Reams of paper flow down the Federal government pipeline, not often drawing any attention or comment. Regulations, policies, new legislation, amendments to old legislation, reports and findings by committees and oversight groups. They are for the most part ignored by the public, unless of course they touch upon current popular narratives: discrimination, racism, and Covid, topics which push all other stories aside. If you can find or elicit tears and find victims willing to reveal themselves you have the prescription for all the news and the tik tok’ing social mediums.
The recent report by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) into the Colten Boushie homicide investigation had all the ingredients to fill that thirty second vacuum of profound insight. Police wrong doing mixed with that witches brew of allegations of racism, is too heady a mixture for the scribes and pundits. Stir it up and feed it out in small doses. No relevance or examination required. The medium is now the message.
The ringing cries of racism in this country are predictable, commonplace, often formed around the flimsiest of circumstances and often supported by a warped historical interpretation. On almost every occasion it quickly and effectively prods the government of the Liberal and progressive left to jump into action or reaction. These outbursts of discrimination and racism spur the government into paroxysms of apologies and statements by the Prime Minister that “we need to do better”.
For the messengers the ability to prove those accusations is secondary to achieving the reaction. We no longer demand authentication or even allow it. This latest report and the reporting of it is no different; further proof over how far we have fallen from the the factual record.
This latest government chronicle, took a total of 107 pages and over four years to produce. (the RCMP Senior Executive are almost equally culpable for the time expended— apparently it took on average 17 months for the RCMP HQ to respond to a request for information from the Commission during this investigative period)
Like all government inquiries, if left unchecked, they tend to grow in size and scope with little prompting. This review was no exception. It grew to include whether or not there were any errors in the overall criminal investigation itself.
However, the headlining focus of the complaint and their inquiries came to focus on one particular day. It was on that day when the officers attended to the Baptiste/Boushie residence. That day the officers had a dual purpose; to both search for a missing, possibly armed and intoxicated suspect from the shooting, while at the same time notify Ms Baptiste of her son’s death. This large question took four years to investigate: did they discriminate against Ms. Baptiste during their twenty minute visit to the house and in performing these two uncomfortable tasks?
The RCMP had already conducted its own internal investigation in December 2016. The results of that internal investigation were delivered to the family in October 2017. The family didn’t like the results, deemed it unacceptable, and then filed another complaint to the CRCC. The RCMP, undoubtedly due to the continuing indigenous cries of racism and discrimination and the need to relieve the political and media pressure, then joined in the asking of the CRCC to review the matter.
This writer blogged about the trial and Gerald Stanley’s subsequent acquittal on February 13, 2018 so there is no need to go over old ground. The written narrative of that blog was admittedly heated due to what was believed to be the outrageous reactions by our government to the verdict at the end of the case. Our Prime Minister and our then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, upon hearing the jury findings, quickly went on to misstate the facts, blame shaming the jury, while also opining that there was a drastic need to change parts of the judicial system. “We needed to do better”.
Those government reactions at the time of the trial were fuelled solely by a manufactured narrative. The Indigenous, and their legal and social representatives, once outside the courtroom and in the comforting arms of the media, contorted both the evidence of the case and the jury system to fit their cause.
Now, the Indigenous and their usual support groups are back at the same old barricade. Now claiming that this latest CRCC report finally confirms all of their suspicions. Once again the facts on which they rely for their arguments are weak, their statements to the news media are spurious, and once again Mr. Trudeau is telling us “we must do better”.
The CRCC report had forty-seven findings; and of those, twenty-five were ruled as having no errors or misconduct. In fact the report states that the police “were generally professional and reasonable”. That “arrests were lawful and reasonable”. That the “investigative team was adequately staffed” and that the interview of Mr. Stanley was reasonable”.
Basically, they found “no discrimination except in talking to Mrs. Baptiste”.
The allegations of discrimination after examining a lengthy investigation and court case according to the CRCC narrowed down to the 20 minutes at the Baptiste residence.
Before examining those minutes that according to family spokespersons “caused unnecessary suffering to his family” it is insightful to first look at the comments about the actual investigation, so one can get a sense of the level of 2nd guessing that was replete throughout the report.
