March of the Fringe

The recent storming of the Capitol in Washington, besides being a dull reflection of all that ails that country, was another shining example of the Gordian knot which is 21st century police management. On full national display was the fact that operational policing decisions have now been supplanted by the politically minded managers who now populate the top of every police agency and the politicos who wish to control them. The historical record has now been forever warped by this unhealthy blend of political considerations and policing; where public image has become paramount. Another damaging blow to the credibility and sustainability of policing as it is now practised.

The woeful inadequacy in Washington came with a severe cost. The mayhem resulted in deaths and inadvertently gave a life boost to the sombre and dark tones of right wing political extremism. If one watched the live time feed of the progression of the riot (which is what it was— it was not a “coup” attempt as speculated by many of the media mavens and the hand wringing liberal left) a crowd of 8,000 persons attending a Trump rally were then spurred on and re-directed to march down Pennsylvania Avenue and on to Capitol Hill. Under the banner of some general notion that by doing so they would alter a House vote on the election. Some dressed as Vikings, others carried Confederate flags, members of the Alt right stirred in with red hatted MAGA supporters; a mass of people with mixed motivations and unclear reasonings. Some of this much maligned group included police officers and firefighters. 

This alleged army of the far right fuelled with political purpose, still felt it necessary to stop every fifty feet to preen for a selfie. Some of the group seemed content to sit on the steps, the more radicalized began to break windows and enter into the Capitol itself.

Dressed in their various garbs, this ill-defined fringe, carried into the House. The resistance to them was at times sporadic and often half-hearted. Officers can be seen standing around, apparently unaware of the hand to hand combat some of their other fellow officers had endured outside. It was bizarre even in riot standards.

The protestors seemed somewhat caught off guard by the level of advancement that they had achieved. With no clear understanding as to how to carry out their goal, some felt that sitting in the same chair as the House Leader Nancy Pelosi was somehow a victory of sorts. They posed for the in-house cameras. Some of the officers who were there to repel the invaders, also posed for selfies with the protestors and helped direct rioters as to where to go once inside. 

The protestors were gradually pushed out, grabbing at any souvenirs they could take, no doubt to show their future grand children.

This is not to downplay the violence. There was an outright battle on the fence lines, no doubt prompted by some of the hardcore right who came prepared for the fight with baseball bats, gas masks, explosives and the like. One protestor was shot, a police officer died of physical complications from the fight. It was nothing less than a bar brawl in broad daylight.

There were 1400 cops there. Were they out-numbered? Yes, but that is not unusual, police often face situations where they are outnumbered. There was no police strategy, they were out-numbered, but more importantly they were un-prepared. 

In a detailed article by the Washington Post the chronology of events and the decision making of the management group was outlined. Three of the key mentioned managers have since resigned, as they should, but the damage has clearly been done. 

The timeline speaks for itself :

Sunday January 3rd (three days before the march on the Capitol)

 — Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund (heads the 2,000 member Capitol Police whose sole job is protecting the Capitol and its two square miles) asks House and Senate Security officials for permission to request that the D.C. National Guard be placed on standby; in the event that quick assistance was needed. This request was based on the fact that police “intelligence” was now suggesting that the crowd for the pro-Trump rally was going to be bigger than originally anticipated. The request was denied. 

—- House Sgt at Arms Paul Irving said he wasn’t “comfortable with the optics”

—Senate Sgt at Arms Michael Stenger suggested that Sund should informally seek out his Guard “contacts”and ask them to “lean forward” and be on alert. (This “lean forward”clearly a new in vogue government phrase)

Monday January 4th 

—-Sund continues to worry and receives some more police intelligence. “We knew we would have large crowds, the potential for some violent altercations”. There were claims at this time that the alt-right instigators had discussed storming the building and targeting lawmakers. Sund explains in his defence, that “You might see rhetoric on social media. We had seen that many times before”…”people say a lot of things on line”

Sund calls Irving and Stenger again

Sund decides to “lean forward” and calls Maj.Gen William J Walker, head of the 1,000 member National Guard. Walker who said that he thought he could call 125 personnel fairly quickly. 

Sund over the weekend had also conferred with D.C. Police Chief Robert J. Contee III who also agreed to lend a hand if trouble began. 

Wednesday January 6th

— 12:40 Protestors arrive at the White House for the Trump speech where the idiot incarnate tells them that there needs to be a “fight” against the law makers. The lawyer for the idiot, says that this is a “trial by combat”.

—-1300 Sund calls Chief Contee who sent 100 officers to the scene. 

—13:09  Sund calls Stenger and Irving requesting Emergency to be declared in his request for assistance. They say that they will “run it up the chain”

—-13:20 (approx) Aides to the top congressional leaders were called to Stengers office for an update and were infuriated to learn that the Sgt at Arms had not called the National Guard or any other reinforcements. They tell them that it was their responsibility to do this without seeking approval from leaders. 

—- During this time Sund said he called Irving twice more and Stenger once to check on their progress. Sund says he is losing patience and also calls Walker to tell him to get ready to bring the Guard. 

— 14:00 Protestors arrive at the Capitol buildings after marching down Pennsylvania Avenue 

—-14:10  Irving calls back to give approval to call the Guard. 

—-Plain Clothes officers begin barricading the door to the Speaker’s lobby

—-14:15 Protestors have broken through the perimeter fencing in a heated battle, and begin climbing the stairs to the outside of the building. The D.C. Police begin sending cars to assist. 

—14:26 Sund is now on a conference call with the Pentagon. 

The problem is that unlike elsewhere in the U.S. The D.C. National Guard does not report to a governor, but to the President. The Secretary of the Army was not on the call to actually give the approval.  

The call had been organized by the D.C. Homeland Security Director, Chris Rodriguez. On the call is the D.C. Police Chief, the Mayor and Walker. 

Sund makes an urgent request for the calling out of the National Guard. Several Pentagon people are on this call, including Army Staff Director Lt. General Walter Piatt. Piatt states during this call that “I don’t like the visual of the National Guard standing in front of the Capital”. Piatt’s boss is Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and is the one who has to approve the deployment of the Guard. 

The call gets noisy with people over talking others before Contee intervenes and asks for clarification “Steve, are you requesting National Guard Assistance at the Capitol?” Sund says “I am making urgent, urgent, immediate request for National Guard Assistance. “

Piatt again jumps in to the conversation again and again pushes back on Sund saying he would prefer to have Guard soldiers take up posts “around Washington” relieving the D.C. Police so that they could respond to the Capitol instead of the guardsmen. 

Of course, Piatt points out that McCarthy the Secretary of the Army and the final approval needed was not on this call. 

Contee asked Piatt “Let me be clear, are you denying this?” No, Piatt said he just didn’t have the authority to approve it. 

—-1504 hrs According to the defence department McCarthy “verbally” authorizes the activation of the entire D.C guard. 

*It would take another two hours for most of the citizen soldiers to leave their jobs and homes and pick up their gear. 

—-15:45 hrs Stenger, unaware of the apparent order by McCarthy, tells Lund that he would ask his boss, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for help getting the National Guard authorized. No one knows how this ended up. 

By this time, Capitol Police, Secret Service, Park Police and the FBI were all on the scene helping to eject rioters, and sweep the building. 

One could safely assume that by 1700 hrs the rest of the National Guard would have been in place, in time to assist the janitorial staff with sweeping up. 

Bureaucratic creep, multiple levels and authorities, conference rooms and command centres. These are the characteristics of modern day police management, where political agendas have been welcomed into operational decision making. What it looks like, how it plays to the media has become the overriding question in police departments.

Don’t think that this can happen in Canada? Is there a need to remind anyone of the shooting of Nathan Cirillo on Parliament Hill, and the gunman, Michael Zehauf Bibeau, a 32 year old misfit and drug addict, no more organized than this Washington group, allowed to run into Parliament, passed several security staff and allowed to run free in the halls before being shot 32 times. Do I need to remind anyone how Ms. Chretien woke up to an intruder in her bedroom, an individual having got past that intrepid group of yawning and bored Mounties at 24 Sussex. Or how about the fellow who blew himself up with ten sticks of dynamite inside a Parliament Hill washroom in 1966 before he could make it to the House of Commons. 

It is obvious to most that Security,at the best of times, is a bit of a mugs game. This despite growing levels of dark suits and Oakley sunglasses. If one wants to storm Parliament Hill with 8000 angry demonstrators, do we think that we would be equipped to turn them away? It seems unlikely. 

Having been once part of the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 we were surrounded and “supported” by tthe Gold, Silver and Bronze command centres who were in application tragically comic. Hundreds of officers passing paper between themselves and a myriad of high level officers. There is little doubt that if there had been a true security “incident” in this billion dollar security operation, it would still have fallen to a dozen officers on the front line, while hundreds would have remain closeted in various boardrooms. 

The fallout now in Washington has been tiresome in its predictability. Politicians and government officials now kicking themselves in the head with their knee-jerk reactions. Band wagon lawmakers now out from behind their desks, now calling the whole episode a “severe systemic failure” that must not happen again.

Three officers have been suspended and seventeen more are under investigation. The entire force of 2,000 officers who are there to defend the two square miles have a $500 million budget and are under full review. Out of the woodwork come the usual suspects of the woke culture filling the air with the allegations of the police force being a group of  old boys networks, a structure built of glass ceilings, and racial bias. It seems to be agreed that this was a well paid police force, often filled with patronage appointments and a police force obviously suffering from “mission creep”. 

The next security concern, the Biden inauguration will be ridiculous in the over kill. Already forming up in Washington is more soldiers than are in Afghanistan. Perfect 20/20 hindsight.  

Democrats have pounced on another chance to pontificate and stamp out the evil Trump and have now voted to impeach him for a second time over this incident. If the first impeachment didn’t work, get up and try, try, again. 

When the dust settles, the Incident Command classrooms throughout North America will have trainers analyze what went wrong in course after course; only to have it happen again once the memories start to fade. Nothing will change until we get away from the current and constant belief that more is good, that bigger is better.  The incident command system with all the self-important middle managers need to be removed and arm chair quarterbacks need to disappear along with their “desk top exercises”. The pyramid needs to be drastically flattened.

The bigger problem will still be that police management must become apolitical. Currently, that seems unlikely.

Photo by Marco Verch Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Freedom and the Battle with Public Safety

As a person who once wore blue— it was often drummed into our cerebellum that civil libertarians were the devil; and if not the devil, then they were doing the devils work. 

So I am approaching this well established policing tenet with some trepidation. Somewhat shockingly, I have found myself in agreement with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (The Pivot Legal Society still remains way outside my new found conversion) This dark metamorphosis has come to me parallel with an over-riding feeling that we Canadians have become sheep.  We are following an eager and willing governmental shepherd –as we traverse the rolling hills of Covid.   

Our Liberal shepherds seemingly believe and voice in convincing fashion that they are part of the greater and principled good. Their stated goal is to insure that none of us fall into harms way, they are protecting us from ourselves. Our once personal decisions have now been taken over by an all knowing government, only they in a position to know what is right and guide us. To save us in their crusade, they are clearly willing to subjugate the many for the sake of the few. They are so convinced of their noble-mindedness that there is no apparent need for any evidence or justification.  Every question is met with a perfunctory rejoinder: “public safety”.

We, the unwashed masses, in return, have become wilfully blind to the trampling of our rights and freedoms. Seemingly ignorant as to the cost of that blindness. 

The “public safety” chorus is being used as a societal hammer to nail down those non-believers, the heretics who question any or all of the protocols. To question is to be labelled un-educated, selfish, or as one local media personality called those that dare to be contrary, the “knuckle draggers”. 

The strange symbolic flag of this righteous cause has become a cloth item that fits over the ears. Remember, it is not protecting you, it is protecting them from you. A grandiose symbol that conjures up fits of love or rage—ironically produced for a few pennies mainly in a communist China. 

The “health” ordered rules have led to police identification checks, roadblocks, warrantless searches and arrests. In the last few weeks there has been a hue and cry for increased charges and allusions to possible jail time. The ever changing restrictions, rules, regulations and creation of  anonymous tip lines are supported by the exhortation that the  government is “standing with us”. 

