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Character building

You must all be breathing a magnificent collective sigh of relief and be filled with profound gratitude over Ottawa RCMP’s latest policy change.

The RCMP Mounties in Ottawa have announced— wait for it— that they will be conducting “character” checks on “staff”! My heart is racing as must be yours at the prospect of finding some individuals with suitable characteristics to fill the senior ranks of the RCMP. 

Although not wholly familiar or conversant with the Human Resource world of the RCMP, or at least what poses as a Human Resources department; this writer was under the distinct impression that Mounties before you were hired would take a little time to research your character. Remember those spots on the application form where you had to put “character references”. Silly us thinking  they were actually going to check on people before they hired them. Apparently not, well at least not in sensitive senior positions in HQ.

Our long held beliefs on the efficacy of our staffing and recruiting units are now being dispelled by a small unit in the corridors of Ottawa called the National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre or NICC —who toiled in ignominy until their boss became the  now infamous Cameron Ortis. Character values and how he treated fellow workers has now  become a headline and a topic of conversation largely because Mr. Ortis is now going to trial. 

To refresh your memory. Ortis began work at the Centre in 2016 and then, unceremoniously was arrested in 2019, a short three years later.  Ortis has now been charged with several counts of revealing secrets to an “unnamed recipient” and planning to give “additional classified information to an unspecified foreign entity or terrorist group”.  Most of the charges are breaches of the Security of Information Act, a single  criminal breach of trust, and thrown in for good measure, a “computer-related offence”. 

The trial and the subsequent revelations that are sure to come are worrying enough, but in addition this upcoming trial has forced senior management to pay attention to allegations made by employees during Mr. Ortis time at the helm of this unit that “coordinates” intelligence. A review of the complaints was in fact ordered at the time that the complaints surfaced, a usually tried and true stall and deferral plan used by politicos of all stripes. However, now there are even some people drawing a straight line from the complaints not being investigated at the time to the possibility that if they had, black hat Ortis, would have been discovered earlier. That seems like a bit of a stretch but it is a theory that will not hurt the litigants and their legal representatives in this case.

The fact that Mr. Ortis may have been spying and ruined the already tattered reputation of Canada with the Five Eyes is not the only pressing issue now facing the Mountie leaders, who are always firmly encased in that cocoon of inclusivity and sensitivity. The subsequent lawsuit that the employees have now launched has shifted the focus of  Commissioner Lucki and her countless advisors. In their civil action they are alleging that Mr Ortis “belittled, humiliated and demeaned” them in their “workplace environment”. 

The three employees, Francisco Chaves, Michael Vladars, and Dayna Young are now seeking $1.9 million in damages as a result of their “abuse” at the hands of Mr. Ortis and they have filed their claim at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. 

They also allege that Mr. Ortis was “stealing and selling their work” with the overall goal of “sabotaging the unit”. They insist that Mr. Ortis “systematically targeted them”. All of this in an apparent effort to replace them with persons Mr. Ortis would find more simpatico.

A cynic might point out that the more distance the employees put between themselves and Mr. Ortis is at the very least self-serving. They were persons who were in the same unit as Mr. Ortis, and the intelligence damage, whether real or implied, could drift over their way on the winds of suspicion which will be blowing hard from the Five Eyes group.  

Nevertheless, the employees have now been backed up in their lawsuit  by that previously mentioned internal review that was ordered at the time.

The review backfired a bit at least from the Liberal political standpoint.  It was conducted by former RCMP executive, now retired and double dipping with alacrity— former Assistant Commissioner Alphonse McNeil. ( Mr. McNeil had previously been hired to investigate the RCMP handling of the 2014 Moncton police shootings where three officers were killed.) 

Alphonse’s apparently formidable assignment in this case was to  to review the “culture within the intelligence co-ordination unit”.  Sixty interviews later and after having reviewed “policies and procedures” he came to a startling conclusion that there was a failure in “leadership at all levels of senior management”. That the Mountie executive “sought to avoid the situation rather than act”. Who could have guessed that senior executives would rather dodge the bullet than bite the bullet?

McNeil’s apparently profound conclusion said that there was a “failure in leadership and a workplace culture that left employees feeling “broken”. All of this surfaced after the media, through an access to information request receieved a copy of the redacted report.

He writes, “the failure of leadership in this case was noted at many levels and it reveals a need for the RCMP to consider how leaders are selected”. (Would it be crass for me to point out that he could have read this blog or talked to any of the rank and file during the last couple of years he would have saved the taxpayers a bit of money with this recommendation?)

The treatment received by these employees, half of whom have departed for other secret government corridors, created a “feeling of insecurity” and allowed a “lack of confidence” to seep into their workplace. Apparently there is nothing worse than an analyst with no confidence. 

So the lawsuit will continue and it would seem likely that Commissioner Lucki will be recommending that Mr. Trudeau pull out his wallet and commit to another sleight of hand to make the issue disappear. 

It should also be added that the case against Mr. Ortis is going to cause some serious problems for the prosecution which will no doubt result in further headlines and political punditry.  This case is far from proven or won. The need to protect Five Eyes information for example, could prove an insurmountable hurdle in terms of proving this case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

So now four months after Mr. McNeil issued his internal report, the Ottawa Mounties are leaping into action. They have been suitably chagrined by their former coffee break buddy and the leaking of the lawsuit into the public eye has forced them into doing or at least appearing to be doing something. They have now decided that they need to begin looking for a “balance of character” in their hiring practises. They have instituted a “management action plan”.  These “changes” include what it calls a “character leadership approach to the human resources processes”.  

“This approach ensures that employees, regardless of rank or level, have the competencies, commitment, and balance of character to make good decisions across a broad range of challenges and contexts”. In case you were not paying attention, they point out that they had already started this practise over the winter months. 

The media spinner, in this case, Sgt Duval  said, “these new tools allow for the assessment and ongoing development of an individuals character, with a focus on judgement, inclusiveness and self -awareness”.  

This is a lot to absorb, but they have also now established a “centre for harassment resolution” in June 2021 as “a sign of progress” and affirmation of their whole hearted commitment. As they say, “Concerted efforts are being made to create a culture focused on prevention through a healthy and supportive workplace”.  

Meanwhile, the possible real damage done by Cameron Ortis is hidden from public view. His bosses at the time; Assistant Commissioner Todd Shean has now left to join the JD Irving oil group in private industry; Mike Cabana, the former Deputy Commissioner to whom Shean reported has now retired; Commissioner Bob Paulson  to whom Cabana reported who was a strong advocate of Ortis has also gone to retirement. The chance for accountability is indeed slim.

It would be hard to argue that searching for persons of distinguished character is not a good thing. There are a couple of obvious traits seemingly in short supply, such as honesty and integrity which come quickly to mind. This drivel that is being put out as some enlightened policy is not only governmental double-speak it is specifically designed to obfuscate. It is at its core dishonest. 

Those familiar with the Ottawa and Federal system will quickly point out that with the RCMP being willingly politically partisan, that this organization has crossed the line where honesty in policy becomes often blurred in favour of political expedience.

That is indeed unfortunate. Bill Shakespeare is the one that said that “honesty is the best policy. If  I lose honour, I lose myself”. There are a few lost souls in Ottawa right now.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Kieran Lamb – Some Rights Reserved

The Dog Days

Well, we have finally reached that part of the year, the mid-August doldrums; the time of the year that Hellenistic astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fear, mad dogs, and bad luck. Check, check, check, check. These are indeed the dog days of summer. 

During this brief summer sojourn there is a couple of weeks when the news of the world and the torturing headlines which endlessly announce another dilemma, another wrong doing, another catastrophe in the making, all fuse into a gauzy shade of blue. 

All those exclamatory headlines and social media alarms which have been demanding your immediate attention, now flow over and around you, the waves of shouted discontent dissipating in the waves of dry heat. It is as if you are under three feet of water looking up at the refracted light just above the surface. You can hear the voices, you can hear the speakers agitation, but the words are muffled, jumbled into drawled out nonsense. The narrative of continuous pessimism during this past year, miraculously transforms in the sticky humidity into something else, something less important. Whether you sit on the sand, waves a few feet away, or stare aimlessly at the embers of a campfire you enter this neutral state of mind. And it’s ok. 

There is a legitimate scientific reason for the “dog days” of August. This is when the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius (not Siri)  and it is at this time of the year that Sirius is actually the brightest star visible from any point of Earth—part of the Constellation Canis Major; the Greater Dog. 

So as you take comfort in your bliss of unfettered thoughts and guiltless pleasures, it is incumbent upon me —in fact it is my duty to prepare you for the coming months, for the days and months when your stupor will sadly end and you will be forced to re-focus.  

Let’s begin.

Mr. Trudeau, as predicted, only two years into his mandate, has already dissolved Parliament and you will find yourselves at the polling booth lineups on September 20th. The newly appointed Governor General, with her one official language, who has now taken up residence in her fancy digs, has now given him her permission. The story that will be brewing is the raising up of the mailed in ballot, expected to go from 50,000 to 5,000,000 which will cause a delay in announcing the results. Apparently Canadians were not paying attention to the furor in the United States during their last election over mailed in ballots.

