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 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:

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Free Press accidentally exposes the sham of Judicial Inquiries

Ouch...Hot. Hot. Hot.

That's what you get for grabbing a smoking gun.

The words "judicial inquiry" entered everybody's vocabulary this week as the province roiled over the controversial prosecution of a police officer responsible for a woman's death in a car crash.

So it wasn't unexpected to see a column about judicial inquiries by Winnipeg Free Press reporter/columnist Dan Lett. ("Inquiry could show inner workings of justice system", Oct. 31, 2007)

But what he wrote had us falling out of our chairs in surprise.

The Black Rod has written about previous judicial inquiries, namely those into the murder convictions of Tom Sophonow and James Driskell. We pointed out that the mainstream media always fails to explain that these were not independent, unbiased examinations of what led to the convictions of the pair; they were the modern equivalent of show trials, where the verdict is determined first and the evidence supporting the verdict is presented in a charade of an inquiry.

Imagine our shock to see Dan Lett verify everything we believed, in spades.

"Although inquiries are intended to be objective, definitive examinations of a miscarriage of justice, their mandate is vulnerable to influence by the affected parties. In the case of the recent inquiry into the wrongful conviction of James Driskell, counsel for Driskell negotiated the mandate directly with the deputy justice minister. Those discussions resulted in the final format of the inquiry."

And there was more...

"Many times, it's at this early stage that decisions are made about who will (or won't) be on a witness list, what questions will (or won't) be asked and what issues will (or won't) be tackled."

So, according to Lett, the Driskell camp held secret, backroom negotiations with government representatives over the process of an inquiry that targetted specific police and prosecutors.

Do you call that justice?

And now we have an explanation for the absence of crucial witnesses like Ashif Madatili Kara (Another missing piece of Driskell Inquiry puzzle; Black Rod, Feb. 9, 2007)

We wrote:

"Kara was a witness for the prosecution at Driskell's trial for murder in June, 1991. On the stand he testified that Winnipeg City detectives threatened him, intimidated him, wrote up a phony statement and forced him to sign it without reading it. He also testified that in a private conversation James Driskell told him he was furious at Dean Harder for "ratting on him."

"I want to get even with that guy. I'm going to kill him."Kara was not called to the Driskell Judicial Inquiry.

Neither was Ray Zanidean, the chief witness against Driskell at trial and the person the commission needed to discredit the most.Driskell's attorney was free to attack Zanidean at every turn without concern that Zanidean could respond, or at least have an attorney present to protect his rights.

The NDP has rewritten the definition of fairness.

Somehow we suspect that counsel for Derek Harvey-Zenk will not be given a chance to negotiate the mandate of the public inquiry into his prosecution, and he will not get to infuence who will be called as a witness.

Is that's the case, then it means Manitoba has two kinds of judicial inquiry---one for people the government favours and one for people it doesn't.

What's wrong with this picture?

The Axworthy Effect is spreading.

We've noted how the number of incidents of threats to schools mushroomed after Lloyd Axworthy's ill-advised news conference following the discovery of a still-undiscosed message on the wall of a washroom at the University of Winnipeg.

Our correspondents tell us we can add schools outside the Perimeter to the list of copycat threats.


Regarding your November 1st story on The Black Rod, I thought it may interest you to note that the so-called "Axworthy Effect" has also made its way to my city, Steinbach, Manitoba.

Our local high school, the Steinbach Regional Secondary School (aka: SRSS) has been evacuated at least 3 times within the past two weeks, dues to threats similar to the ones at the University of Winnipeg. Additionally, a school in the nearby small town of Landmark, Manitoba, was also evacuated within the past week, also due to a threat found in the restroom at the school.

Here are some sources, in case you'd like some more information regarding these incidents...

2007-10-30, Steinbach Regional Students Back To Class:

2007-10-26, Threat At School In Landmark:

2007-10-24, Hanover School Evacuated:,

Steinbach Regional Evacuated:

Steinbach Online's Home Page:

It certainly is interesting to watch how wide-spread this problem is becoming after gaining media attention.

The little hoodlums nowadays don't even need any creativity to commit their crimes... they simply copy whatever seems to be the latest fad from the news! I'm also amused at the various school's attempts to show that they are doing something about the situation. As you so rightly noted in your article, speculation is endless.

Anyway, I'd also like to say how much I enjoy reading your Black Rod columns. My only wish is that you could post more frequently than you do!

Keep up the great work,

Name withheld

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