They deflect accountability, either financially or administratively with the axiom that they are only following the “science.” The fact every Province is gathering the science and interpreting that “science” differently seems to be lost to the many. Doctors can be found on every side of the issue, doctors signing letters to have children get back to school, other doctors insisting that they are kept away. Leaders hide behind the un-elected health officials when there is any sign of push back. 

 The right to life, liberty and security as enshrined under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been pushed aside by medical mandates designed primarily to save an encumbered and clearly inadequate health care system. But the most mystifying element is how quickly the populace fell into acquiescence. Are we so complacent in our freedoms that the removal of them is met with a shrug of the shoulders. 

Did anyone foresee that it would be a flu virus that would lead to the subjugation of basic human rights in this country? A flu virus that would cause people to turn onto each other —willing to report often minor contraventions of a health order, yelling on Twitter for the jailing of their fellow citizens for gathering in a group of more than a totally subjective pre-determined few. 

Some of the more restrictive covenants have come out of the Maritimes. Newfoundland recently  placed an almost outright travel ban, completely contrary to the mobility rights outlined by Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The CCLA decided that this was finally enough to act and brought the matter to court. They lost that case when Justice Burrage of the Newfoundland Supreme Court felt that it had been justified in the “name of public health”. (The CCLA is appealing.)

In Prince Edward Island after the revealing of four (4) new cases began closing gyms and dining rooms. There was a total of fourteen (14) cases at that time in the entire Province, which has a population of 157,000 people. That is a percentage of 0.00891%. They argued that they were being “precautionary”; the CCLA counters that in “terms of civil liberties..proportionality should trump precautionary”. 

The irresponsible media continues to fuel a rather perverse fear that non-compliance was associated with quick death. This continual marketing of fear in search of life giving headlines has played a massive role in the public acceptance of these ever increasing freedom restrictions. 

Doom scrolling has become a thing. Children afraid to leave their house, visit their friends. Suicide rates doubling, unbridled mental health issues, the education system put on hold, elective surgeries postponed possibly for years, unemployment the highest since the depression, and businesses collapsing. 

This is not to say that there was indeed a segment of the population, the elderly and the enfeebled, who with often numerous frailties would clearly be put in a struggle to survive if exposed to this particular flu variant. A drastic curtailing of those that were allowed to be near or intermingle with the vulnerable, seems more plausible and therefore more justifiable in these instances. 

For the others in society the presented justifications require a real stretching of the imagination. It is also become increasingly apparent that the battle against Covid is being waged by only 20% of the population. A large segment of the population remain unaffected. They didn’t see their income decrease, they did not lose their jobs, they were not forced to work in possible contamination. The responsibility for this fight against the virus has fallen directly on the most vulnerable and the financial underclass in Canada. The immigrant factory worker in the meat processing plant must get the product undisturbed to those of us trying out some new recipes at home. 

The mandarins making up the fight and speaking from the pulpit have not been touched by the virus in general terms. They speak to us from on high, above the tidal waters, above the possibility of drowning. The governor of California out with a group at the “French Laundry” restaurant, the Ontario finance Minister vacationing out of the country, the Kingston public servant raising a glass of cheer on her boat during the summer, another day off thanks to virus. School in, school out. Tickets to six persons playing poker, or to people not of the same residence having dinner together. 

In the news today, the clinics for the vaccine closed for the weekend in Ontario. Its a crisis for some, not for a lot of the others. It is easy to tell other people to conform, it is easy to be in the right, if the impinging on those rights does not have a palatable and economic effect on your personal circumstances. 

So with all these vagaries of cause and effect can we justify the breaching of our constitutional rights? Can we forego Section 2 which declares our fundamental freedoms of belief, expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association? Can we forego Section 6 which encapsulates our mobility rights, the right to enter, remain and leave Canada, and the ability to move and take up residence in any Province? It is a fundamental question as to whether we should be trusting the government to make those decisions for us. Ask the people in Hong Kong.

As the years have gone by I have found myself moving from the left side of the political spectrum to the centre right; more libertarian, now wavering in my belief that the government had to play a significant role in our lives. My outlook is less philosophical and more practical, based almost exclusively on decades of observation rather then on some natural political bend in philosophy. 

Government just doesn’t do things well in many instances. This isn’t conspiratorial, this isn’t for lack of effort by sometimes well meaning government employees, but more a matter of structural logistics. (The RCMP in its current form is clear cut proof of a too big, often illogical and structurally inert governmental institution; able to see the problem, but just not capable of doing anything about it. ) The current rollout of the vaccine seems to be hell bent on proving this to be true. 

There are some instances when public safety could or may invoke restrictions on the right to life and liberty. But, at the same time, there needs to be justification with compelling and testable evidence of any governmental action. Any constriction of fundamental human rights needs to be seriously examined. It can not be based solely on possibilities. Most importantly it has to be proportional to the cause. (The latest stats: 1.625% of the population of Canada has contracted Covid—85 % of those have recovered; so 1.3% of the 1.6% have recovered. Currently there are 0.24% of the population with active Covid)

Where does this leave the police? It needs to be learned that discretion in law enforcement is always a fundamental determinant of policing.  The larger the discretionary factor in terms of law applicability, the more the difficult and subjective the job for the police. When you put in place ever-changing and questionable rules and regulations, enforcement becomes dangerous territory. The value of a police force is measured in its level of credibility and its demonstrated integrity. Moral and ethical reputation is crucial to the policing life-blood.

The arbitrary or discretionary use of force and rule applications has to be seen as consistent, practical, and effective. Otherwise, you are open to ridicule and cynicism, neither of which will be helpful when it comes to enforcing the laws. The inconsistencies in the health orders and proclamations are too numerous to mention. Should you be able to outlaw dining outside in a public space, or to attend church services, or to go to another Province, while at the same time allowing NHL hockey teams to gather in their local hockey rink, or wave the need for Blue Jays officials to quarantine or deeming liquor and cannabis stores as essential. 

 It is getting harder and harder to understand and believe in this all being a rational exercise. The din of apoplectic  doctors wanting more and more infringements of your rights in an effort to save their Intensive care units seems endless. Those same ICU units, which according to the authorities have been on the “brink” of collapse, every day, day in and day out for the last six months. 

We need to take some time, to pause and consider the obvious stomping on the Canadian Constitution which is now underway. For some it is their economic livelihood and ability to care for their families which is at stake, for others it is their mental and physical health and ability to carry on. For all of us it is our personal freedom. No one should like the direction this country is going in terms of human rights and the arbitrary and the often counter-intuitive enforcement of its laws. 

Somewhat apropos Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Or if you would like something a little closer to our Canadian home, Pierre Trudeau said “I remember thinking that walking on the beach as a free man is pretty desirable”. 

Photo Courtesy of Edna Witni via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Waiting for Godot…and 2021

In the two Act play, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket, two characters have discussions and encounters while waiting for Godot-who in the end never shows up.

In some ways we have been waiting for this new year in similar fashion, a similar tragic comedy. Unlike Godot, thankfully, 2021 should show up.

Wits and pundits have been pontificating on the year 2020 in endless narratives. The virus of course the main theme, maddeningly repetitive, to the point of being irritating. The second tried and true theme or headline maker in the year that was, Mr. Trump, will like the year also be leaving centre stage; with reluctance, but going all the same. The heads of CNN, that liberal cheerleading foghorn is already meeting to figure out how to deal with the impending drop in ratings. 

So we will try not to dwell on either of those stories. 

For instance, did you know that 2020 was declared the “International Year of Plant Health” by the United Nations and the “Year of the nurse and the Midwife” by the World Health Organization?  Me neither. 

 Did you remember that this was a leap year —which started on a Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. I didn’t know that either. 

There were other news events, contrary to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the news editors around the country. 

The Australian bushfires killed over 500 million animals; thousands of people were evacuated after a volcano in Luzon erupted; in February the stock market crashed and plunged by over a million points; 23 people were killed in Portapique Nova Scotia; in May, China reports no new cases of Covid since the pandemic began; Africa is declared free of wild polio since the eradication of smallpox in that continent some 40 years previously; the International Criminal Court accuses the Philippines of crimes against humanity in its war on drugs, while the United States formally accuses Switzerland and Vietnam of currency manipulation. 

Mary Higgins Clark an American novelist died this year; as did Kobe Bryant. As did Little Richard and just this past week, John Le Carre. Different voices, different impacts but all having tilted the earth a bit on its axis. Many others left this world, less notable maybe, some you knew, some you knew of, and some with whom you had no connection. But their impacts were no less meaningful to those within their inner circles. 

The finality of death confirms for each of us that we are but a small speck in this infinite universe and all of us are on an unpredictable time line. It should make us appreciate our own reality and the part that we play in it. It should allow us to have a perspective. Although it is often difficult to ponder a larger time line in this current social climate, bombarded as we are with the narcissistic pull of selfies, tik tok, and memes substituting for conversation.We are often snug in own self-interest, often oblivious on what really matters. 

The trial by fire for this generation is now judged by many to be this dastardly flu. A flu affecting 1% of the population, but killing in great numbers our elders. Many of those elders, those walking history lessons, have been forced to spend their last minutes on earth separated by glass partitions from the very people who really matter to them. That was and is the true single tragedy of this virus. 

The vast majority of us have been unaffected. The wealthy have been exponentially increasing their wealth, and many others have been relegated to bemoaning Netflix and iTunes for not providing enough to keep us entertained. It seems difficult at times to compare our fight to the “greatest generation” and their 20th century battles.  

During this crisis, the middle income earners, have been free to buy up all that is in the stores, bake more, build decks, and put money usually gone to vacations into a new boat or a home large screen television.  All while working at home –claiming to be at the same level of productivity— which still doesn’t seem logistically feasible. 

People in the service industry predominantly have lost their jobs, while housing prices in Vancouver are predicted to rise 4% next year, car sales are up and no hot tubs can be found in stock. 

The bottom 10-20 % who should be in revolt because of their having to bear the weight of this pandemic, have been temporarily satiated or more accurately sedated by the unlimited spending needle of the various levels of government. That will come to an end in 2021 and one can only wonder how long that cash infused stupor will last.  

The drama of the virus plays every night, every waking hour on the 24 news cycle, which has really been reduced to a fifteen minute loop.  A constant stream of fear, bolstered by constant experts with ever more dire predictions. Who would have thought that there were so many epidemiologists in this country? Many have seized on this period of time to be their Warhol fifteen minutes. I have also sadly concluded that not all of them are that smart. Emergency room and ICU doctors present themselves are now folding under the pressure of having to make constant “life and death” decisions. One would have thought that was part of the job description.

Other doctors, who have a counter narrative, are often pushed to the side, while others are elevated to super human pedestals. Dr Bonnie Henry dancing in her Fluevogs. Dr Fauci the tiny  U.S. superman called upon to defy both Trump and the virus. 

Big Pharma once the subject of all that is evil (where is Michael Moore now?) are now riding white steeds into the breach to save us all.  Does anyone now care what the vaccine costs?  

Does anyone believe that we are well positioned in our hospitals and emergency rooms for any natural disaster? All those emergency planning departments that have been around for years apparently did not have enough foresight to make sure there were enough medical masks for an ICU unit that may have to run at 100%. We learn throughout the country that are capacity is in the hundreds, when thousands may be needed.

But let’s not digress too deeply into that deep anxiety ridden hole. Let us pull out of this flat spin and talk about what the hopes, aspirations and predictions are for the new year. 

First the predictions. 

It seems too easy to predict that our news for the next few months will be stories of who gets to be first in line. Stories of blackmarket vaccine, why them and not me will push us to the point of a mental breakdown. 

It is just as easy to predict that the government line will continue to brag about having ordered enough vaccine to inoculate the country several times over.  (Trump’s group by the way say that they will have inoculated their 300 million by June…Canada with its 37 million by September.) All politicians are now hoping that the vaccine and its life saving qualities will paper over the sometimes ridiculous anomalies and undulating policies of the last few months. 

I will predict that the RCMP members will finally get a pay raise. A secondary prediction which flows from this—  half of them will bitch that it is not enough, while their union will brag about their skillful negotiations. 

I will predict that the new Surrey Police Department will begin to form contrary to the RCMP Union wishes. I will also predict that the to be named Deputies under the new Chief Lepinsky will be announced and identified first by their race or gender. I know, too easy. 

