RCMP Raids on B.C. Legislature Offices
Date: Tuesday, November 07 2006
RCMP Raids on B.C. Legislature Offices (Dec. 28, 2003). Now, The Aftermath - A Tide of Corruption. (First Part)
The December 4, 2006 trial(date) of Dave Basi, Aneal Basi, and Bob Virk arising from the Legislature Raids floats upon an immense tide of corruption. To pretend differently is to falsify the threat in B.C. to democracy, justice, and the rule of law. The monopoly press and media do pretend differently – because they are a Private Corporate force supporting the worst actions of the reactionary Gordon Campbell government. Just consider, if the spate of (barely reported) government scandals were happening under an NDP government, all literate people in British Columbia would be familiar with the most intimate details. As it is, they know almost nothing.
These columns are about that tide of corruption. It is so enormous – involving the Gordon Campbell government, private corporations, the RCMP, the (mainly) Private Corporate Monopoly press and media, and the courts – that a reasonable and prudent person has trouble bringing all together in a clear, connected way. That tide of corruption washes against the court case to be held on December 4, 2006.
One thing is certain. The present sleaze level, the dishonesty, the deceit, and the disinformation fog in which the Gordon Campbell government operates is unprecedented in British Columbia’s – perhaps in Canada’s - history. That government sleaze level contaminates all other publicly responsible institutions in the Province.
The trial of David Basi, Bob Virk, and Aneal Basi – whatever shape it will take on December 4 (if it is held at all) is the tiny tip of a vast iceberg shouldering its way through the sewer called B.C. contemporary history.
What deals have been made? What charges have NOT been laid? Who is being protected from investigation and charges? By whom? Will a mistrial of the three men wipe out the possibility of justice being done? Will the case be killed in some dramatic way? Already, the Attorney General of the Province, Wally Oppal, imprudently and irresponsibly is providing fuel for mistrial. When “the highest law officer of the Crown” joins the Defence, out of court, publicly, informally, speaking in a way that undermines the investigation process – anything can happen.
My experiences (though apparently small) at the hearing in Chambers during the week of October 30 in Courtroom 67 of the B.C. Supreme Court tell much about the tide of corruption – that is so prevalent it is becoming unnoticeable to many. The hearing was held to consider an Application for Disclosure (of apparently relevant materials) by the Defence team and to consider the answer in the form of the Special Prosecutor’s Memorandum of Argument. In short, the Defence team argued disclosure of important material was disorganized, delayed, inadequate. The Crown responded by citing size (some 90 thousand pages), shortness of staff, and the need to trust the good character of the Special Prosecutor.
That - for your information. The hearing, however, may have been nothing more than an extended piece of theatre – smoke and mirrors – to disguise the real situation developing to effect the destruction of the case.
The three men have been charged with several counts of fraud, breach of trust, and money laundering. Dave Basi and Bob Virk were top ministerial aides for provincial Liberal cabinet ministers, “and they worked as backroom organizers, vote-getters, and fundraisers for both the provincial and federal Liberals”. (Mark Hume, Globe and Mail, April 11, 05)
Only a fool would suggest that the three men operated in a vacuum, without the knowledge, and/or direction and/or participation of some very high ranking Liberals – inside and outside the Legislature. No charges have been laid against any such people – shouting out to us that the process we are watching may well be a fraudulent fabrication.
When I stepped into Courtroom 67 with my friends on October 30, a few things became evident. Kevin McCullough was the driving voice of the Defence team. He spent more time than the others presenting argument and rebuttal. He was, in addition, very chummy with the press members, especially with Vaughn Palmer, the journalist I call “Gordon Campbell’s personal representative at the Vancouver Sun”.
I don’t call Palmer that for nothing. Let me give a few examples of why I do so. He has written recently about Alcan at Kitimat. Never once does he take up the key issue there – that Alcan is attempting to torture the agreement of the early 1950s into a shape that will gift to that Private Foreign Corporation all the presently publicly-owned water power energy resources of the Nechako River – a multi-billion dollar gift. Palmer tells his readers (Vanc. Sun Oct 19 06 A3) the problem in Kitimat is a matter of modernizing “Kitimat’s antiquated smelter”. It is not. The problem is a huge-power grab by Alcan, part of a Gordon Campbell designed grab for all B.C. rivers by Private (many foreign) Corporations.
Not a word of that from Vaughn Palmer.
He does not say the case to wrest the Nechako River from the people of B.C. is being fought for in court on behalf of (among others) the Attorney General of B.C., Wally Oppal. Nothing comes from Vaughn Palmer that matters. Nothing relevant.
