“Thesoiled and disgraceful history of the Ministry of the Attorney General of B.C.since 2001 is a faithful representation of the assault on the rule of law andon the integrity of democratic government in Canada in the first 12 years ofthe century.” ~ Robin Mathews
Many people in Canada have never heard of Shirley Bond, B.C.’sSolicitor General, Minister of Public Safety, and Attorney General of theprovince. Nevertheless, she fits snugly into the new role of legislators ~ toblock any acts of responsibility to the electorate, to cover up violations oftrust by government, to sham the relation between large corporations and thelegislators “owned” by the corporations.
She is presently insisting that her attempt to block the AuditorGeneral from investigating all the circumstances of the “unconventional” $6million pay-out to Defence Counsel in the Basi, Virk, and Basi (BC RailScandal) case is a demonstration of her full and willing cooperation with theAuditor General. Ms. Bond was Deputy Premier when the “deal” was made tochop the (unfinished) trial in order to prevent cross-examination of toppoliticos and corporate actors ~ and to pay the costs of the convicted men ~Dave Basi and Bobby Virk.
The Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark/Shirley Bond Liberalgovernment will never get to the 2013 provincial election if the full story ofthe corrupt transfer of BC Rail to the CNR is told. Thus (I believe), we seeMs. Bond’s game of smoke and mirrors with law and with the integrity of theMinistry of the Attorney General.
The move in Canada ~ and globally, to destroy the rule of law,to assail rights of collective bargaining, to kidnap ownership ofnationally-owned resources by multi-national elites, to turn police forces into“palace armies”, to debase the democratic election process, to hand governingto private interests, and to sell off and ship out the sources of worthwhileemployment (the industrial base) ~ has a number of names.
After the March 29th federal budget the Globe and Mail chose to callthe move in Canada: “Harper’s modest revolution”.
If the matter wasn’t so serious, the Globe’s characterizationwould be laughable.The Harper government (Air Canada, Postal Workers) has set aboutwrecking collective bargaining in Canada.The Harper forces admitted guilt to an attempted rig of the 2006election (which should have caused major criminal charges, and has not).
The Harper government has been a party to the highly dubioussell-off of STELCO to U.S. interests, and the closing down of ELECTRO-MOTIVEDIESEL by recently new owner CATERPILLAR ~ after insulting the employees byoffering them a 50% wage cut.
And shortly before sale, a $5 million tax grant went to theCorporation from the Harper government. [With what behind-the-scenesagreements??]
Expect more of the same under the Harper regime.
In the calculated and highly organized (alleged) Harper Partyattempt to wreck the 2011 election through Robocall electronic tactics, anothermajor attack was made upon the legitimacy of the election process inCanada.
All indications point to the Conservative Party and itssupporters as the major, overwhelmingly involved force engaged inelection-wrecking.
That must be said repeatedly. The bully-boy tactics of thepeople with organizations involved and by spokespeople for the Harper force inParliament are intended, I believe, to stop Canadians from saying just that:every indication points to the Conservative Party and its supporters ascreators of the latest attack upon the legitimacy of the election process inCanada.
In addition, using its proxy power in the Enbridge Corporation,the Harper forces are attacking freedom of assembly in Canada. In theNorth yesterday, the Northern Gateway hearing was closed down because,apparently, Enbridge representatives were offended by a school teacher andpupils showing signs opposed to the Gateway development.
Enbridge was trying to say that they will not engage with thepopulation democratically. They want militarized agreement with theircorporate decisions.
Proof that the Harper government was in on the mini-blow againstdemocracy is given by its complete silence in the face of the Enbridge action.
That is not nearly all. With this column, I am sending informationthat has come to me from Kelly Marie Richard. In short, she was (as sheand I believe firmly) corruptly prevented from carrying out an action forDental Malpractice by CGI (Information Technology firm with other wideninginterests), the RCMP, some of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judiciary, andothers.
Her allegation (extending from that experience) in what isattached with this column is, in short, that Stephen Harper is cutting budgetand employees at Department of National Defense and Public Safety and isreplacing with employees from CGI. In essence he is privatizing,secretly, operations of federal government.
Kelly Marie Richard has investigated CGI for some years and hasrecorded hundreds of CGI employees in Federal Government Departments and CrownCorporations WORKING FOR CGI.
We should not fail to recognize that since the taking ofgovernment in B.C. by what is fairly called the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clarkforces (2001) ALL of the same kinds of moves have been visible in BritishColumbia ~ except, so far, proof of election rigging.
The breaches of trust, the violations of the rule of law, thecontracts entered into (at least partly) in secrecy, the sell-out of wealthowned by the people of the province, the dirty cronyism, the cover-up of(perhaps) criminal activity within government, and much, much, much more aretoo vast and extensive to deal with here.
Here, I will deal with a centre devoted to the wreckage of therule of law in British Columbia ~ by which I mean the Ministry of the AttorneyGeneral.
Since the arrival of the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clarkgovernment it may be said that NOT ONE Attorney General has served without atleast one (discovered) ugly, unprincipled action destroying the credibility ofthe Office. How many other violations of trust the Attorneys General haveengaged in may come out in future investigations.