I predict that there will be a story about a 1950’s Armed Forces jeep breaking down on Hwy 401 in the slow lane, filled with vaccine, stopped in its delivery of the vital lifeblood on the way to Doug Ford’s house. 

I predict in the next few months that theatres and gyms will remain closed, but liquor stores will remain open. 

I predict that the Federal Liberals will call an election in 2021, feeling that the general population sees them as the only gift that keeps on giving. In that vein, I will predict until that election time, fraud in CERB claims will not be investigated. 

Trudeau will salivate at the chance to run again (how could he possibly go back to being a high school teacher) and Ms. Freeland’s rising star will start to dim as the burden of the Finance Ministry and commanding a trillion dollar economy with no background in finance will begin to wear her down.  

More people will work from home and government productivity will continue downward. They will also continue to blame Covid 19 into the years 2022 and 2023 for the delays and obfuscations. 

I will predict that the newsrooms of the world will be scouring video and online chat, to identify a possible a new Covid-2021 to replace Covid-19, in a need to re-capture the ratings of 2020 and their very survival.  (They have recently latched on to “variations” in the virus.)

I predict Trump will retire to Florida, will hole himself up in golf memorabilia filled room, eating cheeseburgers and Kentucky Fried Chichen- growing his hair to his waist, with darkened long fingernails peeking out from under his kaftan a la Howard Hughes. Forever tweeting from obscurity but never being seen in public. 

I will predict that Biden will be sworn in as U.S. President and for the next four years will do nothing, which will please everyone. Kamala will continue to be frustrated as the President reaches the ripe old age of 81. Fit as a fiddle and in good spirits despite having to try and keep his son out of jail. Hunter Biden will continue to be the hunted. 

What are our hopes for the New Year? 

I do hope that Commissioner Lucki will find the fortitude to begin a major re-building of the RCMP. That somehow she will begin to realize that she is running an operational police force, not a cultural institution. (I should point out that I do not have a good track record when it comes to projecting hope…every year I hope that a Porsche Carrera ends up in my driveway with a big red bow)

I hope that Bill Blair is replaced.  

I hope that we will return to a level of civility in this country, one where people are allowed to speak and be heard, in spite of having a different perspective. 

I hope that this virus will at the very least lead to an improvement in how we treat and handle our elders. That we re-think the warehousing model. That an extended family once again becomes “a new normal” (I also hope with all my heart that the phrase the ‘new normal’ also goes the same way as the virus). 

I hope that we begin to read and understand history. Believe it or not, most if not all the problems of the future have been part of the past. To pay attention to that past will show us the way, or at the very least lead to some greater depth of understanding. 

I hope people will find the fortitude to give an honest assessment of all this Covid fighting and the ominous repercussions which have yet to be measured. I sincerely hope that human rights is once again is part of that measurement. 

I hope that journalism finds its way. It is completely lost.

I hope that you coppers out there stay safe. 

But most of all, I hope that all of you enjoy Xmas and have someone near and dear (Zoom near of course) I hope that all of you find something under the tree ( shares in Zoom? )

I am a lucky person, with both friends and family, and I wish all of you the same luck.

 I will continue to pompously lecture from this blog site, safe and forever comfortable in always being right and very wise. 

Happy Holidays everyone…. thank you all for reading and your support.  

Merry Xmas.

Photo courtesy of SilverTD via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved

The Indigenous and the FLQ parallel

In October of 1970 a small group of radicals known as “separatistes” gathered and organized determined to take the Province of Quebec into a new political order. They imagined and sought a transformative and radical change, one in which Quebec would become a “sovereign nation”, no longer part of the Dominion of Canada. The “Front de Liberation du Quebec”, the FLQ, did not believe it was possible for this to happen using normal political avenues. They felt that there needed to be a jolt to the sensibilities. They, in the end, were responsible for over 950 bombs being detonated around the City of Montreal in the quest for that freedom and independence.

The Federal Liberals at the time under then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau would institute the War Measures Act and 497 people would be arrested and arbitrarily held. Charles de Gaulle would exclaim from a balcony in Quebec in 1976, “Vivre le Quebec libre!” in what some would say was a misguided and impromptu show of support for an independent Quebec.

In the end this radical cell was thwarted; 23 of the FLQ went to jail and 4 went to jail for the murder of Pierre Laporte, who died in honour of the cause. Tanks were parked on Parliament Hill. It was a truly significant and violent chapter in the history of Canada— all in the name of Quebec provincial independence. 

In 1976 the potential of separatism still enthralled many of the people of Quebec and Rene Levesque was voted in as Premier of that Province as the leader of the newly formed Parti Quebecois. His and his party’s platform was founded on the single fundamental principle of leading Quebec away from Canada, but this time through a legal and electoral process designed to do what the FLQ could not achieve through violence. 

After a few years and an early referendum on the issue, in 1980, a Province wide referendum was held which requested the support for the legal removal of Quebec from Confederation. The process and voting captured the eyes and ears of the entire nation. The rest of Canada awaited the results that night with bated breath, not knowing whether or not Canada was going to be forever changed, its geographic boundaries re-drawn? A new sovereign nation literally dividing Canada.

It was a hard fought political battle between the diminutive and scrappy Levesque and many had a grudging admiration for his hard held belief and his impassioned ability to articulate the desire of the Quebec people. Pierre Trudeau was his natural nemesis and argued with equal personal passion that Canada could not survive such a radical and ill thought out solution. Both carried the level of oratory and debate to a level never seen before or since in this country.

Levesque and the Parti Quebecois lost the referendum by a slim majority. The people of Quebec decided that to remain in Canada was the wiser choice. (under Premier Parizeau, the Parti Quebecois would again seek to separate with another referendum in 1995 which was also lost).

Now, some fifty years later, many would be dumbfounded by the ease by which another group in this country, a much smaller group, is about to achieve the same goal once held by the Parti Quebecois, with little or no fanfare, no call to arms or public debate.  This time, ironically, the son of that ardent Federalist Pierre Trudeau is about to grant virtual independence and self-government with the stroke of a pen. No referendum, no debate.

The Indigenous of this country have convinced the political powers that the necessary extension of this long long road to “reconciliation” has an ultimate goal—and that goal is the wholesale adoption by Canada of a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A legally non-binding UN resolution, which the Liberals are now going to make legally binding. 

The Conservatives were in power at that time of the original U.N. Declaration which was passed in 2007. In its initial inception, Canada voted against the Declaration as did other countries.

At that time the Conservatives made official public statements against the application of UNDRIP in Canada. The Indian Affairs Minister at the time Jim Prentice stated the opinion that the the Declaration conflicts with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While it supported the “spirit” of the declaration, it said that it contained elements that were “fundamentally incompatible with Canada’s constitutional framework”, including “the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Section 35 which already enshrines aboriginal and treaty rights”. 

The most specific problem they argued then and it can be argued now was with Section 19 : which appears to require “governments to secure the consent of indigenous peoples regarding matters of general public policy”. 

The Liberals in 2015, when the UN Declaration was changed to be a “non-binding” document and therefore not carrying the legal weight of its previous iteration, reversed Canada’s position  to one of support for the document. This appeased for a time the Indigenous political agenda, but without legal enshrinement, it was merely a statement of principle. 

The Liberals in 2020 under the un-relenting urging of the Indigenous leadership are now about to be granted enshrinement of the declaration into law in the form of Bill C-15.

This bill is being presented, or a better term may be marketed, as merely an affirmation of basic human rights; and they are urging that we should all applaud in unison. The news media being presented with this explanation of it being only a matter of basic human rights, glosses over the details and have fallen into subservience. No further questioning as to the political and economic ramifications.

Justice Minister Lametti, flanked by his Indigenous cohort Perry Bellegarde echoed the marketing theme when asked about whether there would be opposition support: “who is going to vote against human rights?” 

While on one hand downplaying Bill C-15 as a foregone conclusion, a mere exercise in codifying the obvious, Lametti does admit that “it has the potential to be transformational”.  Mr. Lametti refers to this Act as being at the “starting line” as he wishes to place “150 plus years, longer than that, of colonialism and the impact of it behind us”. He wants us to move on to “a different model.” 

Mr. Bellegarde, the spokesperson for the Assembly of First Nations, has also been pushing this bill for some time, but he too downplays the significance of the legislation and sticks to the script saying that it doesn’t really do anything; other than “it acknowledges and and affirms our rights under international law”. Although, he does later return to the familiar trope– the Act will serve to condemn the “racist and colonial doctrines and beliefs that have led to grave human rights abuses including the residential school system. “

Bill C-15 and the U.N. Declaration is based on the principle, that this country we know as Canada, is actually the “territory” of the Indigenous. This narrative has been pushed willingly for some time by the woke Liberals and NDP.

Their contention is that the immigrant side of this story, the immigrants who “colonized” or some would say “settled” this country needs to be pushed aside in the history books. Those Poles, Germans, Ukrainians, Chinese and Italians who long ago carved a living out of often hazardous and meagre circumstances now have no direct or historical claim to the vast and largely empty lands which they settled. Mr. Lametti would like to place that portion of history “behind us”. The indigenous fundamentally believe and argue that colonization dispossessed them of “their lands” —that colonization was inherently evil and the country that was built around that settlement was somehow invalid. They never “ceded” their territory they exclaim.

The United Nations in writing their declaration were concerned that “indigenous peoples have suffered from historic injustices as a result of inter alia, their colonization and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests”. The two themes, which plays throughout this document are: “Recognizing their rights to their lands, their territories and resources” and “the right to self-determination of all peoples”.

No matter what one believes, one should at the very least realize that the nature and process of government in this country is about to significantly change if this bill passes 3rd reading. If the constantly reconciling Liberals have their way with Bill C-15– 5% of the population, regardless of historic claims, will have effective economic and political sway over the 95%.  If this sounds like an exaggeration then you need to read the very articles which are being proposed (my italics) and are swallowed up whole in Bill C-15: 

Article 3 – spells out “the right to self-determination”

Article 4 – “in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as means for financing their autonomous functions”

Article 14 – “ Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning”

Article 16 – “States without prejudice to ensuring full freedom of expression, should encourage privately owned media duly reflect indigenous cultural diversity and have access to all forms of non-indigenous media without discrimination”

Article 19 – Probably the most contentious is the article —“States shall consult and and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain free and informed consent before adopting and implementing legislative or administrative measures that may affect them”. 

Article 21 – “Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and retraining, housing, sanitation, health, and social security”.

Article 26 – “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories, which they have traditionally owned, occupied, or otherwise used or acquired” 

Rene Levesque must be looking down from a cigarette smoke-filled heaven and be astounded about the ease of this process. Pierre Trudeau will be rolling over in frustration at the idiocy of an argument now being put forward by his own son –that any of this is sustainable, workable or in the best interests of a Federal Canada. 

What is slowly being revealed however is that the Liberals, under the cover of COVID and the billions of dollars of incurred debt may have now discovered that maybe this is the opportune time to spend a few more billion in the pursuit of their loyal followers, whether it be the environmentalists or the Indigenous. Carbon tax or sovereign institutions, a few billion here and there to promote their agenda will go unnoticed. After all, all the media can talk about is Covid-19.

Some Provinces have urged the Feds to slow down on Bill C-15 that the repercussions of this bill could be momentous. No, no says Justin, it is time to move forward. To argue against their cause effectively puts you in the category of the unenlightened, intolerant of change, and ignorant of this new history.

This Bill of course is not about fundamental human rights. As previously stated that is already covered in Section 35 of the Constitution.

This is about power and money and future votes. This is part of a payment plan designed by the Liberal party for the security of the Indigenous vote in perpetuity. That is frustratingly obvious. 

Nobody even knows what weight this Act will carry, what political shape it will take and the economic cost of implementing these principles of self-determination and separation from the other parts of Canada. Mr. Lametti when asked about “free, prior and informed consent” says he can’t define how that is going to turn out. His ineffectual response was that “every consent requires a unique process that includes a dialogue with Indigenous people”. 

In the 1970’s Quebec under Levesque and the Parti Quebecois at least had a plan; one which included a distinct geographic boundary, a proposed parliamentary style government, a singular and unified culture and an economic plan for self sustainability. This has none of that.