You will awaken to a campaign in full swing, a cacophony of practised and unsurprising slogans and issues. Pancakes being flipped throughout the country. The economy, jobs, global warming, the restoration of the middle class, the taxing of the very rich, and of course reconciliation. It will be difficult to tell one leader from the next. Thirty second video and radio sound bites will dominate the air waves; the political managers will insure that every race, gender and relationship will be represented on your television screens. Even though it only constitutes  a four week election campaign you will be numb by the end and likely no better informed.

As you emerge, shaking yourself awake, the Covid vaccine campaigners will be in full force in their fight against the Delta variant. (Just wondering, are the next variants, the Echo and the Foxtrot?) The government will continue to push for further restrictions of your human rights, your ability to travel or attend events throughout the country. The Government is apparently now comfortable decrying that you as a member of Canadian society have no choice. (One government agency was even giving out yellow stars to be worn if you were one of the enlightened chosen.) You must take the sanctioned injection or be barred and banned from participating in society.  So quit pointing out issues such as human rights, show your card or newly minted medical passport and you will be allowed in. After all you are saving lives. 

It being September when you awake, you will find the teachers front and centre. Masks on, masks off. The debate will not likely every involve math or history. It will instead focus on the quality of air filter systems and the teaching of critical race theory.

By the time you rise, there will be another class action lawsuit by the Indigenous. The one currently in seed and should be in full bloom soon will be one concerning the hospitals that were formed in 1945 in the fight against tuberculosis. The Indigenous have started a claim, that they were treated worse than all others when sent to these hospitals. Word of mouth passed over the generations is their evidence and they will never be accused of originality as they are even seeking funds to look for grave sites in and around the hospitals.  

As your eyelids flutter open, you will be quickly alerted to the fact that there has been no progress in the church arsons and no one seems to be talking about it anymore. 

In all likelihood as you re-awaken, soot from the wildfires will still be falling and the wildfires  themselves will still be burning “out of control”.  So depending on where you live some of you may find that your most pressing and singular issue could be your livelihood or your home.

The farmers euthanizing their cattle so they don’t suffer a horrific death and losing their ranches in Westwold and Falkland are not commandeering many headlines, but those that have been greatly affected, contrary to the hope of the NDP government in British Columbia, may not go quietly into the night. There should be some further information on what went on in Lytton. There is a mysterious silence on who or what caused that fire as the police wait for “forensics”.    

As the fires continue, there will be building pressures for the B.C. Wildfire Service to give some accounting as to what happened. Grossly unprepared, under resourced or ill managed?  Questions should be asked.

Afghanistan will have fallen to the Taliban and one of the most inept military and global strategies ever undertaken by the west will be making all foreign policy headlines. The soldiers who died in this losing cause will likely never forget or forgive. Canadians and Trudeau have already agreed to take in 20,000 Afghans (although there seems to be a problem with the logistics of actually doing this) who are being forced to flee in some sort of panacea to an ill thought out and performed military operation. 

Stress will be the mental health issue and the word of the day into the future months. Work stress, school stress, family stress, relationship stress, loneliness stress, financial stress, medical stress, and by the time you awake — the no CRB available stress. 

Unemployment will continue to remain high and inflation once again may be talked about in government circles, unless of course the Liberals return to power. 

We will need more housing for the first time buyers and for the homeless. The homeless have a better chance. 

The opioid crisis will be ongoing and unchanged. People are bored with people dying in the streets apparently.

Bike lanes will continue to grow despite little growth in the number of people riding bikes.

On a more local level, The National Police Federation under President Brian Sauve will continue his political in-fighting with the newly formed Surrey Police Service. His ill thought out and seemingly personal campaign to keep the Mounties in Surrey is reaching new lows, now calling on Ms. Mohan whose son was a victim in the “Surrey 6 ” Mountie case for her support. Apparently she loves the Mounties and is therefore qualified to address the issues of the necessity or sustainability of the new force. “They are like family”. It was during this case, you will remember, that the investigators got caught sleeping or trying to sleep with the suspect girlfriends and almost jeopardized the entire case. Strange case choice for political support.

So, one can only hope that you are enjoying these dog days. They are good days, a chance to re-sort and re-assemble. Time to pay attention to the little  things in life. When these days end you are going to be faced with the new news, which will greatly resemble the old news. The world will be moving forward regardless. 

The policing world will be un-changed, still demanding, still impatient, and still inexorably slow to change. 

In spite of what is going on around the town, around the city or around the globe, policing and the practised art of investigation is a constant, rarely impacted by outside influences. It is virtually un-deterred by pandemic or cries of defunding. The calls will still come in, the lunacy of people interacting with other people will carry on unabated, adrenalin will still on occasion course through your veins, and there will still be the laughs amidst man’s inhumanity to man. 

But by the time you return, another summer will be in the glow of the tail lights, the harvest moon not far off. And once again we will try and make sense of the caterwauling. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by William Prost – Some Rights Reserved

Casting a Blue Ballot

As the Provincial and Municipal politicians dutifully follow behind Mr. Trudeau, like gulls to a BC Ferry, their hands grasping at the dollar bills gracefully floating through the air behind the wake of the woken Prime Minister. With a spring in his step Mr.Trudeau bounces along, freshly shaven, oblivious to all but the CBC paparazzi. Ms. Freeland, scurries behind at a respectful distance trying to put the hose of monies spewing forth in some semblance of a thought out policy. Destined for at least another election to be the gal with the shovel behind the elephants in the political circus. 

Besides making the world go round, money of course is the best harbinger for a nearing election. Trudeau and his crew apparently now confident that they can keep it to a one issue election —the issue being how well they dispensed (no questions asked) monies during a time of “crisis.” There is the secondary issue of climate change nipping at the politico heels but that is more controversial, being that it is still difficult to sell an electric F-150 to the oil patch worker or convince many in the general public that paper straws at A & W is the most efficient way to attack our 1% world portion of greenhouse gases. 

Every election, police organizations and their card carrying officers have always been required to walk a fine political line. Police officers are dictated by political norms to be apolitical. They are told not to express their views or get involved politically, but it is a line which has been crossed many times. Active police officers have even tried to run for political office.  But for the most part they are supposed to stay uninvolved, enforcers of the law, not makers of the law. 

Where you do see officers taking off their officially issued blinders and actually get involved with that pesky public is when they retire or resign. Then they are then able to find their voice. Some have even risen to great heights; usually propelled by a puffed up policing career and resumes filled with Queen Silver Jubilee medals. There is the likes of the illustrious Bill Blair in this country, or the Democratic front runner for the mayor of New York, Eric Adams, who is a former police officer, who has no compunction against championing his relatively brief stint with the NYPD. 

The burning question now though– is who should a cop vote for if in fact Mr. Trudeau calls a Federal election? Should they vote with their head, heart, or wallet? Is the young cop of today a different voter than the more predictable officers of the past, those whose favourite colour has always been blue. 

Traditionally the old cops were the poster children for law and order, right over wrong, all answers black and white. No colours or shades of grey cluttering up a polar argument.  He or she did wrong — therefore he or she must pay goes the dictum.  

So when it comes to the current law and order issue, what is different between the parties? Can the police officer find a clue in who to support by examining the platforms of the political parties?  

Mr.Trudeau is clearly soft on most crime issues, well to be completely accurate, all crime issues. He takes a knee on Parliament Hill or apologizes to the Indigenous for one wrong after another on a continuous basis.

In fact, if you go to the official Liberal party platform, law and order as an issue is nowhere to be found. In their 72 plus page document, crime and the issues that flow from it do not even appear. You could interpret this two ways. Everything is perfect in the policing world or it simply doesn’t warrant attention from the myopic Liberals. 

Mr. O’Toole (who?) who leads that dynamic Conservative Party has only one issue that comes close enough to be called a law and order plank in his platform. That is priority #2 if you are following along. They want to pass an anti-corruption law for no other reason than they think they can then go after the Liberals in Ottawa. So, this historically and tradition law and order party have no promises or political planks to deal with such issues as the growing rural crime, cyber, white collar and organized crime or the insufficiencies in the courts. Nothing even warrants a “promise” or a policy change. 

Then there is Mr. Singh and the New Democratic Party. As this is being written if you go to their “platform” site you are greeted with the message “we are in the process of updating this page”.  It is truly hard to imagine the NDP running anything in this country with any level of success. 

If a cop would like to get financially comfortable, maybe one should be tempted to go towards the NDP. After all, they are the Victim party;  everyone suffers, everyone is misunderstood, each of us a victim of some form of discrimination. They believe that everyone is under “stress”and is wistfully dreaming of a fixed annual salary. Their reasoning is that the government is the best positioned to take care of us all and bring us all to a peaceful harmony.  If they obtained power, an admittedly unlikely prospect, then all officers could theoretically argue, with little effort, to be suffering from PTSD. A medical pension for life would not be far behind. Everyone would be calm in their self induced altered state. There would be no need for police or mood rings.  