Palmer also visited the B.C. Union of Municipalities meetings in Victoria during the week of October 22. Out of his time there he wrote a column “announcing” the Gordon Campbell policy of the hugely contested P3 mode of building public projects. Palmer says virtually nothing about the internationally bruited, valid criticisms of P3 - essentially a so-called Public/Private Partnership with varying kinds of sector involvement. Critics argue P3s are nothing more than a candy-coated form of privatization – something that happens to be so persistently Gordon Campbell’s goal that he is privatizing B.C.’s river energy power resources using every kind of disinformation, disguise, and cover-up that can be manufactured. The bottom line of P3s is that Private Corporations benefit luxuriously at the expense of the population. Palmer passingly refers to the important disagreement as “the ideological debate”.
That column (Vanc.Sun Oct 28 06 A3) is not so much a political column as it is a Public Relations announcement on behalf of Gordon Campbell.
At that same BCUM set of meetings one of the most important events was an overwhelming rejection – 170 votes to 2 – of a Gag Law passed by the Campbell government called Bill 30. It was passed recently to rob municipal and regional governments of the power they have long had over development where they have jurisdiction. Determined – in secret, by dissimulation, and by widespread disinformation – to pass all B.C. rivers into the hand of Private Corporations (very many of them foreign), Campbell was stopped by the Squamish region in relation to the Ashlu River.
And so Campbell passed Bill 30 to sweep all such regional powers aside. At the October BCUM meetings 170 of 172 municipalities voted to reject Campbell’s takeover of municipal powers so he could deliver them to Private Corporations. Nothing about this from Vaughn Palmer. Nothing about the fact that the Campbell government has ignored the overwhelming dissatisfaction of the municipalities. Nothing whatever. Why is that so? Because Vaughn Palmer, I say, is “Gordon Campbell’s personal representative at the Vancouver Sun”.
In that role he has written titillating, anecdotal, who-done-it, bland columns about the Application for Disclosure hearings which are floating on an ocean of corruption – corruption that the CanWest Monopoly press and media should be researching deeply and reporting upon daily to British Columbians.
In one of his columns on the Legislature Raids, (Nov 3, 06) Palmer observes that he is drawing “partly on explanation provided by counsel….” That is important for what follows. My friends and I were strangers in the gallery of Courtroom 67. Perhaps we excited a little interest since only 14 people were in the gallery and about eight in front of us “in Chambers”. Someone, it seems, identified me to Mr. McCullough.
What I say in this column, which is devoted to giving readers an idea of the actual experience of the hearing in Chambers and the personality surround, does not for a moment suggest that procedures since the Legislature Raids on December 28, 2003 have been acceptable. To begin, government should have allocated funds specifically to assure that highly competent people were preparing and providing all evidence necessary to all parties, especially since cabinet offices were implicated. In addition, the RCMP, (which the Maher Arar Report reveals clearly acts in a self-motivating and high-handed fashion) should have been given court orders if necessary and should have been provided with specific instructions about speedy, full, and complete disclosure of any and all holdings in their possession to the Special Prosecutor and thence to the Defence.
My friends and I sat silently all first day, taking notes. Needless to say, as Vaughn Palmer had, I had a few questions, one being a question which – I discovered later - he asked and got answers to from counsel. The next morning, in the Supreme Court foyer before the session, I saw Kevin McCullough enter and approach the elevators. I went to him politely to ask a question. “Excuse me”, I said. Before I could say any more, McCullough turned on me rudely and said brusquely: “I can’t speak about anything”. Surprised, I said, “You mean only to the press” [implying the “selected” press]. Embarrassed, he said “I didn’t really talk to them”. And he darted into an elevator. His statement, of course, was untrue.
McCullough began the morning session. When it broke for brief recess, Vaughn Palmer went to the railing to have another friendly chat with McCullough who was embarrassed because the two men were only inches from where I was sitting. In a raised voice (for my hearing apparently) McCullough said to Palmer: “What I say in court [he meant in Chambers] is on the record. Anything else is off the record”. Then he lowered his voice and the two men engaged in their usual friendly conversation. For clarification, an Application is held in “Chambers”; a trial is held in Court.
By body language and utterance thereafter McCullough (who doesn’t know me from Adam) showed what I believe is animosity. What is important is that I was being treated - I can think of no other way of describing it - to deliberate obstruction by Defence counsel when I was seeking simple information – obstruction which seems to have continued for no apparent reason. I can only speculate that my appearance in Court Room 67 somehow posed (however outlandish this sounds even to me) a threat to a program of attempted press and media control.