It has been said that the Attorney General preceding ShirleyBond resigned because he was pushed (apparently to act politically) by PremierChristy Clark, and ~ perhaps ~ because he could read the writing on the wall ~that the Liberals have no chance in the next election (2013).
That may be so. But before going, he was charged withfiddling and delaying the HST referendum. And there is more.
Not one … not one Attorney General since the arrival of theGordon Campbell/Christy Clark government, I allege, has conducted himself orherself without reason on the part of the electorate strongly to suspecthis/her actions.
Since Attorneys General hold a special and important place inrelation to the rule of law, their unbroken failure since 2001 in B.C. is asymbol of the betrayal of democratic process in the country.
Attorneys General have a key role. They are responsiblefor the courts and justice, and they are responsible for advising the cabineton all matters of law in relation to any cabinet action. They sit both ascabinet members and ~ at the same time ~ must have the integrity to insist uponfully lawful practice by cabinet.
It is a tough role that calls for integrity, principle, andcalm.
Let us look at the record.
In 2003, Geoff Plant, Attorney General (2001-2005), and AllanSeckel, Deputy Attorney General, flagrantly violated the legislation governing theappointment of Special Prosecutors and appointed to the BC Rail Scandal Basi,Virk, and Basi case a man with whom they had both been partners and colleaguesfor years. As a result, nothing William Berardino did as Special (Crown)Prosecutor can be accepted. Any British Columbian who believes Mr.Berardino worked for the political ends of the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clarkgovernments may fairly hold that belief.
Geoff Plant’s successor, Wally Oppal (2005-09), besmirched hisreputation and position in at least two major ways. He did everything he couldas Attorney General in the legislature and outside of it under questioning toinsist every matter concerning the BC Rail Scandal was “sub judice” ~ that isto say in active consideration by the Courts. That was simply not true.
WALLYOPPAL – A GEM OF AN ATTORNEY GENERAL
But as telling, in an attempt to get an action in processagainst the alleged Bountiful bigamists, he also violated the procedure toappoint Special (Crown) Prosecutors. He went “Special Prosecutor shopping”,which means he was determined to start a case whether experts believed a casewas legitimate or not.
The first two “distinguished” lawyers he approached said no casecould be taken until a higher court ruled whether religious bigamy waspermissible under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Mr. Oppal shouldhave followed the advice of the first Special Prosecutor appointed. Instead,he went from Special Prosecutor to Special Prosecutor until he could get whathe wanted ~ a trial (I believe, for purely political reasons).
When Mr. Oppal’s game was exposed in the first hours of thetrial, the Supreme Court judge stopped the action, then and there and, ineffect, threw it out. A case conducted by the accused against Wally Oppalupheld the action to throw the case out of court and the decision that he hadacted wrongfully.
As a result Wally Oppal was appointed to the lucrative post as Commissionerto head the Inquiry into the matters concerning the Vancouver Downtown Eastsidewomen murdered at the Pickton Farm. Many believe it is a sham procedurein which Mr. Oppal prevents questions being asked about matters that would beembarrassing to police or government.
When Wally Oppal was defeated at the polls, he was succeeded asAttorney General by Michael de Jong (2009-10).
Clearly, people inside government were becoming aware that theBritish Columbia public were concerned the Special Crown Prosecutor process wasbeing used for political ends by the Gordon Campbell government.
Related ~ as suspected corruption ~ but not as a link to the BCRail Scandal, the new Solicitor General Kash Heed was alleged to have beeninvolved in election irregularities. The Special Prosecutor appointed tolook into his actions ~ Terrence Robertson ~ was found to be in conflict ofinterest and was replaced by Special Prosecutor Peter Wilson.
Attorney General Michael de Jong decided to conduct a reviewof the Special Prosecutor appointment process. To do so, he went toa vice president of UBC. That was imprudent, since UBC is in amaster/servant relation with the B.C. government which can ~ at any time ~ doharm to the operations of the university. A reviewer of government behaviourfrom UBC can be suspected of prejudice in his/her work. Stephen Owen’s Reportdid nothing to allay that suspicion.
Michael de Jong appointed Stephen Owen to do the review in Mayof 2010. Mr. Owen is a vice president in charge of relations withgovernments – a role that might well restrain him from making a judgementagainst the B.C. government.
I wrote Mr. Owen a formal letter on the matter of the wrongfulappointment of William Berardino as Special Prosecutor in the Basi, Virk, andBasi case. Mr. Owen did not acknowledge my letter. He did notmention the Berardino matter in his review. He interviewed, however,Janet Winteringham who was a part of the Berardino prosecution team. Andhe interviewed Michael de Jong.
His report in July of 2010 recorded that “there is pride andconfidence in the special prosecutor system”. He said the process ofappointment is appropriate. And he reported that “the special prosecutorsystem in British Columbia works well in the public interest”.
When Michael de Jong left the Attorney General position, it wasfilled by Barry Penner from 2010 to 2011. News stories and commentary onthe short time Barry Penner was Attorney General give the impression he waspushed by Premier Christy Clark to act politically in the position. Mr. Penneris said to have pushed back, and then to have resigned from the legislature.