The Green Party? Ya, you’re right, not a chance. They are even having trouble keeping their newly-elected leader Annamie Paul around. The former tree hugging leader Elizabeth May now doing her best impression of American Sniper, aiming directly at the new leader. Not enough medical marihuana on Vancouver Island to ease her discontent. 

So, even in this year of defunding the police slogans reverberating through the corridors of policing, none of the parties are interested in law and order issues. So where is the dedicated copper wrapped in concern for his country and the Canadian flag supposed to turn? 

Should the Mounties follow their leader Commissioner Lucki to the ballot box. Clearly, at least publicly, she is about as Liberal as you get. It served her career and it preserves her current job to be the doppelgänger of any preeminent Liberal politician. Maybe she is also aiming for a Senate seat too.  

Is it possible she is a closet conservative and in her fevered dreams she wishes for a rejuvenation of Stephen Harper? Possibly she is tired of spending her lunch hour wandering Sparks Street Mall looking for anyone of colour to pull into the recruiting office. We may never know, so in that sense, we can not let her be the guide as to how one should vote. 

What if the police were to vote with their wallets?  If that was the case there would be no contest. The Liberals would be the uncontested winners, hands down. They just gave the Mounties a 23% raise. Is this  enough to garner all those Red serge types to go “ahhh, he’s not that bad” and biting their tongue, cast that X for the Liberal candidate. These new young Mounties are more career focused than those of old, advancement is important, money is more important. Pension is still God. If the Conservatives got into power and come face to face with the actual debt and deficit would they not be looking for ways to cut back. Government pensions have been a traditional target and that would have the Mounties wringing their hands in worry. Would the Conservatives cut off the thousands of Veterans benefits now going to retired Mounties with poor hearing or a bum leg? 

Ramblings aside, as the election draws near, it is truly disturbing how little choice exists. The parties and their platforms are almost indistinguishable except for the size of their political wallets.  As a country we seem to be in desperate need of a new broom. But, who would dare to step forward in this era of examination, this era of Tik-Tok and Instagram tailored speeches. No one who has stood at the barricades or formed an opinion would make it through the electoral political filters now in place which regulates speech and action. 

To expect the largely publicly funded  5th  Estate  to establish some sort of fire break between what the politicians promise and what they deliver is apparently just wishful thinking. 

Thomas Jefferson famously said “the government you get is the government you deserve”. Really, what did we do to deserve this?  Have Canadians become sheep? Soft in the middle voters, all hoping for that government pension and lulled into a sense of mediocrity? Has our need to not offend given us a government we deserve? 

The cop out answer (pun intended) to not voting is often said —“they are all the same anyway”. That’s too easy.

We need to vote, cops and all Canadians need to find their voice. The police in this country, as in all countries, is a true reflection of the held values that can be found within their boundaries. We need to like what we see.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Liz West – Some Rights Reserved

Burn

Everyone, like the proverbial moth, is pulled to the flames. The licking fire is often enthralling and mysterious, but we can only enjoy its satisfying glow when it is under some form of control. As the western part of this country burns without restraint, the sometimes comforting flames are now satanic; on the move and destroying all things past and present in its path. The sound comes first, then the whirling winds, and finally the advancing ox blood coloured inferno comes into view. 

Even those some distance away in the remote towns and villages are part of this theatre of fire, wholly engulfed by smoke, black strings of soot dangling in the air and falling lazily at ones feet. Thousands of kilometres away the sunsets are tainted, the smoke having migrated across the country making the sun take on an orangish hue, the colour of our often imagined doomsday.

This is mother nature in one of its dazzling incarnations. But, this is not new. It happens regularly in this part of the world, some say with more regularity, because of climate change. The last time it moved with such all-encompassing destruction was in 2017. 

Some of those fires is the coming together of dry, parched ground being struck many times over by lightning; thunder announcing the attack, mother nature venting.

Other fires are not manifestations of nature or climate change, they are our own doing.  

Negligent humans often at the root of the resulting financial and personal devastation. Flung cigarettes from car windows, sparks from work tools sparking in dry tinder, or the insufficiently doused campfire– all are “human” causes. 

The darkest of these human possibilities and the subject of this blog is that human being who feels some internal need to start his or her own fire. The criminal arsonist who lives amongst us.

Between 2016 and 2020 according to the Congressional research service in the United States 88% of wildfires are “human” caused.

The Province of British Columbia estimates that only 40% of wildfires in this Province are “human-caused”. This is a statistical difference for which there is no explanation, but may lie in the nature of the survey. Recently there were about 300 firs burning in British Columbia, so about 120 of those fires, going by the statistics of the Provincial government are in all probability “human” caused.  

Negligent behaviour aside, a portion of that 120 will be the result of the deliberate starting of fires, an arsonist at work. We can only guess at the actual number of arsons due to the nature and style of the government reporting and often because those that investigate these fires can not confirm the root cause. 

On their web site the British Columbia government laments that investigations of those fires “often take time to complete and can be very complex”; that the investigations themselves may be carried out by “one or more agencies, including the B.C. Wildfire Service, the Compliance and Enforcement Branch, the RCMP or other law enforcement agencies, and some investigations may be cross-jurisdictional”. Without a single investigatory unit, maybe therein lies part of the problem. 

Arson should not be considered a small problem. By way of comparison, in 2019 there were 678 homicides in Canada while there were 8,190 arsons. In 2014 the national rate of arsons was 23.87 per 100,000 population. Nunavut had the lowest overall total of arsons, however, the highest rate of arson in the country, three times the national rate —at 87.47 per 100,000.  

From 2010-2014 there were 38,844 fire incidents in Canada, 19,062 structural fires while 5,071 were “outdoor fires”.

So it behooves us to ask where are the resulting arson related criminal charges? What is the status of all or any investigations? Who is conducting them? Who are these arsonists? 

Psychologist Joel Dvoskia Phd. states that “the truth is, very little is known about arsonists because so few arsons are solved”. He goes on to say that when they are solved “it is because the arsonist can’t keep his mouth shut”.  When asked to analyze the California wildfires where 600,000 hectares burned and 2,000 homes were lost, and where some of the root causes pertained to arson, the Dr. says that often the “most common reason is profit” but in that case “anger is the more likely explanation”.

In 1987 the FBI studied and tried to create a profile of the typical arsonist. What they discovered in reviewing hundreds of cases was that in terms of “behavioural IQ” the typical arsonist had a mental of IQ of between 70 and 90. Seventy of course is the top level for people who are considered mentally “challenged” or deficient. 90% of all arsonists are caucasian males (as if us white males needed any more listed deficiencies—we also have a claim on serial killers). In 2012 the FBI found that 73.8% of arsonists were male. 

Half of all the arsonists profiled were under the age of 18, and the other half were most likely to be in their 20’s. These future criminals were unsurprisingly often neglected as children and had a “history of abuse and humiliation”. 

In terms of the Criminal Code and the law in this country, arson is covered in Section 433 which defines arson— and it also gets honourable mention in the murder section 230, where arson is named as a possible lead in to the charge of murder. 

When one examines this definition of arson, one discovers one of the other possible reasons that the charges for it are minimal. It states that for a charge of arson there must be a “disregard for human life” and a charge of arson is when “any person intentionally or recklessly causes damage by fire”. The operable word in the latter explanation and the one that any defence lawyer will seize upon is “recklessly”. What is “reckless” ? Recently there was a report of a car travelling down the highway pulling a broken muffler and sparking flames enroute. Is this reckless?  If one could assume that the typical arsonist is below average intelligence, proving intent may in of itself be difficult. Undefined words such as these allows lawyers to go down the rabbit hole into that subterranean world where they work and thrive. 

It is possible to charge for an arson which has been created by a “marked departure from the standard of care”. This carries a maximum sentence of five years. Again, try and define “marked”. 

When you do see criminal charges of arson, as few and far between as they are, it is often the mental health act and the nature of the act forms part of a deeper psychological problem which is very much in evidence. Here are some examples. 

The Powerview RCMP responded to a fire on Hwy 11 on Sagkeeng First Nation where a 44 year old male, Quinton Courchene tried to burn a house down with two individuals inside. He was waiting at the scene of the fire when the police arrived. 

In July of this year in West Kelowna a 36 year old male was arrested after being located in the area for setting a series of fires. The local public became enraged when a local Judge released the male back into the Glenrosa neighbourhood shortly after his arrest.  

In Port Alberni the police arrested a female who was setting fires in the city parks. 

A woman in Bonnyville Alberta was charged with 32 counts of arson after a spree of setting fires in the area. In this case there is an abundance of mental health issues. 

In June of this year the Wetaskwin RCMP arrested three males: Linden Buffalo, Jake Green and Donovan Lightning, all were charged with murder and arson after the remains of Clifford Stauffer was found inside a structure that was burned to the ground. 

In checking the literature for the last ten years in terms of court cases and case law emanating from arson charges– none of those cited were found for the lighting and starting of wildfires. 

In consideration of all this clear arson activity, should one assume that the RCMP has a dedicated arson investigation unit? Unfortunately, like many specialized investigative demands,whether it be cyber crime or fraud, once again the RCMP seems to be playing the under-funded second fiddle, often reliant on other agencies to lead the way. 

