The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Whitley's testimony takes 180 degree turn, MSM misses 100% of it

Writing about the Driskell Inquiry got us to thinking that there hasn't been this much backstabbing since Julius Caesar went to lunch with his best pal, Brutus.

That incident was immortalized in contemporary notes:

FLAV Flavius Maximus, private Roman eye. I'd like to ask you a few questions. What do you know about this?
CAL I told him, Julie, don't go. Don't go Julie, I said. Don't go, it's the Ides of March.
FLAV Now look, Mrs. Caesar, I'd ---
CAL If I told him once, I'd told him a thousand times, Julie, don't go ...
FLAV Please, don't upset yourself.
CALPURNIA Julie, don't go, I said. It's the Ides of March. Beware already.

At the Driskell Inquiry, the line of backstabbers is long and, apparently, still growing.
- Perry Dean Harder ratted on Jim Driskell for running a chop shop operation, and wound up dead.
- Ray Zanidean's brother in Regina told police they should talk to Ray in Winnipeg about an arson in Swift Current.
- Zanidean snitched on Jim Driskell for the murder of Harder.
- RCMP Supt. Ross Burton put a knife into Winnipeg Sgt. Tom Anderson.
- And, just before taking a break, the inquiry heard former crown attorney Stu Whitley do his best to deep six his former colleagues George Dangerfield and the late Bruce Miller, now known at the inquiry as Public Enemies #2 and #3.

Whitley started as a crown attorney in 1974 and if there's one lesson he's learned over the years, it's that the first to squeal gets the deal. So when counsel for the Driskell Inquiry called, he began practicing his scales.

He started with an aria adapted from Julius Caesar. You know:
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
The evil that men do lives after them,
The good is oft interred with their bones,

Whitley started by praising Dangerfield and Miller as good, experienced, honourable officials of the Crown.

Then he stuck a knife in each.

George Dangerfield failed to do his job when he didn't tell defence lawyer Greg Brodsky everything about the negotiations to put key witness Ray Zanidean in witness protection, including Z's demand for immunity in an arson investigation in Saskatchewan.

And Bruce Miller, speak not ill of the dead, broke the law when he authorized giving Zanidean $20,000 to get lost without getting the proper approval from his superiors, one of whom was -- Stu Whitley.

Whitley knew he carried some baggage of his own in the Driskell matter.

He was, for example, the guy who signed the cheques to Zanidean while he was under police protection pending the trial.

Zanidean's lawyer called him "the banker".

As such, Whitley knew everything about the negotiations for witness protection but thought it was Dangerfield's job to tell the defence, not his. But he dummied up when it came to what he knew --and when -- about the final negotiations with Zanidean during and after the trial.

He couldn't remember.
He was out of town.
He was distracted by the coming trial of lawyer Harvey Pollock.

It didn't matter to Commission counsel Michael Code or Commissioner Patrick LeSage. They didn't grill him about his notes, or lack thereof.

That was reserved for Det. Tom Anderson, Public Enemy #1 at the inquiry.
And the newspapers, also acting as the Greek Chorus in the production, loved Whitley's performance. It got rave reviews. Five and a half out of five stars.

Justice official may have broken law, Driskell inquiry hears
salivated the CBC.
Driskell Gets Apology / Denied Fair Trial: Whitley
blared the Winnipeg Sun

For, you see, Stu Whitley topped his act by genuflecting to Jim Driskell and asking forgiveness.
What a showman. Bravo.

The highlight of the act, all agreed, was Whitley's tour de force soliloquay regarding the final payoff.

The Driskell trial ended with a guilty verdict on June 14, 1991. Five days later, there was a meeting of the witness protection team: Zanidean, his lawyer Dave Kovnats, Bruce Miller and RCMP Sgt. Orr. By then the authorities had decided Zanidean would likely be a washout in the formal Witness Protection program, and had an option in mind.

Miller offered Zanidean $20,000 to start a new life. That's roughly what the RCMP figured it would cost to set him up with a new identify in another city, anyway.

On June 21st, Miller faxed Kovnats a formal deal for the $20,000, which was accepted.
But, said Stu Whitley on the witness stand, this wasn't right.
He leaped up and, facing towards Bruce Miller's grave, he shouted "J'accuse!"(Or at least that's what the transcript we have says. But that transcript was prepared by Free Press reporter Paul Samyn, and
we all know what problems he has with listening to tapes. We can't say for sure that Whitley didn't shout "Diasaporas.")

For sure at the Inquiry, there was this exchange between commission counsel Michael Code and Whitley:

Q But it is a signed letter. He sends it out to Kovnats on the 21st. And we've got Kovnats' fax cover sheet here showing that he receives it on June 21st. It's actually sent to him, even though it hasn't been approved by the deputy yet.
And it says, in the third paragraph:
"The plan arranged for your client is one that has been worked out with the police and is one with which your client is comfortable."

It appears to refer to a final agreement.
"And it caps the relocation costs at$20,000."
Do you see that?

A Yes.

Q And, again, I take it, it is self-evident from the face of the document that this is the kind of an agreement that would have to go through you and up to the deputy?

A I would have to take this to the deputy.

And then...

A But I equally can't imagine this letter going out with all of us understanding the authorities that are required to be in place before such a letter could commit the department.
Q Before?
A Before such a letter could commit the department.
Q Before the proper approvals had been obtained?
A Yes.
Q It's a high-risk tactic is what it is?
A It's an offence.
Q It's contrary to the Attorney General's Act?
A Or the Financial Administration Act, one of the two.

And to make matters worse, the inquiry was told that the letter went out the day after Zanidean threatened to recant his testimony and go to the defence.

Get it? Zanidean says he's going to go to Greg Brodsky and scuttle the Crown's case, and Bruce Miller, to shut him up, signs over $20,000.
That's what the Driskell Inquiry wanted you to believe.

However it was clearly pointed out late in the day, when the reporters were already mentally scribbling their regurgitation of the Inquiry's official line about Miller, that the threat to recant was not known to the Crown or to Miller until it came out in the Hall/Ewatski report of 1993.

So the conspiracy theory that Miller was trying to shut Zanidean up was blown out of the water -- yet not one reporter saw or heard it. Or not one reporter saw a need to include it in their dispatches.

That's the beauty of a show trial. You can massage the evidence to support the verdict that's already in the envelope. And the press will fall for it every time.

Well, something didn't look right about this to The Black Rod, so we did what any good reporter would do--- we looked at a calender for June, 1991.

And it suggested a totally different story.

July 19st was a Wednesday.
July 21st was a Friday.

Have you ever tried to reach a government official on a Friday? Hardy har har.

Maybe, we said, Bruce Miller tried to phone Whitley and couldn't reach him? (1991 was pre-cell phones.) And maybe he did get ahold of Deputy Minister of Justice, Graeme Garson, and got his verbal approval to sign off on the Zanidean payment !

That would make sense, since Garson put his John Henry on the deal on June 24--the Monday--making it official.

But then something else caught our eye. Whitley was asked this about the letter from Miller to Kovnats.

Q This is the one that says it is subject to approval by the deputy?
A Yes.

We overlooked this at first. Until Doug Abra, the lawyer representing the estate of Bruce Miller, read the whole thing when he examined Whitley.

Q ... And it says on it, very clearly, that it is:
"strictly confidential, for discussion purposes only, subject to approval of the Deputy Minister of Justice." Correct?
A Yes.

Now thats a whole different ballgame.
The letter was clearly a draft of an agreement.

Why did the Commissioner allow the press to think it was a final, signed, sealed and delivered agreement?
Because it suited the purposes of the Inquiry.

It got the headlines the Inquiry wanted.

And it fooled the public, just as required. The MSM didn't report that Whitley fully retreated from his earlier condemnation of Bruce Miller.