There is no plan. The only commonality is the ever increasing need for continued and increasing economic support from the part of the country from which they wish to be politically separate. To add to the political and economic confusion and chaos which surrounds the Indigenous cause, we now have a Justice Minister introducing a fundamental change in the law—and he doesn’t really know how it is going to turn out. Who could argue with such political vision?

One should note that the first Parti Quebecois government in the 1970’s was the first government to recognize the rights of aboriginal peoples to self-determination. But, there was a huge caveat, it was only “insofar as this self-determination did not affect the territorial integrity of Quebec”. Over 50 years ago even a radicalized Rene Levesque saw the possibility of a sovereign Indigenous as constitutionally unviable.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons Renegade 98 – Some Rights Reserved

A Tainted and Expensive Report

Hard to imagine, but it may be time to starting to feel sorry for Commissioner Lucki. The bombardment of the RCMP image continues unabated– the latest being the internally commissioned “Final report” by the team headed by Mr. Michel Bastarache. It is sometimes referred to as the Merlo-Davidson settlement on harassment and gender based discrimination.

Bastarache,  a former Supreme Court of Canada judge, has since October 2016 been assigned to oversee the sexual and gender harassment claims process as part of the settlement. As a parting note Bastarache issued this Final Report and in doing so unabashedly took centre fire aim at Commissioner Lucki and the RCMP. 

Titled, “Broken Dreams, Broken Lives” the cover sets the tone found in the pages of the report –featuring a stark image of a clearly distraught woman, hands over face, over a dark background also reflecting a grim and fractured reality.    

The dramatic title and the subsequent press conference were also designed to inflame and garner those action demanding headlines. It served as a justification and delineation of this groups efforts over the last four years and naturally leading to their recommendations. The overriding theme –everything is wrong in the Mounties and it is time for outside direction.

The problem is that Bastarache has jumped from specific privacy protected examples to broad open-ended generalizations. He describes the atmosphere within the Mounties as “toxic”. That the RCMP “tolerates misogynistic and homophobic” behaviour and that what the women told the assessors was so outrageous that it “shocked them to the core”. 

This type of language and allegation demands some level of examination. Journalists as is their practise repeated the allegations to the applause of Ms Merlo and Davidson on the nightly news. A reading and look at the contents of this report suggest that at best this is a highly subjective document and it may even be deeply flawed. 

One needs to understand the process, the people involved and the evidence that was presented. The eventual conclusions that this group arrived at, given the structure of the process and the makeup of the individuals who participated, was both predictable and suspiciously may have been pre-ordained. Cynically, it could even be interpreted as a platform for the eventual transformation of the RCMP as now envisioned by this Liberal government with their current 21st century sensibilities.

This is not to deny or downplay sexual harassment and serious sexual assault as having occurred within the RCMP.  That would be ridiculous. 

The question that needs to be asked is did the results and determinations made in this report, by this group, justify the language and national condemnation of the RCMP?  Does the RCMP deserve to be depicted as an organization locked in a vacuum of unbridled misbehaviour —far beyond what could be imagined or found in other parts of society or other organizations? 

Michel Bastarache  sat on the highest court in this land from 1997 to 2008 and then joined a group of other Supreme Court judges who went into legal practise after retirement. (Beverly McLachlin and Thomas Cromwell are a couple of the others) This judicial “double dipping” is something of a new and somewhat controversial phenomena. It has been discouraged in the past because of some clear conflicts in perception and possible undue influence. 

In fact, Mr. Bastarache did get caught up in one such incident in 2018 —he appeared as a counsel of record for a client— for a case in which he had sat while on the SCC.  In fact, he wrote the majority opinion for the SCC. (Dunsmuir case 2008SC9). He got caught out appearing on behalf of a client but managed to skirt allegations of impropriety as the Law Society rules only state that he could not “personally” appear before the Supreme Court judges. He was allowed to go ahead with the written submissions on behalf of his client. 

Despite this apparent ethical contretemps, Mr. Bastarache enjoys a very lengthy and commendable career coming out of his New Brunswick roots. His legal background for the most part notable for his writings and championing of human rights. That being said, it would be difficult to mistake him as anything but a left-leaning card carrying Liberal. It is also unlikely in this current political climate that the Liberals would appoint anyone who did not at least fit the expected dialogue. 

The Liberal government hires and assigns Bastarache to this four year odyssey. In turn he brings in some like-minded lawyers; some from his previous firms such as Power Law, but all of similar legal backgrounds. The other two official “assessors” were Lynn Smith (named as a “Trudeau mentor” in 2017) and like the second assessor, Marion Allen, were both former Supreme Court of B.C. Judges. Another lawyer on staff was Emily McCarthy —who at one time was the Director of Legal Operations at the Privy Counsel Office in Ottawa. 

Again, there is nothing objectively wrong with their legal background or their capabilities, but one would have to conclude that the predilection of these individuals would be to a very socially left and broad interpretation of the individual cases.  

The group reviewed a total of 3086 claims. This was out of a potential 33,513 female officers, public servants and civilian members who had worked for the RCMP between Sept 1974 and May 30th 2017. (It should be noted that the public servant members of the RCMP have a current class action pending in their own right – represented coincidently by the very same law firms) 

So out of a potential client base —9.2% of all the female employees over the last forty years claimed some form of sexual harassment. 

Of the 3086 female applicants, only 2304 were then forwarded for processing and for consideration of some level of compensation. Therefore, roughly 25% of the initial claims were considered invalid. They explain “a significant number of claims were not compensated because a claimant did not demonstrate sufficient connection to her gender or sexual orientation”. The fact that 25% of those that were applying had insufficient evidence supporting their claims seems worthy of comment. It is not polite to ask, but one has to wonder what the incentive that money brings to these claims; it is a legitimate concern that goes to motive.   

For those that were approved, there were six levels of degree of severity. 

“Minimal”-  possible payment of up to $10,000

“Mild”- possible payment of up to $35,000

“Low Moderate Injury”- possible payment of up to $70,000

“Upper Moderate”- up to $100,000

“Significant Injury”- up to $150,000

And finally “Severe Injury”- with up to $220,000

For their purposes, the Bastarache group interviewed only those they assessed as being in Level 3 or above. 

Under the first two levels, claimants were only required to describe a “sexualized environment” —which could be portrayed as “frequent use of swear words”, “sexual jokes and innuendo”. The definition of harassment included “objectionable art, comment, or display that demean, belittle or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment”. Patterns of egregious conduct included “working conditions”, “disparaging women in general”, and “treating claimants unfairly with respect to training opportunities”.

Even if a claimant had one or two individual incidents and did not meet the threshold for compensation —the group decided that there was a need to consider that the harassment “was systemic” and therefore may still warrant compensation. 

There was a total of 644 individuals who they determined to be Category 3 or higher. This represented 20.86% of the 3086 claimants. If you consider the ratio of the overall female members that went through during those 43 years, this number gets down to a much smaller 1.9%.  

The number which was emphasized in the news was that 130 of the claimants disclosed “penetrative sexual assaults”. This is a number which is initially staggering but this too demands some further dissection. 

The examination of the “evidence” behind these 644 claimants were considered under a set of guidelines and rules, which were stringently and purposefully one dimensional.

a) First and foremost was that the “assessors” were not “required to investigate claims”. The assessment of those claims would be “based almost exclusively on the information provided by the claimant”. 

b) The assessor role was further limited by the fact that there was “no cross examination of the claimants” and that evidence

c) “of the persons whose conduct was culpable was also not available”.

d) The interviews were directed to be conducted in a “non-adversarial” way so as to limit “re-victimization”.

e) Allowances were also to be made for “difficulty remembering key details and specifics” because of the passage of time.

When all these rules were followed then the case would be judged on— a “balance of probabilities”.  No criminal proof needed to satisfy the “substantial likelihood of conviction” or even “beyond a reasonable doubt” was needed in these cases. A “sworn statement” from the victim therefore could constitute almost the sum total of the evidence.

As explanation and in a rather telling bias Bastarache stated that  “I have tried to give the claimants a voice”.  

A total of $125,266,500 was paid to claimants. 

Two legal firms, Klein lawyers and Kim Spencer McPhee received $30,789,975 in fees. (Bastarache does not outline his costs and that of his team over this four year period)

Some of the recommendations based on this uncontested testimony; with no investigation undertaken, or room for a counter narrative were then detailed.

a) Training will include “screening” for “misogynistic, homophobic or racist tendencies in the past”.

b) In the future to get into the training academy you should have “two years of post secondary education”.

c) Those applying from “diverse” groups should have programs in place to “assist them in the meeting the entry requirements”. 

d) Training will need to find a different “esprit de corps”; as the “para-military” nature of the current environment must change. The current climate they say does “not extend to women”.

e) Recruit field training should be changed, so that female officers are no longer exposed to “trainers”, but instead are assigned “mentors”. 

f) There should be a “counselling program” for all the recruits who are part of the current LGBTQ2S+ community. 

g) Postings to remote locations are “detrimental to women”. They believe that for a female to be assigned to one does not offer a sufficient  “social support network”. At those isolated locations they were being forced to “share common housing” and “forced”  to be “reliant on colleagues”. 

Once you are firmly ensconced in the Mounties, according to Bastarache, one must remember that “staffing members” are biased, and that “promotions are fundamentally flawed and unfair”.  

There are many other recommendations, but there is no need to go further. Some of these recommendations should actually offend some female officers.

Do some of the recommendations have merit? Possibly, but if one doubts the accuracy of the findings in terms of the numbers and if incontestable content is the foundation of the eventual recommendations should we assign them any weight?

If the behaviour found in the RCMP,  was applied with the same strictures to other employment groups would the numbers be different? If  for instance one examined the legal community and the Law Societies for the last forty years, would that bastion of male dominance not end up with similar figures to the RCMP? The medical profession? Any profession which for the last number of decades has had a glass ceiling. 

Pick any “Mad Men” era communities and then introduce women to the Type A male component — would they not all have examples of bad behaviour? It doesn’t make it right, but is there no need for context or historical parameters? It was not 21st century appropriate, but were the Mounties any different from any other segment of society?

Unfortunately, Commissioner Lucki has never demonstrated any willingness to question and as a result her executive group have trotted out the classic pathetic –governance by more government solution.

The RCMP will be introducing: “Gender Based Analysis”, they will be establishing an ” Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution”, and instituting a“RCMP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy” to of course, “articulate a firm stance against racism and discrimination”. 

They will be “re-vamping our recruitment process” and the “training model at RCMP academy is under review. They are going to develop; a “Character Leadership Approach”. The evolution of changing bias and gradual acceptance takes time, but time is not a dimension considered in this age of quick fix and tidy political announcements. 

Do I believe that almost all females that have gone through the decades have experienced and could argue for being in Categories 1 and 2?  Yes. Completely. 

Do I believe that the recommendations of this group— based on their interviews of Categories 3 to 6 should be seriously considered? No. This was a complete ivory tower biased exercise. He produced and did what he was paid to do: advocate, not judge.

As I have opined before. If there were serious sexual assaults there should have been criminal charges. Those officers should have been fired as a matter of course and as a first step. This settlement agreement and the  compensatory process allowed a papering over of some serious wrong-doings. A great number of Mounties, some very high placed Mounties, have been allowed to skate with their pensions intact, when they should have never been allowed to wear the uniform. Some are still wearing those uniforms. 

It is all too sad. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons and Cal Injury Lawyer – Some Rights Reserved

Royal Flush

Transparency in and around the policing world, is like that old Chinese proverb about interesting times; it is both a curse and a blessing.

It is argued by some that the police being allowed to play out of view, operationally speaking, is a good thing. Others theorize that being hidden from public scrutiny allows the incompetent and mediocre to flourish and opens up the possibilities of fraud, corruption and even criminality. Large government regulatory operations often swell into multi-level layers of authority and can become by their very size –opaque.  

Commissions of Inquiry are one of the few times where the policing world and regulatory  arms of government are forced out of the shadows. The Cullen Commission into money laundering in this Province is proving no exception.

There are three main agencies being talked about: the BC Lottery Corporation (BCLC), the government Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch (GPEB), and the RCMP section— the Integrated Illegal Gaming Enforcement Team (IIGET). What is somewhat unusual in this inquiry is that all three of these agencies, the ones being called forward to present evidence, are staffed either by cops or ex-cops.  