If you needed further evidence of the haphazard approach the Mounties take to arson investigation, consider the fact that this writer was once considered one of the “arson” investigators for the Surrey RCMP. This was not a dedicated unit, it was just a few of Serious Crime officers who were to work arson cases off the side of their desk. The qualifications needed were two Arson level I and II courses; one of two weeks, the other of three weeks. No experience necessary. If you could type the word “accelerant” you likely passed the test. 

Arson investigation, even more so than homicide or other serious crimes is often  heavily reliant on “good old fashion police work”. It inevitably needs a witness. Forensic evidence is needed to prove that the fire was “started”; rags in gas, matches found at scene or some other difficult to find substance, but once that was achieved, little or no definitive evidence of who may have started the fire would be found through the use of forensic science. Fire is a magnificent eliminator of physical evidence, hence the reason that gangsters burn the car or getaway vehicle often with the weapons inside. 

One would hope and think that repetitive years of extensive wildfires would elicit further investigative resources for a serious crime such as arson. That does not seem to be the case. Granted the under resourcing of many departments is at an all time high. (You may be interested to know that currently the Hwy patrol units in the Lower Mainland do not have enough resources to attend accidents now, and are asking the local detachments to attend those on the freeways—normally their mandate.) This writer has learned from more than one source that the RCMP was quietly dreading a season of wildfires due to this drastic understaffing. Just covering the evacuation areas, let alone fire investigations, has become as one officer stated a “shit show”. 

A new wildfire started as I write this on the Osoyoos Reserve in British Columbia and is now threatening the surrounding area and leading to several evacuations. No one is reporting the cause of the fire.

Two lives were lost in Lytton, British Columbian but the authorities are saying very little about the cause other than it was “likely caused by human activity”.

If that was not enough, Catholic churches are burning around the country– in Morinville, Calgary and  Edmonton Alberta; Penticton, British Columbian and Nova Scotia. The motive seems clear. It is just as clear that there are likely numerous individuals who know of the suspects but are fearful of being outed by their own community.

This lack of investigational willpower and resources is clearly Nero fiddling while Rome burns. In the meantime, helicopters will keep buzzing the lakes, dragging their long lined buckets, seemingly making very little progress. So, just maybe it’s time to start asking a few questions, rather than year after year falling to our knees and praying for rain. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Some Rights Reserved

“Cake”

The officers of the RCMP just got handed a magnificent piece of “cake”. A surprising large slice of a pay raise, a 23% larger piece —albeit spread out in several layers to cover the period from 2017-2022. 

The Mounties have been salivating since 2017, as various municipal agencies boldly ate their cake right in front to them, licking the crumbs from their lips. Times have now changed, the involuntary Mountie patience paying off, the timing exquisite in terms of a possible Federal election. 

Now, the retroactive cheques alone, have them blowing out the candles and dancing in the aisles of Leikin Drive in Ottawa. The spending fairies now twerking in their stetson covered heads; a new boat, a new car, private schools for the kids. 

A young Constable or Corporal are about to get retroactive cheques in excess of $16,000; a Sargent in excess of $19,000;  and a S/Sgt in excess of $21,000. That is indeed mouth watering. 

According to some reports, the calculation of the settlement was based on a 1.5% annual salary increase and a “market adjustment of 1.5 to 2.5 % per year”. In average citizen terms, this market adjustment and new rate of pay was designed to move the RCMP into the top ten paid police forces in Canada. 

Mounties for years, and most recently the NPF have been lamenting their fall from the police “universe”, that comparative scale of other police agencies. They were below 100th place in the rankings, and now they are back in the top 10. A young constable by the year 2022 will now be making $106,576.83 per year. A S/Sgt  $138,463.95 per year. This will add $238 million to the annual RCMP payroll. Sick leave and benefits have not been touched. (The Mounties get unlimited sick leave currently)

All in all they have done very well in the current political climate that continues to spill over from the United States, those bleating cries for defunding and/or decreases in police funding. The negotiators for the union membership of the RCMP would have also been up against a tidal wave of bad news emanating from the Mounties. The last number of years have not been the best for the Mounties pride and reputation.  Daily allegations of assaults captured on video, cries of racism, cries of an unadaptable structure, mindless bureaucracy, ineffectiveness against white collar crime, unsolved homicides, all while burying their heads in their single-minded hunt for diversity and inclusion. The “defunders” would also be quick to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been paid out of Federal taxpayer dollars for the claims of sexual harassment within this once mighty organization.  

To be fully objective, one needs to put the size of this raise in perspective. In the most expensive city in Canada, Vancouver, the average “family” income is $96,423. The average “single” income in Vancouver is $50, 271.00.  Even before the pay increase the most junior Mountie was making more than the average single individual in Vancouver. The current single salary for the RCMP Mountie, with three years experience, will be greater than the combined family income in Vancouver. This is not including benefits and a more than generous sick leave provisions. 

However, this is not a debate as to whether the raise is warranted. Police salaries and the ratcheting up of those salaries has been going on and upwards for years. That is the crux of the issue which needs to be addressed in the near future. The police bargaining logic has always been the same. They have always pointed their organizational fingers at the Municipal groups, saying if they are entitled, we are entitled. Clearly it is a logic primarily found in government circles and does not often work in private industry but it has worked for policing. 

The cost of policing in general terms has been steadily increasing for many, many years and this blogger has previously written about the levels becoming precarious in terms of government budgets and the ability to afford policing as we currently envision it.  

So what goes into the bargaining process for policing? Usually the cost of living in a particular city or area, the danger element of the job ( let’s keep in mind that the operational side of the RCMP worked throughout the pandemic, and no one was throwing them any parades of appreciation). After those considerations things get a little stickier and much harder to measure, especially in the national scope and broadly structured RCMP with its myriad levels of function and administration, where there are hundreds of officers, if not thousands, for which this criteria would not apply. While operational officers worked through Covid, there were many officers “working from home” in Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal as an example.  

Productivity measurement in the RCMP, or any police force, is a tremendously difficult measurement. Number of arrests, type of area you are policing, number of cases you are handling, what measurement tool would you put in place? Some of those would be considered basic elements of police productivity, but they would have almost no bearing at all on other parts of the country and in the roles of the RCMP. 

Like all rising waters which floats all boats there are many officers benefiting greatly from this raise, who likely are not “operational” using the strict definition. In the RCMP there are thousands of officers in the 20,000 strong force who are in no danger whatsoever —other than tripping on their laptop cord on the way to the lunchroom. And therein lies the hitch—and what makes the RCMP unique. No matter what job you are doing in the RCMP, one salary fits all. 

Cost of living calculations is also difficult when considering the RCMP. Local police forces use as part of their negotiation the cost of living in their particular area. In the RCMP you can be living in Manitoba, Vancouver, or Gander Newfoundland. An officer working in Kingston Nova Scotia is getting the same wage as the person working in Vancouver or Toronto. Mounties in small town Canada are often some of the highest paid people in the town while in the more expensive cities they struggle. 

There are many RCMP officers who work hard, work long hours and often sacrifice their families for the greater good. And, it should be pointed out that you can work just as hard in a small rural community as a big city.  It would be difficult to argue that those officers don’t deserve to be in amongst the other police agencies in terms of salaries— especially if you want to keep recruitment levels equal or provide sufficient monetary compensation for a job where everyone feels that you are an easy target, including your own bosses. Whether they should be in the top 10 or the top 20 is a mugs game.   

There are layers to this raise though that have ominous overtones, which could alter policing as practised by the RCMP in this country and change the very face of policing. 

The vast majority of operational RCMP officers are working in “contract” provinces. The various Provinces have signed contracts with the Federal RCMP to police their jurisdictions and have been providing this service for decades running on twenty or twenty-five year contracts. 

The Province in turn, then downloads to the cities or small towns either 90% of the costs or 70% of the cost, depending on the population size. So the Federal government agrees to a settlement of enormous size, and then with sleight of hand they effectively download those costs to the Provinces— through these Provincial Police Service Agreements. 

The towns and cities can only raise money through property taxes, it is their only source of revenue. When the light goes on there will be some serious pushback and an outcry from the already financially strapped communities. No one is broadcasting the fact that in many areas of the Provinces the RCMP is simply not able to fulfil even its current contracts. 

During this negotiation phase, the RCMP has been telling the various Provincial bodies and municipalities that they should be budgeting for a 2.5 % per year raise. Whether some or all have done this remains to be seen. This raise amounts to 4% per year. 

The Alberta government has already stated that this increase in policing budget will have a direct impact on the discussions underway as to forming their own Provincial force. The RCMP’s biggest detachment Surrey, is already in the process of being lost to a municipal style police force. 

The Toronto Star recently did an article on the municipality of  St. Mary’s Nova Scotia, which pays 70% of the cost. The article was mourning the thought of the recent increase in the police budget of $19,000 which they were not anticipating. The monies they allowed for policing paid for 3.5 officers with an annual budget of $513,990.  This  allowed  for one officer for the day shift and one for the night shift. 

This was before this most recent pay increase. To now absorb this just announced increase the town will likely have to forfeit policing coverage, as it is now possible that they will not have enough funds to provide a single police car for a day or night shift. 

