Contempt for Justice, Equity, and Human Rights in the Supreme Court of British C
Date: Monday, October 17 2005
Contempt for Justice, Equity, and Human Rights in the Supreme Court of British Columbia
B.C.’s Supreme Court has spoken (Oct. 13 05) on the B.C. Teachers’ strike.
The ruling by Madam Justice Brenda Brown prevents Teachers’ union members from receiving strike pay, from using their strike fund or any of their assets for what Madam Justice Brown calls “this illegal action.” I believe the ruling also restricts the support other unions can give the BCTF.
The B.C. Supreme Court is increasingly a Gordon Campbell dance chorus, bobbing and weaving and pirouetting to whatever tune he plays. It suffers (deserved) diminishing credibility in the face of its “availability” to the Campbell forces and in the face of its highly questionable record.
On the same day as reactionary CanWest Monopoly Press columnists Norman Spector and Andrew Coyne raced to their book of clichés for statements on the need to bind and gag the strikers, an op-ed article on the same page (Sun, Oct 14, 05 A21) reported that “only Manitoba has a lower level of public confidence in our justice system” than B.C. And its writer, lawyer Scott Taylor, left no doubt he believes B.C. will very soon move Manitoba over to occupy the lowest position.
That observation has significant meaning for the teachers’ strike.
To add spice to the op-ed article, “A question of confidence,” by lawyer Scott Taylor, it was about a discussion with B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal concerning the new B.C. Report on Chronic Offenders. Wally Oppal gave every indication the Report will be ignored.
Readers may remember my earlier experience appearing before “the Oppal Commission” on police violence – the Commission which launched Oppal’s ascent from the lawyers’ ranks to the position of Appeals Court judge to his eminence now as Attorney General of the Province.
I was an unwilling contributor to the materials of the Wally Oppal Commission. A lawyer friend insisted I had a public duty to contribute since I was one of only two witnesses to an incident of police brutality. Promised a three-person hearing before the Oppal Commission, I was, instead, after being given an appointment hour, left waiting in an outer office, then admitted to a very small room with only Oppal present, given the “freeze treatment,” not asked a single question by Commissioner Oppal, and ushered out of the room as soon as it was possible to number me among those who “appeared before the Commission.” The Oppal Commission said nothing of real significance on the subject of its study, adequate reason to begin the elevation of Wally Oppal.
His move, later, directly from a position on the bench to an arranged candidacy for the Gordon Campbell Liberals was a stroke of major indiscretion. Since the whole “trust” relation with appointed judges is based on a practice of removal from political involvement, the chumminess he obviously had with Gordon Campbell who sought him for Attorney General demonstrates in one important case the political closeness of a higher court judge with politicians in British Columbia. British Columbians may fairly ask if Oppal uses his close contacts with higher court judges in his distinctly political office of Attorney General. Has he made contact with Madam Justice Brenda Brown over the teachers’ strike?
The clammy, ugly relation in the Province among police, special “commissioners,” lawyers, non-political boards, government-appointed “objective” authorities, court officers, government, a corrupt press, and Supreme Court judges is making the B.C. Supreme Court into a dangerous joke.
Just for instance, the reactionary voices in the CanWest Monopoly B.C. Press stand back in wonder at the “creative” and unprecedented ruling by Madam Justice Brenda Brown on the BCTF strike.
Madam Justice Brown declared her visible bias at the start, and she is continuing it. Asked to hear an application on Thanksgiving Sunday, she didn’t reply that a hearing on that date would show open and declared sympathy with one party to a dispute. No. She sat on Sunday to order the strikers back to work.
Madam Justice Brown did not question the so-called B.C. Public School Employers Association (a front for Gordon Campbell Liberal oppressive measures against teachers) nor did she question the government’s patsy (non-partisan?) Labour Relations Board. She didn’t say: “Neither the Labour Relations Board nor the Employers Association wrote this disputed legislation. I will hear your request for a court ruling when you bring the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour to this court for questioning.” The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Beverley McLachlin (no radical or progressive) said only a week or so ago that “Deference [to lawmakers] has limits. Deference does not mean simply rubber-stamping laws.” (Sun Oct 6 05 A7)
Madam Justice Brenda Brown possessed a power in the matter she did not use. The B.C. Supreme Court has a number of powers (as we will see) that it never uses to protect the rights of Canadians and the integrity of the judicial system.
Madam Justice Brown, I suggest, did not create an imaginative ruling on the B.C. teachers’ strike. Whether receiving the message by osmosis, by telephone, by private visitor, by extra-sensory perception, or by Gordon Campbell clone-thinking, she produced the ruling most wanted by the Gordon Campbell Corporate Coalition Against British Columbians.
They want to shut off the possibility of a general strike. They think they found a way. (1) Don’t jail and make martyrs of any union leaders. (2) Divide and separate and conquer union by union. (3) Prevent them from working together financially. (4) Do it by looking ”moderate,” “creative” and “flexible” while using the courts as a club with which to beat them all.
British Columbians should back the teachers of the Province, not only because the Campbell legislation is oppressive and a blow to Human Rights. They should back the teachers also in order to expose the prejudice of the B.C. Supreme Court and the transparent partisanship of the Labour Relations Board, the Employers Association, and the reactionary CanWest Monopoly Press.
Madam Justice Brown is one Supreme Court judge among many. There are, no doubt, competent B.C. Supreme Court judges of unimpeachable integrity and intelligence. But few.
