Fracking. The One Per Cent. Collapsing Canadian Courts. Jessica Ernst of Rosebud, Alberta.
by Robin Mathews
April 6, 2013
The One Per Cent, we know, control ‘the banks too big to fail’ and the corporations too powerful to regulate – which includes (among other things) fracking enterprises worldwide. The Canadian courts, we are beginning to know, operate – increasingly – outside the Rule of Law in matters concerning The One Per Cent … and fracking.
All over the globe fracking is fouling drinking water, lowering water tables, and endangering agriculture in the search, especially, for what is called “natural gas”. It is doing that in the area of Rosebud, Alberta, where Jessica Ernst makes her home.
All over the globe people are being affected, waking up alarmed, calling for investigation, research, regulation, laws to control fracking. Jessica Ernst, scientist, oil patch operative, has been doing that for … for going on a decade. Jessica Ernst has a 33 million dollar lawsuit against Encana*, Alberta Energy Regulators, and the Alberta government, a suit being propelled forward (very, very, very slowly) by the law firm called Klippenstein of Toronto, Ontario.
The fight is tough. The Alberta Regulator – The Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) has argued it’s immune from lawsuits and has “no duty of care” to citizens complaining of groundwater contamination. That indicates the ‘style’ of the conflict about fracking: just who is working for whom?
As if to underscore that “style”, a sort-of shake-up is going on in Alberta energy regulation. A new chair of Alberta energy regulation has been named: Gerald J. Protti, fifteen year officer at Encana and its predecessor PanCanadian Energy. Deborah Yedlin of Calgary Herald uses this phrase about his appointment: perhaps, she says, “putting the fox in charge of the hen house” (April 2, 2013). That doesn’t quite describe the appointment: the fox, after all, wants to eat the hens. Maybe the poetic image should be “putting the Mafia chief in charge of criminal investigations”. Whatever, Mr. Protti is not believed by many to be an objective choice. Par for the course.
Which takes us to the court and the astonishing (I don’t like to say it), almost unbelievable behaviour in the Court of Queen’s Bench, Calgary. (Par for the course?) To put the matter in very simple terms, I believe the administration of justice – in relation to Jessica Ernst’s case – is being brutalized and shredded by a combination of forces including the Stephen Harper forces in Ottawa and the Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench (with, doubtless, a cheering section from Alberta government and “the industry”).
The people behind the behaviour of Stephen Harper and Queen’s Bench are not openly visible. You might say they’re The One Per Cent.
In brief, the judge on the Case Management process, Justice Barbara Veldhuis, about to rule on whether Jessica Ernst can sue the government regulator, was promoted from the Court of Queen’s Bench to the Alberta Appeals Court, removed, and prevented from making a finding. By the merest chance, the Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Neil Wittmann volunteered to take over the matter. And has done so.
All that, I suggest, is probably fraudulent behaviour.
To begin, the promotion of Barbara Veldhuis stinks to high heaven. Why did she need to move? She didn’t. Who moved her? The only person in Canada who could move her is Rob Nicholson, minister of justice, Ottawa – by which we may say Stephen Harper. Why would Stephen Harper want to reach into the Alberta higher court system and move Barbara Veldhuis?
The answer can only be, I suggest, someone feared that she was about to rule against the interests of The One Per Cent.
The promotion of Barbara Veldhuis, we may say, was ridiculous, unnecessary, and timed to destroy her work on the Jessica Ernst case. We may say more.
Members of either of the senior Alberta courts mentioned – Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal – are ex officio members of the other court (if the Wikipedia material on the Alberta courts is correct). Members of those courts are – at the very least – able (at the direction of the Chief Justice) to work in the other court. And so Barbara Veldhuis could be promoted to the Alberta Appeals Court and could also make the ruling on the Jessica Ernst application in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
The whole business of promoting Justice Veldhuis and moving her and preventing her from making the ruling is … I suggest, sham, smoke-and-mirrors, a fraud. The shifting of judges on sensitive cases must be seen for the dangerous activity it is.
Remember that in British Columbia in 2010 a similar action occurred. That action directly connects the Alberta Jessica Ernst case with the B.C. Supreme Court BC Rail Scandal case. And … Neil Wittmann, Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, is involved in both events.
Supreme Court of B.C. Justice Elizabeth Bennett was swiftly removed from the BC Rail Scandal trial as a result of her promotion, by Stephen Harper, to the Appeals Court. She was replaced by Madam Justice Anne MacKenzie who, some allege, was placed there to protect premier Gordon Campbell, his team, and all the powerful private operators who are alleged to have corruptly transferred BC Rail to the CNR.