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has been warning their members of the upcoming raise and retroactive wages. They have told them to anticipate a 30% increase in Constables pay and a 15% increase in a first class constables wage. Have the cities and towns of B.C been listening? 

In the town of Oliver, B.C. Residents have faced recurring 9%property tax increases for the last number of years, and then when the population exceeded 5,000 residents, the town then found themselves on the hook for 70% of the policing costs. The current anticipated budget to maintain six officers in Oliver is $1.1 million with their increase in population, so to cover this the chief financial officer was anticipating another 14-15% increase in property taxes. This too does not anticipate the current pay raise

The NPF will begin boasting about their hard work soon in obtaining such an increase (and nobody can deny its a very large increase). The same NPF that spent the last year campaigning against the new Surrey Police Service as the Mounties were —“cheaper”. The NPF knew from the outset that the Mounties were going to get more expensive, so their campaign was at best duplicitous.  

This agreement reeks of a settlement that was designed to keep everyone happy. The Liberals felt the need to move the Mounties up regardless of the possible outcome for those in the municipal and Provincial trenches. That price will be paid later on, when people have forgotten and the Liberals are hoping to have been re-elected to a majority government. 

The alternative for the Provinces is that the free spending Trudeau and Freeland come riding in once again to dole out additional funds to re-imburse the very hard pressed Municipalities and rural areas.   

Otherwise, this may be the pay raise which generates police lay-offs. 

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprising, there is very little being reported in the media. The agreement has not been ratified as of yet, so it hasn’t been made “official”, but why write about the public security being threatened when instead you can report on the various ways to avoid sun exposure in a heat wave. 

Meanwhile the celebratory dance will continue in the detachment dance hall under that scraggly Buffalo head, and there is now plenty of cake to go around.  Pre-retirement aging Mounties have even found their dancing legs, and will decide to stay in for awhile, to get the old “best five” in terms of salary leading to pension. That could be good or bad.

For the most part we should be happy for those hard working Mounties, but we should not lose sight of the fact that there is always a cost to unbridled largesse. There will be fundamental policing changes in small towns and cities throughout this country. The once “cheaper” Mounties are no longer a bargain which may stir up political dreams of an independent and more accountable police force. 

The RCMP executive for the time being has gone deep, running silent, not wishing to rock the boat as the executives themselves now can enter their own negotiations for a pay raise, “ratcheting up” on the unionized contract. Commissioner Lucki did say this was a “monumental day for the RCMP”. 

But, as the taxpayers begin to pay more, for less and less policing services— this pay raise will not likely be quite as comfortable for management, or quite as defensible to the Canadian public.   

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons – Stephanie Chapman – Some Rights Reserved

Darkening Clouds

There is a storm brewing on the East coast of this country, but unlike the usual storms that gather over the Atlantic and then spiral into the rugged coastline with pounding rain and high winds— this is a political storm –but of potentially equal force and potential damage. It is a perfect storm of deceit and ineptitude, the clouds having been salted by the senior ranks of  the RCMP.  

The eye of this metaphorical storm is over the normally quaint and rural Portapique area of Nova Scotia; now a place in time grounded in infamy as being the centre for the biggest massacre in Canadian history. Twenty-two persons murdered, gunned down, their houses burning around them. All of it seemingly non-sensical, but at the same time carried out with a deliberation characteristic of all mad men. A gun wielding, police obsessed, denturist. Charlie Manson with a banal Canadian  twist. 

The questioning residents of Portapique have since the beginning of that long night in April have been desperate in their need to understand, both on a personal level and on an organizational response level. Their aggravation continues to mount as to the process now underway designed to provide those answers— is failing them. 

The RCMP and the Commission designed to investigate have now become front page headlines in their own right. Lawsuits have been launched against the RCMP by the victim families and despite this raised sensitivity, the Mounties have now managed to put more fuel on the fire of a possible cover-up. 

The response to the 911 calls during the night of April 18, 2020 would and probably should  always be a matter of after the fact examination. No matter how prepared or unprepared any responding agency may have been, the night of terror was clearly unprecedented in scope and human toll. A thorough and concise examination of the response should be undertaken, as painful as that may be, because it is only from that can one learn. Any hope for soothing of the now pointed and partially warranted anger is by necessity predicated on the truth being revealed. Even if that truth hints of negligence. 

With a cursory viewing of the public information now available, there is almost no doubt that the response by the police that night was flawed— whether it be by police action or police inaction, albeit in extremely trying circumstances. So we should expect in any review, to hear the usual combination of malfunctions that are obvious to even the most casual observer in this current RCMP world: inexperienced police officers, a shortage of manpower, miscommunication, and a lack of supervision . 

It is equally likely that hiding behind those officers on the ground and their eventual testimony, will be the RCMP senior executive, likely claiming that the fog of communication hindered them in their duties. 

Sixteen homes and vehicles ablaze, distorted bodies strewn on driveways, scenes that would befit the darkest recesses of a Tolkien novel. The sensory overload of graphic and gruesome detail will form part of the explanation and this will engender some understanding of what the officers were facing. 

Those that have now been assigned to review that night’s operational decisions which were made in minutes and sometimes seconds will be given the luxury of hindsight, after poring over documents in excruciating detail and reviewing and re-reviewing audio. They will then likely pronounce that the police should have gone left not right, that they should have foreseen what was unseeable in the moment. Undoubtedly, they will recommend further training. 

There are two primary and signifigant areas of concern in terms of the response by the RCMP. One is encapsulated in  the history of Gabriel Wortman, the perpetrator who spent years building up an arsenal of guns, imitation police cars and police uniforms. 

Mr. Wortman was convicted in 2002 of assault. In 2010, he was investigated for threatening his parents, who who in turn told the police of his gun collection and advised them of his desire to kill a cop. In 2011 Truro police forwarded a report on the “tip” they had about Wortman, which prompted a visit by the RCMP but no further action. 

In 2013, the most damning information was provided. A couple of retired ex-military personnel got to know Wortman who showed them his illegal weapons and was seeking assistance from them to obtain more. They were also aware of his abusive relationship with his girlfriend. They reported it to the police, who told them they would “check on it”…and then added that there was “probably nothing we can do”. 

Did the police “write off” the files rather than conducting a full and complete investigation? If they did, the real squirming will begin then and any explanation will likely be completely unsatisfactory to anyone listening.

The second area of major concern which has already caught the public attention in full glare is the fact that no warning was disseminated through any in place public warning system, in particular one which could have gone out over everyone’s cellphones. Instead the RCMP “tweeted” 10 times throughout the night and they have already stated relied on local media to pick up their “tweets”. In addition, the information they provided was sparse and only hinted at a “firearms” complaint. Would a better warning system saved lives? No one will ever know for sure. 

The seemingly always defensive senior Mounties of Nova Scotia have been maintaining that they did not have enough satisfactory information on the suspect until the next morning, long after many people had lost their lives. 

Well, guess what? They were lying and have now been proven to be lying. The small satirical magazine operating in the Atlantic area “Frank” magazine, in a report by Paul Palango, has managed to obtain three 911 calls from that evening where the RCMP was told that the suspect was  a “denturist” in the area, that he was “driving a police car” and they provided his name. Two of the three 911 callers were minutes later killed. The third caller was a 12 year old boy, who survived. His call is gut wrenching but he was in control, some say better than the dispatcher who handled the call.

It would be 8 hours later that the RCMP would finally identify the suspect Wortman by name and that he was driving an imitation police car. 

When the story in Frank magazine began to surface the RCMP doubled down —saying that they didn’t have “enough” information to make an announcement.

Frank magazine being a small player and having “scooped” all the major media outlets in Canada, knew that they would be questioned as to the leak authenticity; so they actually produced the 911 tapes, in all their gruesome detail. All the major media outlets, their noses clearly out of joint on this scoop, criticized Frank for publishing the audio calls, none initially went after the fact that it was proving that the RCMP had been lying throughout. 

With no escape possible now from their story what did the H Division RCMP do? They actually sent out an internal memo to the members of their Division that they should “refrain” from “reviewing the article or its recordings as they are sensitive and could be triggering”. They were in the process of “actioning wellness resources” for all those Mounties who now have been exposed to hearing the tapes. 

It gets worse, Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman in charge of H Division, issued a statement that they will be “investigating the source of the recordings” and any “related offences” that “may have occurred  with respect to unauthorized release, possession and subsequent publishing”.  The reporter Paul Palango is no novice, as he is a former reporter for the Globe and Mail and MacLeans magazine. It is likely that he will be prepared for this shoot the messenger attitude of the RCMP. 

So that we understand fully. Faced with their lies, the RCMP reaction is to give the H Division members a group hug –and then vow to go after the reporter and his source.  

Along comes the illustrious Mass Casualty Commission. (Its very name should give you a hint where the focus of this Commission is aimed) condemned the media report by Frank magazine because of the damage it would do to the victims. Again, no mention of what the story was actually exposing. 

This Commission has been tainted from the start. Originally the Nova Scotia Justice Minister, Mark Furey, a former RCMP officer, wanted to have an “Independent Panel Review”. After a public outcry by the families of the victims there was  a reluctant agreement to form a joint Federal Provincial public inquiry. 

