Blog

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.”

Systemic Corruption

Insidiously, it seeps just below the surface,  swirling in and around every level of the Canadian mosaic. Currents of malfeasance, some large, some small, quietly percolating. Lapping endless waves of cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement. 

In some countries it is prevalent to the point of being part of a daily existence; places where all daily activities take into account the need to pay forward the corruption.  In the other more “privileged” or affluent countries, like Canada, we smugly point at those living in that third world of undeveloped and often corrupted governments as we shake our heads in disbelief at the levels of criminality. 

The problem with corruption, besides the obvious, is that the slow trickle of misconduct eventually begins to erode societal morals and principles. It begins to gnaw at the very bonds of society.  We, as a society, need to believe in the stability and honesty of a government and those that have been appointed to lead.  We hope that there is an inferred sense of fairness in the vital portions of our society. 

Without it, discontent with one’s position in that society begins to fester. Discontent is followed by disbelief—  one begins to question the “system”.  If doubt in the system gains a foothold, this further undermines the structural pins of decency and respect. 

There are some that contend that systemic corruption combined with the gradual extinction of the middle class is the biggest problem currently facing the democracies of the West. There are some that believe that if not addressed it could indeed prove fatal to our current system of government. 

After all the power of corruption is absolute. One only needs to watch the now besieged authoritarian government in Belarus. This corrupt government which has been led for 26 years by the authoritarian Alexander Lukashenko is now in retreat—the streets now teeming with violent protest. 

Lukashenko pronounced an election victory— one that was clearly rigged in his favour —proved to be a final and ultimate straw for the citizens of that country.  His government’s corrupt practises over the years has now launched daily protests of 200,000 people. As many as 7000 have been arrested and detained as he clings to power and calls on his ally Putin to come to his aid.  Europe’s “last dictatorship” is now in rightful peril. 

Clearly there are levels of corruption around the world. 

Tradingeconomics.com actually compiles a “corruption index” of countries. Belarus, surprisingly considering its problems, is only 66 on the list of 180, 1 being the best, and 180 being the worst. (Somalia has the distinction of being the worst and Denmark is listed as being the least corrupt country in the world)  

Canada is number 12 on the list. (We were 9th in 2016) but due to its slight deterioration Canada is now considered a country “to watch” alongside Saudi Arabia and Angola.

On the surface this seems like a good number, but how do we measure corruption in this country? Let’s consider some recent Canadian examples. 

The underground economy in Canada is estimated by Statistics Canada to be about $45 billion— $16 billion in Ontario alone. Current estimates suggest that this “irregular” economy may account from 10-25% of reported Gross Domestic Product, and that this illicit part of the economy is actually now growing faster rate than the GDP. 

In a poll a couple of years ago, a group of Canadian executives found that twenty per cent of these business leaders believed bribery and corruption were “widespread in this country”.

Recently, in British Columbia the Money laundering Inquiry is for the first time officially looking into what most people have known in this Province for a long time; that illicit funds have for many years been continually funnelled into real estate and high end vehicles; millions of dollars using the casinos as an easy conduit.  

Criminologist Stephen Schneider said that “while criminal organizations have traditionally laundered the proceeds of crime as part of their broader operations, separate money service businesses are now facilitating them”. He goes on to describe the Vancouver “model” which centres around “professional money laundering”. He flatly states that British Columbia is simply “an attractive place to do that”.

When describing financial crimes like securities fraud or stock market manipulation Schneider said that Canada “has never been very good at addressing them”. In summing up an overall picture he describes the obvious “low-hanging fruit” which is the street level drug trade;  but the real danger occurs “within commercial crimes that may be committed by corporations and private businesses that appear legitimate”.

Another recent example which is slowly falling from public view is the SNC Lavalin affair. We should remember that this large Canadian once reputable organization pled guilty to fraud for work in Libya and has now agreed to the paying of a $280 million fine. They were caught having paid $127 million in bribes and laundered millions to win contracts in Libya. A large chunk of that money, some $47 million was paid to Saadi Gadhafi, son of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi.  Suffice to say that this Canadian company was playing with the upper echelon of the world criminal sphere. 

The RCMP in Canada has over many years systematically dropped the proverbial ball in terms of pursuing these “white collar” types. But this lack of effort can not be totally blamed on the police. The prosecution services, the financial regulators and the corporate world are at the very least guilty of astounding willful blindness. 

As an example, in 2008 and in 2014, the Financial Action Task Force, a relatively unknown but influential international standards setting body called out Canada for a “significant set of deficiencies” specifically regarding our ability to determine the “true owners of private corporations”. This is referred to by accountants as “beneficial ownership transparency” and is the key factor in tracking down financial criminal activity and corruption. Our collective blindness once again at fault.