Even more interesting, is that all the personalities are often pointing accusingly at the others. Their probity on full display, but describe having been burdened by their very own agencies and thwarted in their efforts. 

This Commission is also exposing the raw politics of our duly-elected —and their often limp efforts to expose wrong-doing. 

It is putting on full display inter-agency rivalries, conflicting mandates, and bureaucratic duplication. It is shining a light directly at the upper level managers in the RCMP in British Columbia— who it would appear felt that the subject of criminal activity in gaming was very far down the priority list. One could term this Commission as just another chapter in the lack of effort against white collar crime in this country.

The implementation of legalized gambling in British Columbia a number of years ago was met by public concern. Criminality, it has been well documented, often follows the introduction of gambling. British Columbia with its then well established large underground drug industry was a natural fit, ants to a picnic. Despite this obvious corollary, apparently, some under-estimated its eventual massive economic ripple effect. Was this a general lack of effort, or was it something more sinister? That is the root question facing Mr. Cullen. 

It should be said that the vast majority of the ex-cops testifying are shining examples of former police officers. Old school, still able to recognize right from wrong. It is becoming evident as this commission progresses that it was primarily politics and policy which subsumed any effort to thwart organized crime– not the personalities involved. 

At the same time, one could not help be struck by the level of cronyism which affects these regulatory bodies. Find one Mountie and swing a bag of rocks and you will hit another one, pulled up by their brother and sister officers into these Provincial post-retirement jobs. Those that testified, who may have been armed with the best intentions may have been guilty of having on occasion remained silent in the face of obvious wrong-doing. Content to stay within their assigned mandate. 

Gord Friesen and John Karlovec testified on behalf of the BCLC. Mr Friesen gave an overall picture of the workings and mandate of BCLC and this was echoed by Mr. Karlovec.

They described BCLC as being governed by a mandate which was often termed– to “observe and report”. They provided their information to the police through forms called Itrack (ph)reports to: GPEB,  FINTRAC (Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre), CFSEU (Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit), and to IPOC (Integrated Proceeds of Crime) group. BCLC devised the rules and conducted oversight, but they believed that they were not responsible for the enforcement. 

During this time both Karlovec and Friesen stated that the alternate Provincial agency, GPEB, was always insistent that it was they who were the primary “investigators”. When Friesen was asked about any feedback they would receive from GPEB, the answer was “no feedback….none”. This defies common sense. No information was being forwarded as to any criminal elements that would have been frequenting the establishments that BCLC investigators were in turn governing. 

At GPEB was Larry Vander Graff and Joe Schalk (also both former Mounties). Vander Graff was the Director and Schalk his deputy. Both of these individuals also enjoyed good reputations as police officers prior to leaving the RCMP. 

Peter German (former Mountie) who wrote the initial report gives credit to Schalk for having “nailed it” referring to his understanding of the money laundering problem. However, despite the possibility of GPEB playing a leading role, Schalk on more than one occasion is called out by the others as being a little over bearing in his demand to be seen as the single, go-to investigational authority, and the relationship between GPEB and BCLC floundered. 

In fact, the Ministry of Finance in April 2014 in a management audit, stated that the relationship between the two agencies was “so adversarial it has resulted in dysfunction in several levels within the division of BCLC.”. Years earlier, in 2007 during an Assessment Review by Katherine Tait, GPEB had been called “largely ineffective”. (It was also noted that during this time BCLC won a series of ministerial workplace “awards”)

Meanwhile at GPEB Schalk and the team members were pushing hard for greater funding from government, and becoming quite noisy in pushing back at their governmental masters, asking and possibly demanding  policy and practise changes. They were not so subtly inferring that they could not keep up with the job.  

For their apparent efforts both Vander Graff and Schalk were terminated without cause in 2014. 

There should be no mistake however that despite the individual mandates of BCLC and GPEB, everyone was still pointing at the Mounties as being primarily responsible for overall “criminal” investigation. They were the only ones with peace officer status and the much needed resources. That part was true in theory but in reality it was far different. 

Mounties during this time had become smitten with the term “integrated”. “Integration” had become the poster child, the marketed symbol of cohesion and effectiveness. Along came the Integrated Market Enforcement Team, the fore-mentioned Integrated Illegal Gambling Enforcement Team, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, and the Integrated Border Enforcement Team to name a few. 

Over time this exercise has met with very mixed results, some have even been disbanded with some not achieving actual “integration”. The media never caught on, all believing and still believing, that the very title implied a dedication to exceptional effort, co-ordination and unlimited manpower. They could not have been more wrong, especially when referring to the IIGET. 

The sum total of manpower after the formation of IIGET, to deal with the often financially complicated and intricate cases of money laundering— came to a grand total of twelve, with one assigned analyst. None of the personnel had any experience in gaming, but if they were lucky they were sent to Ontario to attend a two week training session. 

S/Sgt Tom Robertson headed this unit and readily admitted in testimony that he had no personal background in gaming, that none of his unit were properly trained, and that the team was spread out over four offices. Realizing quickly that they were severely undermanned and under qualified to take on the more serious money laundering cases, he re-aligned the group to focus on the use of illegal video lottery terminals, illegal bingos, raffles and common gaming houses. 

He underlined the need for political results and to undertake the cases they considered “High” level would risk them getting “tied up” despite that the more serious issues were part of their dictated mandate. During his short stint of about a year, Robertson said there were no prosecutions involving legal casinos other than the identifying of one loan shark who was brought to their attention by the casino security staff. There were no charges even in that single case. 

Robertson at one point talked about the fact that Larry Vander Graff, head of GPEB was worried about “infuriating” casinos and didn’t really want to ruffle any feathers. S/Sgt Robertson after a year, retired himself, and then also became an investigator for GPEB in the Kelowna area, where he stayed for the next nine years. 

Robertson after leaving had turned over the reins of IIGET to the newly assigned S/Sgt Fred Pinnock. Mr. Pinnock during the last few months has loomed large in the media. He has publicly expounded on the lack of effort by all levels in the gaming industry. In fact he asked for but was refused “standing” by the Cullen Commission. His time at IIGET and the build up of frustrations led to him leave the RCMP for medical reasons he testified.  

Mr. Pinnock who is now retired, did not waste his time on the stand and provided some very personal opinions about all that was ailing both in his own unit, IIGIT, and the personalities that made up the other agencies. 

He even outed the inside source who had been feeding the reporter Sam Cooper (now working for Global) who had been doing a series of stories on the money laundering issues in Vancouver. The source was Ross Alderson who was employed by BCLC, left the agency in 2017, and according to Pinnock surreptitiously took most of the in-house BCLC files with him.

Pinnock described having written two separate business case plans, trying to expand his new unit with more manpower and resources, and both were denied, or more accurately ignored.  

He spoke about the fact that IIGET was part of a Consultative Board who were supposedly overseeing all the groups which met twice a year. This group was made up of the CO of E Division, the CEO of BCLC, the Director of GPEB, and Kevin Begg, then the Director of Police Services. He opined that this group was no more than window dressing, a “charade” in his words.

He described issues over mandates between GPEB and IIGET, which became so tainted that he made an application to move their entire unit from the shared office space, which was eventually granted. There were verbal arguments between he and Joe Shalk of GPEB on particular roles which resulted in a “significant enforcement gap”.  He claimed that GPEB never sent any information with regard to loan sharking or money laundering to them or reports of large money transactions. 

Pinnock describes dealing with the upper levels of the RCMP; Supt. Dick Bent, Supt Ward Clapham, Inspector Wayne Hulan and Supt Russ Nash. His immediate boss was Don Adam in the Major Crime Area, but this was during the time of the Pickton investigation which Adam became fully engrossed and therefore Pinnock claims, Adams had little time or interest in the other side of the house and IIGET. 

In another twist, Pinnock who seemed to be talking to anyone who would listen to his plight, was then dating MLA Naomi Yamamoto, who was in 2015 appointed as Minister of State for Emergency Preparedness. It was through her, that Pinnock requested a meeting with Rich Coleman, who was then Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. That specific meeting never took place, although Pinnock, again through his now-wife met Coleman on some later casual occasions.

Larry Vander Graff the Executive Director of GPEB, testified that he too brought up the problem directly to Rich Coleman. When describing $10,000 wrapped in elastic and $20 denominations, Vander Graff says that  Coleman’s disingenuous response was that he knows lots of people with that amount of money in their pockets. Vander Graff also talked about reporting to another integrated unit, IPOC(Integrated Proceeds of Crime unit), but that too was disbanded in 2013.

Mr. Pinnock talked about his relationship with Kash Heed, someone he considered a “friend”, who in the Fall of 2009 was involved in the government. Heed besides being a former Superintendent with the VPD and West Vancouver Chief of Police was then an MLA. In 2010 he would go on to briefly become the Solicitor General, but later  had to resign. Mr. Heed’s career, his often outspoken nature and his willingness to get on the soap box has often led him into the firing line. 

In a meeting with Pinnock in the Fall of 2009, Heed said that any increased enforcement efforts in the gaming end of things fell to Rich Coleman. In Pinnock’s recollection of the conversation, he said that Heed told him that Coleman was “all about the money”. The inference being obvious. He went further in this private conversation with Pinnock wherein Pinnock claims that Heed named three RCMP executives who he thought were “complicit”. Pinnock named them as; C/Supt Dick Bent, Al McIntyre and Gary Bass. He said that Heed called them “puppets” for Rich Coleman. Pinnock says he kept no notes about this meeting and during cross-examination he faltered a bit on whether these were the actual words at the time. 

In 2018 Pinnock was apparently convinced that with the German report upcoming, that he may have to play a role in any inquiries into gambling,  Pinnock had a phone conversation with Heed in 2018 and in that conversation Pinnock hoped to have Heed repeat what he said in 2009. This time Pinnock surreptitiously recorded Heed. Legal, yes. Ethical, maybe not.

Pinnock has now turned over three transcripts to the Commission of his conversations with Heed, which are being redacted and people named have been given the opportunity to respond or make an appearance before the Commission. 

During questioning by the other participants, Pinnock said that he was never contacted by Peter German during his inquiry. He admitted to being “disappointed” that he was not called. In viewing and listening to Mr. Pinnock one does get a sense of him enjoying the cloak of a white knight and often his evidence seems slightly tainted by personal animus. His conversations with Heed with regard to Coleman make for headlines, but they are of course nothing more than political gossip. There is no smoking gun, no direct evidence of anything.

The Commission is proving to be a frustrating exercise for any outside observer. British Columbia is emblematic of the rest of Canada where governments at three levels have become enamoured with increased legalized gambling revenues. Not so dutiful to regulation and enforcement. 

The abilities of governments to pass laws, set up committees, regulatory bodies, or “consultative” boards is their strength. Coffee, bottled water, and chicken wraps flow through the various government committee and board rooms of Federal and Provincial ever growing bureaucracies. The laws and the regulations are often drawn up with little regard for enforcement or oversight. When confronted with the need for action these government groups often flail about drowning in a sea of jurisdictions, interpretations, mandates, and the large bureaucratic structures become a hindrance unto themselves. 

In this case, three regulatory bodies were joined —supposedly in the fight against money laundering. 

BCLC has 900 employees in this Province, in 2013 there were the equivalent of 3600 full time equivalent jobs at GPEB.  IIGET, the agency responsible for the criminal aspect, was allocated by senior management in the RCMP a whopping 12 untrained officers. In addition the three groups didn’t get along and literally stopped talking to each other. The lack of operational results was maddeningly predictable.

As of November 2020, Ken Ackles (also a former RCMP officer), who headed GPEB in 2013, testified that he did not know of any single conviction for money laundering to date.

Clearly there are a few people who gained during this mayhem. Organized crime of course; ex-cops looking for a somewhat lucrative 2nd income, and now the more then 41 lawyers sitting on this Commission. 

Government revenues have exceeded $3.1 billion.

Somewhere, therein lies both the question and the answer. 

Photo courtesy of www.davidbaxendale.com via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Editorial Note: At the time of this report, Kash Heed has yet to appear to defend himself, nor has Rich Coleman, or the RCMP named managers.

