Friday, February 15, 2008


Canada: Justice in Decay?

by Robin Mathews

A burning question is before British Columbians and all Canadians as yet another (hour long?) hearing (Feb. 18) approaches in the BC Rail Scandal hearings at the Supreme Court in Vancouver.

Racing (?) to trial in March, "the corruption trial has hit another potential big snag". The Crown's appeal in favour of holding an in camera (secret - even from Defence) session to hear an informer's testimony will be "heard June 9 to 11". (Keith Baldry, Feb 13 08)

That news just may not really be a surprise to those who believe in the possibility that delay is planned. George Copley, counsel for the Gordon Campbell cabinet, is attempting to keep important e-mail evidence from Defence on solicitor/client and cabinet privilege grounds. If the privilege he is seeking is upheld, Defence may have to appeal in order to attempt to see the evidence.

Both the secret witness and the privilege claim seem to be, to some, faultless traps. If Crown (and/or cabinet) is not granted what it wants, it appeals. If it is granted what it wants, Defence has to appeal. Delay. Delay. Delay.

Is it planned delay? Is something seriously amiss with the BC Rail Scandal court hearings? Is the pursuit of justice in Canada being turned into a sick joke before our eyes?

On the surface, three B.C. Order-in-Council appointed cabinet aides are accused of (all added up) various acts of fraud and breach of trust as well as money laundering. Working, normally, in a dense political and administrative network, they are alleged to have acted without significant recourse to senior officers and independently of cabinet or ministerial or other political direction.

That is what British Columbians and other Canadians are led to believe. On the surface. The accused men have been placed in that isolated position by the people who undertook investigation and framed the charges against them, of course. Normally, they would be the RCMP investigators in consultation with the Special Crown Prosecutor. They would have sought out all alleged wrong-doers and would have charged them.

Except the surface may not reflect the reality of things. I am not the first or the only one to suggest that. On May 4, 2007 (Tyee), Bill Tieleman reported Defence lawyer Kevin McCullough "made sustained arguments that the RCMP 'tailored' its investigation in order to steer it away from elected politicians and towards Basi and Virk".

That is a profoundly serious allegation.

On April 24, 2007, CanWest News Service (Susan Lazaruk) reported McCullough asking (a) "why Premier Gordon Campbell wasn't interviewed as part of the RCMP investigation into the B.C. Rail sale of 2003 that led to the [search warrant] raid on the B.C. legislature." Lazaruk went on: (b) "McCullough suggested that calls intercepted by the RCMP showed the RCMP was tailoring the case against the accused and taking it away from elected officials."

We know that as early as December 2003, RCMP - very, very strangely - reported that no elected people were being investigated. It appears, however, that Gary Collins - then minister of finance - was, near that time, under investigation on matters closely related to the scandalous BC Rail selloff. But maybe that investigation ended just before the announcement by RCMP.

The allegation by Defence, as I say, is profoundly serious. For if cabinet and other highly placed B .C. government officers (not to mention, perhaps, even others) are being shielded in acts of Breach of Trust, then the present Gordon Campbell government, acting daily in matters of huge importance to British Columbians, is an illegitimate government.

On more than one occasion Gordon Campbell has signified that he wishes his government to cooperate in every way with the court in the Basi, Virk, and Basi case. Is it true, however, at the same time, that every person possibly connected to Gordon Campbell in the case is working to frustrate the course of justice?

On the surface, the BC Rail Scandal "trials" concern B.C. only. On the surface.

Looking deeper, problems of national significance emerge. They involve the legitimacy and the credibility of the higher courts in Canada. They involve the legitimacy and credibility of the Special Crown Prosecutor status (created in only some provinces). They involve the legitimacy and the credibility of the RCMP - repeatedly called into question in the BC Rail Scandal, throughout B.C. in other matters (the Ian Bush and Dziekanski deaths, etc.), across other provinces, and even in a matter of alleged interference with the last federal election.

Not without foundation, the recent federal Task Force on Governance and Culture Change in the RCMP (Dec. 2007) described the Force (despite many fine and upstanding members) as needing dramatic reconstruction, and it listed a series of ills within the RCMP of crippling seriousness.

That is a key organization in the BC Rail scandal.