Finding corruption is in fact quite easy. Just follow the money. Pots of money will always draw the flies, those perpetrators and opportunists along with the ethically challenged corporate insiders. 

The criminal hawks are continually circling. Let’s consider the recent CERB cheques in Canada.  They have gone out to 7.8 million individuals. Statistics Canada then quietly noted, that even though 7.8 million people benefitted “only 5 million Canadians -employees and self-employed people–either lost their jobs or began working less than half their normal hours”.  Even with limited mathematical skills one can easily calculate that this  leaves one with a potential of 40% of the claims being fraudulent. With the announcement of no due diligence required, the fraudsters had to be salivating. Sadly, it has become equally clear that many Canadians have no problem in trying to “rip” the system. 

This leads us to the reverberations out of the WE scandal in Ottawa.  This drew in our own Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Chief of staff of the Prime Minister. 

The Finance Minister, whose daughter was working for WE, and the Prime Minister whose wife, mother and brother had all been paid by the WE brothers in some form— apparently didn’t even know enough about business practises to understand the concept of recusing themselves.  Their sense of entitlement blinded them in their own deceit.  

It was also revealed recently that the WE executives referred to Mr. Morneau as a “bestie” in some back and forth emails. This same Minister quickly remembered, while walking to the very Committee hearing, that he “forgot” to pay back $40,000 in expenses for two rather dubious trips. 

At the time of this blog, Mr. Morneau has now been pushed to the curb, but undeterred is applying for the job of the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. One has to wonder how that that job application will skirt around a couple of sticky ethics investigations, but pay no mind, because the Prime Minister is going to vouch for him. 

Mr. Trudeau, for his part, in the style of a tin pot dictator has now “prorogued” the Canadian Parliament, stopping all the activities of Parliament until September 21st. An apt parallel would be if you imagined Trump shutting down the Mueller inquiry. 

It effectively shuts down the various Committee investigations that were going on involving WE and the Liberals. 

But what may be the most disturbing to this writer is the lacklustre enthusiasm for pursuing the offenders in this country. What is it about the citizens of this country where there is no outcry against the white collar criminals?  No outrage or demand for accountability. 

This is a country that applauds the Hells Angels on their toy run, turning our heads from viewing their daily practise of extortions, and torture.  Beatings and killings of the innocent and the promulgation of the sex worker industry or the drug trade is ignored, as long as there is a stuffed bear attached to their handle bars. 

There was a massive outcry in the United States, cameras traipsing behind mediocre actress Lori Loughlin who was convicted in a nation wide college entrance exam cheating scandal for her involvement in getting her  “gifted” kids into University. The U.S. and Canadian media coverage was endless. 

While in this country, businessman, philanthropist, BC Sports Hall of Fame and former CFL’r David Sidoo was found guilty in this same scandal of cheating to get his two sons into college in Boston. He paid $200,000  to have a professional test writer use false credentials to impersonate his two sons to write their SAT’s. He even flew the fraud artist in to write one of the high school exams for one of his sons. Has there been massive shaming, has there been any calls for his removal from the Hall of Fame? Crickets. 

Commissioner Lucki, meanwhile remains in seeming isolation,  effectively distancing herself from the Coronavirus and any investigation involving the Liberals.  One should not expect anything to come out of the Ottawa RCMP corridors in terms of any investigations of wrong doing while under her oversight.

Remember when Ms. Lucki was asked about the investigation of obstruction involving the Prime Minister and the SNC Lavalin controversy? She replied that the RCMP “takes all investigations seriously, and investigate to the fullest”. That was in September 2019.  

Ms. Lucki is proving herself to be a plodding one trick pony. Diversity is clearly her one and only issue. It will also likely prove to be her swan song.

So what does the future hold. Well, the only thing for sure is that Canada on the afore mentioned corruption index is likely to slip further down the ratings. 

Canadians are now becoming a bit closer to Belarus than to Denmark. 

Photo courtesy of Christopher Dombres via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Fifty Shades of Red

Twenty two victims, nine men and thirteen women, all who were alive and well on April 18th, breathing normally, carrying on normal lives–all never made it to April 20th. Their lives quickly and unceremoniously extinguished, their deaths carried out with ferocity and a single-minded intent.

The exact reasons why, now forever locked in the deceased and decaying brain of a middle aged non-entity Gabriel Wortman.

Dressed in a police uniform, driving a mock up police car, this male transformed the symbolism of  safety and security normally embodied by a uniform and the blue and red lights, into something much more sinister. The birthday party clown became the Joker. 

The largest mass killing in Canadian history unfolded over two days, possibly prolonged by a series of disparate events and plausible police miscues. One of their own, a twenty year veteran police officer drove face on to her own death. Distorted bodies lined the houses and yards of this small unheralded Nova Scotia community of Portapique. 