Democracy and the Crustaceans

The  rule of law and the precept that all are “equal before the law” is the cornerstone and fundamental building block essential to any democracy.  This is not new. The primacy of this philosophy, the conditions necessary for a democracy dates back to the Athenians in 508 BC. 

This young country of Canada is experiencing fundamental growing pains; forced into uncomfortable debate and forcing us to look inwards. The accepted principles of the Athenians over centuries has always been challenged, always tested, warped and bent, sometimes to the point of breaking to fit the popular or favoured political dialogue of the day. 

The latest Canadian confrontation is being played out in Nova Scotia. One side is supported by a social democratic agenda, an amenable and pliable media, and liberal somewhat fuzzy judicial interpretation of the current Canadian laws. On the other side is a group of hardened Maritimers who have a bitter taste in their mouths, who feel that their livelihoods are being challenged in a truly fundamental and life-altering way.  One side burdened by the need to satisfy the mystifying mix of thoughts of restitution, reconciliation and righting the wrongs of the past. The other side holding to the simple thought of what is fair.

In the middle— a tasty crustacean —the ignoble lobster, standing side by side with the seemingly forever under siege, Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Your Federal Police force once again being hammered from all sides, this time even by their very own government bosses. Endless criticism, some but not all of it underserved. 

As much as most Canadians often choose to look the other way,  Nova Scotian images of Peggy’s Cove dancing in their heads, those depictions are being shattered by pictures of burning vehicles and buildings. Allegations of it all being about racism is resonating off television news screens, the news readers heads nodding in practised dismay at those primitive fishers. The tinder dry fuel to this confrontation is money of course, but it belies a much more fundamental question for Canadians and Canadian democracy.  

The question is simple, but the answer is deeply buried in politics. Can a sovereign nation be constructed and divided into two parts? Can a government survive when those within it are unequal before the law?  Is it possible that one group could function inside another nation but separate in its laws and its customs while still remaining financially dependent? 

One side, the Indigenous,  believe it is possible, in fact they are demanding it. In their world there is no room for debate, no room for consensus it is all about balancing the scales of justice. 

The government of the day side with the Indigenous and clearly believe it is indeed possible but they are not convinced enough to pull the heavy handed political trigger that would be necessary to bring it to fruition. The other side, representing the majority, at least in this small part of the country, say that it is impossible and they are willing to violently battle its application.  

It is the battle between the Siqekne’katik and the lobster fishermen of St. Mary’s Bay. The Indigenous once again claiming their right to independence, their right to self-determination and  governance of the land, the resources, and their culture. Their cause and beliefs emboldened by a wishy-washy and grey interpretation of Canadian law, a fence straddling Supreme Court, and our political representatives who have become professional apologists; unable to extricate themselves and look beyond a constant dialogue of needing to right historic wrongs. 

It has been a long and meandering road through Parliament and the courts, often one clarification only to be met with two more obfuscations. The laws and their interpretation have strayed and meandered, with no apparent or pressing timeline. 

We can go as far back as the Friendship Treaties of 1760  and 1761, which were referred to in the landmark Marshall case of 1999. It was the Marshall case which affirmed a right to hunt, fish, and gather in pursuit of a “moderate livelihood”. 

The Nisga’as Final Agreement in 1973 gave the right to self-government of 2,019 square kilometres of the Nass Valley. Self-government and the debate over structure and policy have not advanced much further. 

But it was the Marshall case which spurred the recent fight in the lobster fishery. On September 17 of this year the Mi’kmaq, on the 21st anniversary of the Marshall case, decided that now was the opportune time to start a “commercial fishery”. 

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans have continually tried to be on the side of the righteous and in 2000 had launched the “Marshall Response Initiative”. Under this program, from 2000 to 2007 the department provided the Indigenous with $354 million which provided licences, vessels, and gear in order for the Indigenous to “increase and diversify”. It  even provided training to 32 First Nations. Part of these agreements was that the Mi’kmaq would “abstain from fishing out of season”.

In 2007 the DFO then launched the Atlantic Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative. This provided even further funding to “meet long term objectives”, including “horizontal expansion…the development of fisheries related business opportunities” for the Indigenous. 

Now, the Mi’kmaq believe that those treaty rights allow for them to disregard the fishing season, to live and fish outside of the laws and regulations faced by the non-Indigenous. 

The political and legal debate in this country began to turn in favour of the Indigenous with the Constitution Act of 1982. Section 35 signalled a change, when protection was given for a spectrum of different indigenous and treaty rights including “site specific exercise of food harvesting”.

Here is the clause and the centre of the argument: 

“The accused treaty rights are limited to securing “necessaries” (which should be construed in the modern context as the equivalent to a moderate livelihood) and do not extend to the open-ended accumulation of wealth…what is contemplated is not a right to trade generally for economic gain, but rather a right to trade for necessaries. The treaty right is regulated right and can be contained by regulation within its proper limits”.

Further backing away from outright self-governance, the court stated that the right to fish could be “infringed by government in terms of protecting the environment or endangered species”. 

The Supreme Court went on to interpret or define those rights of food harvesting to mean all those rights that had been practised by the Indigenous, those that were “distinctive and exercised before contact with the Europeans.” Commercial trade was not one of those rights they said, but fishing for food or ceremonial purpose was. 

The Sparrow case in 1990 regarding the right to fish and then the Royal Commission in 1996 took it back to espousing the  “right to self-government”. A belief that an “indigenous justice system”, was indeed warranted, separate from the rest of Canada. 

The Mi’kmaq and in particular the Sipekne’katik Band, has now decided that it was time to step over the line once again, encouraged by the Federal government, and have now taken the view  that it has not “ceded rgulatory authority of their fisheries to Ottawa”. 

So where did all this leave the handful of Mounties responding to an enraged crowd of lobster fishermen in Middle West Pubnico on October 13th, 2020.  It left them uncomfortably standing by while the fishermen pissed on and set fire to a van, then watched as they burned a warehouse down. A large crowd against a few Mounties is something that few cops with any intelligence would saunter into; although to hear the Indigenous Minister, Marc Miller, that is what he expected them to do. 

Miller and the Honourable Carolyn Bennett seem to have taken the view that they are advocates for the Indigenous— not Ministers representing all. Maybe one should not expect these Ministers from the urban liberal conclaves of Toronto and Montreal to have any real understanding of the Nova Scotia fishers. 

It is clear that they are not getting a sense of the rage which is building throughout this country, the polarization a direct result of this practise of appeasement. When that appeasement goes to the point of treating some individuals as different from the others under the law.

AFN Chief Perry Bellegarde trumpets the victimization formula at every opportunity, convinced that to reconcile the sins of the past one must favour one group over another. Systemic inequality is both the historic problem and now its proposed solution.  

The fact that the non-Indigenous, the commercial lobster fishermen and women are not all locked up, the fact that the military has not been hastily dispatched has incensed Bellegarde and his followers.

“Given months of civil unrest and multiple issues relating to the First Nations people across this country I will be writing to the PM, to express that we have lost confidence”…there is a need to “replace Lucki with someone who will focus on public safety and combatting racism”.

Commissioner Lucki must have been thunderstruck. Lucki during her rise has continually polished her medals from her work in Indigenous understanding and inclusion. But even Ms. Lucki did not jump high enough for the likes of Mr. Bellegarde. How ironic would it be that it is this issue which drives Trudeau to remove the ineffectual Lucki. 

None of this is about racism. None of this is about Indigenous versus others. This is about equality before the law. Our representatives can change the laws, right any wrongs they feel necessary but they can not and should not stray from the core of principles which are fundamental to our very democratic survival. It is hard to imagine our country going forward otherwise. 

This particular dispute will likely be papered over with further money. It seems to be the only tool on the Liberal belt. Undoubtedly, more fires will erupt with continuing violence and no one on either side will be satisfied. Not until someone, anyone, decides that the ultimate question needs to be answered.

The lobster is an accurate symbol. Lobsters are cannibals, they will eat each other. Canadians and its special interest groups, one small bite after another, are eating away at Canada’s very framework.

Photo “Lobster Pots” courtesy of Andrew Kearn via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Surrey RCMP – the Walmart for Law and Order

Surrey, home of the RCMP’ s biggest municipal detachment, is now a political plank in the current election platforms of the two major parties in the wacky world of British Columbia politics. Unusual to be sure for an RCMP organization which historically considered itself apolitical.  The old Mountie guard remained above the pettiness— the grimy dirt of politics— it needed to be objective, forever the humble and unbiased servant of the people.

The N.P.F. is now changing those mores.

Surrey has now become the site for the ongoing battle between the RCMP– more accurately the union representing its current 800 plus members— the National Police Federation (NPF) –and the duly and properly elected government of the Surrey Coalition Party led by Mayor MacCallum. 

The NPF has taken the position that they know what is best for an  electorate which only a short time ago dramatically voted in favour of a new municipal police force, a promise that was a central tenet proposed by Mayor MacCallum and his municipal party.  

The NPF along with their political cohorts now argue that Surrey needs to retain the RCMP—the primary reason– they are cheaper.

Why pay more they say, when Surrey is already the Walmart of policing.  Their argument in point of fact fits in nicely with the new Walmart slogan “Save Money, Live Better” (the old slogan was “Always Low Prices ” which would also have worked)

For a long time, the debate pro and con has been waged in small skirmishes for the most part confined to the boundaries of Surrey. However, the calling of a Provincial election and a new Liberal promise has now thrust the issue on to the electoral and media stages as much as they can elbow away Covid.

Struggling from a very distant second in the polls Liberal leader Wilkinson is sprinkling Liberal gold dust throughout the Province. Sprinkling may be an understatement, more a fire hose, offering to  spend billions of dollars in various parts of the Province. Like most parties who get a glimpse of some sort of electoral advantage, Mr. Wilkinson is now grasping for a possible political gain by supporting a referendum in Surrey. No concern apparently for the independence of municipal politics or the duly elected government. 

The Liberal party has three ridings in Surrey which are of interest and may be in trouble; Guildford, Panorama and Cloverdale. He and his party clearly believe that his newfound stance will play well in these areas of middle class rectitude. 

The NDP government for their part having climbed on to the shoulders of poor Dr Bonny Henry to scan the horizon, now feel that this is an opportune time to ride that Covid wave. They are in a difficult spot in Surrey as their government through the Police Services department has already approved the going forward of a new police department–at least in its initial stages. When previously approached about changing his mind, Horgan quite rightly stated that the city of Surrey has the right to go forward with their proposal. The Province has no legitimate right to intervene.  

With the Wilkinson announcement the usual rolodex of commentators have now been given some political fertilizer to spread on the idea of a referendum. They already disliked MacCallum.

The NPF is the wedge. Although political neophytes, this has not hampered their enthusiasm.

Their motivation seems simple enough—they do not want to lose the membership in their union. The Surrey detachment is a flagship in the overall contract policing environment.  It is representative of the “big city” RCMP policing model, one of only a handful throughout the entire country. To lose the biggest out of your group is not the best first step for any union. 

There are other chess pieces in this process; the NDP and their leader Mr. Horgan; the Liberals under Mr. Wilkinson. Then there are the very vocal Surrey City Counsil members Linda Annis and fellow Surrey Counsel member and former Mountie himself Jack Hundial.  The centre is held by the curmudgeonly Mayor MacCallum, the dastardly wizard pulling the levers.

The NPF using house money pouring in from their new found members have begun launching ads, enlisting supporters and putting out lawn signs (which apparently, legally, they were not allowed to do–I guess they forgot to check local bylaws) . They believe, rightly or wrongly, that they enjoy the support of all the officers of Surrey in putting up the show of a good fight. However, in speaking with officers in that detachment, one does not get a sense that all are enamoured with their new union bosses.

The NPF have enlisted local politicians to spout their platform, and are receiving encouragement from former Mounties writing in to the printed media. Including, the former head of Surrey detachment Al McIntyre and ex- Deputy Commissioner Peter German (who recently authored the report on money laundering for the Province.) With the exception of one local politician, all of these individuals are of course former RCMP officers. 

The centre piece of the NPF argument is the evidence they claim to have gained from a paid for survey that they conducted. This blogger has talked about it previously, suffice to say the veracity of the survey can be questioned. But emanating from this “survey” they are putting out narratives such as: only “14%” of the current RCMP officers would switch to a new agency. That the undertaking is “costly…unsafe…unpopular”.  

