Thursday, December 31, 2009


Trainmen talking about BC Rail ...

Railroad Forum ... sightings, credits, history ... a little treat for BC Rail buffs.
See it here.

With a BC Rail video: the treacherous climb at 2.2% up through the desert out of Lillooet, BC.


Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Tip o'the Tuque to RCMP Staff Sgt John Ward on the 6th anniversary of his press conference explaining the police raids on the BC Legislature

It wasn't the BC premier who stepped forward to reassure the public. It wasn't Canada's Prime Minister who behaved like a statesman, either. Both these guys (Campbell and Martin) waited many days before ambling back from their Christmas holiday and shrugged, "I know nothing," leaving the stunned public as nothing more than part of the devastation.

It was RCMP Staff Sgt. John Ward who explained. He held a press conference, at which he thanked the media for coming ... which, given that we'd just had something like a train-wreck based upon a high-jacking ... was a bit alarming, too ... I mean, he thought they might not attend? Well ... perhaps we should bear in mind, as we re-read this, that Big Media would very soon begin trying to discredit Sgt Ward, as well as the Victoria Police Chief. Also remember that Big Media completely forgot to mention that one of the 9 persons arrested (thought to be Mr. Big) was tried, found guilty, and sentenced, in June 2008. So, yes, Big Media: thank you for attending that press conference. Too bad you couldn't follow through ...

Search Warrants Executed on BC Legislature: News Media Statement
RCMP Media Relations Website - issued 10:00 am December 29, 2003

John Ward said:

... Let me start by saying that illegal drug activity, by organized crime in British Columbia, has reached critical mass. The value of the illegal marijuana trade alone is estimated at over $6billion a year. The result is that today we have murders, beatings, extortion, and gang warfare at a level never before seen in this province. It's not an exaggeration to say that organized crime is a cancer eating away at the social and moral fabric of British Columbia. And it's going to get a lot worse before it gets better ... {snip}

Recently in Victoria a 20-month joint operation by the RCMP and the Victoria Police Department resulted in the arrest of 9 individuals in Victoria, Vancouver, and Toronto. Those individuals are alleged to have been involved in an organized crime network that exchanged BC marijuana in the United States for cocaine that was then sold to victims across the country.

Sometimes in the course of a complex and lengthy police investigation, other related and unrelated information surfaces, suggesting possible criminal activity. This was the case with the RCMP - Victoria Police Department investigation of organized crime ...

And, like I say, some "crimes" against the common good are never prosecuted, such as failing to publish the truth and avoiding unfair bias in reporting news events. There are other savage crimes against the public interest which do get prosecuted and go unreported ... Click HERE for "Jasmohan Singh Bains sentenced to 9 years".

Grant Gough put all this into perspective when he wrote, on Sept. 15, 2009, "British Columbia, a Crime Story". To see Grant's approach, just click HERE. [Also, please note the two white-clad figures kneeling in the street behind the policeman ... don't those police paramedics look like the Torch Relay Runners? and is it merely a coincidence that the Torch Runners are costumed to look like psychiatric paramedics?]

Many people feel that this whole terrible betrayal of the B.C. public, would be swept aside and forgotten if it weren't for the simple fact that, dammit, the people do care about this province, and these publicly-owned Crown corporations which were established for the economic health of the province.

So Happy New Year to those who, like Sgt John Ward and like Grant Gough and you, me, all of us who keep asking what happened to the big railway we once owned, and to the splendid BC Hydro authority, and to our own BC Ferries ... and that whole long list of similar, mysterious economic tragedies.

If this era is so golden, so great ... tell us the details: how did it happen that we lost the railway, the power generator, the section of our highways known as BC Ferries ... all of it. - BC Mary.


Sunday, December 27, 2009


For Year 2010, best wishes


To British Columbia

for a


Spirits of the past and present,
keep evil sorts at bay;
harmony and joy prevail,
at the turning of the day.

We absolutely must hear this BC Rail trial explained under oath. Picture it. Imagine it. Hope for it. Make it real, make it happen.

That's my New Year wish for us all.



Full disclosure for Gordon Campbell in 2010 for the Basi Virk trial

December 28, 2009 is the 6th anniversary of the historic police raid on the BC Legislature. Such a breach of parliament had never happened before in the British Commonwealth of nations.

By Dec. 28, 2007, it was common knowledge that the Basi Virk Basi trial was being bungled. The normally mild-mannered Paul Willcocks headlined his 4th anniversary column this way: "Police, prosecutors look bad in raid case". Read Paul's column HERE.

Voice-on-Line was more blunt: "Basi-Virk case: Does the prosecution know what it's doing? The prosecution seems to be screwing up big-time in the so-called BC legislature raid case ... which was supposed to start June 5, 2006 ..." Read that HERE.

The thing is, journalists and bloggers have had to be cautious. If we spoke openly about our doubts and fears in the BC Rail Case, we risked being sued for libel if we couldn't show proof. Well ... how could we show proof? The old laws seemed designed to keep us quiet.

Certainly we knew Gordon Campbell's government lost a big railroad, crippled a dazzling Hydro corporation, dealt off ownership of the BC Ferries corporation, and much more.

Most of us knew that the media let Gordo get by without scrutiny ... their excuse being that they might be sued for "libel" but also because we believe big media protected the Gordo Gang.

That's what has always made the Basi Virk Basi trial so important ... yes, it's all about BC Rail ... but yes, it's also all about things we couldn't talk freely about. Hearing the evidence under oath, will be our first opportunity to hear how BC Rail actually slid from our hands and into private pockets ... nobody could charge us with libel for reporting that.

But with the New Year 2010, it gets better. All that fear is brushed aside.

Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that the media does owe better service to the public by providing information even on doubts they cannot prove yet. Go here to see the Reasons for Judgment. Here's one small quote:

In determining whether a publication is on a matter of public interest, the judge must consider the subject matter of the publication as a whole. The defamatory statement should not be scrutinized in isolation. To be of public interest, the subject matter must be shown to be one inviting public attention, or about which the public, or a segment of the public, has some substantial concern because it affects the welfare of citizens, or one to which considerable public notoriety or controversy has attached.

Does that spell "BC Rail" or what.

Terrace Daily Online explains that now, for the first time, they can expose a certain letter (now before the courts) showing that Gordo was at work on a backroom deal intended to double-cross the Haisla Nation, BC Hydro and the watchdog BC Utilities Commission. It is part of a court case ongoing in Terrace, B.C. It's good to read the Terrace daily online info here. I recommend it.

And so, from New Year's Eve 2010 onward, the media big and small, should feel free to do better work.

From Day One, 6 years ago, I had no doubt that Gordon Campbell himself -- in charge of British Columbia's government -- got rid of BC Rail on terms which caused police to come running. Nor was I surprised that Organized Crime was part of this police alarm ... not with 135 Organized Crime groups in B.C. (900 identifiable crime groups in Canada).

I haven't the slightest doubt that Gordo exerted strong personal influence over the decision to sell BC Rail, and continued to exert his influence over the way in which BC Rail was sold.

Therefore, my New Year's wish for British Columbia 6 years later, is that as the Basi Virk Basi trial gets to the truth of that transaction, the presiding judge and/or the defence team will force full disclosure.

My New Year's wish for British Columbia under the new libel ruling, includes Gordon Campbell himself becoming the proper subject of full disclosure as the trial goes forward. Enough with the sheltering protection. No public figure is more deserving of cross-examination.

There's much more to Gordo's giveaway of BC Rail than meets the eye. And once we know what happened to BC Rail, we'll know what happened in every other major loss which befell BC Crown corporations in the past 9 years.