Q And I am suggesting to you that there was nothing wrong with him sending that letter, at the time that he did, as long as he made it clear that it was subject to the approval of the Deputy Minister?
A Yes, I'll accept that.

Put on the spot, Whitley couldn't say exactly what section of the Financial Adminstration Act had been breached. If any.

He didn't have to. The damage to Miller's reputation had been done. The apology and headlines delivered.

And nobody reported his sad response to why he couldn't remember a thing about what was said and what he did during the firestorm that developed after Heidi Graham's stories in the Winnipeg Sun in 1993.

His wife, he said, "remembered I was ill."

Add that to the list of Whitley excuses for why he bears no blame in the Driskell case:
I was out of town. I was distracted by Harvey Pollock. I don't recall. I was ill.

Yet Stu says Bruce was a lawbreaker;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
We speak not to disprove what Stu spoke,
But here we are to speak what we do know.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Driskell Inquiry: The Defence Never Rests

Hands up everyone who knows the terms of reference of the Driskell Inquiry.

Hmmm. Thought so.
Maybe we need to review them, in the words of Commissioner Patrick LeSage:

This is not a re-trial, a re-hearing of the Driskell murder trial, it is an inquiry to look into the conduct of Crown Counsel who conducted and managed the trial of James Driskell, and the subsequent appeal and departmental reviews of his conviction, and consider whether that conduct fell below the professional and ethical standards expected of prosecutors at that time.

Secondly, to inquire into whether the Winnipeg Police Service failed to disclose material information to the Crown before, during, or after James Driskell's trial, and if so, to consider whether the non-disclosure contributed to a likely miscarriage of justice in the prosecution against him.


Examine the conduct of Crown Attorney George Dangerfield? Check.
Examine the conduct of the Winnipeg police? Check.
Who's missing?

The evidence at the inquiry so far shows there's something else that needs to be examined, but which isn't being addressed.

How far can the defence go to interfere with a prosecution?

Defence attorney Greg Brodsky knew that if he was to get Jim Driskell off on a charge of first degree murder, he had to discredit the chief witness, Ray Zanidean. And he knew Zanidean had a weak spot.

In 1990, Zanidean had burned down his sister's house in Swift Current in a spot of arson. He knew that because his client, Driskell, had been Zanidean's accomplice.

About a month before the murder trial was to start, Brodsky sent a Private Investigator in his pay to Swift Current to talk to the RCMP there. The PI, Brian Savage, was ex-Mountie and would have the necessary rapport for the pitch Brodsky wanted to make.

Savage brought with him an offer---- Driskell was prepared to rat on Zanidean for the arson.

But first, irony of ironies, Driskell wanted immunity. (A large part of the inquiry is over whether Zanidean was given immunity from the arson charge to testify against Driskell, and whether Brodsky knew about it.)

Brodsky was upfront at the Driskell Inquiry. He had wanted to get Zanidean charged with arson to undermine his testimony. He planned to challenge Zanidean about the Swift Current arson, but he wanted something official to back him up.

He said he "needed the RCMP to say that what Mr. Driskell was telling me, that it was a commercial fire arson, that they did it for money, and the true circumstances, I needed confirmation from the RCMP in order to attack Mr. Zanidean."

To say the RCMP were intrigued is an understatement. By then they knew (but Brodsky didn't) that Zanidean had confessed to Winnipeg police that he was behind the fire in Swift Current. They had a good circumstantial case that the fire was part of an arson insurance fraud, but their prime suspect, Zanidean's sister, had passed a polygraph test.

They were waiting until after the Driskell trial to see what to do about Zanidean and his evidence. Now, they didn't need him. They could go after Zandean's sister, or even against her and Zandidean together.

But Savage was like Santa Claus. He had even more goodies to offer.

There was a body pack tape recording containing damning evidence to corroborate Driskell, he told the arson investigators.

Driskell had worn the body pack at a meeting with Zanidean and a transcript would show Zanidean complaining he hadn't been paid by his sister for the arson. The Swift Current RCMP could have it all--- if they charged Zanidean before the trial.

Boy, was that tantalizing to the Mounties.

What they didn't know at the time, was that Savage's body-pack story was--- how can we say this charitably--- a crock. There was no such tape.

The prosecution back in Winnipeg did have a bodypack tape -- made by Zanidean, not Driskell. He had worn the bodypack to a meeting with Driskell's brother, Ron.

The tapes (there were two) had some references to money owed, but, wouldn't you know it, the only person who could apparently decipher those references was Jim Driskell.

The body pack tapes are an important element in the inquiry, much more than you'd know from just the MSM coverage so far.

The Ewatski/Hall report on the Driskell case contains this reference:

"We conducted an interview of Burton and he gave us a brief review of his involvement in this matter. We concluded that some of his opinions he expressed in his written reports were based on inaccurate information that was obtained not from the investigating officers but other sources such as the PI hired by Mr. Brodsky."

It's likely they're referring to the erroneous information about a body pack recording allegedly made by Driskell.

At the Driskell Inquiry, lawyer Richard Wolson, representing the Winnipeg police, began leading evidence about what was said on the real body pack recording.

He was comparing the actual words spoken with how Driskell interpreted them to the Swift Current RCMP. His exchange with then Cpl. Ross Burton, the lead investigator in the arson case, went like this:

Q Now, the body pack was, of course, something that you had wanted because you thought that that might give you evidence that there was a perjury by Zanidean, or at least that it would confirm your financial theory that the arson was motivated for financial reasons, that's why you wanted to see the body pack; right?
A Correct.

Q All right. And let me read, then, the preceding sentence, which is the first sentence that has anything to do with the alleged arson in particular:"They can't link us to that house in Swift Current. They couldn't." Zanidean says that, right?
A Correct.

Q So they are talking about Swift Current?
A Correct.

Q And then if you just go down the page, Zanidean says:"That bitch deserved it..." He is obviously talking about his sister,right?
A. I would assume.

Q "...that's all I can say. She fucked, she fucked me out, I'm upset she fucked me." And then the comment by Mr. Driskell: "She still never squared away with ya." And Zanidean said: "No, she is a crooked heart." Do you see that?
A Yes.

Q And that's evidence that you would say that there is a financial issue going on here?
A Yes.

Q If there was a financial problem issue: "The bitch deserved it, that's all I can say, she fucked me, she fucked me out, I'm upset she fucked me." Those words are consistent with revenge, I take it, you would agree?
A I mean, they are what they are. I don't --

Q Do you know whether the words: "She never squared away with me..."pertain to a financial arrangement? Do you know?
A I mean, that's the evidence. I don't want to interpret it. It's there. I don't think that that's my place.

Q And going on down the page, which is another excerpt from another conversation:
"Driskell: Yeah. Yeah. Find out the hard way.
Zanidean: Yeah, cause one of the shortage, one for you, seven for me, so I'm short $800."

That would -- do you say that refers to the arson?
A I'm saying it appears to.

Q And that's only because you had Driskell's statement, Mr. Driskell's statement which referred you to that, right?
A Referred to those amounts, correct.

Q That statement you didn't provide to the Winnipeg Police Service, to Sergeant Anderson,did you?
A I said I don't know if it was provided by Justice, because that was way above my head, was what I said yesterday.

Q But in order to know what that meant, in order to know what that meant, you would have to really have Driskell's statement, wouldn't you?
A I don't know. There may be other evidence out there that would help someone understand that. I can't comment on those matters.

Q But you're interpreting that with the aid of Driskell's statement, aren't you?
A That might be my take. But for me to say that's the case, I wasn't the judge at the trial. And I am really uncomfortable with being asked to make those kind of findings.

MR. CODE: Could I submit that we are getting entirely away from the terms of reference here?