As previously eluded to, the enlisted municipal political arm for the NPF come from two clearly disgruntled politicians; Linda Annis, and to a somewhat lesser degree ex-Mountie Jack Hundial. 

Ms. Annis was a member of the Surrey First political group, finished 6th in the election for counsel and was the single survivor of the overwhelming majority won by Mayor MacCallum who won on two central issues, a separate police force and a skytrain extension. 

Annis was previously a cohort of Dianne Watts, a popular mayor who believed that this would translate into a run at the Provincial Liberal leadership. It didn’t work out for her.  Interestingly, Watts first won a seat with MacCallum’s group in 1996 but then had a falling out and went on to form her own party. 

Watts enjoyed a very bonded, some would say intimate relationship with the RCMP during her time. Annis as head of Crimestoppers B.C clearly believes she has that same connection.  

Annis currently runs an ad where she proclaims that the Surrey residents are facing “an unprecedented crisis”, that moving to a new local force would “risk public safety on an unknown, untested, and under-resourced force”.

She goes on to say that the plan will result in “chaos and significant risks to public safety around the region”. This latter argument is based on the theory that any new agency will draw out resources from other departments. The chaos and risk to public safety language is simply pandering to Twitter and the rest of the media.

So on the one hand, her argument goes—no new Mounties will want to go this agency, but on the other it will be too much of a draw on resources from all the other agencies surrounding Surrey?

Needless to say, Annis is not and has never been a supporter of MacCallum.

This fight, marching in step with the NPF reeks of being a very personal battle for her.

Councillor Jack Hundial on the other hand actually ran under MacCallum’s ticket with the Safe Surrey Coalition in the past election. He has now become a turncoat.

Clearly, no longer enamoured with the Mayor and just as clearly he has been pushed from the inner political power circle. He has now gone on to form his own group with Councillor Brenda Locke, now calling themselves Surrey Connect. The reason for this falling out is not clear. This writer has known Mr. Hundial for some time and have had many personal discussions working together–usually about the failings of the RCMP. So this sea change to retain the RCMP on a personal level seems somewhat out of sync.

The talk media, especially CKNW has a very historical connection to the Liberal party. Remember Christy Clark’s radio show? They are equally motivated by the fact that they do not like MacCallum, never have. He won’t go on their shows.

Linda Annis on the other hand answers on the first ring and appears almost daily.

At the other end of the spectrum, the Indo Canadian Voice newspaper says Annis politicking “hysteria knows no bounds” and says that the enlisting of Peter German “is an utter disgrace”.

So what should we take from all this? 

First and foremost, the call for a referendum may be legally flawed.  

Furthermore, all of this debate  has little to do with the facts or the actual possible transition to another police force. The debate and the call for a referendum has descended into parochial politics. 

There is one guarantee. The cost of policing in Surrey is going to increase dramatically regardless of who wins this debate and the political tug of war. 

What the anti-MacCallum forces don’t mention is that the RCMP is currently in negotiation with the Treasury Board for a pay raise. A pay raise that will be retroactive to 2017. The RCMP has already warned the municipalities that they are currently projecting a 2.5% increase per year. 

This 2.5% increase would mean a $3600 per year per officer— or roughly $2.8 million per year. Over three years $8.6 million just to catch up. Let’s not forget that the RCMP, the very same NPF who argues about the Mounties being cheaper is arguing for a 17% increase, not a 7 or 8% increase. 

On the other side the transition to a new Force is currently projected to increase policing costs by 10 or 11%. Many argue that this figure is too low and there is not enough transparency to make a full determination. They could be right, but any transition costs money. For the opposition to now argue that the electorate did not think  it would cost any money to commit to a transfer is a bit specious. 

The voters of Surrey were and seem to have been asking for a transition for greater accountability and an ability to set local policing priorities in terms of resourcing and policing initiatives. How much are they willing to pay for that extra accountability and local input would be very difficult to measure. 

The referendum advocates clearly want to couch any future question to the electorate as a question of whether people want to see their taxes go up.  Do you know any group of taxpayers who would answer in the positive? (By the way it also costs money to run a referendum.)

Walmart is the largest private employer in the world, and the RCMP is the largest police force in Canada. Maybe, there are some similarities.

But remember, Walmart keeps prices down –partly because they proudly state that they don’t believe in unions — the Mounties now have the NPF. 

The NPF is arguing that they must keep the Mounties, they are cheaper, while also stating that they need to hire more RCMP officers. But, to the Federal Treasury Board they are saying the Mounties are worth much, much more. 

Conundrums, Aisle 5.

Advice on getting to the Top

This blog is going to attempt to use somewhat brilliant semi-objective analysis to guide you to the top echelon of the RCMP– where you will at long last be able breathe the thin air of the enlightened hierarchy. This is based on an in-depth study and analysis of those that have already reached the pinnacle of policing in the RCMP–the Commissioner and the Senior Executive Committee –the very cornerstones of this rather large organization. I did not look at mere Inspectors or lowly Superintendents. They are too commonplace now.

This advice pertains to those of  you who want to be grabbing at the highest rung, becoming the next Commissioner, or at the very least, to be part of the Senior Executive Committee of the RCMP. Why aim low after all? This is for those of you who want Putin power–not Jagmeet Singh pretend power.  

Reaching these heights would give you the ability to control your own destiny, make your own hours and prepare you for a post retirement lucrative double-dipping job, once you have passed your best due date. Those put your feet up jobs like the Chief of Oak Bay police Department, or maybe a highly favoured job with Interpol, which for years was the ultimate in luxurious semi-retirement (has anybody every figured out what Interpol does?)

The sky is the limit for those of you who plan ahead. If you play your political cards right, you could even be made a Senator

To undertake this study I have been busily examining the background and makeup of that Senior Executive Committee and the current Commissioner.  What type of service did they come from? What Division of the RCMP was a better step into those upper echelons? What type of policing forms a good grounding for the next promotion? You may or may not be surprised at my conclusions. 

In reading this please bear in mind that this writer is not a Statistician, nor do I purport to have the mathematical skills of an Alan Turing.  Nevertheless, I remain undeterred by this lack of number crunching skills and am focused in my goal of writing this primer on advancement.

If you are already one of those in the officer candidate program, you likely would have researched and may have already chartered your path to senior executive pay. If you are already leaping over the backs of your co-workers you are reminded that you will still need to maintain your outward political face of conformity and therefore should not read any further.

For those that are just thinking about future career paths and do not want to remain a Constable or a Corporal for life (the old timers out there will remember the C.F.L. club) then you need to keep reading.

Let’s start with the gender issue, for which obviously you have no control, but it is something you should at least be aware of where the competition is lurking.

So for the first newsflash-you have better chance of making it to the top if you are a female. This by the way is contrary to the historical record as this was not always so. But in this 21st century, currently 21.6% of the RCMP is made up of women. In terms of the SEC, 47% of the positions are currently filled by women. There are 9 men and 8 women. Women are therefore over-represented in terms of their numbers in the Force, but about equally reflected in terms of society as a whole.

While we are on the tenuous and sometimes dangerous topic of women in policing, there has long been reported in many places that women make up the majority of the Division heads in the RCMP. That, upon actual investigation is not true. Of the 12 Divisions only 5 are headed by females. That is still better than their current RCMP numbers would suggest. It is still 42% of the leadership. 

Which Divisions have produced the best opportunities for our future executives? This is a little more difficult to measure as some have served in different provinces throughout their championship ride. It is clear that Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are odds on better places to be coming from; while A Division, B Division, G Division, J Division and M Division are death holes. Nobody on the SEC is from any of these latter Divisions. E Division has a couple of representatives but then again, E Division is the biggest operational Division, therefore competition is greater and we are trying to avoid competition, so we do not recommend E Division.

Another factor which was discovered is that if you want to make it to the SEC, you will likely have to like the city of Ottawa and enjoy lunches with the rest of the polyester crowd on the Spark St. Mall. That is because the vast majority of the SEC group spent some and in a few cases almost all their time working in Ottawa.

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, one must remember that there are five civilian members on the SEC, mandarins from the nation’s capital and all of its sundry government departments. The lawyer in charge of Legal and the human resources head are two obvious examples of those that come to be running parts of the RCMP with no policing background. Surprised? Didn’t think so.

To be fair, it is easy to argue that a Chief Financial officer moving the monies around does not need to know anything about policing, and a lawyer is a lawyer is a lawyer. The disadvantage, is that prior to arriving at Leikin Drive, they would have been heavily involved in the bureaucratic politics of Ottawa. They would have risen in their respective Federal Departments fully understanding the need to fit in with the government agendas. Therefore it is unlikely that they would see policing as much different from any other Federal government department. Surviving for a long period in Ottawa is directly related to your ability to be invisible to political machinations. Do not expect innovation from this group.

Another operational background in this personal study which proves significant, way beyond its apparent operational value, is that a number of the SEC did a stint with International peacekeeping duties, including your Commissioner. Four or five of the members did stints in Haiti or Kosovo or some other “hot” spot.  It is not clear what the relevance of this is in terms of value to the organization but it is a clear advantage to volunteer. Go overseas where you will have lots of time to day dream of a more comfortable leather chair in which to put your likely expanding posterior –after having been nourished by all those U.N salary dollars.

Also clear is that Federal policing, in terms of background, far out weighs the advantages of coming from a Provincial criminal background. In fact, if you have some connection to Depot in Regina you are statistically almost as well off as someone on the contract side of the policing ledger. 

In terms of education, nothing surprising here, Bachelor degrees are commonplace, a few have Master degrees and one, a civilian has a PhD. Nor is it surprising that the regular Mounties of the group like to collect Silver and Golden Jubilee medals as they build up their curriculum vitae. Stay friendly to the Queen.  

Three of the SEC had connections to contract policing and of those two had connections to some form of Indigenous portfolio; three had been involved in diversity initiatives.  This too is not surprising if one has been paying any attention to the Liberal agenda. The retrenchment of the regular religions has been superseded by the supremacy of the eagle feather.

The Commissioner is a shining example having received the Order of Merit for “improving Indigenous relations”. Where the bar would be to receive that Order is difficult to guess. Brian Brennan, another member of the SEC, claims to have first introduced the eagle feather, the sweat lodge and spiritual cleansing to operational policing in H Division. 

It is a bit of the elephant in the room when talking about the Indigenous, but no one can deny that there is a clear advantage to being Indigenous right now in any level or department of the Federal government. This is unlikely to change in the near future, as the Indigenous since 2006 has seen their population increase by 42.5%, four times the growth rate of the non-aboriginal population. As the numbers increase, their ability to get to the top is going to continue to be a smoother road than most. This also explains the very large increase in those who have recently “found” themselves and are now identifying as Indigenous.

So get checking your Ancestry sites, the governments of this country have made it official– your skin colour matters, whether you are applying for a business loan or running for a seat in the BC NDP government.  

Also remember if you want a piece of that “risk bonus” that Paulson started handing out a couple of years ago to his senior executives, or, you want to move on to Interpol like former Commissioner Bill Elliott who was living in an $8000 a month condo in Manhattan, then you have to be tactical. You have to pay attention to the trends in government, the nuances, the language of the corridors of power. You must go along to get along. Promote one self but do not rock the proverbial boat.

So, skin colour aside, who would make the perfect candidate? 

Someone who likes Ottawa, has spent a great deal of time in Federal policing, is willing to go overseas, and who started out their service on the Prairies.

However, if you have a natural affinity for Ottawa and enjoy the political atmosphere of cocktail parties, conferences and thousands of meetings, you should seriously consider quitting. Seriously.

Instead, go to some other Federal department. Go to the Department of National Defence or Revenue Canada, get a good education in law or human resources, and immerse yourself in the diversity agenda. Learn both official languages of course –then just lateral across. Seems simple. 

In summation. No matter which path you choose, as you head down and manoeuvre through those corridors of power and begin your climb to greatness, remember the little people, the general duty member in Claresholm, Alberta or Flin Flon Manitoba who still blindly believe those adages of hard work. Keep telling them they are the backbone of the Force. It worked on me for some thirty years.