In Ontario, "the largest police corruption case in Canadian history" - dragging its way through nearly eleven years of investigations and court actions - was recently stopped dead with a stay of proceedings entered to end the whole matter. The presiding judge strongly criticized the Special Crown Prosecutor for complacency, delay with disclosure, and with the handling of the huge number of pages of disclosure material.

Precisely that criticism has been levelled against the Special Crown Prosecutor in the BC Rail Scandal case, focusing attention on what may be a mistaken development in law and court operation in Canada - the creation of the Special Crown Prosecutorial systems. Created to distance Crown Prosecutors from police, judges, influential lawyers, and governments, the system may, in fact, place them all in a happy, polygamous marriage.

But the judge, himself, in the Ontario case is not above criticism in the "stay" of proceedings. Did he sit passively while delay, useless argument, complacency, and inefficiency prevailed? It seems so. In the BC Rail Scandal hearings, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett has been equally inactive. How much of the delay in the case is directly attributable to her refusal to discipline actors in the court? Is something distinctly wrong with the role of Supreme Court judges, with the powers they have, with the powers they choose to exercise? Do they display conscious or unconscious bias, acting against the demands of justice?

In Alberta, Court of Queen's Bench judges, I allege, have provided such questionable management that they may be responsible for grievous harm to innocent people. I have asked the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada - in her role as head of the Canadian Judicial Council - to investigate all the Alberta judges related to the Kelly Marie Richard case there. The Chief Justice and the Canadian Judicial Council, so far, (many weeks) will not even acknowledge my request. The Canadian Judicial Council - like the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP - is less than a paper tiger. It may be, I believe, a wolf in sheep-dog's clothing. Who oversees the oversight body?

An RCMP investigation of itself has just ended. Initiated at my request on allegations of serious wrong-doing by police officers in Calgary concerning the Kelly Marie Richard case there, the investigation proved to be a complete farce. Many officers named were, apparently, not even interviewed, let alone seriously examined. Documents, apparently, were not asked for or produced. The "Report" issuing from the investigation contains verifiable falsehood. The RCMP investigating the RCMP - one more time - makes a joke - a very dangerous joke - of the Force that is intimately related to many major criminal investigations leading to Supreme Court actions like the present one in the Supreme Court of British Columbia.

Throughout the Basi, Virk, and Basi hearings, the RCMP has been accused of delaying disclosure - so much so that Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett brought herself to order "forthwith" RCMP disclosure. Can British Columbians be satisfied with the result of her order?

One of the most intriguing aspects of the Basi, Virk, and Basi hearings thus far - to an ordinary Canadian - is the presence in the court of George Copley, lawyer for the Executive Council (the Gordon Campbell cabinet). What is he doing there? Can't the Special Crown Prosecutor ask cabinet for materials and have them delivered to the court?

On one occasion, as I remember it, Defence had Copley withdraw as being without standing in the court. Now, he has standing. What is his relation to the Special Crown Prosecutor?" I asked that question of a member of the Crown's team. Is he acting under the Special Crown Prosecutor? Not exactly. Is he independent? Not exactly. It's a complicated arrangement, I was told.

Perhaps it isn't.

George Copley is representing the interests of the cabinet. That should be simple. The only interest of cabinet in any democratic country in the world should be to see justice done and to assist the pursuit of justice in every way.

Is it possible that George Copley is representing the Gordon Campbell cabinet as a special interest group which has personal and private interests in the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter which the Gordon Campbell group wants kept from the court - and, therefore, from the people of B.C. and Canada?

Is the presence of George Copley in the court a tacit admission of guilt by the Gordon Campbell cabinet?

George Copley - in my observation - delays. He messes up. He fumbles with solicitor/client privilege and with cabinet privilege.

Is the presence of George Copley in Courtroom 54 a tacit statement that this "trial" is really, basically, a "trial" of elected parliamentarians, of a cabinet up to its armpits in questionable actions in the corrupt sale of BC Rail? Is it a statement that the court is conducting a sham process, the real issues never being allowed to take their place in the trial? And if that is the case, who in the courtroom knows it? Does the presiding judge?

Is the impatience and frustration felt in courtroom 54 a simple manifestation of the fact that people who should be accused are not anywhere named in the charges? Questions. Questions.