It's in the public interest to be fully informed of that. - BC Mary.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


From BC Mary: best wishes

for a


Spirits of the past and present,
keep evil sorts at bay;
harmony and joy prevail,
at the turning of the day.

Posted by Ceritanne:

Hi Mary,

I counted. There were, in total including the three engines...176 rolling stock. We all know what has happened in the past when CN hauls long lines of railcars through BC mountain passes.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


BCRail engine and a long, long train

How many boxcars and oil tankers make up this incredible train ... click HERE to see it on the Ontario-Quebec border.

YouTube - BC Rail (CN) 4641, Illinois Central 1001, CN 2616 - 4th ...
On a bitterly cold winter day (-22C windchill) and filmed with bare hands with no tripod as the photographer rushed out of his car to capture this train on video ... British Columbia Railway 4641, a Dash 9-44CWL built in 1995, Illinois Central 1001, an SD70 built in 1995, and CN 2616, a Dash 9-44CW built in 2000, lead a long Canadian National freight train west from the Province of Quebec into the Province of Ontario.

This train had made a stop at Coteau Quebec but was seen building up speed in anticipation of its trip down the old Kingston Subdivision to Toronto.

British Columbia Railway 4641, was the first Dash 9-44CWL in its class for that railway. Illinois Central 1001 was the second SD70 built in its class for that railway. CN 2616...well...she was 14th built Dash 9-44CW for CN in the year 2000.

Did you see the two Pan Am Railways boxcars in the train consist? Pan Am lives.....but not as the airline I [the photographer] remember it as. Now it's a railroad based in North Billerica MA.

Mile 47.02 CN Kingston Subdivision
By ConrailSD70MAC
February 28 2000, 2005

Click on YouTube.

Noted in passing: Click HERE for evidence that CN destroys boxcars but no evidence anywhere (so far as I know) as to whether CN added the promised 600 new boxcars to the former BCR fleet ... as part of the unpopular deal to "sell" BC Rail to CN. That CN promise to buy 600 new boxcars was one of the deal-breakers which should have come up for review on the 5th anniversary of the deal. Maybe the review is before the courts as the "Basi Virk Basi" trial.

BC Mary says: I hope somebody counts these rail-cars. There must be 150 or 200 of them? In British Columbia, flat-lands like this are rare. I couldn't help thinking of BC Rail's knowledge (when we still owned BC Rail) of how best to navigate challenging territory such as mountain-sides, valleys, and rivers' edges.

In fact ... here's a little trip down memory lane ...

Riding BC Rail: Bygone Days of the "Cariboo Prospector"

On October 31, 2002, Canada’s rugged British Columbia province lost its last regularly scheduled Vancouver–Prince George passenger train, and tourists lost one of the most scenic rides in North America. To me, there is nothing that soothes the soul so much as a long train ride through lonesome country. To experience such a ride, and to share that experience with your fellow travelers, is to encounter the meaning of a journey. We’ve already lost too many of these trains; at least for me, this was one I’ve preserved in brain cells and digital bits. - YouTube 2000, 2005. Daniel B. Zukowski.

[Just to be sure you got it, it's HERE.]


Sunday, December 20, 2009


Trio accused in Basi-Virk case wants charges stayed

The Province - Dec. 20, 2009

Three former government aides accused in the Basi-Virk corruption case are applying to have their criminal charges stayed on the grounds of an unreasonable delay in getting to trial.

The application before B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie is expected to be heard when court resumes Jan. 11.

But given the fact that the new trial judge has apparently not made a single ruling in favor of the defence since she took over the case in the summer, it'll be an uphill battle for the accused. {Snip} ...

The judge also rejected a request by the defence that the court review 427 so-called source witness debriefings that have not been disclosed and were at the centre of a battle that landed in the Supreme Court of Canada and delayed the protracted case by two years.


Saturday, December 19, 2009


Crown wins ruling on Basi Virk files

Mark Hume
The Globe and Mail - Dec. 19, 2009

Vancouver - Notes RCMP investigators made while debriefing secret informants in a political corruption case can be withheld by the Crown, the Supreme Court of British Columbia has ruled.

In a brief statement Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie dismissed applications by the lawyers defending Dave Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi on charges of fraud, breach of trust and money laundering. The three former government employees allegedly traded in confidential information concerning the $1-billion sale of B.C. Rail in 2003.

The defence had sought more complete disclosure of 21 police reports that have already been released in a heavily redacted form, and to have the court review 427 source debriefing reports that the Crown has been withholding because the material could identify informants, or is irrelevant.



Basi Virk: Seven Minutes in Courtroom 54, December 18, 2009

By Robin Mathews

The court was thinly populated. No Michael Bolton, no William Berardino, no Kevin McCullough, no Joseph Doyle. Five lawyers in court. Two "mainstream media journalists". Two other observers in the gallery.

The reason was clear. Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie was arriving to deliver her decision on the Defence application for disclosure of miscellaneous redacted documents and 427 source witness reports (involving, I believe, briefing notes by officers involved with the informers who have claimed "informer privilege" over much of the material).

We sat the other day some hours as Ms. Winteringham (for the Special Crown Prosecutorial team) went through "redacted" documents in which only she and Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie could see what was being discussed - the "redacted" parts.

The word "redacted" is one of those words that is badly chosen and badly used. It is, in fact, a cover-up word. It's correct meaning is "edited, prepared for publication". The courts have mangled the word to make it mean "material that has been blanked out in a text so it can't be read". It would be much closer to the court's meaning if the word chosen was "censored", then the public would know the material is not edited, not revised, not re-written, not re-organized, but censored, blacked out.

When Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm "redacted" and "released" the search warrants from the famous legislature and other location "raids" of December 28, 2003 - all he did was to blacken about 80% of the text to protect people that I believe (under standard search warrant protocols) were not entitled to be so "protected". The public's right-to-know and right to "participate" in the administration of justice in British Columbia is under unceasing attack. Mr. Dohm's "redaction", I believe, constituted just such an attack by withholding material the public has a right to examine.

With Dohm's censored search warrants we saw a piece of the iceberg below the water line - the tip of that iceberg being the RCMP announcement on the day of the search warrant raids (before any of the gathered material could be examined) that no elected official was being (or would be) investigated. The announcement, we know, was just short of a lie because up until December 12, then Finance Minister Gary Collins was under investigation and surveillance (the Defence counsel insist).

"Redaction" in the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter has very often been, I believe, a sign of the class war that is being fought over the wrongdoing involved in the corrupt transfer of BC Rail to CNR: "the BC Rail Scandal".

To put the matter crudely (the most precise way to put it in this case), three cabinet aides appointed, in fact, by Gordon Campbell are charged with (variously) 14 counts of fraud, breach of trust, and money laundering as part of a mammoth set of highly dubious, complex, and wide-ranging manipulations, transactions, negotiations, misrepresentations, and - finally - falsifications that constitute "the BC Rail Scandal". That mammoth scenario could not have been master-minded and carried forward by the three men charged - but they are the only ones against whom accusations of criminal wrongdoing have been brought in relation to the scenario. Their counsel insist they are not guilty as charged.

Today's appearance of Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie and her decision on the application for disclosure by the Defence counsel was I believe another (extremely important) clash in that class war.

Put briefly: one force wishes to convey to the British Columbia public that an alleged criminal wrong-doing in the transfer of BC Rail to CNR occurred when the three men charged (cabinet aides) engaged in alleged illegal actions. Those three - the force says - did criminal acts and no one else did in that transfer. Embarrassingly, that "force" appears to be made up of what one might properly speak of as "power" in British Columbia, the "Establishment" in British Columbia, what the Left would call "the ruling class".