Obviously, Burton wasn't the only one uncomfortable with a discussion about what was actually on the body pack tapes, for Inquiry Counsel Michael Code and Commissioner LeSage shut down further discussion right quick.

It's also important to note that the original announcement by the Province of Manitoba setting up an inquiry into the Driskell case said that the perjury allegations against Zanidean would be investigated by an outside force.

What to make, then, of the red-faced admission last week that because of a communications mix-up (yeah, that's what it was) the perjury allegations have not been examined by anyone, and likely won't for a long, long time to come.

A cynic might say it would look very bad for everyone concerned if a report had come back in the middle of the Inquiry saying there was no evidence to support a criminal charge of perjury. And what better way to ensure that didn't happen, than to sit on the alleged "independent" investigation of the perjury allegations until AFTER the Inquiry. Just asking.


Whew, that was quite the diversion. Now back to the main narrative.

Remember, Defence lawyer Greg Brodsky wanted to derail the prosecution of Jim Driskell by arranging for Swift Current RCMP to charge the chief prosecution witness, Ray Zanidean, with arson, right before the trial was to start.

Jim Driskell would testify against Zanidean and confirm the Saskatchewan police theory that the arson was part of a fraud scheme involving Zanidean and his sister. His testimony would allegedly be corroborated by a body pack tape recording Driskell made of Zanidean admitting key details of the fraud.

(Driskell was willing to take the stand before a jury in Saskatchewan, but not willing to testify on his own behalf at his trial for murder. Hmmm.)

What we don't know is whether Brodsky's emissary, PI Brian Savage, accidentally got his facts about the body pack tape wrong, or whether he deliberately tried to mislead Saskatchewan RCMP. This is one part of the Driskell case the Inquiry doesn't want to explore.

In any event, Savage had to come home empty-handed. The RCMP said they couldn't cut through the red tape fast enough to interview Driskell before his trial.

Undaunted, Greg Brodsky already had Plan B in the works.

He had learned that Zanidean had a lawyer. And a lawyer meant a deal. He just didn't know what kind of a deal. So he went directly to the source to find out.

Brodsky showed up at the home of lawyer David Kovnats, who was Zanidean's lawyer. Kovnats was negotiating to get Zanidean into the RCMP's Witness Protection program. Kovnats told Brodsky that his client still wasn't in the program.

James Lockyer, the lawyer representing James Driskell, questioned Kovnats about the Brodsky visit.

Q Yes. Did it occur to you that Mr. Brodsky may not have been well informed, if informed at all, about what was going on with Mr. Zanidean and the negotiations, and as well with regard to what had happened in the preceding days?
A He seemed to have much more knowledge than I did.

Say what?

Under other circumstances, this might be considered a blockbuster comment. What exactly did Brodsky know? Why did Kovnats feel the defence knew more about the witness protection negotiations (and maybe immunity) than Zanidean's own lawyer? Was there a leak in the Crown Attorney's office?

Not to worry. We'll never know.
Lockyear ignored the statement and shifted his questioning to George Dangerfield, aka Public Enemy #2.

The Press, needless to say, looked the other way.

Back in Kovnats's office, Brodsky went to Plan C. He asked if he could speak to Zanidean before the trial. Kovnats said he'd pass the request along.

Now, you can imagine how that went down.

Here's Zanidean, being hidden in safe houses around the country because he's convinced his life is in danger, and here comes his lawyer with the news that Driskell's lawyer wants to find him and talk to him. Maybe it was the knowlege that Perry Dean Harder disappeared before he was supposed to testify against Jim Driskell, and was later found in a shallow, unmarked grave, but a meeting with Brodsky never took place.

Zanidean testified and Driskell was convicted. And Brodsky revived Plan A (slightly revised). This time he wanted the RCMP to charge Zanidean with arson so that Brodsky could get the murder conviction overturned on grounds of "new evidence."

Staff Sgt. Ronald Ferguson came to Winnipeg and interviewed Driskell. He took an unsworn statement which could not be used against him in court. At the same time, the Swift Current officers knew they were being played like a fish.

Here's how its described in a contemporary report written by Sgt. Tom Orr, who handled witness protection. Former Cpl. Ross Burton is being questioned at the Inquiry.

Q "According to Ross Burton, Swift Current detachment, Brodsky is forcing the RCMP to investigate the arson, to force a new trial, as they are claiming Zanidean perjured himself on the stand. Driskell has apparently received immunity from prosecution due to his life sentence on the murder charge."

Did you make those comments to him? That it's Brodsky whose forcing your hand, Swift Current's hand, in investigating the arson?

A I don't recall speaking with Tom Orr and I have no record of it.

Brodsky had put the fear of God into the Swift Current Mounties.

They got the message loud and clear. If they didn't charge Zanidean with arson, it would look like a cover-up. So starting in July, 1991, days after Driskell was convicted, the arson RCMP began lobbying like mad for charges.

They peppered their divison with memos and meetings. They did everything except start building a gallows and put out a tender for ropes. To no avail.

As it turned out, Justice officials in Saskatchewan scotched the arson investigation. Zanidean's immunity would stand. Driskell wouldn't get any. And nobody got charged.

And Brodsky had to admit he got snookered by David Kovnats. A real estate lawyer, for crying out loud.

But it wasn't for lack of trying.

How far can the defence to interfere with a prosecution?

The Driskell Inquiry doesn't want to know.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Driskell Inquiry Testimony MSM Won't Report

Shakespeare said it best in As You Like It: "All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players..."

And we've seen some damn fine theatrics at the Driskell Inquiry these past five weeks.

The Inquiry is on hiatus for a few weeks but if Commissioner Patrick LeSage doesn't spend the interval writing his report before everyone is brought back he's wasting our money.

It's no secret what the final report will say.

That's the beauty of a show trial, you have the verdict first, then the trial. It saves so much time and effort that way.

Convicted already are Winnipeg Police detective Tom Anderson (ret.), Crown Attorney George Dangerfield (ret.) and Chief of Prosecutions Bruce Miller (posthumously). They've been found guilty of doing their jobs.

The irony is that of everyone at the Inquiry, the only person in all of Manitoba and Saskatchewan who cannot be blamed for anything, because all his sins have been forgiven, is James Driskell, the man convicted 15 years ago by a jury of first degree murder. Not even the revelation that he's a confessed arsonist is allowed to tarnish the halo the Inquiry endows his with.

Since the end result of the inquiry is a given, then the sole purpose of listening to witnesses is to convince the public that the advance verdicts are proper.

In this, the Driskell Inquiry can count on the full collaboration of the daily newspapers, both of which have a personal motive in the forgone conclusions.

The Winnipeg Sun wants the credit for being the first to raise questions about the fairness of Jim Driskell's trial. The paper scored a professional coup by seeing a series of stories by Heidi Graham in 1993 filed as exhibits in the Inquiry, a fact that strangely went unmentioned by the Winnipeg Free Press. These stories led to a review of the case by the police department which has been one topic in these hearings.

The Winnipeg Free Press has a stake in the Driskell Sweeps because of a series of stories by reporter Dan Lett in 2003 which preceeded the reopening of the case and the eventual order for a new trial. Lett won the 2003 National Newspaper Association award for investigative reporting for these stories.

With these honours on the line, the newspapers can be counted on to see what they want to see in the evidence and not see what they don't. And report accordingly.

The Black Rod, on the other hand, has no horse in the race and can freely tell the part of the story you won't read in the dailies.

Michael Code is the Commission counsel and thus acts as the prosecutor leading evidence.

In a typical trial, the prosecutor gives an opening statement to the jury to give them an overview of the evidence he expects to call and what he expects witnesses to say. He cautions them that they shouldn't take his word for it, but should listen carefully to the witnesses and see if they do, indeed, live up to their billing.

At the Driskell Inquiry, Code used his first witness to set the tenor of the hearings.