There were comments such as“interviewers failed to establish trust with the witnesses”. That they should have been made to “foster a state of mind that was conducive to witness cooperation”; after all the witnesses were “hungover, tired” and suffering from “trauma and shock”. The report ignores the fact that these individuals were also “suspects”, none of whom, suspiciously have ever faced charges.
The CRCC was concerned that the Major Crime Unit who were traveling to a local hotel after completing their work should have attended that crime scene that night— where others were already in attendance— “to gain an appreciation of ongoing activities”.
The Indigenous found especially egregious and the CRCC concurred was that the police attended to the “wake”. They were there to speak with Mrs. Baptiste and update her on the investigation and this was deemed “unreasonable”. This attendance, where the officers asked if they could speak with Mrs. Baptiste after she emerged from the funeral “disrupted their ability to enact their cultural protocol in relation to the death….where four days are needed and each day has its own meaning”.
They report that there was an “unreasonable delay” in obtaining the search warrant. They feel in their report that a 12 hour delay in waiting for an experienced affiant was unacceptable. Having spent countless hours of my life waiting on search warrants and writing those search warrants this complaint is specious no matter how much one can relate. The precious irony here is that this group took four years to right a report but can not imagine a search warrant taking 24 hours.
The primary evidence of a “botched” investigation that was often brought forward during the media conferences concerned the blood in the vehicle. The vehicle which contained only the blood of the victim, went uncovered and rain washed some of it away by the time the vehicle was examined by the Forensic Identification Section. Again, according to the CRCC this disturbed the ability of the “blood spatter” experts to be able to obtain crucial evidence they argued.
In the best of circumstances the covering of the car could and should have been done. That would be normal operating procedure as the vehicle was part of a crime scene and there was going to be a delay in its eventual examination. But this has become the Indigenous “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” moment.
Was it crucial to this case? No, not in the slightest.
The blood was that of the victim Colten Boushie.
The evidence of the case was that Boushie was shot as he was sitting in the vehicle. The blood spatter analysis would under the best of circumstances show the direction of travel and the proximity of the shooter. None of that was in doubt in this case. It was an already admitted set of circumstances and that is what the court ruled at the time in the case. That the case was mishandled is quite simply misstating the implication and facts of the blood found in the vehicle.
The toning down of the culpability of Boushie and the others is toned down throughout the report.They weren’t conducting an armed rural home invasion —which the case facts detail —they were merely “interacting with others vehicles”. Misguided youth “interacting” with the Stanley family.
The CRCC brushed over the firearm in the vehicle, which they apparently accepted was going to be used for “hunting”. This firearm that had been stolen from a residence they were at previous to coming to the Stanley farm.
The CRCC constantly brushed over inconsistent statements by the witnesses, one of whom later even admitted to making a false statement.
The spokespersons for the Baptiste’s said that even the RCMP media release at the time was biased. The release saying they had “entered private property” and thus painted Boushie as a “thief” and and “sowed discord in the community”.
Up to this point, there is little that could even constitute mention in any government report, let alone forced the Commissioner of the RCMP to agree with the conclusion that Baptiste was “racially discriminated” and that what happened later during the next of kin notification was “handled insensitively”
Evidence, in any case of discrimination is usually evidence that unless rebutted, would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact. In this case the police rebutted the evidence, but apparently the CRCC felt that the family and their seven witnesses was more believable than the thirty officers who also took notes. Even though the Crown at the time of the trial even warned the jurors that there were “contradictions” in the stories of the witnesses.
So it came down to this. The RCMP according to the CRCC “treated her (Ms. Baptiste) with such insensitivity that her treatment amounted to a prima facie case of discrimination”. (An interesting use of the legal term prima facie; which means, what something looks like on its face, or at first glance.) The CRCC stated their findings of discrimination were framed and influenced by “colonial assertions, stereotypes, and a troubled history of police and indigenous relations”.
Chris Murphy’s version (the lawyer for the Baptiste’s in their ongoing civil suit against the RCMP), of what happened at the residence, sensing that this was his Johnny Cochrane moment, exclaimed that “they swarmed their house” and then “you search her home” and “you call her a drunk and you call her a liar”.