In the terminology of "Class": the "Establishment", and "the ruling class" refer to the corporate capitalists, the political party in power, the (so-called) "mainstream press and media", the upper ranks of police forces, the courts, and the legal 'establishment' that serves those others.

The divide - that first showed itself as a crack in the surface when the announcement was made that no elected officials were under investigation in the BC Rail Scandal - has spread now to the size and depth, at least, of the Fraser Canyon.

It may be that Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett stepped down from the case for that reason. She did NOT "recuse herself". She had no visible conflict of interest that would make her "recuse herself". Visibly, she freely and voluntarily - seeking her own pleasure - stepped away. And, visibly, she was replaced by Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie.

[Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett's "free and voluntary" stepping away from the Basi, Virk, and Basi case is complicated just a little by the bizarre hearing in which William Berardino made a motion to Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm to have Madam Justice Bennett removed on the ground that she couldn't be in two places at once and on the ground that she did some things wrong in the procedures thus far. Though it was a hearing at which a motion was first presented, and nothing whatever proved, quite strangely Mr. Dohm seemed, somehow, to have already decided, because he informed the assembly that he had already chosen the judge who would replace Madam Justice Bennett!]

Invisibly, some might say, 'the ruling class' decided Elizabeth Bennett was allowing the Defence altogether too much room to (A) point to the divide between 'the ruling class' and the accused three men. She was, some might say, (B) permitting a Defence program and policy that more and more and more pointed to the possibility of wrongdoing among the "Establishment", among members of "the ruling class". Some might suggest (C) that the wrongdoings pointed at might well be criminal wrongdoings. When Defence counsel claimed that cabinet materials, BC Rail management materials, RCMP records and briefing notes, etc. were important to the defence of their clients, Madam Justice Bennett said something like: "Well, let's look at them to see if they are, indeed, relevant." And many of them were found to be relevant to the the conduct of the defence of the accused men - and Madam Justice Bennett admitted them to be used as evidence if required.

All the while the people of British Columbia were being given a look at the extraordinary set of actions by the Gordon Campbell government which - against the people's wishes - transferred "their" railway to a private corporate entity now in fact headquartered in the U.S.A. Some people connected to the Gordon Campbell government might, moreover - the people of British Columbia began to see - just have done it in a way that involved criminal behaviour.

Since Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie has taken over as presiding judge on the Basi, Virk, and Basi case nothing that the Defence counsel has sought - as far as I know - has been granted by her. A spokesperson for her and Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm has even refused to supply me with a professional resume for her - the judge sitting on the most important criminal trial concerning public affairs in British Columbia's history. Her record of work as a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia I was told - in effect - is none of my business.

It may not come as a complete surprise to readers that Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie took something less than seven minutes this morning to dismiss both parts of the Defence application for disclosure (to give reasons later). She based her dismissal, for the most part, on the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in the Stinchcombe case (1991). All that needs to be said about it is that "Stinchcombe" sets the terms for disclosure of materials to the Defence. Primarily, Mr. Justice Sopinka, for the Supreme Court of Canada, made clear that evidence in the hands of the Crown is "the property of the public to ensure justice is done". It is not the personal holding of the Crown and so it must be released to Defence in most instances.

The Crown may delay the disclosure. On that basis, I believe, Madam Justice MacKenzie announced her decision today. Defence had argued that, under a ruling by Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, the Crown cannot unilaterally decide what is relevant to the case for the Defence. Stinchcombe supports that view. Ms. Winteringham, however, claimed irrelevance of material (ostensibly for all concerned). Madam Justice MacKenzie could have reviewed the material right away for relevance. She could have said: "Well let's look at those documents to see if they are, indeed, relevant to the defence of the accused". Instead, she decided to dismiss the application - which doesn't prevent it from being re-born later.

The next meeting of the court on the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter will be held on January 11, 2010. Still to be heard are Defence applications on wire-taps, delay of proceedings, abuse of process, reelection to jury, and change of venue from Vancouver to somewhere else for the trial. All of those matters, however, may take different shape in the next weeks and a wholly different schedule appear before or on January 11, 2010.

Very special thanks to Robin Mathews for his very special reports. This will be his last column for 2009. I believe that Robin Mathews is providing us with a unique set of observations of a trial-event unique in British Columbia. Let's hope that he will be sending us reports on the trial itself in 2010. Happy New Year, Robin. - BC Mary.


Friday, December 18, 2009


Basi Virk: Pre-trial hearing confirmed for today Dec. 18 in BC Supreme Court, Vancouver, at 10:00 AM. [+ Tiny Quiz]

And the reason for today's hearing is given as "JMT" which, in the clear-as-mud terminology of BC Supreme Court listings, is code for "Judgment".

Tiny Quiz:

Who made this statement (and can we believe it?):

"Clearly there are overtones and undertones of very significant political involvement in this case."

[Send us your best guess, before you look up HERE to find the answer. - BC Mary.]


Thursday, December 17, 2009


When Bill Berardino was part of the Defence team

Back in the days when things were different, the B.C. government was the first jurisdiction in the commonwealth
to file a health care costs recovery action against the tobacco industry. Several other provinces expressed an interest in following BC’s lead.

The plan was to sue the wealthy tobacco companies for the health costs of treating victims of cigarette smoking. I remember that time. Everyone said the province would never win against the wealthy tobacco companies. But they did.

Other provinces watched closely and six - Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan - have now passed or are in the process of passing legislation that will pave the way for suits meant to recoup costs. Read more HERE. [BC Court of Appeal Upholds TDHCCRA - if link isn't working, paste this into your browser.]

The province of British Columbia was represented at the Court by Thomas Berger, O.C., Q.C., Daniel Webster, Q.C., Elliott Myers, Q.C., and Craig Jones of Bull, Housser & Tupper.

Counsel for the tobacco industry defendants included: Jack Giles, Q.C., Jeffrey Kay, and Dylana Bloor of Farris for JTI-Macdonald Corp., R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco International, Inc.; Richard Sugden, Q.C., and Craig Dennis of Sugden, McFee & Roos for British American Tobacco (Investments) Ltd.; William Berardino, Q.C., David Harris, and Andrea MacKay of Berardino & Harris for Imperial Tobacco Canada Ltd.; James Macaulay, Q.C., and Ken Affleck, Q.C., of Macaulay McColl for Rothmans, Benson & Hedges Inc.; Ross Clark and Cyndi Millar of Davis & Company for Philip Morris Inc. and Philip Morris International Inc.; and Loryl Russell of L.D. Russell & Company for the Canadian Tobacco Manufacturers’ Council.

That's right. In that trial, our Special Prosecutors for the BC Rail Case -- Bill Berardino, Andrea MacKay -- were counsel for Imperial Tobacco. They were the part of the defence team and the BC Government was the prosecution. David & Goliath ... or more likely: Goliath & David. Imagine Berardino in a head-on battle against the BC government.

On May 20, 2004, the BC Court of Appeal held in a unanimous decision that the province’s Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act S.B.C. 2000 c. 30 was constitutionally valid. The Act enabled the BC Government to sue to recover health care costs associated with treating tobacco-related disease. The appeal decision paved the way for the province to continue its health care costs recovery action against the tobacco industry for alleged wrongs spanning five decades. {Snip} ...

[I wonder whatever happened to that ... ?]

- BC Mary.



The Supreme Court of Canada promotes open access, but are the lower courts following its lead?