Ross Burton, now holding the rank of Inspector in the RCMP, was posted in Swift Current, Sask., in 1990. Then-Cpl. Burton was the lead investigator in an arson case when he got a call from Winnipeg police saying they had taken a statement from a witness who admitted he was the arsonist.

That man was Ray Zanidean, and he was the chief witness against Jim Driskell, who was about to be charged with first degree murder of Perry Harder.

Burton first cooperated with Winnipeg police, and agreed to hold off on his pursuit of Zanidean until after the murder case went to trial in June, 1991. But very shortly after the trial, he did a 180 and began banging the drums for charges to be laid against Zanidean immediately. He was overruled, but he never forgot the case that got away.

Then in 1993, he was interviewed by two senior Winnipeg police officers conducting a review of the Driskell case following the publicity of Heidi Graham's stories in the Winnipeg Sun. There might even be a public inquiry, they told Burton, who whipped up a series of self-serving cover-your-ass memos on the case (based on files many of which apparently no longer exist.)

In his review, he blames the Winnipeg police, and Det. Tom Anderson in particular for any screw-ups.

He said Anderson was deceitful and dishonest in his dealings with Burton; he said he believed Zanidean perjured himself at the trial and Anderson knew it, and, according to the police interviewers, Burton "suggested the Winnipeg Police Department had created a set of circumstances that would ensure the RCMP arson investigaton would be scuttled."

In other words, here was a witness, now a seasoned senior RCMP officer, and lawyer to boot, confirming what the Inquiry had set out to prove.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

Code, however, perhaps swept up in the chase, was determined to hammer home the fact that Tom Anderson, aka Public Enemy #1, was a stinking liar.

Anderson wrote his own report on the case in 1991 (two years before Burton's CYA memos.)

At one point he noted two phone calls he made to Burton in April, 1991 over the issue of whether Swift Current RCMP would charge Zanidean with arson. This is a major issue at the inquiry.

Winnipeg police promised to protect Zanidean if he told them what he knew about the murder of Harder. That eventually lead to negotiations to put Zanidean into the RCMP-run Witness Protection Program. But they wouldn't take him if he had charges hanging over his head. The RCMP in Saskatchewan wanted to charge him with arson, but knew that would sour the Witness Protection plan, so everyone compromised. If Zanidean went into Witness Protection, there would be no arson charges.

When and If Zanidean knew about this deal is the subject of much contradictory testimony and the source of allegations of perjury.

Anderson described the calls in his report:

"During the first conversation I explained the dilemma, and I believe he had already spoken to Corporal Orr. In any case, he had given the matter thought and he immediately offered to withdraw their pursuit of Zanidean entirely. He explained that he had planned to interview James Driskell after the murder trial in an effort to gain evidence against both Zanidean and his sister, but that he would only charge his sister.

Approximately one week later I phoned Burton again to ensure that his proposal was agreed to by his superiors, and he assured me that his detachment commander had approved. And I reminded him that we would not make Zanidean privy to this arrangement until after he testified."

(Corporal Orr was the RCMP officer in charge of the witness protection program.)

Burton remembered the phone call (he recalled only one) this way:

"April 5th, call was received from Tom Anderson of Winnipeg homicide. He advised they wanted to put Ray Zanidean under the witness protection program as individuals associated to Driskell were actively trying to kill him at present."

"They had already located him at two locations where he was hidden. The witness protection coordinator in D division, advised that they would not hide Zanidean as long as the writer was actively investigating him with the possibility of charges pending...The matter was discussed with Tom Anderson. It was agreed that the only viable solution would be to not charge Zanidean... I advised Anderson that I would submit the above recommendation through channels."

The matter eventually reached the desk of one Inspector Preston, the divisional commander, who advised the Swift Current detachment to hold off until he talked to Orr and clarified the witness protection issue. His decision made it into one of Burton's internal reports:

"On April 16, 1991 Inspector Preston spoke with Corporal Orr who advised that Zanidean is now under the witness protection program and is out of province. After the trial he will be relocated permanently. In view of this, the only course of action open to us is to await the trial outcome and evaluate the situation then."

Code began a series of questions to suggest Anderson concocted the story of a second call and made up the story that Burton had the approval of his superior officer to lay off Zanidean. In other words, he was a stinking liar.

Q So I take it the part of this that you don't agree with is that he called you back to get assurance that you had approval from senior detachment commanders?
A That's right.

This was followed by a series of mocking questions aimed at proving that Burton was telling the truth and Anderson---well, you know--- was a stinking liar.

Q Do you have any report of a second call from Anderson where you informed him of Preston's decision?
A Oh, that second call, no.
Q Anderson says he calls you back and you assure him that your recommendation has been approved by your detachment commander. And what I'm asking you is, is that consistent with Preston's resolution of the matter?
A. No.

Q Look at tab 25.
A Okay.
Q Anderson's report. He says he calls you back. "He assured me that his detachment commander had approved," approved your recommendation to entirely bring an end to proceedings against Zanidean.
A I have no record of that, no.
Q And is that consistent with Preston's internal memo at tab A-35?
A No.

Q So, for you to say that to Anderson, you would have been contravening Preston's instructions?
A Correct.
Q Is that a wise thing for young constables to do, to be insubordinate to their superior officers?
A No.

Q Now. Again, if we look at the file to see the next steps that you took on it or the steps that you took in the intervening months. Have you found anything in the subsequent steps taken on the file after April that indicate that you had reached, and your divisional commander had reached, an agreement with Anderson to entirely end your pursuit of Zanidean?
A No.

Q And what was the steps that you were waiting for the Winnipeg police service to take?
A It would have been the interview of Ray Zanidean.
Q And is that file extension for that purpose consistent with an agreement to permanently and entirely end your pursuit of Zanidean?
A No.

Okay, it's not exactly Literature, but it is compelling nonetheless. It's also spectacularly wrong and misleading.

Det. Anderson, it's crystal clear, told the truth.

Burton said he got a call from the Winnipeg homicide officer April 5. Anderson said he called a second time a week later.

Let's see: one week is seven days; 5 plus 7 equals 12.

So, on or about April 12, Anderson called the second time. Burton met with Preston three days later, on April 15, along with Staff Sgt. Ron Ferguson.

And Ferguson was? The detachment commander of Swift Current detachment, Burton's boss, who, as Anderson recounted, agreed with Burton that they should stop chasing Zanidean and who went with Burton to see the divisional commander to pitch the idea.

Yet Code twisted the evidence (by asking about detachment commanders, plural, and mixing the divisional commander with the detachment commander) to confuse the inquiry, the press, and the public into believing that Anderson made up some cock-and-bull story that proved he was---you know it--- a stinking liar and guilty as sin of the wrongful conviction of Lil Jim Driskell.

We weren't the least surprised when Jay Prober, George Dangerfield's lawyer, complained openly later in the hearings about Code's misleading questioning of his client that made it sound as though Dangerfield was confessing to deliberately railroading James Driskell.

But one thing is clear as a result of the Driskell Inquiry so far. And that's the amazing benefit of long incarceration for criminals.

After spending 13 years in prison, Driskell emerged a new man.

Instead of the petty criminal, arsonist, and possible murderer, he was when he went in, he's become the paragon of virtue. A model citizen worthy of passing moral judgement on the Chief of Police. Crown attorneys pine for the opportunity to kiss his ring and get his blessings.

And if that ain't Shakespearean, then we don't know the Bard.

Next: The defence never rests.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Failing the Sniff Test

Dan Vandal limped out of the starting gate on Tuesday to take another run at civic politics.

He's chosen to challenge City Councillor Franco Magnifico to a fight for St. Boniface, but if his wimpy stand on the $300 million OlyWest hog processing plant is any indication of his campaign, he's on his way to becoming a two-time also-ran.