In the end ingenuity and perseverance did not bring down the shooter; he was brought down by a coincidence. The police and the suspect coming together by bizarre happenstance, at a local garage, where thankfully this time the police got the drop on the well armed killer.

From the very beginning there have been questions about the police and the response to the calls for help, both before the killings and during. The herd like media focused on the lack of use of the Amber alert which will likely prove to be a minor issue in the overall set of circumstances. Nevertheless, one can not shake the uncomfortable feeling that there are much deeper issues that were at play during those fateful 48 hours.

As the weeks following slid by, more questions both from the public and the family victims arose over how this individual, this denturist, who made false teeth in his normal working hours was constructing police cars in his garage, amassing weapons, and preparing for his armageddon. Violence was likely percolating for a number of years in the frontal lobe of Mr. Wortman so inconclusive evidence and analysis will occupy psychiatrists for years to come.

How had a person of such bizarre interests go undetected in such a small community? How is it possible that the local RCMP police could not have known about this person? Well, as it turns out, it sounds like they did, but the level of knowledge and any action they may have or should have undertaken is very much still in dispute. 

The family background pointed to a history of domestic violence and abuse or as the new liberals now refer to as “intimate partner violence”. Reports surfaced of the public calling in– from the likes of Brenda Forbes who alerted them to his assaultive behaviour to his girlfriend.  

Indeed a fight with a girlfriend may have been the spark that lit his anger— but this time the spark became a flame and the fire became one of increasing savagery throughout the night. 

There were concerns raised about a collection of guns being accumulated but again, no apparent response by the police, to investigate an allegation that normally should trigger alarm bells.  

During the night of killings, the police felt that they had cornered the suspect, only to find out that he simply drove out another way– to begin killing again. 

Twitter was used to warn people, probably not the most reliable warning of an emergency, especially in rural Nova Scotia. An Amber alert would clearly have worked better, but an Amber Alert is not intended for such circumstances and by the time upper management cleared the administrative fog to clear the way for the alert, the suspect had been killed. 

So for the next three months, the public demanded that a public inquiry be undertaken. After all, this was the largest mass murder in Canadian history. 

The weeks went by and the Nova Scotia government— led by their Attorney General Mark Furey— seemed to be stalling or dodging the questions that were coming up on an almost daily basis. The added twist was that Furey was a Liberal politician, and, also a former RCMP police officer of some 34 years. He retired as a manager, a District Commander for Lunenburg County.  

Both Furey and the Premier Stephen McNeil during those three months insisted repeatedly that they were “committed” to getting “answers” to the families of those killed, but neither publicly expressed any support for an inquiry or a review of the circumstances. Suspicions began to grow. 

If Furey is to be believed, and that is a big if, during this three months, he and his Ottawa Federal counterpart, Liberal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair were “negotiating” and determining what was the best way to proceed. Apparently they were discussing “all the options” during this time, including a public inquiry. 

As political pundits often note, emotionally driven inquiries are often political suicide. The RCMP has been taking body blows throughout this country for the last number of years and detailed prolonged exposure during an inquiry could and would have serious ramifications; not to mention the possible political fallout.

Old Bafflegab Bill Blair, overseer of the Mounties had to know that any negative impact on the RCMP would harm the re-election chances of the Liberals in the next election. Mr. Furey, a duly rewarded Mountie over the years may not have been eager nor relish the idea of throwing his former colleagues under the bus. 

The decision of these two muddling master minds needed to both appease the victim families and the public, but also limit their exposure, and hopefully have the results exhumed in a politically opportune time. So how could they meet those demands while still limiting the damage?

Their decision on July 23rd was to have a three member panel “review”. Closed doors. No testimony under oath. 

Even more hypocritically they jointly announced that the review should emphasize “contributing and contextual factors, gender based and intimate partner violence”  and “police policies procedures”  and “training for gender based intimate partnership violence”.  

Hearing the mandate of this review gave one pause. Did we miss something? Did somehow the cluster of circumstances which led to this deadly killing spree all be attributable to domestic violence? Did the accumulation of guns, the accrual of fake police cars, the operational decision making, the shots fired at the firehall, all turn into an issue of domestic violence and the suggested resolution be further police training in domestic violence? 

This is only understood when one considers that during these intervening months, some female protests had come about by women groups inferring that the mass murder was the result of inherent violence against women in society; pointing out that mass shootings almost always had a central theme of misogyny. These events were triggered, so this group proclaimed by the assault of the girlfriend and a history of violence between the two.

So, even though considering that the evidence of violence against women as a central theme was a bit of a stretch, it is safe territory for the Liberals. It is an intellectual territory where they are comfortable. It is a place where they can take a few body shots, but then fall back on to their righteous practised platform of support for women. 