The Commission is headed by former Supreme Court Justice J. Michael MacDonald, and he is joined by seven women Commissioners. The head of “investigations” is Barbara McLean a former deputy with Toronto Police Service who has been lauded by theToronto Police Service for her “significant outreach to the LGBTQ community”.  The other Commissioners are in charge of things like Mental Health and Community outreach. 

If you lean to any kind of conspiracy theories, it would be very easy to argue that the overall aim of this Commission and the RCMP is to thwart any raw truth telling. This group seems designed to focus on the victims, the laying of wreaths and apologies, not on the suspect and the police response. After all, according to H Division, all the cops are victims too. 

This Commission is not due to report until November 2022, again, maybe by design, it will likely be after any  Federal Election and Portapique is a fading memory in this limited attention span nation. 

Wait, there is more,. 

There is little doubt that there is a couple of genes missing in the DNA of those anointed as white -shirted Mounties. In their lifelong pursuit of patronage and “double dipping” retirement opportunities they have become blind to possible conflicts of interest which may arise from it. It comes of course, from never having to answer to or be measured by outcome.

So now, they find themselves once again in front of the media scrambling to answer how the spouses of RCMP H Division Commanding Officer Lee Bergerman, and Halifax RCMP Commander Janis Grey are working for the RCMP— and had been now seconded to the Commission as investigators. Bergerman and Grey are two senior officers who will likely be front and centre for accountability in the Portapique incident. By their relationships they will have insider knowledge of anything coming out of the Commission investigation. 

Bergerman’s husband, is once retired Mike Butcher, who follows Bergerman to Halifax, nicely gets hired into a contract for the RCMP, and then they assign him to assist with the Commission.

Janis Grey’s husband is C/Supt John Robin. You remember him, he was in charge of IHIT, when  the Surrey Six file was in full swing. It was under his leadership that officers Attew and Brassington were allowed to party and have sexual relationships in Montreal with the gangster girlfriends. Well Mr. Robin shortly thereafter left IHIT, arrived in Ottawa with his wife Grey and then followed her to her last promotion to in charge of Halifax RCMP. He too was then seconded to the Commission. 

All these officers mentioned are known to this writer. It is difficult for me personally to find fault with their credibility as investigators or their capabilities, but they are missing that vital gene which most people have. They are so wrapped in the RCMP sense of entitlement and have been recipients of the RCMP largesse for so long that they can’t even see the problem. 

All of these officers, if they wish to retain an ounce of credibility should step aside or take a leave of absence until this Commission is underway and completes its work. Their very presence and their actions to date demands that they try and restore this inquiry to some level of credibility. They owe it to the survivors and their families. 

Meanwhile the RCMP and Ottawa will try to weather the  heavily buffeting of the narrative which will be coming from the commission witnesses. They will ask for forgiveness. They will claim that they will and can do better. They will also claim that they have already implemented the recommendations of the eventual report. 

The RCMP have become professional apostles of apology and proponents of the theory that everyone is a victim– even them.

They will in the end have to paper over the pending lawsuits with non-disclosure agreements and cash.  Avoid further scrutiny but keep telling the victims that they mourn for their loss. 

The biggest casualty for the Mass Casualty Commission, in the end, may be the actual truth about what happened. 

Photo Courtesy of Flckr Commons by Groupka -Some Rights Reserved

A Difficult Story

 The “discovery” of the children’s bodies found on the property of the Tk’emlups te Secwopmc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C  has captured the attention and the hearts of Canada.

This residential school operated from the 1890’s to the 1960’s and now in 2021 pronouncements are circling the globe claiming a “discovered” “mass grave”, where the bodies of two hundred and fifteen children have been interred. The clear and intended implication was that the bodies were  hidden purposefully to avoid criminal responsibility. The discovery with the use of ground radar, was now held up as “proof” of the “genocide” of the Indigenous perpetrated by the government of Canada, the Catholic church, and the often not-mentioned Protestant religious groups.  

It is an event or story which leaves even those some distance from the issue, affected, wordless, searching for things to say, or at least some sort of explanation. The death of any child, society’s innocents, layers us in emotion and draws up unstoppable grief. As some anonymous person said, “losing a child is like losing your breath… and never getting it back”. It is routinely described as unimaginable and easily overwhelming. It is a difficult story, but there is a problem— it is not totally accurate. 

It seems that we have reached a state of affairs in this country where one must question almost all that is being written or reported in the main stream media. It is becoming painfully apparent that almost everyone has an agenda, whether it be political, or social, and, it is permanently warping our ability to trust. Context is almost always missing. Instead, we are being fed polar views delivered by the loudest insistent voices of there being only one truth. In this case, there is the immediate gush of fury, followed by outlandish statements and demands for retribution. There is a palpable governmental and corporate fear of being on the wrong side of any issue and the  factual information is lost in the rush to judgement. 

By putting the deaths of children in “grisly” and “shocking” terms, the headlines wrote themselves. All who may have been directly or indirectly involved are immediately identified and placed on the wrong side of the  blame spectrum; accusing fingers pointing at the presumed guilty, the stain of that guilt never to be removed. History has shown us many times that this quick need to assign fault, the ignoring of rational alternative records, has not served us well, nevertheless we rarely learn. 

To ask questions, to examine the record, of that which is being portrayed in this residential school story, risks insulting the mainstream. Alternate stories are guaranteed to offend almost all who only see black and white. Be forewarned, I am about to offend those of you who only think in straight lines. That rationale that it has been said therefore it is true. Reality is that almost always the facts are found in various shades of grey. Often, a single one-sided glance can be deceptive. 

These deaths are difficult to process, but it was equally dismaying to see the commentary on the news; the reporting of the deaths as a “genocide” a “crime scene” of unequalled proportions all of which reverberated through the radio, television and print media.  Children “stolen” from their homes and culture. The media in its various forms showing no compunction in knowingly feeding the fire of outrage. The oft repeated story portrayed intrepid searchers stumbling across the evidence of heinous crimes. An unmarked grave site, where children were buried in anonymity. Predictably, politicians of every stripe, climbed on board the indignation train, innuendo solely fed by untested claims of criminality. 

Jagmeet Singh, the Federal leader of the NDP, dramatically, breathlessly, and tearfully, literally unable to speak. The Liberal Apology Party, having apologized several times before, to no avail,  are now demanding apologies from the Vatican— a political sleight of hand designed to make you look the other way. The wokes scurrying around the country trying to hide the statues of Sir John A., the now damned originator of residential schools. 

The purpose of this post is not to examine the policy of the residential schools. Was it an attempt by colonists to wipe out the Indigenous culture, or on the other hand was it an effort to assimilate and educate? The answer is likely somewhere in the middle. The current accepted view was that it was a misguided policy at the very best and it is likely equally clear that many of those involved in the early years were unconcerned at the time with preserving the “culture” of the First Nations. That is a never ending circular debate. The purpose of this post is to merely examine what the evidence actually shows up to this point in time. 

The early reports of the findings by the use of “ground radar” gave one the impression of it being an unexpected  “grisly discovery”. Grisly yes, but it was not a “discovery”. 

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in examining residential schools identified the names of, or information about, more than 4100 children who died of the 150,000 children (some estimates are lower at 3200 children). That represents a fatality rate of 2.7%, or if one accepts the lower rate, 2.13%. 

In 1950, in Canada, the infant mortality rate was 2.92%. A higher death rate nationally than in the residential schools. 

That aside, that children were dying in saddening numbers in the years of the residential schools is a fact. However, the biggest killer in 1900 was pneumonia and influenza and those two illnesses alone recorded 202 deaths per 100,000 people in Canada. There were other killer diseases lurking: smallpox, typhus, cholera, yellow fever, and tuberculosis. TB by itself was widespread in children after WWI.  It was also deadlier, as it was slow to recognize, as it affected the glands, bones and joints rather than the lungs. Those children that contracted tuberculosis had a very low survival rate. So this is being reported as a “genocide” when to date, there has been no evidence of anyone being purposefully killed. 

The second question was why were they then placed in unmarked graves on the property? Was this an attempt to hide wrong doing? There is a simpler but yet unpalatable answer. The cost of returning the bodies to the families was prohibitive during those austere times. That has been documented. Secondly, record keeping in those times both on the Reserves and by the Church were spotty at best and often totally absent. Many children had only their assigned names and a guess as to their true age.

So the children were by necessity, dictated by the times, buried on the property. The fact that the children were buried on the sites of the residential schools throughout the country— some in unmarked graves, others in marked graves, has been known for a very long time. 

The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement had already recognized that there were 139 residential schools across the country. (These are only those that received Federal support, there were others run solely by religious orders or provincial governments).  An undertaking to return the bodies to the families would be, even to this day,  a logistical nightmare.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 in releasing their report even included a section on missing children and burial grounds. They recommended 94 calls to action. One of those calls was for the the Federal government to work with churches, indigenous communities, and former students “to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children”. 

