Solicitor General) Kash Heed election, had contributed to the Kash Heed campaign and had to withdraw – after making some decisions on the matter. By pure coincidence the Special Prosecutor was the same Terrence Robertson whose actions in the Bountiful Bigamy Fiasco helped close down the trial. [That fact is never, ever reported by the Mainstream Press.]
His perhaps imprudent decision to act, apparently, in the way that happened to suit Wally Oppal did not seem to tarnish his reputation before those who appoint. Who knows? It may have enhanced his reputation among them.
Those who believe Attorney General Michael de Jong undertook to have the non-Review conducted by a person apparently in conflict of interest in order to get a cover-up Report may have some basis for their belief. They may believe the whole smoke-and-mirrors operation was conducted to take attention away from the wrongful presence of William Berardino in the court trying Dave Basi, Bobby Virk, and Aneal Basi, all Order-in-Council appointees (in fact appointed by Gordon Campbell) accused in a matter connected to the corrupt transfer of BC Rail to CNR.
Action to remove William Berardino would be more sensational than anything in the Bountiful Bigamy Fiasco or the Kash Heed matter. It would open wide questions about why he was appointed, who his appointment served, what integrity (if any) the charges possess against the three accused, and whether charges should have been (and should be) laid against others, more senior, in the corrupt transfer of BC Rail to CNR. It would open a demand that the whole, corrupt transfer of BC Rail to CNR be re-opened for investigation … from the ground up.
No one in power will answer my request that the wrongful appointment of William Berardino in the BC Rail Scandal criminal case be remedied. And the RCMP refuses to investigate the corrupt transfer of BC Rail to CNR.
Stephen Owen, nonetheless, has unfailing faith in the “prosecution system” in the province. His remarks in relation to his “Review” of the system should give every Canadian confidence in it and increase their loyalty to the Gordon Campbell government, the courts, and the RCMP. Mr. Owen says:
“The prosecution system in B.C. is highly respected, unique in Canada and insulated by law from political or other improper interference. The periodic appointment of senior criminal lawyers in private practice as special prosecutors in highly sensitive cases simply gives further confidence to the public that the system is above reproach.”
the money quote....
I don't know what they saw. The Vancouver Sun has applied to get access to descriptions of them, not because any of us wants to have to really know how Klassen violated these girls, as young as eight, whom McCabe described as "disenfranchised, desperate and poverty-stricken."
Unfortunately, we need to know, because even though the law has been on the books for 13 years, this is only Canada's third case in which a Canadian is charged with sexually assaulting, abusing and exploiting children in another country.
Man have they got their priorities straight....
I wouldn't use the Sun for fishwrap in case it spoiled the fish
Thank you for bringing this stark contradiction of moral values into the discussion.
It's horribly revealing, isn't it ... as to where the media's values lie.
We should be thinking about why Vancouver Sun (and all the other West Coast media) aren't applying to BC Supreme Court to have the publication ban lifted from the BC Rail trial.
We could argue strongly in support of the public's NEED to know the details of how BC Rail was virtually thrown away ...
It might do a world of good, Gerald, if you sent a similar letter to Vancouver Sun. I hope others will write, too, and tell the media to straighten up.
If we all blow the whistle together,we could end up with a new governing body?:) That relies on the truth to serve and protect us, instead of forcing us to live in a police state.I've said it before, the real Mcoys need to lead the way. NOW! Not in March, or 3 more long suffeinig years from now...