I found this article while searching for background information about Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie. It does talk about her a little, yes, but more interestingly it talks about the difficulties of finding out what happens in courtrooms ... about something called "the open court principle" ... and the media's role in making the courts open, and understandable. I couldn't help but think of Robin Mathews, who (without assistance, without pay) attends most hearings then puts his great intellect to work understanding and explaining the trial. As part of those efforts, Robin has battled the issue of obtaining court transcripts, or police investigations, or in fact, the curriculum vitae of the judge who presides over the most important trial ever to come before a high court in British Columbia. - BC Mary.


Courts pay 'lip service' to open access

A statue of Themis: Goddess of Justice
By Shannon Kari,
National Post - January 07, 2008

When the trial of three alleged Hells Angels members resumes this week in the Vancouver Law Courts, an observer of the proceeding need only take a few steps outside the fifth-floor courtroom to look through the sloping glass roof that distinguishes the Arthur Erickson-designed building.

From an architectural standpoint, the building conforms to the view of the Supreme Court of Canada that "the administration of justice thrives on exposure to light -- and withers under a cloud of secrecy," as it said in a 2006 decision.

However, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie has thrown the equivalent of a judicial tarp over the glass by issuing a publication ban on the entire trial, which she is hearing without a jury.

Citing "the inherent jurisdiction of the court," she issued the ban in a one-sentence ruling.

As a result, the public will not learn about the second of four trials connected to a multi-million-dollar RCMP investigation into the activities of the Hells Angels in B.C. that was dubbed E-Pandora.

Nearly 20 people were arrested in July, 2005, following an investigation the RCMP described as a "national priority" and which involved the controversial use of an alleged steroid trafficker and "enforcer" as a police agent.

For nearly 100 years the Supreme Court of Canada has stressed the importance of truly open court proceedings. In the past 25 years, the principle has been strengthened by the high court, requiring real evidence of a risk to a trial to justify a ban or restrictions on access to public documents.

The lower courts are bound by these principles, yet trial judges often manage to find the exception to these rules.

While the ban imposed by Judge MacKenzie is unusually sweeping, the instinct to issue publication restrictions is not uncommon among her fellow judges in B.C. and in other parts of the country.

The constant tension between the media asserting the public's right to know and a judge's inclination to hold back information if it could potentially have a negative impact on a trial is in sharp contrast to established practices in U.S. courts.

Even in states where cameras are not allowed in the courts, public documents in both criminal and civil proceedings can often be accessed online. It is very rare for judges to impose publication bans at any stage of a criminal trial and jurors are permitted to talk about deliberations and how they reached their verdict. In Canada, the situation is quite different.

"The vast majority [in Canada] pay lip service to the open court principles, but they are resistant," said Michael Skene, a Vancouver lawyer who often acts for the media. "The law has changed and unfortunately many judges have not changed with it."

If courts are truly open, which includes granting access to exhibits that may be broadcast by the media, "the public can make informed comment about the process," Mr. Skene said.

He pointed to the release of the amateur video that showed Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski when he was Tasered by police at Vancouver airport in October.

The incident led to a public outcry over the use of Tasers by police.

If the video had not been released and the officers had faced criminal charges, Mr. Skene said it likely would have been difficult for the media to obtain a copy to broadcast because of speculation that it could impact the right to a fair trial.

But in one of the few rulings that have touched on a jury's obligations, Ontario Superior Court Justice Brian Trafford explained why he decided to allow certain pre-trial information to be published in the notorious Just Desserts murder trial in Toronto.

"Jurors in our society are intelligent persons who are capable of ignoring irrelevant information in accordance with the instructions of the trial judge," said Judge Trafford in the 1997 decision.

"They are presumed to act in accordance with the oath administered to them," he wrote.

Judge Trafford is considered to be one of the top judges in Ontario on the issue of adhering to the open court principle.

But many of his colleagues often invoke an unspecified fear of the jury being tainted to deny or delay access to exhibits during trials, especially in a high-profile proceeding.

The more than three-dozen rulings that Justice James Williams issued during the recent trial of Robert Pickton, many of which had to do with whether certain evidence would be admissible, are still subject to a publication ban. A videotaped police interrogation of Pickton when he was arrested in 2002, also has not been made public.

Another judge is expected to hear submissions from the media on this issue in late January.

Pickton was convicted on Dec. 9 of six counts of second-degree murder and faces a second trial on 20 more murder charges.

The belief that the release of rulings and exhibits might jeopardize Pickton's right to a fair trial on the other charges is "completely artificial," Mr. Skene suggested.

There are academic studies that show pre-trial publicity does not affect a defendant's right to a fair trial, said Edmonton lawyer Fred Kozak, who frequently represents the media.

True public access means the media should be able to show "what you would see and hear if you were in the courtroom," he said.

The concept of access requires "timely access," Mr. Kozak also said.

In the recent trial of a Toronto police officer acquitted of assaulting an anti-poverty protester, Ontario Superior Court Justice Frank Newbould would not deal with media requests for a key videotaped exhibit during the trial. He ultimately released the tape, which had been seen by the jury, after its verdict was issued.

These types of delays are common and are a "practical obscurity" to the open courts principle, Mr. Kozak said.

While there may be resistance among some judges to the open-courts principle, especially in Ontario and B.C., Mr. Kozak suggested there has been progress, especially in Alberta.

Media are routinely granted access to exhibits in criminal trials in the province.

As well, the mandatory ban on publication of bail hearing proceedings was found to be unconstitutional in 2007, by Alberta Court of Queen's Bench Justice Scott Brooker.

The Alberta government is appealing the decision.

Mr. Kozak, who acted for the Edmonton Journal in the case, said it makes no sense to ban reporting on bail hearings when 95% of criminal trials are ultimately heard by a judge alone.

"If you were to ask, what determines whether someone gets out on bail, no one would have a clue, because we can't tell readers about the bail process," Mr. Kozak said. "It creates speculation and mistrust of the justice system."

The obligation to inform the public is one of the reasons the Criminal Justice Branch in B.C. created the role of Communications Counsel, which is unique among the provinces.

Stan Lowe, a senior prosecutor, is Communications Counsel with duties that include responding to media requests for information about specific cases. Mr. Lowe will also attend high-profile proceedings, so there is someone to speak on behalf of the Crown.

"We believe we have an obligation to inform the public of our decisions, educate the public as to our role and the justice system as a whole," Mr. Lowe said. "The adage 'if people want to know about a case, they should come to court' is unrealistic and not acceptable," he said.

The frequently invoked theme that the "justice system has failed," especially in reporting on notorious criminal cases, would be less common if the courts were more open, Mr. Kozak said.

"For the most part, our justice system works very well. Why wouldn't you want the public to know that?"


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Basi Virk in Courtroom 54, Dec. 15, 2009

By Robin Mathews

With considerably better humour than yesterday, argument continued today about the disclosure application focussed on yesterday. Mr. McCullough for the Defence opened the day by discussing the apparent disagreement concerning the process of coming (or failing to come) to disclosure.

Defence and presiding judge appeared to be of one mind about the differences (and - apparent - confusion) that occurred.

Ms. Winteringham for the Special Crown Prosecutorial team went through more documents and made a case for withholding disclosure. She said the Federal prosecutor's report on the wire-taps is available to the Defence. Essentially she argued that the materials were reviewed by more than one agency - one being a federal prosecutor.

Citing precedent, she asserted that application for disclosure was not to be "a fishing expedition" by Defence (in what might be a blind attempt to pull in anything possible and then have a look at it). She said also that, by precedent, material denied at one point might be disclosed at another. The Crown also holds that the application for disclosure of wire-tap materials is premature - before Defence files its Charter Application relating to the wire-tap processes.

In general, the Prosecution wishes to withhold materials sought.