So two years ago, in the 2019 budget the Liberal Federal government allocated $32 million to implement the burial recommendations. There is still $27 million left. Now, Mr. Trudeau says the government is leaping into action and is going to distribute the money “on an urgent basis”.  These graves were not uncovered and fully documented sooner for a simple reason—government and Indigenous bureaucratic inefficiency. We should also keep in mind that the Provincial government paid for the examination of the the Kamloops residential school site. This clearly was not a cover up. 

There is the additional claim running rampant as part of the cover up theory— that the Catholic Church and the Federal government is withholding records from the schools. 

In fact, the Federal government did indeed destroy documents related to the residential “school system between 1936 and 1944, including 200,000 Indian Affairs files”. Were the records destroyed as a result of a governmental cover-up, or were they destroyed as a matter of routine?  Government records often run on a twenty-five or fifty year timeline. One could presume that death records of any kind should never be destroyed, but that is a separate issue. 

In the early times of the residential schools, accurate record keeping was in short supply. Children were coming in from Indigenous communities where there were often no records of births or deaths, that was the custom. The schools upon receiving these children, were also seemingly sparse with their documentation when compared to standards of the  21st century. Also contrary to the current reporting, in fact, records at the Kamloops residential school have already been provided. It showed only fifty one deaths compared to the two hundred and fifteen, but is that the result of poor  and absent record keeping, or was it a conspiracy to only reveal some of them? 

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the academic director at the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia, stated that the records from the Kamloops residential school had not been provided to the Truth and Reconciliation group. However, she admits that the “churches handed over most residential school records, but in a few cases, the narratives were withheld, notably at Kamloops and St Annes (in Ontario)” So the Church records, like the children’s bodies were and are hiding in plain sight. The fact that no one has acted on them is probably the story that should be pursued.  

The final question is whether or not this is a site where there is evidence of criminal activity.  Is it as NDP MP Leah Gazan says, that all the residential schools are the sites of “active crime scenes”?

Well no, they are not crime scenes, because crime scenes need to have evidence or confirmation of wrong doing. Now some may argue that the stories told by the Indigenous “survivors”, is evidence enough of criminality. In recent years we seem to have taken the approach that allegations standing by themselves are sufficient evidence of wrong doing. As any homicide investigator will tell you, that is an untenable position.

Little is yet known as to the condition of the bodies. Ground radar (actually it works like sonar) shows very little, other than shapes in the ground. The exhumation of the bodies and subsequent pathology could possibly show evidence of assault, or lead to estimations of causes of death, but to pronounce it so, so early in the investigation is unprincipled. 

Was there wrongdoing at the schools in the form of physical abuse or sexual deviance? Lets ask the current Armed Forces or the RCMP whether its possible that their organizations have been open to abuse and sexual assaults over the last number of years? Would we think the Catholic churches any different?  It would seem impossible that the Catholic church, whose wrongdoings have been hauntingly exposed during the last several years around the world, would not be guilty of some criminal offences over such a lengthy span of time. However, the evidence in the burial site will not likely aid that level or type of investigation.  

Even if  one is to assume that this was in fact a crime scene, then it should be suggested that the RCMP do more than “offer its full support” to the First Nations who are now in attendance and overseeing the “crime scene”.  A crime scene by the way, which will now be forever tainted in the event something is discovered amongst the bodies. The RCMP, if they believe that this is a possible crime scene, should be taking charge and control of the scene if that were the case. Instead, the Minister Bill Blair says the RCMP continues to go forward with its “work towards reconciliation”

Mr. Blair also apologizes for the RCMP having performed according to the law and carried out the “clear and unavoidable role”.  He is late to that apology, probably confused, because Commissioner Zaccardelli apologized in 2004, and then Commissioner Paulson apologized in 2014. 

Despite all these inconsistencies, the fallout damage in the reporting on the residential school  is now done. The political gains that the Indigenous movement hoped to engender have been cemented. The world is now believing that Canadian history includes the genocide of their Indigenous population. 

Now, of course, when pressed on the word “genocide” the spokespersons are falling  back to the more acceptable argument of  “cultural genocide. And, only yesterday an Indigenous spokesperson walked backed away from the “mass grave” description and now clarifies the record to say that they were actually “individual” un-marked grave sites. 

The Perry Bellegarde’s of the Indigenous movement will now proffer up the discoveries as a lever to aid in the battle to get passed– the recently introduced Liberal legislation Bill C-15— the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples Act. Who would dare to question the bill, while expressing their overwhelming guilt in the treatment of the Indigenous. There is a valid argument that this future Act could give the Indigenous possible veto power over the economic development of Canada. One would have to be incredibly naive to think for a moment that this point has been lost on the Indigenous leadership in Canada. 

In the next few months,  monies will be provided for further examination of marked and un-marked grave sites throughout the country, a process which could take years and years of painstaking “investigation”. The Mounties will no doubt dutifully continue to “standby” and “provide support”.  Commissioner Lucki will be the lead social worker.  

The Indigenous can and will be encouraged by the media to continue to narrate the verbal claims of abuse and “incarceration” at the schools. The dominant reported narrative, like the one surrounding the Indigenous Missing Women’s task force, will remain by its very origin, clearly slanted. The masses will be satiated with apologies or flowered monuments. The truth will have to surface on another day and in another time. 

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Mark Miller will continue to ask the Pope for an apology as there preferred policy option. It is interesting to note that Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto of the Catholic Church, said that he felt Trudeau’s comments were “unhelpful” and “not based on real facts”.  Amen to that. 

That truth is that children were removed from often desperate situations and sent to sparse boarding schools during a time of disease and illness— ailments from which this country could not protect them; run by religious groups who brought with them there own inherent dysfunctions. This is a difficult story, but up to this point in time, only a partial story. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons by GotoVan – Some rights Reserved

Going Gently into the Homicide Night…

On the now widely circulated dash cam footage, on a clear sunny day near the Vancouver International Airport, a black Honda Pilot flies through an intersection, a witness recording the chase excitedly exclaiming that there was a shot fired. A few seconds later, the police car slowly drifts up into the camera angle, to the same intersection, slowly coasting to a stop. A fitting metaphor to the ponderous decline of the abilities of new age policing. The gentler, kinder, softer police up against a rash of gang related homicides which are now plaguing the lower mainland of British Columbia.   

As maddening as it was to watch a police officer give up on a pursuit of these brazen suspects, who had a few seconds before, emptied a clip into Karman Grewal— no apparent inner rage on the part of the officer at having been shot at— it was even more frustrating to watch the spin of the executives of the police brass as they scramble to make the old failed attempts at gang intervention and containment look new. 

One should disregard the ridiculous often asinine media commentary of the last number of days with their simplistic pronouncements and their exclamations of how the police need to do more. The police executive are 21st century conditioned now though, to  always respond to the media inanities, no matter how futile the exercise, while at the same time only capable of trotting out the usual 20th century bromides.  

Spokesperson for the responding Integrated Homicide Team Sgt Frank Jang, in a presser at the Airport, implores those misunderstood gangsters to “Please don’t kill one another”.  In feigned disbelief he laments and states the obvious, that these incorrigibles “are putting us all in jeopardy”. 

Other police responses are equally predictable. “More visible police presence” exclaims the new CFSEU head, Assistant Commissioner Manny Mann, who explains that there are “more gangs than there were 11 years ago” . Don’t fret he says, they are going to counter with ”intelligence led policing”.  

Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, now head of Federal, Investigative Services and Organized Crime (FISOC) assures the public that the police are “working around the clock” to solve the 10 shootings since April. 

Solicitor General Mike Farnsworth had a meeting with all the LMD police executives wherein they “share their collected and unified strategies”. Assuring all that will listen, that there was an “intelligence led enforcement under way” and that they were engaged in “proactive enforcement”. This is followed by the obligatory “your safety is our number one priority”. The subsequent police press release from this meeting signed by all the Chiefs assured us that they will “not waver in our relentless pursuit to prevent, suppress and investigate”. (They should have sent that memo to the police officer in Richmond— at least the part about the relentless pursuit.) 

Over the last number of years as policing transitioned to social work, there was the singular  solution to this mess. Sociological bandages all coming from a friendlier, more understanding and diverse police departments, all playing on the theme of prevention. The need to stop these kids from entering the gangs in the first place was the stated belief. 

“Stop Now and Plan” (SNAP), “Multi-Agency School Support Team” (MAAST-Calgary), “Wraparound”, then “High Fidelity Wraparound” which was “a complex, multi-faceted intervention strategy aimed at youth crime and gang prevention”. “Youth at Risk Development” (YARD- Calgary) “Positive Attention to Youth Gangs” (PAYG), “Regina Anti-Gang Services Project” (RAGS). And in Abbotsford in 2013 the “In it Together” campaign.  

The latest academic treatise which has been making the rounds;  the Irving Spergel Comprehensive Gang Prevention Model (Dr. Spergel is from the University of Chicago). 

None of the above programs could ever be proven to be effective, so they proffer up anecdotal evidence of a young person turning the corner. It should be considered  irrelevant to the gang homicide discussion. No program ever admits defeat however, but if they do it is almost always blamed on a lack of funding or “limited police capacity”. By the way Sgt Jang is now asking parents to report on their kids which is probably not in the spirit of the afore mentioned programs. 

