‘The soiled 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 and on the integrity of democratic government in Canada in the first 12 years of the century.’
~ Robin Mathews
Many people in Canada have never heard of Shirley Bond, B.C.’s Solicitor General, Minister of Public Safety, and Attorney General of the province. Nevertheless, she fits snugly into the new role of legislators – to block any acts of responsibility to the electorate, to cover up violations of trust by government, to sham the relation between large corporations and the legislators â€őowned” by the corporations.
She is presently insisting that her attempt to block the Auditor General from investigating all the circumstances of the â€őunconventional” $6 million pay-out to Defence Counsel in the Basi, Virk, and Basi (BC Rail Scandal) case is a demonstration of her full and willing cooperation with the Auditor General. Ms. Bond was Deputy Premier when the â€ődeal” was made to chop the (unfinished) trial in order to prevent cross-examination of top politicos and corporate actors … and to pay the costs of the convicted men – Dave Basi and Bobby Virk.
The Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark/Shirley Bond Liberal government will never get to the 2013 provincial election if the full story of the corrupt transfer of BC Rail to the CNR is told. Thus (I believe), we see Ms. Bond’s game of smoke and mirrors with law and with the integrity of the Ministry 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 of nationally-owned resources by multi-national elites, to turn police forces into â€őpalace armies”, to debase the democratic election process, to hand governing to private interests, and to sell off and ship out the sources of worthwhile employment (the industrial base) – has a number of names.
After the March 29th federal budget the Globe and Mail chose to call the move in Canada: â€őHarper’s modest revolution”. If the matter wasn’t so serious, the Globe’s characterization would be laughable. The Harper government (Air Canada, Postal Workers) has set about wrecking collective bargaining in Canada. The Harper forces admitted guilt to an attempted rig of the 2006 election (which should have caused major criminal charges, and has not).
The Harper government has been a party to the highly dubious sell-off of STELCO to U.S. interests, and the closing down of ELECTRO-MOTIVE DIESEL by recently new owner CATERPILLAR – after insulting the employees by offering them a 50% wage cut. And shortly before sale, a $5 million tax grant went to the Corporation from the Harper government. [With what behind-the-scenes agreements??] Expect more of the same under the Harper regime.
In the calculated and highly organized (alleged) Harper Party attempt to wreck the 2011 election through Robocall electronic tactics, another major attack was made upon the legitimacy of the election process in Canada. All indications point to the Conservative Party and its supporters as the major, overwhelmingly involved force engaged in election-wrecking. That must be said repeatedly. The bully-boy tactics of the people with organizations involved and by spokespeople for the Harper force in Parliament are intended, I believe, to stop Canadians from saying just that: every indication points to the Conservative Party and its supporters as creators of the latest attack upon the legitimacy of the election process in Canada.
In addition, using its proxy power in the Enbridge Corporation, the Harper forces are attacking freedom of assembly in Canada. In the North yesterday, the Northern Gateway hearing was closed down because, apparently, Enbridge representatives were offended by a school teacher and pupils showing signs opposed to the Gateway development. Enbridge was trying to say that they will not engage with the population democratically. They want militarized agreement with their corporate decisions.
Proof that the Harper government was in on the mini-blow against democracy is given by its complete silence in the face of the Enbridge action.
That is not nearly all. With this column, I am sending information that has come to me from Kelly Marie Richard. In short, she was (as she and I believe firmly) corruptly prevented from carrying out an action for Dental Malpractice by CGI (Information Technology firm with other widening interests), the RCMP, some of the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench judiciary, and others. Her allegation (extending from that experience) in what is attached with this column is, in short, that Stephen Harper is cutting budget and employees at Department of National Defense and Public Safety and is replacing with employees from CGI. Privatizing, secretly, operations of federal government.
Kelly Marie Richard has investigated CGI for some years and has recorded hundreds of CGI employees in Federal Government Departments and Crown Corporations WORKING FOR CGI.
We should not fail to recognize that since the taking of government in B.C. by what is fairly called the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark forces (2001) ALL of the same kinds of moves have been visible in British Columbia – except, so far, proof of election rigging.
The breaches of trust, the violations of the rule of law, the contracts entered into (at least partly) in secrecy, the sell-out of wealth owned by the people of the province, the dirty cronyism, the cover-up of (perhaps) criminal activity within government, and much, much, much more are too vast and extensive to deal with here.
Here, I will deal with a centre devoted to the wreckage of the rule of law in British Columbia – by which I mean the Ministry of the Attorney General. Since the arrival of the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark government it may be said that NOT ONE Attorney General has served without at least one (discovered) ugly, unprincipled action destroying the credibility of the Office. How many other violations of trust the Attorneys General have engaged in may come out in future investigations.