During the news conference where they announced the “review” the talking points were clear. To assuage the public they lauded the panel members as being, “independent” and “transparent” and “experienced”. The review panel was to issue two reports, one in Feb 2021 and the final report in August 2021. 

The mandate was to look into the “causes” and “circumstances” but that it should be based on “restorative principles” and also “trauma informed”. There was emphasis on gender based violence and that the strongest need was to “inform, support and engage victims”. 

Mr. Furey laid it on thick, addressing the victim families and intoning that they, the Liberal government, would “walk with you through every step of your healing process” as the families clearly had been “injured physically and mentally”. He closed his statement by reading the names of all the victims, conjuring up images of the fall of the twin tours during 9/11.

After the two concluded their initial prepared statements, there were a series of phoned in questions from the National media, which focused in on the fact that the ordered “review” was not what the victims wanted. They wanted and were demanding a public inquiry after all, so why this?  The second often voiced complaint in the questions was that there was no ability to compel testimony of witnesses. Blair answered this by saying that he had “directed the RCMP ” to cooperate “with the review. This clearly assured nobody. 

 So, for the next 30 minutes as they continued to answer the same questions, we watched Blair and Furey dance the two step explanation of “independence” “integrity”. Their single explanation as to why not a public inquiry — it would take too long.

This was coming from the dance partners who waited three months to figure out anything at all. 

Who were these Review Board members who were “independent” and would be “transparent”? 

First, heading the review was to be Michael J. MacDonald a Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. As Chief Justice he was heavily involved in the Nova Scotia Access to Justice Coordinating Committee and promoted several judicial outreach initiatives to engage the Indigenous  and African Nova Scotian communities.  All laudable, but to think that he was coming from anything but the Liberal spectrum would a be a bit of a stretch. He had a history of championing for victims, so he would be in perfect concert with this slanted mandate of “restorative” principles. 

Number two. Anne McLellan a former four term MP, who served in the Cabinet as Public Safety Minister, Justice Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. To say that this “academic” and “politician” was “independent” is clearly laughable. She is one of the few Canadian parliamentarians to have spent her entire career as a cabinet member in Liberal governments under Chretien and Paul Martin.

Justin Trudeau in 2019 after the Liberal party did not win any seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan hired her as an “advisor”.

Apparently this ethically challenged Federal government does not see conflict of interest even when it hits them on the head, so bubbly Blair spouts the ridiculous view of her being “independent” from the Federal government. 

Finally, the third review board member is Leanne Fitch, who clearly was chosen so she could appear to be representing the policing aspect.  Ms Fitch was a police officer for 34 years, rising to Chief in that bustling city of Fredericton, New Brunswick. She was the first openly gay female who served as the Fredericton Chief. The Fredericton police department has 113 officers, smaller than Richmond or Coquitlam Detachments of the RCMP.

She had been leading the agency when the four officers were killed in Fredericton. Also, while under her tutelage a number of Fredericton police officers were outed for alleged misconduct, and the administration was found to have broken New Brunswick Official Languages Act. Interestingly, in an interview with the CBC she felt that “she doesn’t expect the force to ever be the same after the shooting”. She too likes to stress victimization. 

Ms Fitch was also investigated by the NB. Police Commission in 2016, but the nature of the complaint and the findings were never revealed. It may be telling that a few weeks before the announced investigation, two officers had been fired from the force and three other officers were facing criminal charges. One of the females charged alleged that officers “have lost confidence in the leadership of the Fredericton force”. In the same news conference police union president Cpl Shane Duffy suggested that the police force “has created a difficult, if not poisoned, work environment for the police officers there”. 

So that in total is the three who according to these two governments represent “independence”, “transparency” and “expertise” needed for this “review”.

Unfortunately for these two governments, the ruse didn’t work. 

The general public saw through the hypocrisy which was oozing through this “review” announcement.  The protests resumed– led once again by the victim families. They marched on the Truro police office, again demanding a public inquiry. 

The Federal government bowed to the political pressure on July 28th, a mere five days after their “review” announcement,; changing their minds and deciding that a public inquiry would be held instead.

Mr. Blair announced the change in heart through social media (not willing to take questions this time), saying “We have heard the call from families, survivors, advocates and Nova Scotia members of Parliament for more transparency…”.

Apparently, they had been deaf for the first three months.

They also announced that the three individuals on the review, will now be proclaimed Commissioners of the Inquiry — no need to return their company cars.

Mr. Furey now also has seen the light and even had the audacity to say that this was what he wanted all along.

So why this bumbling and stumbling attempt at a “review” instead of a public inquiry?  

There could be only one conclusion. It was a hardened cynical political attempt to divert and mollify the rising victim voices, while clearly hiding their political backsides.