For the Defence, Kevin McCullough made several points. Specifically, he argued that Defence is not on a fishing expedition but has said why the material sought is relevant - Defence seeks to know if material submitted from informers has been judged reliable, or if it is contradictory of valid evidence gathered elsewhere. Some materials that have been disclosed, he argued, have been presented by the Crown as believed to be reliable when it has not been. Information gathered from disclosure reached by impartial review would stand as a basis, where unreliable, for cross-examination in trial (quite apart form any Charter Application about the use of wire-tap).

He pointed, further, to the fact that almost all the reporting on Dave Basi was undertaken in relation to the Drug investigation (not the BC Rail Scandal), and - as Michael Bolton said in court and outside the courtroom - allegations in that matter were wholly false and all suspicions of Basi in the Drug investigation were erased.

Mr. McCullough argued, in addition, that materials gathered by informers need not be covered in a blanket way by informer privilege, because some of it may be released to Defence without any chance of identifying the informer.

The flow of argument is clear: Crown believes the materials sought need no further review as to the claims they make for it. The Defence is unsatisfied with the claims, sees a need to test impartially for relevance and accuracy, and believes that Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett rejected the Crown as decider of relevance and named herself, as judge, as final arbitrar of the use to be made of materials applied for by Defence - as to relevance and informer privilege.

Essentially, Defence is asking Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie to review the materials and to make findings as requested. The Crown holds review by her is unnecessary.

What Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie decides - that will illuminate her attitude to the case as a whole. There is no doubt she wishes (as all in the matter have claimed they also wish) to bring the matter to trial without delay. She must decide whether denying the Defense the review they request will speed the trial without, in fact, doing serious damage to the (fair) way in which they may conduct defence of their clients. (Defence claims it will be disabled in that respect unless the review is undertaken.)

Her general demeanour, as I observed it yesterday, suggested she would give short shrift to the wishes of the Defence. Today she appeared to be a great deal more serious about the terms of the Defence application. At ten in the morning of December 18 we will learn her final position.



Basi laundered drug cash through Liberal Party, informant contends

By Mark Hume
The Globe and Mail - Dec. 15, 2009

Vancouver — A secret informant told police in 2003 that Dave Basi – one of the central figures in a political corruption trial – was laundering drug money through the Liberal Party, the Supreme Court of British Columbia has heard.

{Snip} ...

The informant's allegation was raised and immediately rejected as “totally false” by Mr. Basi's lawyer, Michael Bolton, during a defence application seeking disclosure of more than 400 RCMP files.

Lawyers defending Mr. Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi, who are charged with trading in confidential government information surrounding the 2003 sale of BC Rail, are asking to see the RCMP's secret informant files, which are known as “source debriefing notes.”

Mr. Bolton, who represents Dave Basi, and Kevin McCullough, the lawyer for Mr. Virk, told court the debriefing notes will show police relied on false information when getting authorizations to wiretap their clients.

Mr. Bolton said the RCMP obtained four wiretap authorizations in Victoria in 2003 while conducting a drug investigation of Jasmohan Singh Bains, who in 2008 was sentenced to nine years for conspiracy to traffic cocaine.

“Mr. Basi was a target in two [of those four wiretaps] ... [but] none of the authorizations ever related to any part of the BC Rail investigation,” Mr. Bolton said.

Mr. Bolton said the BC Rail investigation flowed from the drug case – but police made the connection based on falsehoods.

“[An informant] said that Mr. Basi was cleaning some of Mr. Bains' drug money. Informant A ... said Mr. Basi was cleaning some of that drug money through the Liberal party ... [and] we believe that is totally false,” Mr. Bolton said.

He said the false statements from informants sent police in pursuit of Mr. Basi, which led to wiretaps, and, in December, 2003, an unprecedented raid of the legislature, where Mr. Basi and Mr. Virk worked as ministerial assistants. (The two men were also key political operatives of both the federal and provincial Liberals in B.C.)

{Snip} ...

Twice during the day, the public gallery was cleared so lawyers could discuss the issue in camera. During one of those closed sessions, defence lawyers were also asked to leave so the judge could hear details about a secret informant.

Judge MacKenzie said she would give a ruling Friday.

Click HERE for the unabridged column by Mark Hume.



Basi-Virk news for Dec. 15, 2009

Crown acted appropriately with Basi-Virk informer, judge rules


B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie has ruled the prosecution properly asserted legal privilege to protect the identity of a confidential informant in the B.C. Rail corruption trial.

The justice conducted an in-camera hearing yesterday, sanctioned by the Supreme Court of Canada, at which defence attorneys, the three accused and the public were banned.

After reviewing Crown concerns, MacKenzie said special prosecutor Bill Berardino had acted appropriately.

The previous trial judge, Justice Elizabeth Bennett, who was replaced after being appointed to the B.C. Court of Appeal, initially said the defence could attend the closed-door hearing. But the prosecution balked and appealed all the way to the country's highest court, saying it would consider staying the charges rather than reveal the confidential informant's identity ...

Read Ian Mulgrew's full column HERE.


Our dauntless friend, North Van's Grumps, turns in this report for the BVB hearing of Dec. 15, 2009:

North Van's Grumps writes:

Its settled then, at least that's the way it went today (Dec. 15th, 2009). Madame Justice MacKenzie agrees with Defense Consul that neither the Crown via the Special Prosecutor eg. Ms Andrea Mackay, nor the RCMP were in a position by which they could determine whether the information is relevant or not. And we are talking here about secret informants. That jurisdiction lies solely with the Justtice MacKenzie as stated by Justice Bennett two years ago.

I would like to throw in one other category that shouldn't have had the right to determining what's relevant as evidence .... Ken Dobell as Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretarty.

"Ken Dobell, the former deputy minister to Premier Gordon Campbell, has admitted he reviewed confidential government documents seized by police in the B.C. Legislature raid case without signing an undertaking as required by a protocol created by the Special Prosecutor."

From Bill Tieleman:

"Dobell, speaking to the Globe and Mail's Mark Hume, claimed he was not part of the "political side" of Campbell's office and as cabinet secretary he was part of an "independent, bureaucratic office."

That, Dobell said, meant he had not contradicted Campbell's claim in the Legislature last year that the premier's office was not involved in disclosure of evidence issues.

"There is a special prosecutor involved in this. The Premier's Office does not have a direct input into that ... This Premier's Office is not involved directly with that," Campbell said in 2007.

Dobell now says that his role as cabinet secretary was different.

"The cabinet secretary ... is an independent, bureaucratic office, it's not a political office, and in that sense, nobody in the Premier's office, on the political side, was involved in the issue," Dobell told Hume.

And Dobell says he was never asked by government lawyer George Copley to sign an undertaking as required by the protocol."

Thanks, N.V.G.


Monday, December 14, 2009


Basi Virk: Courtroom 54, Dec. 14, 2009

By Robin Mathews

In the afternoon session, ten lawyers sat in courtroom 54, and five observers sat in the gallery to witness a sorry spectacle. It was one that bodes more sorrow, and one that (for me) calls into question the present nature of the administration of justice in this case. To say how and why that is so, the events of the day (first) have to put in capsule form....

The morning was taken up with the 'in camera' (private) and 'ex parte' (with all others than Crown and judge excluded) taking of testimony by the Special Crown Prosecutor and his team from the secret witness - the way having been cleared by the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in the matter. As the afternoon session began - all were still excluded from the courtroom. Then only the gallery visitors were excluded. Then all were permitted entry and, late, the afternoon session began and shaped a tense set of confrontations.

Testy exchanges erupted between Defence counsel, Kevin McCullough and Janet Winteringham of the Special Crown Prosecutorial team, between Defence counsel and Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie. They seemed to begin when Mr. McCullough argued that an attempt to delay discussion of documents before the court until the Charter challenge is unreasonable. The case for informer privilege may be made at the proper time. But the issue now, and first, is whether the documents are relevant to the defence of the accused.