Let’s deal with Mr. Murphys exclamations separately.
First the “swarming” consisted of seven officers attending to the residence, to look for an armed missing suspect. The cops needed to also advise Ms. Baptiste of her son’s death at the same time. Doing both tasks at the same time was an unusual set of circumstances, but also clearly unavoidable. To cover off all four sides of the house as well as search the residence. is unclear as what Mr. Murphy would consider a good number for such an event; three, four?
As to the second allegation that they called Ms. Baptiste a drunk. They did not, they asked if she had been drinking. There is a world of difference.
If the person being advised of horrific news of a family members death, has in fact been drinking or is high, then the approach by the officer responsible needs to be nuanced. Any officer needs to be assured that the person receiving this information has all their faculties, can understand, and can absorb that horrible information. If someone is intoxicated, another party or family member would have to be brought in and included in the conversation. You need to ask the question to assure comprehension if you have concerns about someone’s level of understanding, or their ability to cope with the situation.
The liar allegation.
Ms. Baptiste upon their arrival said that she had been waiting for Colten to return for dinner; in fact she had put his dinner in the microwave. The officers discriminatory act according to the CRCC and Commissioner Lucki was to open the microwave and thus corroborate what she was saying.
The CRCC doesn’t seem to comprehend, nor apparently does Commissioner Lucki, that Police need to confirm everything they hear and are told. Whether you are a witness or a suspect. Whether you be Irish, German, or from Mozambique, police do not take anything at face value and some minor observation like that may help to establish a time line or act as some corroboration of information already known. A good police officer believes no one at face value, cynicism is your bread and butter in the investigative world. Every good officer falls back on the axiom, don’t believe anything you hear, or half of what you see.
So there is the prica facie case of the heinous deeds by the police which has prompted extensive CBC news coverage and the crying and the shouting of abuse and trauma. They asked if she had been drinking and they looked into her microwave. None of it had anything to do with the colour of her skin. We should also take this time to point out that some of the officers involved in this investigation self-identified as Indigenous themselves.
The biggest question should be, can the police expect anything approaching fair comment in this age of unbounded liberalism? No, seems to be the obvious answer. The government and the powers to be in this country, when it comes specifically to the Indigenous have driven off the cliff, they are in free fall, unable to reverse their position of everything being systemic and discriminatory. Honest and truthful comment has long disappeared as a principle of discussion.
As the Mounties prepare to add another course of “Cultural Awareness and Humility” to their already 29 learning programs with Indigenous content, they will need to mentally file this report along with a lot of others– on the dust covered shelves of government. It does not deserve further comment. Does the civil suit initiated in 2018 by the Baptiste family central to understanding these latest publicity appearances? They are in point of fact, surrounded by their lawyers during all these press conferences. All in attendance are vested in the suit outcome.
Commissioner Lucki in agreeing to the discrimination finding is actually now in counterpoint to her own officer executives in Saskatchewan, who up to now have been defending the civil suit by saying there was in fact no discrimination. One can only assume she has not helped their cause and that suit too will be settled out of court— undoubtedly to the benefit of the Baptiste family.
All of the Commissioner’s supplication to the Indigenous is not even helping her profile. They are still calling for her removal. She hasn’t gone far enough they say, and how far far enough is, is yet to be defined. She has clearly given up on the support of her police officers. The need for honesty is still a non-negotiable element for most police officers and will not be forgotten.
This betrayal of the facts, this wandering away from the reality is both frustrating and dangerous. Further polarization in this country will continue, this crying wolf syndrome is damaging, not healing.
This is not the first case, nor it will be the last, where a special interest group tries to take over the proceedings or bend the courts to their cause. For those of us that enjoy a democratic government and a judicial system founded on due process, we have to be guarded and vigilant against any that strive to tear or warp it to their benefit. We are not always successful, but the effort has to be made.
Power, money, and political gain are the three fundamentals that are often at the root of any process —in this case the fight against discrimination was a distant fourth.
Dilia Opekokew, an often quoted Indigenous lawyer and advocate in offering favourable comment on this report said:
“There must be truth before reconciliation”.
Let’s start there.