It has been said that the Attorney General preceding Shirley Bond resigned because he was pushed (apparently to act politically) by premier Christy 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 with fiddling and delaying the HST referendum. And there is more ….
Not one … not one Attorney General since the arrival of the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark government, I allege, has conducted himself or herself without reason on the part of the electorate strongly to suspect his/her actions.
Since Attorneys General hold a special and important place in relation to the rule of law, their unbroken failure since 2001 in B.C. is a symbol of the betrayal of democratic process in the country. Attorneys General have a key role. They are responsible for the courts and justice, and they are responsible for advising the cabinet on all matters of law in relation to any cabinet action. They sit both as cabinet members and – at the same time must have the integrity to insist upon fully lawful practice by cabinet.
It is a tough role that calls for integrity, principle, and calm.
Let us look at the record.
In 2003, Geoff Plant, Attorney General (2001-2005), and Allan Seckel, Deputy Attorney General, flagrantly violated the legislation governing the appointment 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 colleagues for 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 Clark governments may fairly hold that belief.
Geoff Plant’s successor, Wally Oppal (2005-09), besmirched his reputation and position in at least two major ways. He did everything he could as Attorney General in the legislature and outside of it under questioning to insist every matter concerning the BC Rail Scandal was â€ősub judice” – that is to say in active consideration by the Courts. That was simply not true.
Wally Oppal a gem of an Attorney General
But as telling, in an attempt to get an action in process against the alleged Bountiful bigamists, he also violated the procedure to appoint Special (Crown) Prosecutors. He went â€őSpecial Prosecutor shopping”, which means he was determined to start a case whether experts believed a case was legitimate or not.
The first two â€ődistinguished” lawyers he approached said no case could be taken until a higher court ruled whether religious bigamy was permissible under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Mr. Oppal should have followed the advice of the first Special Prosecutor appointed. Instead, he went from Special Prosecutor to Special Prosecutor until he could get what he wanted – a trial (I believe, for purely political reasons).
When Mr. Oppal’s game was exposed in the first hours of the trial, the Supreme court judge stopped the action, then and there and, in effect, threw it out. A case conducted by the accused against Wally Oppal upheld the action to throw the case out of court and the decision that he had acted wrongfully.
As a result Wally Oppal was appointed to the lucrative post as Commissioner to head the Inquiry into the matters concerning the Vancouver Downtown Eastside women murdered at the Pickton Farm. Many believe it is a sham procedure in which Mr. Oppal prevents questions being asked about matters that would be embarrassing to police or government.
When Wally Oppal was defeated at the polls, he was succeeded as Attorney General by Michael de Jong (2009-10).
Clearly, people inside government were becoming aware that the British Columbia public were concerned the Special Crown Prosecutor process was being used for political ends by the Gordon Campbell government.
Related as suspected corruption but not as a link to the BC Rail Scandal, the new Solicitor General Kash Heed was alleged to have been involved in election irregularities. The Special Prosecutor appointed to look into his actions – Terrence Robertson was found to be in conflict of interest and was replaced by Special Prosecutor Peter Wilson.
Attorney General Michael de Jong decided to conduct a review of the Special Prosecutor appointment process. To do so, he went to a vice president of UBC. That was imprudent, since UBC is in a master/servant relation with the B.C. government which can – at any time – do harm to the operations of the university. A reviewer of government behaviour from UBC can be suspected of prejudice in his/her work. Stephen Owen’s Report did nothing to allay that suspicion.
Michael de Jong appointed Stephen Owen to do the review in May of 2010. Mr. Owen is a vice president in charge of relations with governments – a role that might well restrain him from making a judgement against the B.C. government.
I wrote Mr. Owen a formal letter on the matter of the wrongful appointment of William Berardino as Special Prosecutor in the Basi, Virk, and Basi case. Mr. Owen did not acknowledge my letter. He did not mention the Berardino matter in his review. He interviewed, however, Janet Winteringham who was a part of the Berardino prosecution team. And he interviewed Michael de Jong.
His report in July of 2010 recorded that â€őthere is pride and confidence in the special prosecutor system”. He said the process of appointment is appropriate. And he reported that â€őthe special prosecutor system in British Columbia works well in the public interest”.
When Michael de Jong left the Attorney General position, it was filled by Barry Penner from 2010 to 2011. News stories and commentary on the short time Barry Penner was Attorney General give the impression he was pushed by premier Christy Clark to act politically in the position. Mr. Penner is said to have pushed back, and then to have resigned from the legislature.