There is more. Anne MacKenzie was, within weeks, raised by Stephen Harper to the position of Associate Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court. And then in some months she was raised by Stephen Harper to the B.C. Appeals Court.
A key fact of her time as judge on the BC Rail Scandal (Basi, Virk, and Basi) case, was that she permitted in her court a Special (Crown) Prosecutor who she was told, formally, was appointed to his position in flagrant violation of the legislation governing the appointment of Special Prosecutors.
Such appointees have to be completely objective and wholly unconnected to political power and civil service officers. But the Special (Crown) Prosecutor, William Berardino, was appointed to the case by a ministry of the Attorney General in which the Attorney General had been his partner and colleague for seven years, and the Deputy Attorney General had been his partner and colleague for eleven years.
The evidence of the Special Prosecutor’s illegitimate appointment was so stark that I wrote to the Chief Justice, the Associate Chief Justice and the judge on the case – on two separate occasions, formally reporting the illegitimate appointment. They answered, refusing to act.
Two of the accused were cabinet appointed aides reporting to cabinet members and acting on their behalf. And so the appointment of the Special Prosecutor, as I say, was in flagrant violation of the legislation governing such appointments. He was simply too connected (in fact and in perception) to the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General to have been appointed. There is not the slightest question about that.
Unsatisfied with the replies I received from the top judges of the B.C. Supreme Court, I decided to address a complaint to the Canadian Judicial Council – the highest body in the country. I made a formal complaint of misconduct on the part of Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie in the matter of knowing the Special Crown Prosecutor in her court was there by illegitimate appointment. She was conducting herself as if he was a legitimate appointment and so she was sullying the administration of justice.
The Canadian Judicial Council elected to have the Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Neil Wittmann deal with my complaint. On his behalf (as is standard practice) his agent on the Council replied to me. He declared that Chief Justice Neil Wittmann concluded that the conduct of Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie (which I had pointed out) was a not matter of conduct. He dismissed my complaint.
I allege that his action supported an illegitimate trial, supported the major wrong-doers in the BC Rail Scandal, and supported the action of Stephen Harper in ‘conveniently’ promoting Justice Elizabeth Bennett, making way for Justice Anne MacKenzie.
That is the same Chief Justice Neil Wittmann who did not protest when Justice Barbara Veldhuis was promoted, did not exercise his discretion as Chief Justice to permit her as ex officio of both courts to make a finding on the Jessica Ernst application, and who volunteered himself to take over the Jessica Ernst action in Case Management with what must be deleterious results.
If he decides to re-hear arguments on the application that were presented in Calgary court in January 2013, he will be choosing to force Jessica Ernst to exceptional expense and delay. If he chooses merely to read the transcripts of the arguments presented, he will be placing Ms. Ernst at risk of being misunderstood in the presentations made both for her by her lawyers and against her by those opposed to her
A fundamental convention of such cases is that judges are not changed – for the obvious reason that they carry all the information forward as the case develops. Plainly, Chief Justice Wittmann is at sea on this case, wallowing, and is going to have, somehow, to start afresh, causing anxiety, financial cost, delay, and stress to Jessica Ernst. But, for all we know, that may be precisely (with Neil Wittmann’s and Stephen Harper’s cooperation) what The One Per Cent (who seem to be in charge of this case) want to have happen.
Chief Justice Neil Wittmann can’t help being suspected by many people of simply being a “plant” on the case to make certain that justice will never be done. The strange, sudden, and unusual shifts in the case bring the administration of justice into disrepute, even in the unlikely possibility that they are honest shifts. For all we know, additional facts calling Neil Wittmann’s role into question may well surface in the coming weeks and months.
What Canadians have to see clearly in these two important cases is that, I allege, the Stephen Harper forces in Ottawa interfered with the administration of justice in a manner that prevented justice from being done. I believe they interfered intentionally to pollute the administration of justice.
Canadians must also see clearly that all the other judges of the higher courts in British Columbia and Alberta – and the Law Societies of both provinces – consented (by inaction) to the pollution – even when they were not a material part of it. We are witnessing the collapsing Canadian courts … and the eroding Canadian legal system.
We are witnessing here, in particular, what I take to be a highly organized and concerted attack upon Jessica Ernst and her case by the federal ministry of justice (directed by Stephen Harper) and by the most powerful officer of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench -with the silent assent of legal experts who should be protesting loudly and publicly at the attack on the most basic foundations of democratic society.
* ENCANA CORPORATION. Annual General Meeting, April 23, 2:00 p.m. Hotel Arts Spectrum Ballroom, 119 – 12 Avenue Southwest, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Contact Robin: firstname.lastname@example.org