The single, always-present, ineradicable ghost haunting the Basi, Virk, and Basi hearings is the ghost of the Gordon Campbell cabinet. In no way (on the surface) involved as a principal in the proceedings, nevertheless the ghost of the Gordon Campbell cabinet has a ghostly presence and even a ghostly lawyer to represent it. Strange.

Could a reasonable person say that the Basi, Virk, and Basi proceedings are a sign Canadian justice is in decay? That the proceedings are a sign of sickness in the whole legal system of the country? Could the Basi, Virk, and Basi proceedings be a sign that the RCMP has failed, the judges have failed, the court processes have failed, the Special Crown Prosecutor system has failed - and most dangerous of all - the parliament of the people of British Columbia and every member in that legislature - even today - have shamelessly failed the people of British Columbia and Canada?


Many thanks to Anonymous for this Footnote:

I've heard that there are rumours in the halls and around the water coolers of government that George Copley has been nominated for the Premier's Award in the LEGACY category. Which is kind of strange in fact because George is now, and has been since April of 2007, officially retired.

One can only wonder ... if Mr. Copley's many years of public service didn't bring him this award ... is he being honoured for his post-retirement contribution as attorney for the Executive Branch in the Basi and Virk affair? Sometimes one gets the impression that Mr Copley is a little embarrassed by the role he plays in Studio 54.

I certainly won't be surprised to hear, before long, that he's been awarded the coveted prize, which you can read about here:

Special thanks to Robin and to Anonymous. - BC Mary.


Express Collision Shop Said...




OK I had to get that off my cranky chest. Mary I had to copy this story promptly just in case for some reason it was removed. Robin has raised some great questions. Mr. Copely and his clients being at the top of my list. I will be adding some repeated info later on the issue of clients being referred to lobbyists and wiretaps disclosure.
On of the many flaws of our criminal justice system is the time it invariably takes to get cases to trial. While the U.S. system is imperfect, the jury verdict today in the Ohio murder trial of Bobby Cutts Jr. is instructive. Jessie Davis died in June of 2007 and today her murderer was convicted after trial. When was the last time a Canadian muder trial ended within eight months of the crime? These days, it takes years and years to bring serious cases to trial.
My reading of the law on disclosure is that the onus rests on the government party to establish that disclosure would be patently injurious to public interests. I attach the Federal Court's position on privilege in the "Singh" case. Concealment was allowed in the interest of the confidentiality of comments that might reflect on relations with the Indonesian dictatorship. However, Singh didn't embrace Criminal Code enforcement; it was an RCMP Act regulatory matter.

Cabinet secrecy on a regulated sale issue, is hardly in the public interest. Let's not forget how CJ Brenner allowed an aluminum company to peddle power that the people of BC paid for. Then there was the case of Robert Sommers, who took bribes from Mac Blo, and became the first Cabinet Minister in the Commonwealth to be incarcerated for corruption.

Everytime an individual takes on either government or corporate interest, CJ Brenner intervenes. Be it natives who sued in the Residential Schools case, or the 4 "Queen of the North" cases, Brenner's nose is in the thick of same. Canwest won't touch Brenner, while they are unfairly smearing judges (see moronic editorial in today's Province) for upholding Charter rights.
A Prince George judge has struck back at AG Oppal's panderage of alleged leniance in the courts. As if Stonewally is in top gear to see that justice is done in B-V-B. In fact, the AG - with Don Brenner, Pat Dohm, and Alan Seckel (Deputy AG) has been packing the courts with former Crown attornies and prosecutors. Unfortunately, Wally's gang only goes after un-connected people.

Canwest's front pages are polluted with high crime BS. It is phony, because arrest records reveal that major crimes are not that common, even in Vancouver. The drug scene at Hasting and Main looks sleezy on TV. But, what you are really seeing is crack addicts selling marijuana. Strong armings are rare. It isn't that safe down there. Heroin addicts do the occasional smash and grab from cars. But even there, Vancouver Police have a no-service policy to break-in victims. A police campaign last year suggested that the vandals were all but invited by goods left in plain sight. Crime statistics are a joke in BC, because police services only accept crime reports where doing so fits their collective agenda.

Who believes that cop work product of 1 convicted person per month and 1 jailed person per year, is the result of performing public service. An average cop will spend the bulk of any shift, hiding away from high crime areas. Then they jump on Canwest-Lib anti-crime crusades.
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