Please Note: For those that want and need to learn more– supplementary courses on policing “advancement” are available at any grey haired coffee klatch of grumbling retired Mounties who are arguing over who gets the bill. You just need to say something to get them started.

And by the way, you’re welcome. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Angelo Amboldi – Some Rights Reserved

Tinker, Tailor, Friend of Bob’s

Is he a spy? Is he a criminal?  Or was he just an academic who turned out to be not quite the wunderkind that the upper management of the RCMP purported him to be. 

Who is this 47 year old Cameron Ortis? Someone out of a le Carre novel? A dysfunctional nerd? Someone living quietly in the shadows, but craving adrenalin? A crass profiteer? It is likely that the eventual story will be some combination of all of the above. 

As John Le Carre said in his most famous of novels Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy “the more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal”.

But whoever he is, or was, or wanted to be, things didn’t turn out for him as well as he expected considering his somewhat blessed rise in the RCMP. 

Mr. Ortis joined the RCMP, in 2007, coming in from the academic cold; after having obtained a PhD in International Relations from the University of British Columbia. It may prove relevant to his eventual court case to note that Mr. Ortis spoke Mandarin and for his Phd had travelled extensively through China. As part of that thesis he interviewed many individuals in the underground world of hacking in China.

By 2016, nine years into his job, he had convinced many of his ability to lead, and was promoted to being the Director General of the National Intelligence Coordination Centre. 

This is also the unit responsible for the RCMP efforts against cybercrime.  As originally structured, the Cyber Crime Fusion Centre stood on its own but in 2014 was placed under the aegis of the National Intelligence Coordination Centre. This higher profile for the Centre resulted in greater funding and resourcing with the inclusion of that cybercrime responsibility. Mr.Ortis with his academic background in cybercrime was therefore, it would have been argued, a natural fit.

It was in November 2011 that Bob Paulson became the Commissioner of the RCMP.

Clearly the appointment and some level of friendship Cameron Ortis enjoyed with the new Commissioner aided in this bureaucratic re-structuring as well as his rise in status. Global News quotes four high level sources who all say that Paulson was “instrumental” in Ortis’s rapid rise in the RCMP.  It was in 2016 that Ortis was promoted to the Director of the Centre by Paulson and the Executive Committee of the RCMP. He also became the first-ever civilian director-general. 

Since the arrest of Mr. Ortis now ex-Commissioner Paulson is backing away from his relationship from Ortis; saying only that “they had a friendly relationship” and then playing with semantics said  “I never personally promoted him”…but he was “ always impressed with him”.  

The Globe and Mail reported that Paulson even attempted to convert Mr. Ortis to a cop, rather than remain a civilian member, but ran into opposition from the uniform ranks.

As the Director General Mr. Ortis would have been cleared Top Secret and he would have enjoyed access to human sources and learned covert methods of information collection; not just by Canada but by other allied agencies. He would also have had access to the Canadian top secret network often referred to as “Mandrake”. This network links twenty different Federal Departments and distills the most important and secretive information flowing between them.  

It all came to an end for Mr. Ortis in 2019 when the coy and secretive Clark Kent look a like, was officially charged with eight counts under the Security of Information Act as well as the Criminal Code for Breach of Trust and Unauthorized use of a Computer. These multiple charges concerned passing on secrets to a foreign entity in 2015 and that he was gathering information in 2018 to do the same– that he had taken “steps to access, for concealing, or surreptitiously obtaining information”.

Commissioner Lucki later described these events as “unsettling” and that she was “shaken”, but maintained that all was well in terms of the RCMP relationship to the other intelligence partners. That is probably untrue.

Canada is a member of the “Five Eyes” which is an oblique reference to the other countries to which Canada shares or receives information. The United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand are part of the group, but it should be pointed out that Canada is usually a “net consumer” of intelligence information. A bureaucratic way of saying that they are given far more information than they provide. 

There is absolutely no way that the Americans and the others would have been pleased nor happy about going into damage control. It would have by necessity caused a long audit of all operations, some with possible major ramifications. The ripple effect of this traitorous behaviour can often be far reaching in the world of the cloak and dagger. It could have endangered lives and significant covert operations around the world. Foreign intelligence cases may have had to have been pulled after being exposed by his subterfuge. 

As a former member of the Security Service, it can be said with little hesitation by this writer, that it was always  pretty well accepted that the United States had very little faith in Canada and would often vet any information given to Canada, fearful of its leaky bureaucracy. This episode is not going to help this decades long fear that others have had with the level of security in the RCMP.  It would be completely natural for all the partners to fall back and reassess all information sharing.

To better understand how Ortis rose through the ranks, one needs to look at the history of this unit .

Ottawa and the focus on Federal policing by the RCMP, was for the most part prompted by the single event of 9/11. 

The shock and exposure that this tragic event exposed was two fold; that North America could be a target, and secondly, that the RCMP in Ottawa was severely lacking in the Federal intelligence sphere. It was discomforting to know that the hijackers came through Canada for a reason. 

The Mounties had already had the Federal Security Service  taken away from them in 1984 (and transformed into CSIS) and they were scrambling to both appear and be relevant to their political bosses.  That effort continues to this day, as the Mounties continue to struggle with the Federal versus Provincial divide. The RCMP is currently a schizophrenic organization, seemingly underpowered and overwhelmed in both mandated spheres. Spread thin many argue with an overwhelming mandate for any singular agency. 

But after 9/11, in all too typical knee jerk fashion, the RCMP began to exponentially expand its Federal presence; re-assigning both manpower and monies in an attempt to grow an FBI style policing model around intelligence gathering and dissemination. This quick expansion was often administratively cumbersome, often amateurish, and often shotgun-like in its approach. 

Some would argue that the Maher Arar episode in 2006 was evidence of this unprofessionalism and due in part to this unbridled expansion.  Suffice to say there are and were some serious growing pains that continue to this day. 

As part of this expansion and the need to demonstrate its prowess the Mounties greatly expanded its analytical role and like CSIS sought out academia. It was hoped that by plumbing the ivory tower this would at the very least add a level of educational sophistication, often difficult to find in the homegrown RCMP members. Like CSIS, the pendulum swung too far.

Management fell in love with the academics, who in turn were pushing away the investigational component and thus downplaying investigational experience. All effort was in exchange for this “enlightened” approach. Mr. Ortis climb to the top was part of this trend.

What is equally interesting is how this genius level Phd, head of an intelligence agency within the National Police Force; with a speciality in cybercrime; how you may ask did he got caught. 

To answer this question there is a great deal of evidence pointing to one individual. Mr. Vincent Ramos. 

Mr. Ramos headed a company called Phantom Secure, or Phantom Security Group. It turns out that Mr. Ramos had come under scrutiny by the Americans as he was pedalling “secure” phones to criminals. These phones allowed those intent on criminality to “go dark” –technically invisible to the authorities. This consisted of removing, using Blackberry phones, the GPS and tracking hardware and install encrypted messaging capabilities. He did this by routing the encrypted data through servers in Hong Kong and Panama while also using hidden usernames. 

To obtain one of these $4,000.00 per year phones, someone, another client, had to vouch for you. By 2018 Ramos and his company had about 10,000 subscribers. Proceeds were kept in cryptocurrencies. 

The attention Mr. Ramos garnered led to a massive investigation, made up of the FBI, the Australian Federal Police and the RCMP —the company business address was in Pickering Ontario. By the end of the American led investigation, over 25 search warrants were executed, and the RCMP had targeted Ramos using an undercover operation in Las Vegas.  

The arrest of Ramos in May of 2019, in San Diego, by the U.S FBI,  then led quite incidentally to the uncovering of an as yet unidentified individual who was  trying to pedal intelligence information to Ramos and his well-connected criminal group.   

The answer to how he got caught? Apparently, our Canadian cyber security expert and head of intelligence had sent an email to the Ramos group “offering valuable information”. 

Thus was borne “Project Ace”.  (The A in the name indicates that it was run out of A Division in Ottawa) . This investigation would therefore have been headed by the SIU in Ottawa, the same investigational group that gave us the Mike Duffy case and the Mark Norman case. One can only hope this turns out a little better.

Mr. Ramos has now been sentenced in the United States, to nine years and forfeited $80 million. 

It should be mentioned that there were other people involved with Ramos; Kim Augustus Rodd  (an Australian Thai citizen), Younes Nasri, Michael Gaboa and Christopher Poquiz. All of whom remain at large. 

After the initial headlines and the “shock” expressed by the Commissioner there have now been a couple of further developments.

Apparently Mr. Ortis had some administrative problems while heading the Intelligence unit. Three former “investigational analysts” (Francisco Chaves, Michael Vladars, and Danya Young)  have launched a civil suit against Ortis and the RCMP for “strange and controlling behaviour” under his direction.

They claim Ortis “misappropriated their work and used it for personal gain”, and further claim that Ortis and therefore complicit senior managers of the RCMP had mishandled the situation to the point that over 1/2 of the analysts had left the organization. In all they are blaming a “failure of leadership”.  

The obvious implication of this civil suit is that Mr. Ortis may have come under some level of managerial investigation prior to his attempts at being a spy. This possibility seems a little weak in terms of whether a human resources complaint would have in the end exposed Mr. Ortis.

Interestingly, neither Paulson or Lucki are named in the suit, although Paulson has already had to answer media questions as to whether he was protecting his friend from the employee complaints of mismanagement.   

The case against Mr Ortis is now before the Ontario Superior Court and by no means is a fait accompli that he will be found guilty of all these charges. There is a possibility that the demands of disclosure to a proper defence, will include presumably asking for names of witnesses and this could reveal some state secrets. Rather than expose these secrets the government could be forced to withdraw certain charges. 

The initial disclosure package contained 14,000 pages, a new normal in terms of the courts. This too could delay the process. It has also been learned that Mr.Ortis apparently kept a number of encrypted computers at home. 

There has long been a long standing saying that only the dumb ones get caught. That can be argued, but if a long history of investigations has taught this writer anything it is that even the good ones make mistakes. That being said, this academic was not that smart in terms of wanting to stray into the dark world. But he was clearly good at impressing those that needed to be impressed. 

Nor does this imply that Mr. Paulson is culpable.

It has long been known that Mr. Paulson was loyal and royally rewarded his faithful followers. (One only needs to check all the promotions his friends received just prior to his departure). Equally, Mr. Paulson in demeanour and in action seemed to want to portray and hangout with the learned academic clan. With his glasses perched at the end of his nose, he seemed intent on promoting the air and idea of being an intellectual constrained in the confines of the RCMP. It is extremely likely that he would have been enthralled with Mr. Ortis.  

It’s now been a year since Ortis’ arrest. In his last court appearance on September 4th., Crown and defence were still struggling with the large disclosure packages and arguments over what will be allowed to be introduced into court, and what will be determined to be too sensitive for the public eyes.

It is expected that the case will go well into next year.

Best bet would be that the Mounties are looking for a guilty plea. Guilty pleas are apt political camouflage and the intelligence partners will be demanding that nothing be revealed. It also seems likely that the upper management of the RCMP would like to avoid putting on display how well they were duped.

Will we ever learn the truth? More likely is that the small beam of truth when and if it finally shines through will have passed through a series of intelligence agency prisms.

Such is the world when one lives in the shadows.

Photo courtesy of Phillip Sidek via Flickr Commons – Some rights Reserved

Correction: This was recently pointed out, quite rightly, by an astute reader:

 “I enjoy your blog posts, and in general consider myself a kindred spirit. I must point out an error in your latest, however–the canard, rolled out again and again by U.S. conspiracy theorists, that “It was discomforting to know that the [9/11] hijackers came through Canada for a reason. ” 
This is incorrect. True, the LAX bomber was intercepted coming through from BC. But none of the 9/11 hijackers had circumvented US immigration controls by coming through Canada. The closest mention one can find of a Canadian connection to this atrocity is in the following article:https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/magazine/9-11-saudi-arabia-fbi.html

If the 9/11 commission had identified such a Canadian loophole, it would have said so. 
Canada doesn’t have a perfect record in the intelligence and security field (with the Air India bombing being the most egregious failure on our part to date) but we’ve made some progress. With, as you point out, some backsliding.
My only suggested correction to an otherwise sharp and perceptive blog post.”