Vandal, a former city councillor himself and a losing mayoral candidate in the last civic election, put his foot down over OlyWest.

Well, he didn't exactly stamp his foot. He sort of gingerly minced around the issue.

"For the first time yesterday, Vandal clarified his position on OlyWest, saying he wouldn't have voted for the city's $3.4 million incentive package without public consultation and an environmental assessment by the province's Clearn Environment Commission," said the Winnipeg Free Press story.

Got that? He's against OlyWest, sort of, kinda, don't quote him on it. He's put in more qualifiers in his stance than a UN resolution on Hezbollah.

He won't say he's against OlyWest. He just hopes you think he is and you'll vote for him.

He won't say he'll work to stop OlyWest. He just hopes you think he will and you'll vote for him.

This is leadership? This guy wanted to be Mayor?

Take a stand Danny. That's what a leader does.

Oh, wait. You lost to Sam Katz, and for the first time, the boxer doesn't want a rematch.

The residents of St. Boniface are afraid that the hog processing plant will stink up their neighbourhood. Well, they don't know how lucky they would be if that's all they had to worry about.

They could be living in downtown Vancouver.

The International Aids Conference in T.O. heard from a Vancouver HIV expert who sang the praises of the city's saffe drug-injection site.

Here's how CP described the speech.

"A roomful of scientists and AIDs activists gave a standing ovation yesterday to a Vancouver HIV expert who reported that the city's controversial safe drug-injection site had been a resounding success."

"Another researcher participating in the same emotional session warned that the federal government will have "blood on its hands" if it closes down the project now."

The story says the site "is the first project in North America to allow drug addictgs to inject heroin and other narcotics under medical supervison."

"The project has cut crime in its Downtown Eastside neighbourhood, reduced the number of overdose deaths, made potentially fatal needle sharing less common--- and not encouraged more drug use, said Dr. Tom Kerr of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, which evaluated the project."

Except its one thing to applaud the project at a fancy schmancy schoozefest a few thousand miles away, and another to live in the filth that is the reality of the safe drug-injection site.

Hold your noses, and read this CP story from one year ago:

Street defecation a growing problem
Canadian Press
06/08/05 Amy Carmichael
June 8, 2005
VANCOUVER (CP) -- The ripe stench of human excrement is getting stronger in downtown lanes, curling the stomachs of workers who no longer want to relax by the back door for smoke breaks.

"We're getting to the point where the need for public toilets is getting serious," said Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.
"There's a burgeoning entertainment district, a growing homelessness problem and people have nowhere to go.

"I've been with the association for 15 years and it's just becoming more and more of an issue for more of our members. The stench of urine and feces in back lanes in the central business district and the Downtown Eastside, where it's probably a lot worse."

The 10-block city slum is swollen with up to 5,000 injection drug users who have less control of their bowels. Many are homeless and have nowhere to go to the toilet.

Often the drug users roam out of the neighbourhood into alleys linking downtown businesses.
Gauthier said his members don't want to clean up the piles excrement the homeless make on their properties and he doesn't blame them. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has gotten involved and is calling for action before disease spreads.

"Defecating and urinating in the street is not something that's healthy for individuals," said Richard Taki, public health protection officer for the authority.

"A number of diseases are passed through the fecal-oral route. If people are tracking this bacteria into eating establishments and public facilities we're running the risk of a problem with rodents and insects carrying bacteria.

"Salmonella is the obvious threat and for a lot of the homeless people who are imunocompromised, food poisoning is going to be serious."

He said a solution, likely portable public toilets, is imminent.

"It's going to be sooner rather than later, it's something we're going ahead with."

City planners met with the business association Wednesday to tell them a range of options will have to be discussed.

"There's a considerable cost involved. In the Downtown Eastside we're going to need a supervised bank of toilets and that's going to cost in excess of $5,000 a month," said Bob Ross, a city engineer working on the issue.

Open urinals are also in the mix of strategies being considered.

"I'm not sure our culture is ready for that. It seems to me it's an undignified and humiliating way of dealing with the problem, but one that also seems to be working in parts of England and Amsterdam," Ross said.

There are logistical and financing challenges in the way of cleaning back lanes. But the city, the health authority and the business association are all in agreement that something has to be done now.

"It's awful for residents who have to deal with the smell wafting in through their windows and it's just getting so much worse," said Ross.

Stakeholders have been discussing for years a plan to put self-cleaning, automated public toilets in the downtown, but have been afraid that they would be used for prostitution and to shoot drugs.

The city has a contract with a street furniture company to provide six of the units and just has to decide if they are something the community would respect and where to put them.

"There have been problems with illegal activity happening in the toilets in other cities, like Seattle and San Francisco," said Gauthier.

"But now I think we've come to a point in Vancouver where we have to act. The public need far outweighs those concerns. These units are going to be automated and will have a time limit on them. And really, people are going shoot drugs wherever they want."

Vancouver city council has turned to other Canadian municipalities for guidance, but so far nobody has come up with a solution, said Ross. Vancouver is set to commission a study to map the size of the problem and is considering spending more money on maintaining public toilets in the downtown entertainment and business districts.

More funding is needed for permanent public washrooms in the Downtown Eastside slum where thousands of homeless drug users have long used alleys as toilets.

Kim Kerr, general manager of the Downtown Eastside Resident's Association, said he is disgusted with the plan.

"This is a ghetto where people are turned out to rot, we're talking about adults with the mental capabilities of 10-year-olds who are addicted to drugs. They have no home, they have no toilet. What do you expect," Kerr said.

"We are worrying about the mess of piss in the street while homeless people are dying. Let's spend the money on toilets on houses. We treat human beings in this city with less concern than we show animals."


And this one from the CBC

No more shooting up in public, Vancouver police tell junkies
11/29/05 CBC

Police in Vancouver say they plan to start arresting drug addicts who shoot up in public, an uncontroversial idea in some cities but not in Vancouver.

The police say they want to get drug use out of the streets and doorways of the Downtown Eastside and into the city's supervised injection site.

Supervised injection site
Some addicts and people who work with them call it a dangerous move. Dr. Anita Palepu, who treats people for illnesses associated with needle drugs, says the culture of open drug use is deeply ingrained in Vancouver's addicts.

She says police are mistaken if they expect to change it just two years after the opening of the injection site, the first of its kind in North America.

She says addicts going through withdrawal can't wait in lineups at the site and she fears the crackdown will prevent them from being treated for communicable diseases.

"I worry, if the police are out there busting people for using drugs openly, people will just get displaced and go to other neighbourhoods where there's actually very little facilities for them."
Police acknowledge that they don't expect that charging addicts will actually result in any jail time. But they say they can't continue turning a blind eye to drug use that's so open on the city's streets.

Inspector Bob Rolls says the aim is to steer addicts to the injection site. Shooting up "stretched out on the steps" There are thousands of users in the Downtown Eastside, but other people still have to work and live in the neighbourhood, he says.

He recalls one complaint from a volunteer at a community centre:

"The woman was stretched out on the steps and she was shooting a needle into her neck. When the volunteer complained, she lashed out at her - how dare she interfere with her when she just managed to get this needle in the right position to inject?"

No room at supervised site: addict
Diane Tobin, 54, who shoots up at the injection site three times a day, says the site is already at capacity and it's time to talk about opening another. And because rules state that addicts have to inject themselves, it means people who need help shooting up are out on the street where they face arrest.

"If that cubbyhole is your home and you're sleeping there and all your stuff is there and that's where you're using," she says, "they're actually coming into your home and arresting you for possession of a needle."

Tobin, who served a drug sentence decades ago, says the police plan "is like going back 20, 25 years. It's ridiculous."