Both governments realized that any review, probe or inquiry is going to raise some serious political questions of the RCMP and their Provincial counterparts. Not so much at the individual member level —but at the broader and deeper administrative and management level. Blair and Furey should be ashamed of their contrivance.

This now public inquiry has the potential to strike at the deep-rooted problems in the RCMP. Training, seniority, supervision, levels of manpower, and emergency response will all be called into a tear stained and emotionally charged examination that will no doubt be covered live by all the television media.

The Commissioners will still try to distill the anger, but it will be difficult when everything is exposed to the public eye. The Province, as the contractual overseer of the RCMP will share in the fecal laced blame that will be thrown at the proverbial khaki and blue wall.   

Broadly, in a couple of years, we will likely find that the officers that night were trapped by the insanity of a killer– but also a Federal system which has been letting them down for years. 

Commissioner Lucki will resign (retire) just in time for the Liberals to claim they are now sweeping with a clean broom and that all the recommendations are already being implemented. They will conclude any future news conference with an apology to the victims families. They will pay out a civil suit.

After all, they have become very adept at the art of supplication and living with the numerous shades of embarrassment– the shades of red that surely are going to come from this protracted examination.

Photo Courtesy of Indrid_Cold at Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Dangerous thoughts

We seemed to have reached a critical juncture in this country.  No this is not a reference to the pandemic, nor the staggering debt that is being incurred as a result of the favoured government approach to the virus, nor the damage done, to those in the low income groups in terms of future employment. 

This is not about the fact that the two most powerful political leaders in this country Mr. Morneau and Mr. Trudeau are ethically bereft; unable to understand life outside the gilded cages they inherited. Even though it is getting a little compelling that this is their second trip across that ethical and moral divide. 

 This is a reference to something more opaque and potentially more lethal to this country.  

This is a reference to the fact that we have become a nation of people where freedom of thought is now being challenged, tossed to the side, squandered away in the interest of correctness, in the interest of a far left liberal agenda.

We have become a country whose influencers are trumpeting a cause in which they clearly believe; but to be sustained they believe that there is no room for dissent or discussion. Follow and agree, or be expunged. Any contrarian voice will be drowned out by their myopic shouts— emphatic in their belief that they and only they, have seen the light. Only they can understand right from wrong. Only they possess the right to determine what and who goes forward. 

This is not a conspiratorial theory.  Valid conspiracies require orchestrated goals and some form of structure.  Rather, what we are allowed to hear or read is being controlled through some twisted form of protest osmosis, driven by a manic adherence to correctness, and a hysterical group of government leaders playing to an audience of progressives. And, it is being done with a level of arrogance not often seen in this country. 

The frenetic dialogue demanding acceptance of the progressive theories is often bizarre and unhinged from a factual foundation. The riots, the violence and the destruction which flows behind the placards is accompanied by an underlying discourse which in itself is intolerant of alternate views. 

We have developed a bad habit in this country of wanting to mimic the United States. True to form this call to action and form of censorship has been seeded and watered in the U.S. The issues of the United States are being portrayed as one and the same in Canada.  The history of racism, slavery and segregation to the south of us, is according to the fanatical few in this country, is one and the same as the plight of blacks or the indigenous in this country. This is patently untrue, but if repeated incessantly then it must be legitimate.  

There is a long list of censorship stories being told in the United States and in Canada. 

In the U.S. Steven Pinker, a best-selling author and Harvard professor who has often appeared on PBS and Joe Rogan where he deals with what one would call the more “difficult” subjects has been one of the recent victims.  His last book is entitled “Enlightenment Now: the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress”. Bill Gates has called it his favourite book of all time. If Mr. Pinker has a theme to his writings, it is one of reason and science. 

This same Mr. Pinker has now been accused of racial insensitivity. In fact five hundred and fifty academics signed a letter seeking to remove him from the list of “distinguished fellows” of the Linguistic Society of America. Their charge is that Professor Pinker “minimizes racial injustices and drowns out the voices of those who suffer sexist and racist indignities.“ 

Professor Pinker’s real offence may be the fact that he has denounced what he sees as the close mindedness of the heavily liberal American universities and he has written about innate differences between the sexes and the different ethnic and racial groups. He is not playing along to their truth, therefore, he is now a high level target for those demanding his censorship. 

In contrast, in Canada, one of the “go to” experts on the CBC for Indigenous issues is Ryerson University Chair in Indigenous Governance Pamela Palmater. A person farther from Mr. Pinker in demeanour and speech could not be found. She, has seemingly unrestricted ability to spout her theories of colonialism, or to accuse police of “murder” in any cases involving the Indigenous. She took the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday to describe it as a “celebration of indigenous genocide”.   