Nevertheless, seeking an opinion on the money paid for legalcosts to employees of government who are convicted or who plead guilty tocrimes, Attorney General Penner sought expert advice on thatnon-question. A school child could answer it.
He should not have sought a review from the President and ViceChancellor of the University of British Columbia for the same reason Michael deJong should not have sought advice from a Vice President of UBC. UBC issupported by the ever-changing budget of governments in power. UBC agentsmay be accused of conflict of interest when they provide advice toB.C. government. They may be accused of toadying and seeking favour.
President and Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope should ~ for thesame reason ~ have refused. He should have told Attorney General Pennerthat there are nearly 11,000 lawyers at work in B.C., thousands of whom have noconnection whatever to B.C. government.
President Toope should have said “Use one of thoselawyers”. He didn’t.
He accepted the request. His acceptance, as I see it, wasuneasy. For he wrote at the beginning of his report that he was“Professor Stephen Toope”, and he wrote that he was responding “in my personalcapacity” ~ which he probably knew was so much rhetorical nonsense. Hecould not ~ at will ~ cease to be the President and Vice Chancellor ofUBC. Period.
He appears to me to have done in his review more gently whatStephen Owen did in his ~ that is, okay government behaviour. Observe what he writes:
“The Ministry of Attorney General officials have workeddiligently to respond to requests for indemnification that require the exerciseof discretion. Using firmly established common law method, the officialscharged with exercising discretion have justified their decisions by drawingout principles present in existing cases and analogizing those principles tonew circumstances. [My capital letters.] AS FAR AS I CAN TELL FROM THEDOCUMENTS TO WHICH I HAVE HAD ACCESS, THE RESULTS TO DATE HAVE BEENPRINCIPLED….” (p. 29)
A wise Attorney General would have accepted that document andbeen very content with it. But Barry Penner had resigned. ShirleyBond had become the new Attorney General and received the report from Presidentand Vice Chancellor of UBC, Stephen Toope. She decided to push the mattera little further, not content with the victory won.
She wrote a letter to Stephen Toope after receiving theReport. And she asked him a question which he publishes. President Toopeshould have included the whole letter from Shirley Bond, but he only includedthe question.
Her question, in short, asked if government employees areconvicted or plead guilty, should government require that the employees payback, (the term used is to provide “reimbursement” of) the money paid for theircosts during the case?
President and Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope replies in nouncertain terms: the convicted should pay back. In his letter to AttorneyGeneral Shirley Bond on November 8, 2010 he writes the following:
“…my view is that for criminal indemnities, conviction(including the case of a guilty plea) should trigger a claim for fullreimbursement. Guilt in a criminal case necessarily means that a publicservant was not acting in the scope of his or her duties or in the course ofemployment. No BC government employment duty can require the commissionof a criminal offence. No valid purpose articulated in any report wouldbe served by allowing indemnification in such cases, because there is no publicinterest in protecting the public servant from the full consequences (includingfinancial consequences) of criminal liability.It follows that the requirement of reimbursement in the case ofcriminal conviction should be mandatory and not the subject of the exercise ofdiscretion.”
That has placed Attorney General Shirley Bond in a toughposition, for her government has decided to engage in “the exercise ofdiscretion” and to pay the $6 million costs of the two men who pled guilty tocriminal offences. The statements of the President and Vice Chancellor ofUBC, in addition, add power to the requests of the Auditor General of B.C. forall information leading to the payment of that sum.
But Shirley Bond knows, I think, that the payment ~ as it stands~ cannot be defended, for it was, in effect ~ many, many British Columbiansbelieve ~ a payment of hush money, a payment to get the accused out of thecourtroom, and the trial ended, before other, higher placed government andcorporate officials became involved in charges of wrongdoing.
The “exercise of discretion” in that case was used to protectthe powerful wrongdoers in the BC Rail Scandal. It was undertaken to block andprevent the fair administration of justice. And so Shirley Bond, under theprotestation of giving every help possible to the Auditor General, appears tobe blocking every access to information about the process of agreeing to thepayment.
She is the last (and the present) Attorney General since2001. And she appears to be hip-deep in abuse of the powers of theMinistry of the Attorney General. She is keeping the foul reputation of theGordon Campbell/Christy Clark Ministry of the Attorney General alive … andflourishing.
Since the beginning of the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark Liberalgovernment in B.C., it has been perfectly in accord with the ideology andpractice of the Stephen Harper neoliberals in Ottawa.That is why Gordon Campbell was made Canadian High Commissionerin London after he was forced out of the premiership in B.C.
That is why Christy Clark has hired Harper aides to be herclosest advisors and why she exults in photo-ops with Stephen Harper.
The soiled and disgraceful history of the Ministry of theAttorney General of B.C. since 2001 is a faithful representation of the assaulton the rule of law and on the integrity of democratic government in Canada inthe first 12 years of the century.
Unless the direction is reversed, the country may expect deeplytroubled times marked by violence and increasing class conflict.
Robin can be reached at: email@example.com