And this one from the Globe and Mail:

Thursday, October 13, 2005
VANCOUVER -- A special justice-system task force has recommended that British Columbia become the first province in Canada to establish a "community court" that shifts the focus away from determining guilt or innocence, to instead place the emphasis on treating the illnesses and addictions of criminals.

The task force report was released at a press conference by Mr. Justice Donald Brenner, Chief Justice of the B.C. Supreme Court, Mr. Justice Hugh Stansfield, Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, and Peter Leask, a prominent Vancouver lawyer.

Judge Stansfield said the report proposes some "novel . . . and courageous solutions," and he hoped the public wouldn't perceive it as "just another soft-on-crime initiative."

Judge Stansfield said a similar system has proved itself in New York City, where property crimes are "under control," while Vancouver is experiencing an epidemic of street crime.

Street crime is defined as public, random acts such as disturbing the peace, break and entries and theft from cars, but not organized crime, commercial crime or violent crimes such as murder or sexual assault.

Much of the street crime in Vancouver is spilling out of the Downtown Eastside, where an estimated 4,000 drug users live.B.C.'s rate of disturbing-the-peace incidents is nearly double the national average and Vancouver has about 17,000 thefts from automobiles a year.

The city has a crime rate second only to Winnipeg's

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Niaz hits Ottawa radar: top brass support wounded interpreter

The plight of an Afghani interpreter, grievously wounded while helping Canadian soldiers, has reached the desk of Canada's Minister of Defence.

Mohammed Niaz lost both legs when a rocket propelled grenade went through a Canadian G-wagon during a battle in May in Panjwai province in Afghanistan. Five Canadians were slightly wounded.

Niaz was taken to the Coalition hospital at Kandahar airfield. While recuperating there from his injuries, he pleaded with Canada to help him ( ) get the same treatment that wounded Canadians receive in military hospitals in Germany and Canada.

After we reported his story in June, The Black Rod received e-mails from Canadians, and even American soldiers who remembered Niaz, who wanted to help him.

Obviously many of them also wrote to the Minister of National Defence.This week we read that one of them got a response from Gordon O'Connor, Minister of National Defence. (h/t to
Small Dead Animals):

Over the weekend, reader "Henry" passed along this update;

Thank you for your e-mail concerning compensation for Mr. Mohammed Niaz.

I am informed that Mr. Niaz's case is being investigated, and it is our intent that neither he nor his family endure any undue hardship. Please be assured that we will take the appropriate action, not only in the case of Mr. Niaz, but also for any local nationals employed by the Canadian Forces.

Mr. Niaz is receiving excellent medical care at the Canadian-led, multinational hospital in Kandahar. He also continues to receive his salary while he is recovering.

The contribution made by local nationals such as Mr. Niaz is greatly appreciated. We would not be able to do our jobs in some of the most dangerous areas of the world without their willingness to support our effort.

I trust this information is of assistance and thank you again for writing.


The Honourable Gordon J. O'Connor, PC, MP
Minister of National Defence

We're buoyed by his reference to taking "the appropriate action". When the country's top man knows your name, you can expect something good will happen.

There's a sad coda to this story, however.

Cpl. Andrew James Eykelenboom, the medic who saved Niaz's life, was himself killed this past Friday, Aug. 11, when a suicide bomber drove a truck into a NATO convoy 100 kilometres south of Kandahar and detonated his explosives. Eykelenboom and Niaz were both only 23 years of age when fate brought them together.

He was believed to be the first Canadian military medic killed in action since the Korean War.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cox blog avoids Axworthy debacle, transcript presumed lost


It seems that baby bloggers have been titillating themselves by sharing ---if you can believe it --- fantasies about The Black Rod.


Guess we should feel flattered.

* Equally amusing are the antics of Winnipeg Free Press reporter Mia Rabson and Opposition leader Hugh McFadyen.

McFadyen held a news conference Wednesday on hallway medicine and Rabson wrote a story about it. It seems that information uncovered by a Freedom of Information request contradicts (big time) Premier Gary Doer's contention that hallway medicine is a thing of the past thanks to the NDP.

Strangely, Rabson's story fails to mention that the information supporting her story and McFadyen's news conference came from Winnipeg Sun columnist Tom Brodbeck (who wrote about the real hallway medicine numbers in his column on Tuesday.)

Now, given the Paul Samyn/Lloyd Axworthy fiasco
( ) we all know we can't trust any quote in the Free Press, even when it allegedly comes from a tape-recorded interview.

So we can't really say if Rabson simply wrote Brodbeck out of the picture, or whether McFadyen claimed his information came from a FIPPA filed by his crack hallway medicine task force, Winken, Blinden and Nod.

What's most important, though, is that Rabson wrote the story at all.

Brodbeck has been hounding the NDP on hallway medicine for years ever since discovering the government manipulates the truth to hide the real number of patients in hallways by claiming they are offset by empty beds somewhere else in the hospital. Until now, the Free Press has been either ignoring the story or offering defences of the government practice.

But Rabson's story is bad news for Gary Doer. It means that the Free Press smells blood. And with a provincial election less than a year off, the last thing the NDP wants is a press feeding frenzy.

The FP may even go on to examine other government fiascoes, like the nursing shortage. It was 500 when the Tories were last in government. It became 1500 under the NDP, which now wants credit for training more nurses and cutting the shortage to 1000, only double what it was in Tory days.

* And while we're giving credit where its due, we have to say how much we respect Steven Fletcher's honesty. Did you see his letter to the editor in the FP on Friday? In it he confessed that he didn't climb a mountain in Yoho National Park all the way to the top as reported in a Free Press story Aug. 8.

"my friend, Mayor Sullivan (Sam Sullivan of Vancouver) is the only one who can lay legitimate claim to being the first quadriplegic to reach the Burgess Shale.", said Fletcher.

When you're looking for an honest politician, look no further than the MP for Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia.

* Still with the Free Press, we had to laugh at Friday's editorial "Independent Eyes.""Neither the family of Matthew Dumas nor the general public has yet been given a good account of what happened on Jan. 31, 2005 when the young man was shot and killed by a Winnipeg police officer."

What a fascinating indictment of the newspaper's own reporters and editors.

The best account of "what happened on Jan. 31, 2005" is still in The Black Rod ( "Daddy, They're Beating Him Up" ) where it was first reported more than one year ago.The Free Press has known about our story from day one.

It also knows that the story has been confirmed by reporters at the CBC and its own sister publication, the North End Times, but that these so-called journalists decided for personal reasons to suppress the story and keep it away from the very "general public" the FP editorial board is so concerned about.

If the mainstream media in the city had done its job properly, there would be less mystery about what happened the day Matthew Dumas was shot and killed.

* Free Press Editor Bob Cox is back to pretending to be a blogger. He tries to get readers by promising the inside story of how stories get into the newspaper. So what did he have to say about the infamous Paul Samyn/Lloyd Axworthy mystery misquote story?

Absolutely nothing.

Nobody at the FP is allowed to discuss this story. So Bob Cox will go on pretending it never happened even as he "shares" with readers. Because the Free Press blogs are owned and operated by the Free Press. Their tame pet bloggers will write what the FP wants them to write and nothing more. It's the exact opposite of what true bloggers do.

We have broken the monopoly of the mainstream press on defining and reporting "news." The FP may pretend that its Samyn/Axworthy debacle is not news, but it can't suppress the story any more, try as their faux blogs will.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Hundred Days of Hughie

They went in for a new haircut...

...and walked out with a sex change.

Welcome to A Hundred Days of Hughie.

The Manitoba Progressive Conservative Party was desperate to replace their lacklustre leader Stu Murray. After a yawnfest leadership campaign, they picked lawyer Hugh McFadyen, he of the pearly fake smile and metrosexual fashion sense.

Hugh stepped into a Legislature that had been paralyzed for weeks by a campaign of bellringing, designed to stall the passage of the budget until the NDP agreed to hold a public inquiry into the Crocus Fund scandal.