Ms Palmater, a lawyer, we need to remember is also a professor.  Yet, she is allowed to foist her beliefs and innuendo without regard to any objectivity and is never forced to point to the evidence. She is a fermenter of radicalism disguised as an academic. Apparently being indigenous allows her the freedom to launch disdain and invective on the police or others who may or may not agree with her concepts.

There are too many examples of this blinkered political narrative to list here, however this drive to censoring by the progressives is not going totally without notice. 

This month, 153 intellectuals and writers, signed a letter to Harper’s magazine on July 7, 2020 that criticized the current intellectual climate as “constricted” and “intolerant”. The signatories included Mr. Pinker, but also people such as J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood and Noam Chomsky. It criticized the present state of “illiberalism”. 

They called Trump “a real threat to democracy”, which no one should debate, but also hinted that the “cancel culture” on the left was as much as a threat.  The signatories included academics from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia University.  

Michael Ignatieff was also a signatory, the former head of the Liberal Party of Canada. It is hard not to notice this paradox. 

Of course there was pushback to this letter too, and reflexively the left accused the signatories of representing “large platforms” at the expense of “marginalized groups”.  They said these writers who penned the letters were elitist and hypocritical. The “letter” has now become a rallying point for the left and they are now openly targeting those that dared signed. 

Michelle Goldberg an opinion columnist for the NY Times describes the climate of the newspaper as being “punitive heretic-hunting”. She describes illiberalism having set in, and now being enforced, in some cases, through workplace discipline, “including firings”. She believes that the “involvement of human resources departments in compelling adherence with rapidly changing new norms of speech and debate” is “frightening.” 

At this same newspaper, an Op-Ed piece was penned by right wing Senator Tom Cotton calling for a military response to civic unrest in American cities during the protests. It was an opinion, voiced in the opinion column.

This prompted more than a 1000 staff members of the NY Times to sign a petition demanding that the editorial page editor resign for allowing this opinion. He was forced to quit a few days later. The power brokers at NY Times, the paper that advertises itself as printing all the news that is fit to print, said that the opinion piece should not have been allowed as it “fell short of our standards”. Apparently free speech is not one of the “standards” of the newspaper. 

In a similar but lesser vein a B.C. RCMP officer , Dustin Dahlman was “suspended” and then resigned following a single person’s complaint that alleged that he re-posted “racially insensitive, rage-fuelled and anti-government” material on Facebook. 

He had posted about “too soft” police responses but the big offence was a re-posting a video where a man says: “If Black Lives mattered so much to you Blacks, then you wouldn’t be burning down our country like a bunch of offing heathens”. 

Let’s be clear that Dahlman didn’t say it, he re-posted it, thus implying being in agreement.  

My guess there is many in this country and especially in the United States who are not happy with the burning and looting which has followed many of the protests. Is  Mr. Dahlman’s comment  an inappropriate comment from a police officer? Yes. Should someone be fired for saying what hundreds of thousands of others are saying?  Admittedly, it is hard to defend in this case what seems illogical or even stupid, but if you believe in free speech then defend it you must.

There was a recent ridiculous story which came out of the San Francisco Police Department last week where the Chief has decided to not issue “mug shots” because according to the black Chief of Police William Scott, “This policy emerges from compelling research suggesting that he widespread publication of police booking photos in the news and on social media creates an illusory correlation for viewers that fosters racial bias and vastly overstates the propensity of Black and brown men engage in criminal behaviour”.

There is no mention where the “compelling research “ can be found, nor does he explain how it “overstates” the involvement in crime behaviour. 

In Vancouver the current City counsel has proposed that the Vancouver City Police eliminate street checks. The underlying fact that has stimulated this move is the apparent statement and belief of the progressives that there is racial targeting in these “street checks”. Again, they offer the total number of checks and the theory of “over representation”, but nothing further is explored in terms of a possible explanation.  It is a ridiculous policy based on specious research.

The CBC always ready to jump with both feet in the progressive cause, recently unveiled an in-house “investigation” that said that police shootings are up and that indigenous and persons of colour are disproportionately targeted. It is being broadcast as fact, irrefutable. A mild mention is given to the vast majority of the “over represented” victims having underlying mental health issues and substance abuse problems, but no mention of geographic locations or the high-crime areas in which they occur. 

In their story they make a great deal of the fact that in Winnipeg that Indigenous people represent 2/3rds of the victims but only 10% of the population. There is no mention that the most serious violent gang groups in Winnipeg are the Indigenous gangs.  

 Of the 461 police fatal encounters they “investigated” in the years 2000-2017 (which amounts to an an average of 27 a year across the Nation), only 18 resulted in charges against the police; nudge nudge wink wink . Despite the innuendo and heavy hanging “facts” hey do not present any evidence of a cover up. 