Let us remember the baseless case to unseat Glen Clark (and the NDP) from power in B.C. Unable to win an election, the Gordon Campbell forces took to the courts with a baseless case that took months and months to play out. It involved the corrupt B.C. monopoly press, highly dubious RCMP actions, the Liberal Party, Ujjal Dosanjh on the way to defecting to the Liberals, and the assistance of a Supreme Court judge, Elizabeth Bennett.
I have insisted and continue to insist the Glen Clark unseating and trial must have a full Royal Commission investigation so that Canadians can learn the enormous perversion of justice that took place. The lawyer for Glen Clark repeatedly called for Madam Justice Bennett to close down the trial as vexatious and without merit. She refused to do so, insisting it was a serious process.
At the end of it, she had to admit the charges against Glen Clark were without foundation. (Fear that an appeal would overturn a conviction of Glen Clark may have played a part in her final judgement. We cannot know.)
But she served as an effective instrument (along with the others named) to destroy innocent Glen Clark’s career and government.
If she had been, herself, a victim of conspiracy and manipulation, she would have apologized to Glen Clark at the end of the trial. Instead – and presumably to save face – she attacked him, saying that he had acted imprudently if not illegally. And so Madam Justice Bennett concluded the trial of Glen Clark with a further demonstration of either incompetence or bias.
The story of the Glen Clark atrocity doesn’t end there. During the time preceding the trial, rumour circulated of improper RCMP activity, repeated (coercive) witness interviews, and huge delay. I made a complaint to the national Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP – asking for an investigation of RCMP actions in the Glen Clark case.
Each month for several months I received a little note saying investigation was proceeding. Then I received a note saying the RCMP investigation of RCMP officers by RCMP officers was being terminated and the force was handing 28 or so volumes of evidentiary material to the special prosecutor in the Glen Clark case.
I protested. I asked to have the investigation continued. Instead, the Commission for Pubic Complaints Against the RCMP “investigated” the termination of the investigation.
More than three years later – three years! - I received a telephone call from the Deputy Commissioner of the Complaints Commission. He had a preliminary report, he said. Send it to me, I replied. He refused because it had to go to the top officers of the RCMP for review and comment. I would receive the final report, which I did sometime later.
The important finding in the report by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP that took three years to complete was that the investigation I had asked for was wrongfully terminated by two experienced RCMP officers in Vancouver.
Think what that means.
If the investigation had been fair, just, and thorough, the RCMP in Vancouver might well have been revealed as conspiring to act wrongfully against Glen Clark. The implications of the admission by the Public Complaints Commission are enormous. They cannot but suggest the possibility of corruption through the whole Glen Clark trial process.
The Complaints Commission report, agreed to by the RCMP reviewers, pointed to the “error” and suggested that in future RCMP officers should be better trained. (!) Then, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP left up to the discretion of the RCMP whether the investigation I had asked for would be re-opened and pursued. The RCMP, of course, chose not to re-open the investigation.
The Complaints Commission was assenting to odious and perhaps criminal behaviour on the part of the RCMP in its work on the fake Glen Clark case. The end result of that behaviour was the trial presided over by Madam Justice Bennett of the B.C. Supreme Court who refused to look beneath the surface of the procedure even when urged to do so by Glen Clark’s lawyer. I insist and maintain that her failure condemns to infamy the B.C. Supreme Court.
In another case in which I intervened, I found the same deeply disturbing relation of forces. Briefly, a radical newspaper was publishing allegations of wrong-doing by Ed John, a prominent Indian person who was close to government, big capitalists, and lawyers. The allegations against him were serious and he wanted them stopped.
Ed John had his lawyer, Marvin Storrow, apply for an interlocutory [meaning not final] injunction to end all such allegations as a preparation for a libel suit to follow.
The application was to Mr. Justice James Taylor of the B.C. Supreme Court. I protested to the Chief Justice in writing that the court was inept and inadequate. Mr. Justice Taylor was condescending and unhelpful to Arthur Topham, acting on his own behalf.
The Chief Justice refused any comment or involvement or any investigative action. So much for the assurance of a standard of behaviour in the B.C. Supreme Court.
The bias of the Taylor court (in which a claim of conflict of interest was disdainfully dismissed) was oppressive to me. Mr. Justice Taylor should have observed that the application for a gag order is an assault on free speech and freedom of the press unless solidly founded. Mr. Justice Taylor’s gave the Storrow/John team a gag order with no restrictions or obligations whatever. He gave it, to my witnessing, without showing a shred of respect for citizens who believed a serious, continuing wrong was (and is) present in B.C. society.
Today, four years later, the small but important paper has been shut down, partly because of the injunction against it. Today, four years later, no libel action has been conducted against the paper and contributors involved. Today, four years later, what may be judged by many British Columbians to be an attack on free speech and freedom of the press by a B.C. Supreme Court judge has passed almost unnoticed.
As with Madam Justice Brenda Brown’s rulings, this was not a court concerned that justice would be done and would be seen to be done with the deepest concern for the good intention of both parties. This was, as I saw it, a blatantly partisan process, showing contempt for the people striving to assure a decent society – however they may have erred - and igniting in many of them the lowest opinion of judicial process in British Columbia.
The striking teachers know they are fighting a dirty government which has made dirty legislation. It looks very much as if they are also fighting a Supreme Court with a record so dark the teachers must expect to face any violation of human rights the court can effectively slip past the people of British Columbia and the rest of Canada. The president of the BCTF says the teachers’ fight is against a bad law not against the B.C. Supreme Court. The president of the BCTF may learn that she is wrong and that the B.C. Supreme Court is a simple extension of the Gordon Campbell cabinet which produced the bad law.
[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on October 17, 2005]