McCullough’s method of public presentation might be described, as I experienced it, as dramatic garrulousness in which he strives for effect rather than precision and speaks to the media as much as to the judge. Throughout his presentation he mispronounced the name of RCMP Commissioner Zaccardelli, calling him Zacarelli. And, like many people who use the English language inexactly, he spoke of “situations” as if they are places. Situations are not usually places, and lawyers – striving for precise language – learn that. We correctly speak of a situation or situations “in which” such-and-such happens. All of Mr. McCullough’s situations were places: situations “where” such-and-such happened.
Michael Bolton, by contrast, speaks with unadorned, clear, correct and forthright language. He did not waste words. When he informed the judge that Defence would be working to gain a mistrial decision, no one could doubt what he was saying.
William Berardino, Special Prosecutor, was under the gun and showed it. Generally a graceful human being, he had to argue what seemed at times unarguable – that the handling of evidence in terms of disclosure to the Defence was acceptable. As I suggested earlier here, the fact that we are approaching the third anniversary of the Legislature Raids, the second anniversary of charges being made, and that the materials for argument of the case have only recently been (something like) finalized is simply not acceptable – especially since the character of the government in power is at issue and profound questions of larger and more extensive liability among those involved but not named are in the minds of many, many people even slightly familiar with the matter.
I believe that the office of the Special Prosecutor experienced in its relations with Mr. McCullough some of the same bravura that I watched in the Chamber. McCullough made a request of Special Prosecutor Berardino to review the entire police file. Of course there are at least two views of this matter. The Memorandum of Argument reports that McCullough asserted “he had never been involved in a major case where the Crown was not prepared to permit a review of the police investigation file”. (p. 8, Berardino).
McCullough was asked in just what cases he had been granted such a review. They turned out to be 2 only, according to the Memorandum of Argument, and neither compared with the Legislature Raids police files in volume of material, issues of privilege, the problem of vetting, or the need to protect the identity of informants. That request still stands, and it will be decided by the judge on November 14.
I asked Joseph Doyle of the Defence team for a copy of the Application for Disclosure, and he replied that he only had one. The only way to get a copy was from one of the lawyers active in the case. (The insane reason for that will be explained in the next column.) I knew it would be useless to ask Mr. McCullough. And so I asked the most senior Defence counsel, Michael Bolton. He courteously agreed to give me one, and asked me to approach him at the end of the day. I also asked Mr. Berardino for a copy of the Memorandum of Argument. He agreed graciously and an assisting counsel gave me a copy before the end of the day.
In addition, Mr. Berardino stopped me and courteously offered to answer questions I might have, later, on fact and information that he might fairly answer.
What happened thereafter is Kafka’esque and irrational. When I approached Mr. Bolton at the end of the session, he informed me he only had marked copies of the Application for Disclosure. Unsolicited, Mr. McCullough called out from behind me that he was in the same position. I was, naturally, concerned since the hearings were now over.
An assistant counsel to Mr. Bolton told me that they would be dropping some materials at Criminal Registry and would ask there that I be shown the Application for Disclosure as well as some other materials – which she gestured at. Having to leave promptly I went with my friend to Criminal Registry to inform them Defence had granted permission to see the Application and some other materials.
Criminal Registry threw up obstacles – to be discussed in the next column. I took the Criminal Registry telephone number so I could call that office in the morning, watched the clerk take a note with my name on it regarding the request. And I left. At home I called Mr. Bolton’s receptionist, explained Criminal Registry’s response, and suggested he set aside a copy of the Application for Disclosure, that his receptionist call me, and that I pick it up.
Around ten o’clock the next morning I contacted Criminal Registry. The person in charge of the section denied knowing anything of the matter or of materials left for me to see…or of the note taken by the clerk the afternoon before. A total blank. And so I called Mr. Bolton’s office where he was on the telephone. The assisting counsel of the afternoon before came on the line and remarked that she heard I had trouble at Criminal Registry. Then she offered to make a copy of the Application for Disclosure for me (mentioning no other documents) which I crossed the city and picked up at 2:00 p.m.
My next column will explain how madness is in charge of Criminal Registry in The Supreme Court of B.C. As in the play Hamlet, however, it is a madness which is “north northwest” for it serves to prevent Canadians from gaining access to information they have a perfect right to consult. I will link that madness to a review of the deeply disturbing state of the judiciary in B.C., the RCMP, press and media, government and non-government actors in the present scandal – and what may be the impending destruction of the December 4 trial date.