Third part. The RCMP Raids on B.C. Legislature Offices (Dec 28, 2003)
Date: Friday, November 17 2006
Third Part. The RCMP Raids on B.C. Legislature Offices (Dec. 28, 2003)
The Tide of Corruption, and the Basi, Basi, and Virk trial.
In Courtroom 75 of the B.C. Supreme Court on November 14, 2006, lawyers – like small, soberly-coloured beetles – scurried in the Chamber, apparently intense, apparently at odds with one another in the adversarial tradition of cases in the Canadian legal system. It would be wrong to call it “the Canadian justice system”, for Canada has a “legal system” out of which justice very, very rarely comes in matters of corporate and political corruption. The lawyers were there to hear the decision made by Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett on an application for disclosure – specifically, a request by the Defense to be present at the RCMP Project Room when materials were identified and described, one by one, to make sure all evidence in the hands of the Crown will be known to the Defense.
Were the lawyers in the Chamber really at odds? Or were the nine people (all men) in the Gallery, in fact, witnessing what was a charade, an exercise in smoke and mirrors? Were the actors in the apparent drama unfolding before us enacting a moment of theatre whose outcome had already long been determined? Or were they totally unconsciously being manipulated by unseen puppeteers “pulling the strings” that were giving movement to the beetles scurrying in the Chamber? Or were we facing the real prelude to a real trial in which justice would genuinely be sought, and done?
Hints of answers to those questions may be found on at least three levels. The meeting in Chambers on that morning provides one level. The forces at work outside the Chamber provide the second level. And the history of the institutions involved provides the thind.
The key issue in the Application for Disclosure, as I have written above, was the request by the Defense to be admitted to the RCMP Project Room or rooms containing evidence in order to assure themselves that all relevant materials were listed and fairly described – even when they were denied to Defense for appropriate reasons. But in just what place access is to be granted is, in fact, in a confused state – at least to journalists reporting on the hearing.
Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail reports it is “the room” where the “more than 11,000 documents” are stored, which, he reports, Special Prosecutor William Berardino described as “in a four-story building in Vancouver”. (Nov 15 06 S3)
For Ian Mulgrew, a Vancouver Sun columnist who writes frequently about legal matters, access is granted “to special police evidence rooms”… where material is ”stored in high-security locations somewhere in Victoria”. (Vanc Sun Nov 15 06 B1,B8).
During the week of October 30, Defense suggested that the affidavit sworn by RCMP Corporal Mar on October 30, 2006 about the preparation and selection of documents placed on discs concerned two project rooms. Corporal Mar’s affidavit states clearly that materials in Surrey were scanned in and delivered to Victoria storage and that materials were also gathered elsewhere on the lower mainland and so treated. Defense found the affidavit inadequate partly because of great difficulties connected to the process of disclosure (of which much has been made), and, perhaps, because of doubts that arose from those difficulties about the expertise of the two corporals who did the work.
Defense stated more than once that the people who could most competently and thoroughly describe the preparation of documents and their whereabouts were the two corporals, Ma and Mar. Defense asked to cross-examine Corporal Mar. To a reasonable observer that seemed the quickest and surest way to clear up the uncertainties that seemed dense but may not have been.
Corporal Mar could not only have answered questions about the location and methods of scanning materials but could also have demonstrated personal and system adequacy in the task.
Without giving a reason, and in a single sentence, Justice Bennett refused to permit examination of Corporal Mar. Equally a mystery, she did not ask to be assured that all relevant RCMP materials are and will be available in the room she is ordering to be opened to Defense. She did not question the existence of the Surrey Project Room and especially whether the court will be able to be sure all documents from there have found a place in Victoria.
If I seem to be questioning the quality of the decision by Justice Bennett, that is because I am doing so. She presented a written ruling which she read to those gathered in the Chamber. Her wording, I suggest, needs very close examination. And her intentions in making the ruling the way she did invite close scrutiny. As with other important public documents, however, this one is denied the scrutiny of Canadians who have a perfect right to appear at Criminal Registry in the B.C. Supreme Court and ask to examine it or to have a copy.
By edict, Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm, has denied ALL SUCH DOCUMENTS to Canadians. The clerk at Criminal registry informed me, upon inquiry, that I could not have a copy and could not see one. Finally, she informed me that I might request a copy from William Berardino, Special Prosecutor for the Crown. Who delegated to William Berardino the right to grant or to withhold permission for me or any other Canadian to see a decision made and publicly delivered by Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett? Are we living in a madhouse?