The argument was simple - the documents (in question) held by the Special Crown Prosecutor must be assessed by the judge and declared relevant or not relevant. That is not a small matter, Mr. McCullough said because there are hundreds of documents involved. The argument about whether some or all are protected (to the Crown Prosecutor) by informer privilege comes after relevance has been determined, he argued.

Among them are - Ms. Winteringham said - search warrant applications, wire tap applications, RCMP officer affidavits, confidential informer materials, informer material with relation to Mr. (Dave) Basi, and ... more.

Not only did Ms. Winteringham (according to Defence Counsel McCullough) say, or suggest, there were not hundreds of documents, but she insisted upon going through the binders of materials with the comments that they were not relevant and/or protected by informer privilege - as if to be claiming relevance or irrelevance could be undertaken by the Crown. That was not at all clear, but if she were not making the claim, Defence (it seems) wondered why she insisted upon including reference to relevance, document by document.

Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie appeared to be riding at least two horses around the circus tent. On the one hand she argued that she would be the arbitrar of relevance, but she also argued on precedent that both privilege and relevance arguments could be made at once by the Crown. And she suggested relevance might be limited, though Defence argued that documents Ms. Winteringham called irrelevant all concerned people who are connected to the investigation.

Defence and judge disagreed about the process of producing or denying (disclosure) materials. Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie insisted she was using the standard precedent to decide. Mr. McCullough argued that she was bound by the decision made by her predecessor Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett (modifying the precedent) who, on June 4, 2007 declared that henceforth the Crown could not make the 'irrelevant' argument about disclosure materials. And so Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie was re-writing the rules, Mr. McCullough suggested.

For those in the gallery much seemed puzzling about the afternoon.

Distrust was evident in the room. The impatience of the presiding judge with Defence arguments
was palplable - and she does not show her impatience with either charm or grace.

All added up to the sad feeling, I refer to above, that the quality of administration of justice in this case is being forced into question.

Put very simply - the afternoon must stand as example or (as they say in the Court) Exhibit A in an argument that perhaps the administration of justice in this case is being twisted.

Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett who was seized with the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter should not - many insist - have been permitted to leave the case. Her leaving was strange. The way in which she left was more than strange.

Some argue that there were senior people in the Court (and, perhaps, elsewhere in power) who disapprove of the way in which Defence counsel chose to proceed with their role. And at this point, the speculations become very serious, for Defence counsel holds that (1) the interactions of the superiors of the accused in the transfer of BC Rail to CNR, (2) the policies involved in the BC Rail Scandal, and (3) the single-minded concentration of investigators only upon the presently accused bear so materially on the accusations that those interactions and policies and investigations MUST be part of the evidence and argument surrounding the accusations.

Those interactions and policies, we have come to see, may not only vitiate the power of the accusations against the accused but they (cannot, it seems, but) open the question whether the superiors of the accused may, themselves, have undertaken actions which have criminal implications.

Then the questions begin to flood in. Was Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett'removed' because (whatever she may have thought personally) she knew the Defence was pursuing a perfectly legitimate Defence strategy? Was she 'removed' because she would not force the Defence to treat the case as a simple matter of several people in a room offering and accepting a bribe? Where did Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie come from? What angel delivered her to the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter? Does she believe (with complete independence) that her role is to stop Defence from its demand for materials that drag into the light dubious RCMP actions, inconsistent Special Crown Prosecutorial decisions, cabinet and BC Rail management interactions and policies undertaken to create and execute a sham "sale" of BC Rail (that may contain within it evidence of criminal breach of trust)?

Questions. Questions.

Because the questions are becoming so central, and because they have to concern themselves partly with the deeply disturbing question whether the administration of justice is being interfered with in the Basi, Virk, and Basi matter - more will have to be said here and in very different form elsewhere.

Robin Mathews did request a copy of Madam Justice MacKenzie's curriculum vitae (cv).

I asked Professor Mathews if he would let us see the letter from the Law Courts/800 Smithe Street/ VanBC V6Z 2E1, replying to his request. Here it is:

November 24, 2009

Mr. Robin Mathews
xxx Salsbury Drive
Vancouver, B.C. V5L xxx

Dear Mr. Mathews:

RE: Your letter dated November 16, 2009

I have been asked to respond to your letter on behalf of Madam Justice Mackenzie and Associate Chief Justice Dohm.

The Supreme Court does not have a curriculum vitae for Madam Justice Mackenzie; therefore, I cannot provide one to you.

Yours truly

H.L. McBride
Supreme Court Law Officer

It seems appropriate that we look back also at my own efforts to describe Justice MacKenzie's lawyerly background at the time she replaced Justice Bennett on the BC Rail Case. Here is a piece I wrote titled "Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie":

Friday, August 21, 2009

Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie

New Supreme Court Justice on Basi Virk Basi / BC Rail trial.

I thought it would be easy to find a simple biography of Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie but like so much else, such is not the case. So far, I've only found that Mary Anne MacKenzie was born in Vancouver in 1983 to parents who were lawyers (her mother was Madam Justice Anne Winter). Is this the correct Anne MacKenzie? I don't think so. Or maybe the 1983 is a clerical error ... or maybe it's Anne W. MacKenzie ...

The most interesting info. came in the form of a book review. Canadian Criminal Jury Instructions (CRIMJI) 4th ed., ISBN 1-55258-456-9, published Sept. 1, 2008 @ $350. a copy with CD updates is "the source of jury instructions and law that the bench and bar have turned to." Where Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett was one of the 3 authors, Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie was one of the 8 members of the editorial board.

There's more detail if you click HERE. [But this link has gone dead, since yesterday. This is beginning to feel weird. - BC Mary.]

I'd welcome information (with sources, please) to fill in some of the large gaps in the biography of Anne MacKenzie, a person who occupies a very important place in B.C. history at this time. - BC Mary.

Tues., Dec. 15, 2009. There's one more thing I'd like to add:

I checked on today's BC Supreme Court listings despite the fact that those who attended yesterday seemed convinced that the hearing would be continuing today, beginning at 10:00 a.m.

Well, there's no court listing for Basi, Virk or Basi today. That's not to say the hearing isn't happening, or that it won't show up later on the court listings (as has happened before). But ... I am beginning to wonder ... how many self-serving co-incidences does it take, before I'm entitled to think there's mischief afoot?

I'm pretty darn sure there's a Basi Virk hearing for today. [Yes, there was; the 2-page listing for Basi, Virk, Basi appeared later in the day.]

And I'm pretty darn sure that not everybody in that courtroom is pleased to have the public watching.

Warning: watch for the first yabo to start howling "Conspiracy theory!" - BC Mary.



Basi Virk Court backs prosecution

Court backs prosecution over confidential Basi-Virk informant

Ian Mulgrew

Vancouver Sun - December 14, 2009

VANCOUVER — B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie has ruled the prosecution properly asserted legal privilege to protect the identity of a confidential informant in the BC Rail corruption trial.

{Snip} ...

MacKenzie now is reviewing more than 400 documents that are part of the investigation to ensure they were properly edited to protect police sources without keeping relevant evidence from the defence. She will continue resolving such pre-trial issues at the hearing Tuesday and next month, forestalling the start of the actual trial until at least February {Snip} ...

Read the full column HERE.



Basi-Virk trial tussles with secrecy issue

Prosecution urges court in BC Rail case not to release documents that could reveal identities of informants

Mark Hume

The Globe and Mail - Dec. 14, 2009

Vancouver The prosecutors in a political corruption trial are asking the court not to disclose a large volume of documents on the grounds that releasing the material to the defence could identify several secret informants.