Throughout the Tory leadership campaign, there had been whispers that the NDP might call a snap election before the new leader gained any traction. The idea was preposterous.

The NDP had a majority, had been in office only 3 years, had no major issue to campaign on and could only foresee an election spent defending their decision to turn a blind eye to the shenanigans at Crocus that cost tens of thousands of voters their pension savings.

In other words, it was a bluff.

And Hugh fell for it. Hook, line and sinker.

His first decision as leader of the Conservatives was to abandon the bellringing.

He didn't want to appear obstructionist if there was an election. Which there wasn't going to be as anyone with any political sense could have told him.

The bellringing had been ongoing for weeks. It was ignored by the news media for a long time. Then commented on negatively.

But the longer it went on, the more news coverage it began to get. And the pressure on the NDP was growing to either call an inquiry or answer the pointed questions put to them in the Legislature.

The big 3 media---Winnipeg Free Press, the Winnnipeg Sun, CJOB---were all editorially on record as calling for a Crocus inquiry, so the Tories could count on them to support the pressure of the bellringing. It was a showdown, a test of who would blink first. So what did Hugh do?

He threw in the towel.
He quit.
He decided to cut and run when the Tories had the initiative on an issue the public was paying attention to.

But why leave a bad decision alone when you can make it worse ?

McFadyen announced he wasn't really giving up on exposing the Crocus scandal. He had appointed a "task force" to dig into the scandal and uncover the secrets the NDP were hiding.

Good move. Instead of highlighting the NDP's cover-up of the Crocus Scandal and keeping them on the defensive, the Conservatives, under Hugh, reversed the onus. Now the P.C.'s had to come up with something or look stupid. Put up or shut up.

The NDP couldn't believe their good fortune.

The members of the Conservative Party couldn't believe the car wreck they were seeing with their own eyes.

And the Tory caucus, dumbfounded at the plan to squander the momentum they had generated during Question Period, was just getting its first taste of Hughie's management style.

Hugh still wasn't finished with putting his personal touch on the Party, though. Worse was to become even worse.

For McFadyen announced that his crack task force was going to include---ta daaaa---John Loewen.Yes, the same John Loewen who betrayed the party in 2005.

The John Loewen who gave Stu Murray one hour's notice that he was ditching the Conservatives to run as a star candidate for the federal Liberal Party. Who can forget the triumphant news conference that morning as grinning Liberal kingpin Reg Alcock announced the candidacy of grinning John Loewen under a photo of grinning Liberal leader Paul Martin? Who can forget Stu Murray's humiliation?

Loewen declared that day to the panting press that he didn't share the values of the Conservatives. His values were the values of the Liberal Party. That a political party exposed as a party of thieves who stole hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers money to give to its supporters and candidates in Quebec, then covered up the thefts in Parliament for years, had the values he held near and dear to his heart.

He had been living a lie, he said. He had been the critic for the Crocus Fund scandal in the Manitoba Legislature, but his soul belonged to the federal Liberals. He would do everything he could to keep the Conservatives from taking power, starting with defeating Stephen Fletcher in Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia.

Stu Murray was crushed, and his leadership went into freefall. The NDP couldn't believe their luck.

None of this mattered to Hugh McFadyen. He honestly thinks that bringing Loewen back into the fold is a good thing because, he told the press, Loewen is bringing his files with him.

As if that means anything.

If Loewen had anything in his files worth mentioning, he already used it to hammer the NDP. If he had something and hadn't already mentioned it, he betrayed the Party.
Oh, wait, betrayal is John Loewen's stock and trade. What a catch.

Oh, and not that Loewen has recanted a word about his supporting the Liberals. (Or come up with a single new lead for the floundering task force on Crocus.)

Meanwhile the non-turncoat MLA's found that Loewen had a better line of communication to their new leader than they did. When he wasn't planting spies into their offices, he was giving them the cold shoulder.
And here's where the Hundred Days of Huey gets interesting.

Because, you see, there's a pattern developing.McFadyen announced he was building a new team to fight the next election. He encouraged challengers to go after the sitting Conservative MLA's, the very people who had shown an ability to win elections even when the Party lost. And he was bringing his own people into the Party. People like Rick Borotsik.

Borotsik is the former mayor of Brandon. He's also a Liberal.

One year ago, Borotsik was being recruited by Reg Alcock to run in the next federal election. Borotsik, who had just quit the federal Conservative Party in a huff, told the Free Press that he was retired, but if he ever did return to federal polititics it would be as a Liberal.

His contempt for the Conservatives was palpable.

"Borotsik says he can't represent a party with policies that are at odds with his own political philosophies, and one with a leader he can't support." (Free Press, July 6, 2005)

And how exactly do Hugh McFadyen's political philosophies differ from the federal party?

Did we mention a pattern?

Hugh McFadyen was the Manitoba campaign manager for Belinda Stronach when she ran for the leadership of the federal Conservative Party. And before she turned traitor and abandoned the party to prop up the Liberals in the middle of the Sponsorship Scandal.

Okay, people make mistakes. He said he was as surprised as anyone by her betrayal. And maybe he was surprised when John Loewen turned traitor. That doesn't explain his warm welcome to John Loewen, the undying Liberal, into the heart of the provincial Tory establishment that he repudiated in 2005.

Add to the mix his personal recruitment of Rick Borotsik, another proud Liberal newby and unremitting Tory opponent, and, well, there are things that deserve a new look through the fresh prism.

Like McFadyen's strange behaviour when he was "running" against Reg Alcock.

Remember that McFadyen defeated Rod Bruinooge to become the Conservative candidate in Winnipeg South. He made all the right noises about being anxious to take on the Liberal Big Daddy in Manitoba, until the day Loewen resigned his seat in the provincial Legislature to run federally.

Without so much as a by-your-leave, McFadyen quit the federal race to run for Loewen's empty seat, leaving the federal Conservatives little time to find another candidate. But when Bruinooge, who had given Alcock a hard race in the previous federal election, announced he was ready to take another run at him, did McFadyen offer his help?
Short answer: NO.

McFadyen did everything he could to sabotage Bruinooge. Hughie threw his support, and his election team, behind a weaker candidate forcing another constituency nomination which gave Alcock an even greater advantage in time and money.

Does anybody find it strange at how hard McFadyen worked to keep Reg Alcock in office? And this was all before the rumours of McFadyen's alleged willingness to run for the federal Liberals if Reg could find him a safe seat.

Once we would have punted such a rumour in the trash basket without a second thought. But given McFadyen's unblinking coziness with the federal Liberal Party, it's no longer beyond the realm of possibility. During the campaign for leader of the Manitoba party, there were insider discussions that the local P.C.s needed to win over federal Liberal voters to defeat the NDP.

But nobody imagined this meant turning the party over to the Liberals.

In classical literature there's the story of the Trojan Horse. It should be required reading for every member of the Tory party in Manitoba.

The federal Liberals can't believe their blind luck. Here in Manitoba they now have access to every Conservative Party memo and e-mail, strategy session, internal poll, party directive and all thanks to Hugh McFadyen who threw open the gates and said "C'mon down, you crazy Grits."

Steven Fletcher (Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia), who's tasting power as the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Health, stands to be the big loser here, becoming the laughing stock of Parliament. The man who destroyed the career of Stu Murray--- and tried to defeat Fletcher, is now feted by Hugh McFadyen as a returning hero. A hero who will use his position to further the Liberal Party cause against Fletcher and the other Conservative MP's in Manitoba.

Throw in Rick Borotsik, who's wants nothing more than the defeat of the new Conservative government. Add whatever other curves Hugh has planned to win Liberal voters and you've got a disaster in the works. Hey, Steven. Can you spell R-E-D F-L-A-G?