Some may suggest that this is just part of the intellectual pendulum in this country?  Maybe. But history suggest that it could go on for decades. 

There were times when the right tried to harness the ideas of the left, but one needs to go back to the 1960’s. The Woodstock generation was the harbinger of the exploration of liberal and leftist ideas. The protests against the “man” in those times fomented the seeds for the violence of the Black Panthers; the comedy of Lenny Bruce who went after the institutions like the Catholic Church; and the leftist separatist movement in Quebec which led to the formation of the FLQ in this country. The history tells us that attempts to ban and curtail the thoughts and ideas of the left by the right failed dismally.  

 The grand children of that leftist 1960’s viewpoint have now taken up the “new”cause.  The Panthers have morphed into the radical fringe of Black Lives Matter.  But likely, they will also find that censoring or banning the thoughts of the middle and the right, as part of their agenda, will also end in failure. 

Banning a second viewpoint, ostracizing those that hesitate to join their righteous movement will only serve to fertilize the neo-right. That is a separate and real danger which is now brewing in many parts of Europe and South America.  

It seems that this generation of protest has learned nothing from history and the mistakes of those that try to suffocate reasoned thought.

Instead of tearing down statues— study them, learn  what they represent. Change is possible, but it resonates only when it is founded on reason and respect. 

Photo Courtesy of Chris McBrien via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmcbrien/4188306468

Loved and Defunded…

My news intake has admittedly been reduced to an almost ignorant level. A few snippets in the morning and then nothing else for the rest of the day. A prescription for a blissful day and for the most part unabashedly content in that ignorance. No t.v., no Twitter, no Facebook, no radio intruding on rational thought. The world, or at the least the world of large capitalized headlines, temporarily pushed aside. 

Yet, the continuous carousel of causes swirls around and around, constantly exposing us, albeit inadvertently, to the special interest punch lines. The catch lines are designed to instil a reaction of fear or outrage. In turn the politicians continuously seek public affirmation. Constantly chumming the waters for us to bite and be hooked.

 Frustratingly— you once again find yourself having fallen into their trap. 

The bellowing cry to “Defund the Police” is one that has garnered the herd following, and like almost all of the ideas born by protestor insemination it seems to lack any real substance. There is no specifics on how this would work or any articulated policy flowing from this fragile concept. Of course this does not deter the politicos. Form and function is irrelevant.

In New York City, which commands the largest city police force in North America, the city counsel just “defunded” the police to the tune of a $1 billion. N.Y of course, is an enclave of democratic power, so it is not much of a surprise that they have reacted with knee-jerk reflexes and near sightedness. The polar fringes reacted with those on the left saying that it was “not enough” while on the other end of the spectrum, usually portrayed as “red necks” saying it was “too much”.

Nevertheless, this fashionable debate forces one to ponder what started this process, this lack of confidence in policing? How did the police manage to ostracize so many? Did we help to create this?  Is it wrong to look inward when things go awry? Should we just assume that all who level  criticism at the police are by definition fools?

How did we get here and how do the police get out? After all the police practise and policies during the last number of years has been driven by the  need to be “liked. Is it possible that the police in their attempts to be everything to everyone has completely backfired?

Managers of the various police outlets all adapted and were co-opted to the theory that the way to improve policing was to be accommodating, to be all encompassing to special interest groups. The new school of management preached in public administration that government bodies needed to be more imbued within “the social fabric”. All the problems that that would entail could be surmounted by an understanding police department. This was the birth of the politics of “inclusion”.

It’s explains how when the police hear the recent cries of “systemic” racism that it all seems so ludicrous. The police can not relate to these allegations. They have been living through this “new”age when the RCMP and other police forces have been extolling the virtue of the police being all good, all present, and all connected. 

Police departments sought out affirmation and were being directed to the goal of being loved by everyone; to be one with all members of society, no matter where you appeared on the economic or political spectrum, we wanted to see through your eyes. The police began hugging everyone in their immediate vicinity, crying when deemed appropriate by those that demanded empathy and conceded the need for retribution for all of the historic real or even perceived “wrongs”.

If you want the gay movement to like the police, march in their parades.  

 If you want children to like you, let them climb around your cars and hit the siren button. (That was learned that from the fire departments actually)

 If you want to relate to teenagers, put officers in the schools where they can be one of them; play basketball with them, or dance with them at school fund raisers. After all, officers dancing in the streets to some neighbourhood rap has become one of the favoured youtube draws. It plays.

Recently, a video showed a female officer in full uniform going down a “slip and slide” became a viral video; clearly aimed to garner love and “likes.  The police have been feeling the need to demonstrate to all that they are in fact humans too; we feel, we rejoice, we are sad. Or so was the theory.