Janet Winteringham, a member of the special prosecutor's team, asserted “informant privilege” numerous times yesterday as she went through a binder containing more than 30 documents.

Ms. Winteringham also said much of the material stemmed from drug investigations that are not relevant to the charges of fraud, breach of trust and accepting benefits against Dave Basi, Bob Virk and Aneal Basi.

The three former government employees are accused of allegedly trading in secret government information concerning the $1-billion sale of BC Rail to CN Rail in 2003.

British Columbia Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie followed along with Ms. Winteringham, reading the material that identified the secret informants, but defence lawyers were left holding binders where any material the Crown felt was sensitive had been blacked out.

The procedure created an unusual atmosphere in the court – where only the judge and the prosecutors knew fully what was being discussed.

{Snip} ...

Read more HERE.



Basi Virk in a paragraph

Here is today's Vancouver Sun report of the most important trial ever held in British Columbia ... one paragraph.

News Today @
DECEMBER 14, 2009



7 p.m.: The Los Angeles Kings are coming to town and they are leading the National Hockey League's Western Conference. Catch the game and The Vancouver Sun online chat.


The defence has applied to the judge to stay the charges against the government aides in the Basi-Virk case because of the long delay it took to get the matter to trial. David Basi and Bob Virk were charged after confidential information was leaked during the 2003 bidding process for BC Rail, which was privatized and sold to CN Rail for $1 billion.



Day 46 of The Olympic torch relay returns to Ottawa, heads east to Cornwall and Akwesasne Mohawk Territory before looping back to Kingston.



The coroner's inquest into the 2007 murder-suicide in a posh Victoria neighbourhood that left five family members dead has been scheduled to reconvene today.

Appalling ... especially when one of our reliable reporters couldn't attend today because of illness. Bill Tieleman hopes to provide an update tomorrow.



Basi Virk: Mixed confirmation for today's date (Dec. 14) in court

BC Supreme Court listings confirm that there will be a pre-trial hearing in Vancouver on Monday, Dec. 14, 2009 for Bobby Virk, Aneal Basi and "Limited Access" beginning at 10:00 AM.

I recommend Bill Tieleman's recent column which gives 2:00 PM as the time when the public is allowed to enter the courtroom, and provides an explanation of the day's scheduled topics. Quote:

Long-awaited testimony about why the identity of a police informer in the BC Rail corruption case must remain secret will happen on Monday December 14 in BC Supreme Court - but the public, media and even defence lawyers will be barred from the hearing.

Only Special Prosecutor Bill Berardino and his legal team and Justice Anne MacKenzie will be in the courtroom, thanks to a decision Berardino won in the Supreme Court of Canada last month that overturned two lower BC court decisions.


Saturday, December 12, 2009


Basi Virk thinking of changing venue to Victoria?

Full house of justice: Behind the scenes at Victoria Courthouse

The Victoria Courthouse is one of the few in the province that offer nearly every legal service under one roof. It's bursting at the seams.

TIMES COLONIST - Sept. 25, 2008

Lawyers, clerks and other court personnel prepare for proceedings in remand court, where everyone makes a first appearance, at the Victoria Courthouse.

Lawyers, clerks and other court personnel prepare for proceedings in remand court, where everyone makes a first appearance, at the Victoria Courthouse.
Photograph by: Darren Stone, Times Colonist

The Victoria Courthouse was too small, almost from the day it opened, and the stresses it faces every day continue to make it bulge and creak.

Every morning, people cram the corner hallway outside Courtroom 103, remand court, where everybody makes his or her first court appearance.

The courtroom space and seating outside barely accommodate the early morning press. Taking their turn to offer free legal advice, defence lawyers walk the hall asking in a loud voice if anyone needs to see duty counsel.

Outside each courtroom, the security guard posts daily lists, showing the names of people accused of a crime or having a case heard. And every day, people move about looking for their names.

Spanning the block from Burdett Avenue to Courtney Street and butting up to Blanshard Street, the Victoria Courthouse continues its work each day. It provides a crucial community forum where wrongs can be addressed, rights asserted and differences of opinion are given an impartial hearing.

It's hugely important work, with elements dating from the 13th century and the Magna Carta, in which were first written a person's habeas corpus rights (no imprisonment without a charge heard in court).

{Snip} ...

It's a building struggling to carry on in the face of tough community problems. How else can you explain a public building -- where narcotics offences are routinely prosecuted -- that provides in its public washrooms a disposal box for drug users to safely discard used syringes?

Those public washrooms serve a larger community than those involved in the legal system. Homeless people strip and have a body wash or empty out their backpacks to rinse out and do laundry.

But the Victoria Courthouse carries on, completing its work, in an environment most people never notice.

It opened in 1962, after years of delays, when W.A.C. Bennett was premier, taking over from the old courthouse in Bastion Square, a building that now houses the B.C. Maritime Museum.

Back then the new building had only four floors and only four courtrooms occupying the top two levels.

In 1975, at a cost of nearly $1.9 million, another two floors were added. Policy and administrative bureaucrats occupy the sixth floor.

A library occupies most of the fifth floor. It's operated by the B.C. Courthouse Library Society and contains about 20,000 volumes, many of which have yet to be digitized.

The stacks contain volumes dating back as far as 1859, when Vancouver Island was still a colony. The library also contains subscriptions to legal databases, with information on topics as far ranging as human rights and property law.

It is open to the public and assists people trying to draw up their own will, research custody law or look into condominium, or strata, property matters.

The seven courtrooms on the third and fourth floors are normally reserved for Supreme Court, with the judge's chambers tucked in behind unmarked, locked doors.

Provincial court operates out of the seven courtrooms on the first and second floors. And provincial court judges have their offices tucked out of sight on the second floor, again behind unmarked, locked doors.

On the first floor, opening onto Courtney Street, lies the criminal registry, storing files going back at least 10 years for each of the thousands of cases heard or underway.

Also on the first floor and tucked in behind entrances guarded by sheriff's deputies are 12 holding cells. These are for people already in custody or refused bail and are used only when court is in session. People in custody are transported to the Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre on Wilkinson Road.

All these services make the Victoria Courthouse what is now a provincial rarity. Of the 88 courthouses in B.C., only three others, Prince George, Kelowna and Kamloops, offer one-stop venues for the same range of legal practice and service.

So, inside the Victoria Courthouse sit the B.C. provincial court, the B.C. Supreme Court, youth court, family court, small-claims court and justices of the peace and, when it's convened, the B.C. Court of Appeal, the highest in the province.

All other courthouses in B.C. have either been split up due to workload, as in the Lower Mainland, or serve communities too small to justify the full range.

And on the back of the Victoria Courthouse building still sits the Victoria land titles office. It's where the titles and records of ownership of land and property are still held, despite an attempt by the province to shut it down a few years ago.

Accommodating all this service has meant renovations and adjustments that have left the building workable, but only just.

For example, two of the four courtrooms on the fourth floor are tiny rooms crammed off to the side. Originally, they were jury rooms, but they have been divided in half to provide extra court space.

On floors one and two, what were various other government offices have been taken over by provincial court, which gained a new prominence in 1990 when the province merged the old County Court with the Supreme Court. County Court was a holdover from the 19th century.

Hamar Foster, law professor at the University of Victoria, said from an administrative perspective having four levels of court -- provincial, county, supreme and appeals -- was just too cumbersome.

Now, six courtrooms regularly serve provincial court. And one remand court has been designated in recent months in which a justice of the peace presides.

All the renovations and additions are part of a process that former Supreme Court justice Bob Hutchison calls muddling through.

"It's grown like topsy," Hutchison said in an interview. "But they have muddled through just as everything gets done in this country."

The result is a building that functions only because the people who work in it make it function.
{Snip} ...

These days, he said, the courthouse "meets the needs of the community at the end of the day because we make it."

Most agree the building is not up to 21st century standards. Electronics, for example, are a constant problem. This, when virtually every major case has some electronic component, like wire-tap evidence or electronic communications.

Victoria's courtrooms are barely wired for the mid-20th century, let alone the 21st, lacking a speaker system to properly amplify the voice of a witness.

Nils Jensen, a prosecutor who regularly employs computer programs to present evidence in complex fraud trials, said the Victoria Courthouse has a way to go to reach modern standards.

Jensen said Courtroom 20 in the Vancouver Law Courts, where the marathon Air India trial was conducted, is considered B.C.'s gold standard courtroom.

It has computer plug-ins, wireless Internet, a large, flat video screen for the jury, separate screens for the judge, lawyers and accused, digital recording, real-time transcription service and computer screen illustration capacity.

But in Victoria, Jensen said, clerks and staff members do "a great job of cobbling together what little technology we have. It keeps us stumbling through."

{Snip} ...

Read the full article HERE. It's an unexpectedly charming introduction to the building where BC history will be made, if the Basi Virk - BC Rail Trial is transferred there. - BC Mary.



Basi Virk: Battle lines appear to be hardening

Paul Kennedy and Robert Dziekanski. The RCMP’s William Elliott, its Gary Bass, and the BC Rail Scandal.

By Robin Mathews

Battle lines appear to be hardening. Read the last paragraph of the Globe and Mail editorial (Dec 9 09 A16) on the Dziekanski fiasco:

“The RCMP brutally killed a new-comer to Canada, put out fake information into the public sphere while investigating themselves, then refused to correct the record and held on to the video that showed the horrible truth. The loss of public trust is no mystery.”

The Globe and Mail doesn’t mention that top man at the RCMP, William Elliott, telephoned the men involved to express solidarity with them. They are men whose conduct Paul Kennedy (with comic understatement) says in his 208-page Report “fell short of that [conduct] expected of members of the RCMP”.

Paul Kennedy always writes as if chewing a mouthful of cottonwool. His “scathing report” (the Vancouver Province) repeats what every decent observer has been saying for months – while adding a few busloads of padding.

Paul Kennedy has been a harboured bureaucrat for so long he couldn’t write a scathing report if he was the first investigator of the Nazi Death Camps. I imagine him writing – in a brief 2000-page report – that Death Camp employees followed to the letter the procedures set, and should be commended for that. I imagine him going on to say that Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, and Goring probably meant well, but somehow, the execution of their orders may not have been carried out in the best of public interest in the Death Camps.

The Globe and Mail doesn’t tell its readers that BC’s premier Gordon Campbell met top BC RCMP officer Gary Bass and expressed his personal feeling of sympathy for those guilty of serious impropriety (at least) in the Dziekanski fiasco.

The Globe and Mail doesn’t connect the Dziekanski cover-up with repeated RCMP cover-up of RCMP officer wrongdoing: Ian Bush, Kevin St. Arnaud, Kelly Marie Richard, David Ambrose, and…and…and….

Nor does the Globe and Mail mention that Paul Kennedy’s Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP frequently backed the RCMP’s dangerous folly – and its almost certainly manipulated “investigations of itself”.

Now being given the Heave-Ho by the Harperites (who I believe want a corrupt RCMP to match their own core values), Paul Kennedy unleashes his death-bed repentance. Too little. Too late.

Perhaps, at the other end of the scale, angry motorcyclists who rallied at Surrey provincial courthouse Tuesday carried too extreme a sign, saying “RCMP Canada’s biggest criminal organization”. Motorcyclists were there because Corporal Benjamin (Monty) Robinson seems to have been given special treatment by Crown prosecutors. Recommended for a charge of impaired driving by the Delta Police after he had hit and killed motorcyclist Orion Hutchinson on October 25, 2008, the charge was changed to the lighter “obstruction of justice”. That kind of action by the Crown appears to happen all too often in cases involving the RCMP.

The same Robinson is singled out in Paul Kennedy’s 208-page report – as senior officer in the Dziekanski disaster – for failing to take charge (implying, I suggest, a failure to regulate action to prevent death).

The population of B.C. (and of Canada and the world) is largely of the view that criminal charges should be laid in the Dziekanski affair.

But the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch, which decided not to lay charges earlier, is still holding to its decision – despite a growing flood of incriminating evidence in the matter.

And so Corporal Benjamin Robinson seems, now, to have been twice protected from facing criminal charges others believe his actions warrant. The actions in which Robinson has been involved are extreme – both involving the death of innocent people.

A reasonable Canadian must ask if we are facing a combination of RCMP cover-up and Crown prosecutorial discrimination that shields wrongdoing? If so, it appears to happen where RCMP investigates itself and finds no reason to censure apparent glaring improprieties committed by police officers. It appears, too, to happen when the Crown decides not to charge, or to mitigate charges, where allegations are brought against police officers.

Those recurring matters seem to happen, also, at much higher levels. Repeatedly, in pre-trial hearings of the Basi, Virk, and Basi charges in the BC Rail Scandal matter, Defence counsel has claimed delay and obstruction by the RCMP – and, as well, by the Special Crown Prosecutor.

Defence counsel – seeking disclosure materials relevant to the defence of their clients – have uncovered a large amount of material to support their position as Defence. They allege (as a part of Defence argument) that Gordon Campbell and senior others intended to transfer BC Rail to CNR long before announced, misrepresented the real and potential value of BC Rail, deliberately dismembered it, staged a phoney open, public auction of BC Rail, and did so with an expensive campaign using vast amounts of public money. Defence base their allegations on real, secured evidentiary material.

That material, I allege, points to criminal breach of trust and to violation of fiduciary duty on the part of Gordon Campbell and associates involved in the transfer of BC Rail to CNR.

I have written to Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass requesting full RCMP investigation to determine the facts of the matter. Bass has written me mostly empty rhetorical bombast. He has suggested others, too, are interested in the matter.

Then he asks me to give him evidence that he can act upon. That is THE GRAND POLICE COP-OUT. When someone like Bass wants to kill allegations and to do nothing, he says “YOU get the evidence and YOU bring it to me” – when that is one of the main tasks of the police (and he knows it).

Responsible officers of the court have based Defence strategy on the integrity of their allegations about the gigantic fraud and misrepresentation undertaken by Gordon Campbell and his associates that they attest are revealed by hundreds of documents in the possession of the court.

I have pointed Deputy Commissioner Bass to that material – which I am forbidden to possess but which I have heard extracts of and arguments from for more than two years in court.

I have done my duty as a responsible Canadian. I insist Deputy Commissioner Bass refuses to do his. And his refusal – I sincerely believe – is a part of the whole, present refusal of the RCMP in British Columbia to uphold the rule of law.

I may be correct in believing that the present behaviour of the RCMP not only points to laxity in relation to unchecked criminal action among Force members at lower levels, but also to RCMP support for and prevention of investigation of possible criminal wrongdoing at the highest levels of government.

The administration of justice in British Columbia seems to follow a pattern of abuse that is seamless. From the so-called “cop on the beat”, through Crown prosecutorial agencies, up to (and including) the cabinet, the administration of justice seems deliberately faulty.

The role of the courts in what I believe is that seamless maladministration of justice casts huge shadows on the courts themselves. They cannot be untouched when general corruption is the milieu in which they work.