Madam Justice Bennett and all the lawyers participating in the hearing are officers of the court. They have an obligation to the court to uphold its values and its reason for being. They are all complicit in the Directive made by Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm to keep information from Canadians – information that Canadians have a right to have access to simply and easily from Criminal Records of the Supreme Court of British Columbia.
Mr. McCullough, for the Defense, approached me on November 14 and apologized for his insulting behaviour to me during the week of October 30 hearings. The incident should never have occurred and it was not explained even minimally by Mr. McCullough to my satisfaction. I was being insulted by an officer of the court for attempting to ask, courteously, a question. McCullough cast opprobrium upon himself AND upon the Supreme Court. Officers of the court - and Mr. Justice Patrick Dohm is one of them - have deep obligations (which they are loathe to acknowledge) to the people of Canada.
All the officers of the court who accept Mr. Justice Dohm’s denial of rights to Canadians participate in Dohm’s denial. I believe that by failing to make her decision available at Criminal Registry, by failing to make copies available in courtroom 75, by failing to place the decision on the Supreme Court website, Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett indicated she intends to keep Canadians from – and to frustrate them in their desire to have - access to information rightfully theirs, particularly in matters concerning this (potentially) highly incendiary trial and its “surround”. I said in an earlier column that Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm sits astride a system which is irrational, capricious, discriminatory, elitist, and unjust. Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett assists him in upholding that insulting and discriminatory system.
The question of access obviously dogs and has dogged this whole matter – so much so that a reasonable and prudent Canadian might strongly suspect evidence has been denied, delayed, and otherwise mishandled by some forces in order to provide sufficient bases to invalidate all the proceedings.
What is more, access to information about the – perhaps – illegal activities of others than the three men charged is not even discussed, not even dreamed of as a possibility, not on any kind of agenda, not considered a part of the issue.
In addition, what could be more alarming – not to say confusing – than for the Attorney General of B.C., Wally Oppal, to say he has met with the prosecution team in the trial of William Picton (a first degree murder trial) because “As Attorney General, I’m the Chief Prosecutor” ….I’m clearly on one side here.” And more. “The task is unbelieveable…. I wanted to give them support….” Oppal referred, as well, to a serious problem of disclosure, and said he wanted to commend the Crown prosecutors on that matter. (Globe and Mail Nov 15 06 S1)
I asked in an earlier column if Wally Oppal, as Attorney General, is a dangerous clown? Now I ask if he is a carefully designing person? New Democratic Party MLA Leonard Krog pointed out that the Attorney General spoke imprudently. “The duty of the Crown is to prosecute the case fairly. It is not really a question of taking sides…. The Attorney General is on the side of justice, one would hope.” (Globe and Mail Nov 18 06 S1).
Attorney General Oppal has taken an opposite position in the extremely complex case arising out of the raids on Legislature offices on December 28, 2003. Unlike the Picton case, the one arising out of the raids on Legislature offices has the potential – depending of course upon evidence that may be presented – to bring down the Gordon Campbell government (of which Wally Oppal is a part).
If an Attorney General truly wishes to see justice done in the courts in which, as Wally Oppal says, he is “Chief Prosecutor of the province”, then the Crown in the Basi, Basi, and Virk trial has needed a heavy presence of the Attorney General to assure processes run smoothly, simply to demand and to make sure that justice may be reached in the case. Instead, Wally Oppal recently gossiped with journalists in a way that has been interpreted as tending to undermine the Crown and its prosecution. It would seem that in the Picton trial Wally Oppal is “on the side” of the Crown prosecuting. Can it be true that in the Basi, Basi, and Virk trial, on the other hand, he is on the side of the Gordon Campbell cabinet of which he is a part and which he wants to protect from criminal charges that should perhaps be laid against certain cabinet members past or present and certain outside associates?
In addition, have some RCMP officers been deliberately obstructive and inactive in laying charges? Has influence from some sources in the Gordon Campbell cabinet been deliberately obstructive? Has the monopoly press and media in B.C. been deliberately uninformative and uninvestigative? Have some agents of the Crown at all levels of the process been less than diligent, less than effective in their tasks?
A serious question must be asked again. Is there strong intention to derail and to wreck scrutiny of the whole structure of scandalous behaviour which is being focussed upon Basi, Basi, and Virk? And do the actions of Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett, the Criminal Registry machinery in operation under Associate Chief Justice Patrick Dohm, and the actions of Attorney General Wally Oppal – just for instance – lend credibility to the claim that there exists an intention to destroy the whole issue before it can be fairly and judiciously examined?
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on November 20, 2006]