This love and acceptance would lead us into a better policed world and therefore a better society, a “just society” to intone former Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. They wanted to grow beards or wear tattoos as it would show that we were just like them. We would be “cool”.

The events of the past few weeks has proven that this theory which was to drive the police to a utopian acceptance –was entirely wrong. 

In the love/hate relationship with the media the pendulum has also been swinging with abandon. Modern thinking was that if you want the press to like you, then answer all and every question. Be at their constant disposal. Twitter out events as fast as you can— god forbid that the press didn’t have the latest police sound bite. In this quest the police have issued tweets that were about events before the police even got to the scene.

It is this incessant need to accommodate that led to the questions as to where was the Amber Alert in Nova Scotia? They want the press to love them, to come to some understanding of how hard they work, to not misunderstand them. They are doing good work, so how can you possibly write bad stories about us.   

This too clearly is not working. That damnable ungrateful press has now turned on them.

This overall theory founded on the need to be “liked” is clearly and universally flawed. The counter argument being suggested here is that the police do not in fact need to be liked by everyone and not all the time. 

But, they do need to be “respected”.

The way to gain and achieve that respect is to be seen as being objective, fair; both in their investigations and in their decisions. A police force should never be seen as being on one side of an issue no matter what the issue. The police can not be “political” and survive in a society made up of disparate and diverse groups.

It is impossible for the police to be seen as independent, fair, or objective if they are seen as being influenced by their political masters or favouring one political entity over another. They are there to enforce the laws, not to influence or pander to variations or interpretation and enforcement of those laws.

In all areas of policing, the police having been enamoured with inclusion and affirmative action politics have by necessity become political on multiple levels. The once arms length approach to the role of government and the political executive arms has disappeared.

In the RCMP Ms. Lucki and her mandarins have proven conclusively that they are under the direction of the current government. One does not have to look any further than the recent flip flops over “systemic racism”. But, there are numerous examples, some far more damaging in their outcomes. 

Does anyone believe that the RCMP will investigate with any fervour the corruption that is implicit in the recent awarding of almost $1 billion to the WE organization and its connection to the Trudeaus. Does anyone believe that any corruption on the part of the Indigenous would ever be investigated? Does anyone believe that SNC-Lavalin was investigated without prejudice?

The general population of Canada, watches and sees this clear political influence being exerted on an almost daily level on the police. They roll their collective eyes and shake their collective heads. The confidence of the public is wavering in the ability of the RCMP to conduct any investigation, not just the ones that require some level of sensitivity. 

So, if they want to defund the police, lets throw them some bones. Let’s defund the sections that are solely aimed at being “liked” and instead reinforce the investigative mandate.

Let’s get rid of all community policing officers and let’s get rid of all school liaison officers. Give that money over to the hiring of another school counsellor or some other community program. Let’s shut down those child safety programs, like the bike rodeos, or the pretend officer training programs. Let’s get rid of any program that are echoes of social work. Let’s get rid of the Safety Bear. 

Let’s get rid of all those media relations officers and all their respective units, including the “strategic” media units. From now on, officers on a case of particular importance can issue a one page press release if there is a need.  (Believe it or not this was easily done in the past). Let’s get rid of the Twitter and Facebook feeds. We should not be part of the social media universe with all its frantic and frenzied radicalism on both the right and the left. It’s an internet conversation and therefore those conversations are mostly ridiculous. 

Let’s not react to any 12 second video clip without conducting a full investigation.

Again, remember the public wants confidence in your fairness and your thoroughness. Prove through investigative results your case for the value of objective policing. 

Investigate all in a timely and fair manner.

If undue influence results, then the leaders of those investigative units must step forward and publicly call out any attempt to influence. The police leaders have to re-establish their independence from the legislative and administrative arms.

There is little doubt that this would take tremendous courage, which is admittedly in very short supply in these off-kilter days. The managers need to lead and not just post on Linked-In their leadership skills. There would be some “hills to die on”.

The public would eventually be on their side if that trust could be re-established. 

 Chief Adam Palmer of the VPD recently stepped forward after some hesitation to address systemic policing. It was a dangerous move with the left leaning NDP Mayor of Vancouver watching from a safe political distance. Maybe Chief Palmer was still angry over having his police budget cut by the bike lane loving mayor, but in any event he stepped up. He will likely pay an eventual price, but he did what was right. 

The people just want to have faith in their police force. It is really that simple. It will be difficult and will involve facing numerous hurdles, but it can be done.

The public wants to be assured of the police arrival, confident in the job that will do in a fair and impartial manner, without regard for race or community. The public want the police to be professional and above all else immune to all the faces of favouritism.

We do not need to like them.

Photo courtesy of Carole Raddato via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved