This item was first published in June 2010.
Weekend is a time to reflect on broad issues and to search for connections between insurrectionist tumult in the streets of Toronto and genteel actions of scrubbed and styled actors in room Bi54 at the Supreme Court of British Columbia. On one hand, we have the disaffected and the disconnected convulsing in faithless anarchy. On the other, are the faithful privileged, purporting to be servants of justice but, in fact, securing patrician values and fruitful self-interests.
Political corruption behind the sale of BC Rail seems, to the political classes, not to be criminal because it was government business as usual. The billion dollar sale that was not a sale also turns out not to be worth a billion dollars given that taxpayers must return over $600 million to the buyer. But, the sale that wouldn’t happen, happened exactly as contrived. What didn’t go according to plan was hiding the details. (Competitive protection for CN, you know.) In the same way, competitive bidding for multi-billion dollar contracts was eliminated. Thus, the Highway 1 Port Mann bridge proceeds as contrived, placed in the hands of Liberal friend Peter Kiewit Sons Co. As did the contracts for Liberal associates to plunder BC Hydro, the approvals to displace our wild fishers with foreign aquaculture, the insiders and friends who deplete remaining farmland to build little boxes made of ticky-tacky.
That the Basi/Virk case exists is merely accidental, part of the fraud exposed when RCMP stumbled across it in a drug investigation usually confined to the underclasses. Like a fetid odor, the railway case lingers, despite the efforts of handshakers to contain it; circumscription that included departures of key ministers, appointment of a ‘Special Prosecutor’ of questionable qualification, repeated legal arguments, interminable delays, an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, a threatened stay of prosecution, records destruction and recasting of the leading judicial role.
Throughout six and a half years following the RCMP raid on legislative offices, despite much problematic and incriminating information known, old media pretends there is little worth telling in the story. Instead, they encourage a ubiquitous fog. Pundits deride new media as Vaughn Palmer did when he said on CKNW, “Nincompoops ranting in their underpants is the term for people blogging, for me.” Yet new media is where the connections are made between facts and suppositions
So, how does this link with outpourings of violence and vandalism in Toronto this week? I don’t for a moment suggest those who planned and participated in undisciplined attempts at street coercion are worthy of a moment’s respect. Many are adrenaline fueled joyriders lacking the neurobehavioral systems necessary for self-control although trusting Canadian police to leave them unharmed. They are playing a thrill game and only pretend to address issues to improve the world. They have so little regard for the purported messages, they won’t attach their names and faces to the appeals. Instead, the cowards appear with identities disguised.
However, these anarchists choose rowdy disorder to address the public because they have few means to carry on public discourse. The traditional media, already in the hands of corporate elites, maintains roadblocks to viewpoints contrary to media interests. These complacent “professional journalists” cast disdain on new media and pretend the alternatives provide only voices of loony fruitcakes. There is no more outrageous example of gatekeeping than three Canwest Newspaper writers denying Robin Mathews accreditation for the Basi Virk trial. The man has probably written and published more words on this – perhaps any – subject than the accreditation committee together. Instead of raising their own game, they would deprive Mathews of rights to collect information, including notices that hearings will or will not proceed.
In the press, letters to the editor are selected, even commissioned, to maintain control of subject matter. Op-ed writers come from the political right or extreme right. Occasional center-left submissions are allowed but only if they come from safe, predictable contributors.
Radio broadcasters that conduct call-in shows, like CBC and Corus, ban certain callers and erect subject screening barriers and kill switches to ensure that voices of dissent are largely kept silent. Of course, in-studio guests are chosen to suit the agenda. For example, who does CKNW feature for the final promotions before HST takes effect? Micheal and Gordon Campbell, Michael Levy, Colin Hansen, Mike Klassen, Fraser Institute reps and leaders of businesses that stand to benefit by the massive shift in taxes from corporations to consumers.
As demonstrated above with the Basi Virk case, when held accountable, the ruling system rumbles, spins its wheels mightily, pretends to take action without giving up a thing. When officialdom does wrong, millions can be spent by the elites in questing for explanations but, in the end, the culpable walk free and the public purse stands emptier. Do we really need almost 12 years to examine the death of Frank Paul or seven years to review the crooked sale of BC Rail. They held WWII in less time.
The highest judge in Canada, Beverly McLachlan, spoke outside her courtroom with words apparently lost on players at the Supreme Court of BC:
Justice may be being done, but it is not necessarily being seen to be done, and justice must be seen to be believed. Law is central to democracy. The public thinks that law and democracy are about justice, that justice is about fairness.
…the intensity of the public’s disaffection is now so palpable that it has started to affect the profession’s own perception of its professionalism.
…our independence does not absolve us from the responsibility of listening and being open to the possibility that the public’s suggestions and criticisms are relevant. We cannot, of course, accede to every request for a response just because it comes from the public, but neither should we decry every criticism as irrelevant just because it had never occurred to us before, or came from an unfamiliar source, or met with no support from our colleagues. Justice may be blind, but the public is not.
…The effect of our exaggerated contentious procedure is not only to irritate parties, witnesses and jurors in particular cases, but to give to the whole community a false notion of the purpose and end of law.
Given the discredited system of special prosecutors, the Basi/Virk/BC Rail prosecutor’s ties to Liberal politicians, the destruction of documents, long delays and the refusal of the court to conduct itself openly when it can, Anne MacKenzie’s Supreme Court presents a false notion of the purpose and end of law.
Doing so feeds the distrust that enables vanguards of the disaffected to form mobs on the streets and I am left in contempt of this court.