Nevertheless, seeking an opinion on the money paid for legal costs to employees of government who are convicted or who plead guilty to crimes, Attorney General Penner sought expert advice on that non-question. A school child could answer it.
He should not have sought a review from the President and Vice Chancellor of the University of British Columbia for the same reason Michael de Jong should not have sought advice from a Vice President of UBC. UBC is supported by the ever-changing budget of governments in power. UBC agents may be accused of  conflict of interest when they provide advice to B.C. government. They may be accused of toadying and seeking favour.
President and Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope should for the same reason – have refused. He should have told Attorney General Penner that there are nearly 11,000 lawyers at work in B.C., thousands of whom have no connection whatever to B.C. government. President Toope should have said ‘ â€őuse one of those lawyers”. He didn’t. He accepted the request. His acceptance, as I see it, was uneasy. For he wrote at the beginning of his report that he was â€őProfessor Stephen Toope”, and he wrote that he was responding â€őin my personal capacity” – which he probably knew was so much rhetorical nonsense. He could not – at will – cease to be the President and Vice Chancellor of UBC. Period.
He appears to me to have done in his review more gently what Stephen Owen did in his – that is, okay government behaviour. Observe what he writes:
â€őthe Ministry of Attorney General officials have worked diligently to respond to requests for indemnification that require the exercise of discretion. Using firmly established common law method, the officials charged with exercising discretion have justified their decisions by drawing out principles present in existing cases and analogizing those principles to new circumstances. [My capital letters.] AS FAR AS I CAN TELL FROM THE DOCUMENTS TO WHICH I HAVE HAD ACCESS, THE RESULTS TO DATE HAVE BEEN PRINCIPLED….” (p. 29)
A wise Attorney General would have accepted that document and been very content with it. But Barry Penner had resigned. Shirley Bond had become the new Attorney General and received the report from President and Vice Chancellor of UBC, Stephen Toope. She decided to push the matter a little further, not content with the victory won.
She wrote a letter to Stephen Toope after receiving the Report. And she asked him a question which he publishes. President Toope should have included the whole letter from Shirley Bond, but he only included the question.
Her question, in short, asked if government employees are convicted or plead guilty, should government require that the employees pay back, (the term used is to provide â€őreimbursement” of) the money paid for their costs during the case?
President and Vice Chancellor Stephen Toope replies in no uncertain terms: the convicted should pay back. In his letter to Attorney General Shirley Bond on November 8, 2010 he writes the following:
â€ő…my view is that for criminal indemnities, conviction (including the case of a guilty plea) should trigger a claim for full reimbursement. Guilt in a criminal case necessarily means that a public servant was not acting in the scope of his or her duties or in the course of employment. No BC government employment duty can require the commission of a criminal offence. No valid purpose articulated in any report would be served by allowing indemnification in such cases, because there is no public interest in protecting the public servant from the full consequences (including financial consequences) of criminal liability.
It follows that the requirement of reimbursement in the case of criminal conviction should be mandatory and not the subject of the exercise of discretion.”
That has placed Attorney General Shirley Bond in a tough position, for her government has decided to engage in â€őthe exercise of discretion” and to pay the $6 million costs of the two men who pled guilty to criminal offences. The statements of the President and Vice Chancellor of UBC, in addition, add power to the requests of the Auditor General of B.C. for all 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 Columbians believe – a payment of hush money, a payment to get the accused out of the courtroom, and the trial ended, before other, higher placed government and corporate officials became involved in charges of wrongdoing. The â€őexercise of discretion” in that case was used to protect the powerful wrongdoers in the BC Rail Scandal. It was undertaken to block and prevent the fair administration of justice. And so Shirley Bond, under the protestation of giving every help possible to the Auditor General, appears to be blocking every access to information about the process of agreeing to the payment.
She is the last (and the present) Attorney General since 2001. And she appears to be hip-deep in abuse of the powers of the Ministry of the Attorney General. She is keeping the foul reputation of the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark Ministry of the Attorney General alive … and flourishing.
Since the beginning of the Gordon Campbell/Christy Clark Liberal government in B.C., it has been perfectly in accord with the ideology and practice of the Stephen Harper neoliberals in Ottawa. That is why Gordon Campbell was made Canadian High Commissioner in London after he was forced out of the premiership in B.C.
That is why Christy Clark has hired Harper aides to be her closest advisors and why she exults in photo-ops with Stephen Harper.
The soiled 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 and on the integrity of democratic government in Canada in the first 12 years of the century. Unless the direction is reversed, the country may expect deeply troubled times marked by violence and increasing class conflict.