In January The Black Rod asked "Will Manitoba Tories make Betrayal a party virtue?" ( )

We have our answer in the Hundred Days of Hughie.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Credibility Cloud over Axworthy

Not so fast, Lloyd.

Did you forget something?

Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg and Canada's former foreign minister, has been a busy boy these past two weeks, giving interviews and writing op-ed pieces on his opinion of how Stephen Harper has botched the country's foreign policy.

How, you ask? By supporting Israel.

Axworthy's latest work appeared Wednesday in the Winnipeg Free Press. It was part of the newspaper's buck and wing to placate Axworthy for an embarassing mistake by the paper's Ottawa reporter, Paul Samyn.

Samyn, you see, allegedly misquoted Axworthy so that it sounded like Axworthy was criticizing Winnipeg's Asper family for using their "media empire" to unduly influence the government in Israel's favour.

The Free Press was desperate to forestall anyone from concluding that Axworthy was saying Jews (in the proxy of the Aspers) had too much influence in Canada because they control the media.

The newspaper apologized profusely to Axworthy and the Aspers, blamed Samyn, and gave Axworthy a whole page to deliver the message that was lost in the, still unresolved, controversy.

But a reading of the latest essay by Axworthy, in conjunction with three other interviews and articles by him in the past two weeks, suggests Samyn may have been sacrificed too soon.

This all started with an op-ed article by Lloyd in the Globe and Mail, Saturday, July 22, titled Losing Our Way In The World.

Samyn read the piece, then interviewed Axworthy the following Wednesday, after an Israeli missile accidentally killed a Canadian soldier at a UN observation station on the Lebanon border. That story, barely 10 paragraphs long, was shoehorned onto a page of Lebanon war news on Thursday, July 27.

The last two paragraphs, where Axworthy allegedly criticizes the Aspers, were incendiary and ignited an orgy of grovelling by the paper.

A reading of Samyn's story followed by Axworthy's latest article is intriguing.

Axworthy was obviously worked up by the the Israeli attack on a UN post. His words to Samyn, even paraphrased, were passionate. Canada was aping George Bush's stance in the Middle East, Samyn quoted Axworthy.

"I am increasingly concerned about the view that the only role that Canada should play is to adhesively stick itself to Bush adminstration policies...."

"The morass in Iraq is such a talisman for everything that is going on."

"And what is really ironic is that at a time when increasingly the U.S. ability to influence events in the Middle East has run aground because of its one-sided (something, lost due to the usual incompetence of Free Press editors who don't read the stories they edit) which opens up space for countries like Canada to exercise that role we are at the very same time following the same (U.S.) track."


Wordy, isn't he? But note the quotation marks. Samyn taped the interview, so he could get the quotes just right. Remember that.

On Wednesday, Axworthy wrote with the dispassion of an academic. Every word (about 2,500) had been carefully vetted. There was only a single mention of U.S. President George Bush, to say Canada shifted its attention to border security after 9-11 "influenced by the pressure from the Bush administration."

The Winnipeg Free Press blamed Samyn for misquoting Axworthy by writing that he talked about the Aspers, when he actually talked about "diasporas."

"Axworthy also took a shot at Winnipeg's Asper family, saying they are using their media empire to advocate stauncly right-wing positions when it comes to defending Israel." wrote Samyn.

"The Aspers are inceasingly playing a far more important role in shaping Canadian foreign policy," was a direct quote attributed to Axworthy.

No, no, no, said the Free Press. Axworthy said diasporas. Diasporas are increasingly playing a far more important role in shaping Canadian foreign policy.

And sure enough, in his op-ed, Axworthy wrote about Diaspora, which he defined for his readers as "any group or groups of people that maintain an ongoing interest and sense of belonging to other regions or states as well as to Canada."


Note his use of the capital D.

* Disapora, with a capital D, has a specific meaning.
Wikipedia gives this definition:

...the word diaspora was used to refer specifically to the populations of Jews exiled from Judea in 586 BC by the Babylonians , and Jerusalem in 136 AD by the Roman Empire. This term is used interchangeably to refer to the historical movements of the dispersed ethnic population of Israel , the cultural development of that population, or the population itself. The probable origin of the word is the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 28:25, "thou shalt be a diaspora (Greek for dispersion) in all kingdoms of the earth".

* The term has been expanded to mean the dispersion of any designated group of people and it's this meaning Axworthy hopes you understand.

Except that in a discussion of Israel and the Middle East, it's easy to see how Samyn might have accepted the original meaning.

* But the Free Press says that didn't happen because Samyn simply misquoted Axworthy. Diasporas became the Aspers.

How he misquoted the preceeding sentence is not explained, because it cannot be explained. Not when someone is referring to a tape recording to get the quotes right.

* Muddying the story even more is Axworthy's second paragraph in his Globe and Mail article.

"What is being lauded by right-wing commentators as taking a firm stand in defence of Israel's right to defend itself by "a measured response" to Hezbollah provocation is, in fact, a major step away from helping find solutions that can end the violence and killing."

Now compare that to Samyn's paraphrase of Axworthy on the Aspers."Axworthy also took a shot at Winnipeg's Asper family, saying they are using their media empire to advocate staunchly right-wing positions when it comes to defending Israel."

* Axworthy admits he talked to Samyn about Diaspora. He writes it with a big D. It was in a discussion about Israel.

* Samyn paraphrases a comment about the Aspers and their "right-wing "defence of Israel. Axworthy writes about right-wing commentators who defend Israel.

All in all, we're not convinced the cloud surrounding Axworthy's credibility has been lifted.

There's evidence that he said what he's quoted as saying. The proof lies in the tape recording of the interview.

The Winnipeg Free Press refuses to print a transcript of the tape. Why?

For the same reason the FP has clamped the cone of silence on its columnists and staff "bloggers".

Funny how editor Bob Cox, who so wants to communicate with his readers, hasn't written a word about the Axworthy controversy. Neither has Dan Lett, who, you would think, would come to the defence of his colleague. Nor has Lindor Reynolds, who recently married a Jewish groom. Nor has publisher Andy Ritchie. Gordon Sinclair wrote it off as a funny story, but never got around to the "Aspers control the media" part of the joke.

The silence of the Free Press is suspicious. The inexplicable quotations by Samyn when he has a tape recording to refer to speak volumes.

Lloyd Axworthy's own words seem to confirm he talked with Samyn about the Aspers, possibly in the context of a discussion of diasporas.

We're watching a mainstream newspaper ignore an amazing national story here.

A fomer foreign minister criticizing the influence of a prominent media- owning Jewish family by name is news.

And there's more than that.

We mentioned Axworthy has been quoted four times on the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. But we've only referred to three.

The fourth was an interview with Embassy, "an unbiased and authoritative newsweekly focused on international affairs from a distinctively Canadian point of view and on the diplomatic community in Ottawa."

In it he's quoted:

While Canada maintained some key principles, including Israel's right to exist, Canada worked not to alienate one side or the other, which was a unique approach on the international stage.

"You just had to do that because if you simply adhere to one position in an unbending way then there was no room for a dialogue," Mr. Axworthy said. "And there were enough countries doing that. There was already too many people who were seized by unbending convictions, so the need for those who could bridge the gap was a role that we could effectively play."

But that approach began to shift under the Paul Martin government, Mr. Axworthy said, as Canada began voting at the United Nations against any resolution critical of Israel and those who supported it.

"There was always a very careful assessment resolution by resolution as to: Did this help lower the temperature," he said.. "It began to change under Mr. Martin's government ..."

In other words, when Lloyd Axworthy was foreign minister, Canada didn't vote in the United Nations by deciding which side was right and which side was wrong, but by deciding how that vote would lower international tensions.

We think that's news. Especially when filtered through Axworthy's opinion of the influence of the diasporas of the Middle East.