British Columbia

Documents related to B.C. legislature raid to be released publicly

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered the release of thousands of pages of B.C. government documents connected to the years-long case involving the sale of BC Rail and a 2003 RCMP raid on the provincial legislature.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has ordered the release of thousands of pages of B.C. government documents connected to the years-long case involving the sale of BC Rail and a 2003 RCMP raid on the provincial legislature.

Justice Elizabeth Bennett, who's hearing the case that involves allegations of corruption in the sale of BC Rail, said about 8,000 pages could be disclosed. The documents were obtained under freedom of information legislation by the lawyers of the three former Liberal government aides accused of fraud, breach of trust and money laundering in the case.

However, Bennett said two binders that BC Rail turned over voluntarily to the defence will not be among the 15 that will be available because BC Rail is not covered by the provincial Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

The order came Wednesday after an application made by provincial NDP justice critic Leonard Krog. Krog alleged the Liberal government dragged its feet on disclosing information on the five-year-old case because it botched the $1-billion sale of BC Rail assets to CN Rail in 2003.

"We are getting 15 binders of documents that will hopefully cast some light on what was essentially the giveaway of a Crown asset in circumstances that led to criminal charges and one of the longest-running cases in B.C. criminal court history," Krog said after Bennett's ruling.

Voters heading into the May 12 provincial election have a right to know what led to the unprecedented RCMP raid on cabinet offices at the B.C. legislature in Victoria in December 2003, he said.

Documents might reveal little

Despite the court order, Krog conceded there may be no smoking gun.

The freedom of information act allows the government to censor or delete documents for several reasons, including policy advice and the presence of information that might harm law enforcement, intergovernmental relations or negotiations, economic interests or the business interests of a third party.

"My fear is there'll be a number of edited pages, and this may not advance the public's understanding or the seeking of truth, which is what this is supposed to be all about," Krog said.

Dave Basi, aide to former finance minister Gary Collins, and Bobby Virk, who worked for then-transportation minister Judith Reid, are charged with fraud and breach of trust. Former government communications officer Aneal Basi, Dave Basi's cousin, is accused of money laundering.

The Crown alleges that between May 2002 and December 2003, Basi and Virk received benefits from lobbyists working for Pilothouse Public Affairs Group, which represented CN competitor OmniTRAX, in exchange for providing them with confidential government documents on BC Rail regarding the sale.

The case has spent years bogged down in evidence-disclosure hearings, forcing the trial to be postponed several times.

The latest twist came in November, when the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear an appeal by special prosecutor Bill Berardino to overturn a ruling allowing defence lawyers to learn the name of a confidential police informant.

Under the judge's order, copies of the documents will be made available for public view in the file registry of the Vancouver Law Courts.

Krog called on the government to publish the documents, now that the court has released them.