Other most recent solutions include the Vancouver City Police have putting out a poster with several persons they describe as being at “risk”, people you shouldn’t be around. Presumably these are aimed at people who already hang around the chain wearing Mercedes driving bad guys, directing them to run the other way and maybe call CrimeStoppers and see if you can get a reward for their efforts. One has to also wonder the criteria for selection for this recent imitation of a wild west “Wanted” poster, but you can be rest assured that the individuals chosen will see this as a medal and not a blemish on their budding Scarface careers. 

The Delta PD, for their part have recently introduced an “interdiction” team, rather than a target team. When in doubt, change the name. 

The National Police Federation in one of the silliest statements during this time, is urging the new Surrey Police Force to stop recruiting from the other departments as it is hurting in their gang fight. (This is the same NPF who has argued for the last number of months that no one is leaving the RCMP to go to this new outfit)

In 2014 CFSEU was bragging about how their hard work had led to a reduction in gang homicide. So in 2021 should we conclude that they haven’t been working as hard?  Of course not, there are a lot of hard working, albeit frustrated officers running from pillar to post, trying to patch a case together despite all the significant hurdles. 

If one wants to seriously counter some of the gang violence and I am not sure they do, then you must look at and dissect the issues that are impairing the police at this time. 

There are three parts to every homicide, gang related or not. There is the finding and arrest of the suspect;  putting the case together to get charge approval; and, finally leading it through the Courts. 

Unfortunately, while policing has been strapping on body cams to defend against all arrests being racist, these three stages have developed significant barriers to combatting gang related violence. These hurdles have been growing for a number of years in size and scope and this sorry state of affairs has been brought about by senior police managers, the Crown and the Judicial court system. 

Almost all gang related homicides are solved on two fronts. Simply put, by uniform officers working in the patrol cars— and by informants. “Intelligence led policing” would be in a very distant third place. Any significant gang arrests over the years, have been brought about by attentive policing on the street level and by gangsters turning on themselves. 

So to significantly combat the gangs, more uniform officers are needed and they need to be fully supported. They need to be engaged in pro-active checks, confident in their grounds and support of their supervisors and managers. They need to once again gain control “of the streets”  to the point where the gangsters are fearful of being checked with a gun in the car or breaching their probation and parole curfews. This has to be accompanied by a strong physical presence.The managers like to talk about “boots on the ground” however nowhere has there been a re-structuring of the organizations to insure the uniform officer contingent is the most valued, the best staffed, and where one goes to earn those promotions. 

The need for informants. This blog has written previously about the need for “rats” so there is no need to go into it deeper at this time. But the use of informants has to be both condoned and emphasized a practise which has fallen into disrepair in this social worker age. It needs to be re-instated. Funds have to be made available for agents, rewards, and re-location. Most importantly the reporting process for this has to be heavily redacted and stream lined. The RCMP is the biggest offender in this regard and have literally through bureaucratic oversight killed (pardon the pun) the use of paid informants. 

Once the culprits are arrested, you are only part way there. To state it the most simply, Crown needs to come back to the charge approval of “beyond a reasonable doubt”and away from beyond absolute doubt which they seem to have adopted in the last number of years.

This goes hand and glove with the need to address the problems of “disclosure”. In layman’s terms, disclosure is the need for full and frank exposure of all relevant investigative material to the courts and the defence. The police and the Crown have been erring on the side of caution over the last number of years interpreting relevant to mean “all” investigative material and this in combination of digital record keeping have seen files grow in size from a couple of hundred pages to averaging over five thousand pages. It has even morphed into the warrant applications where at one time they were a few pages long to now look they were written by Tolstoy. All of it is time consuming, manpower heavy, and the vast majority of the information produced of no probative value. Cases have become so heavy in terms of disclosure that they have become mired in a state of suspension, never going forward in a timely way and running headlong into the Jordan decision, which requires timely Court proceedings. 

Finally there is a BC Court system, a court system, which has still failed to recognize that the Hells Angels are a criminal organization. 

Lets face it, B.C. is Canada’s version of California, a society highly tolerant of criminal and predatory behaviour.  The billion dollar drug industry and all the violence that comes with it is virtually ignored in this part of the country and this is simply the payback. 

Drugs are the root of the gang wars, control of the turf paramount to their money and stature. The B.C. Government continues to  turn a blind eye, whether it be drugs, the laundering of monies or the street crime on the downtown Eastside. It’s the three pillar approach the social workers and the welfare infrastructure exclaims and points to as the solution.  If any of this is to change the Judges need to be governed by the protection of the public not the welfare of the suspect. In this new age of “defunding the police” this may be the most difficult wall to climb. 

As those inside the system know, the amount of change that is needed is indeed staggering, requiring all levels of government to come together and make real court tested changes. There is a need for strong and formidable police leadership. Advancement of one’s career in policing is now attached to the ability to appease, to talk the talk of diversity and inclusion not the usurping of criminal behaviour. The police executives seem content to absorb themselves in the spin to the public, promoted by keeping the public satisfied, even if it means lying to them. 

The BC government has no problem, in this time of Covid, of directing police resources and breaching the Charter rights, to check for people going camping. A rather laughable effort to stem virus transmission, but have shown no interest in a concerted effort against the gangsters who have been recently opening fire on outside dining spots. 

The officers of IHIT and other homicide agencies are spinning their wheels, albeit making a lot of money doing it, as overtime is driving file costs in the neighbourhood of half a million dollars per file. There are 400 officers in CFSEU, 100 plus officers in IHIT, now being out gunned by teenage hoodie wearing gangsters with under nourished intelligence. It’s frustrating to them and it’s frustrating to the general public.  Prof Gordon of Simon Fraser University, never one to dodge the cameras, when asked when the gangster war will ease said, “probably when they run out of targets”. 

Unfortunately, he’s probably right. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Mika ___ Some Rights Reserved

Rolling the Dice in a Homicide

It was May 2011 when Samandeep Singh Gill, likely with a gangster strut, got involved in a “road rage”altercation and a “fender bender” quickly turned into a cold blooded killing. Gill (allegedly of course) shot the other driver Manbir Singh Kajla several times and Kajla died at the scene. For good measure Gill also shot at Kajla’s newly wed wife, Pavan, before disappearing.

Seven long years later, after IHIT had turned the file over to the Unsolved Homicide Unit in 2016, Gill was finally charged in 2018 with 2nd degree murder and attempted murder. Since the arrest and up to the time of the trial in 2021, Gill was simmering away in jail. The Court did not feel this gun toting Mr. Gill was safe to be allowed out to await his trial.  

However, in March 2021 it all went sideways for the police and the Crown when the presiding Justice of the Supreme Court ruled that the Integrated Homicide Team had engaged in a “systemic, flagrant disregard” for the law, and were “at best wilfully blind” to  this “egregious” behaviour,“. What had been exposed he stated was a long standing policy of “deliberate non-compliance” with the law. With these words Justice David Masuhara of the  Supreme Court then turned to the accused killer and told him he could go home; a free man. 

A good day for Mr. Gill and a horrendous day for the family of Kajla. A catch and release for IHIT and the Unsolved Homicide Team after many years of investigation. Furthermore, there was also the grim prospect that this ruling would ripple through to other cases —especially those which had been brought forward between 2007 and 2014.

The allegations of the Justice, applauded by defence counsel, were indeed troubling. However, as one read the blaring headlines, there was a tenor to the pronouncement which didn’t resonate with those of us that had worked in this field of death investigation. Really, a policy to break the law? Fracturing the law was possible, but how could one be so stupid as to make policy around it.The allegation seemed illogical. 

The answer on further review turns out to be much more understandable; albeit still wrong, but worthy of an explanation. 

The knee jerk furor of the media aside and ignoring the autonomic NDP political damage control that quickly ensued, what kick-started the panic was a low profile, somewhat innocuous section of the Criminal Code –Section 490. Twenty pages of fine print in Martin’s Criminal Code which deals with the subject matter of   “Detention of Things Seized”.  

For greater clarity, the portion in specific contention is section 490(2) which says that “Nothing shall be detained under the authority of paragraph 1 (b) for a period of more than three months after the day of seizure, or any longer period that ends when an application made… unless a justice, on the making of a summary application to him after three clear days…notice thereof to the person from whom the thing is seized, is satisfied…that its further detention is  warranted”.  

In laymen’s terms, when the police seize anything as evidence, usually under warrant, the police can hang on to the items for three months but if they wish to hold it longer they need to apply to the courts to do so. Sounds simple, but it is not. This is in fact a highly burdensome section. Arguably a largely administrative procedure which involves contacting all those from whom the items were seized,  notifying them individually of the future court proceedings where the police would be arguing to extend the exhibit(s) detention.  

But, imagine a case where there are 1200 seized exhibits (the Surrey 6 file as an example) , or a drug conspiracy case with hundreds of exhibits. Imagine an investigation taking a few years, where every 3 month period requires a court application and then you begin to see the problem. To continually comply with this section over forty cases (IHIT average) in one year alone, an army of additional officers would be needed on a full time basis.  Without doubt it is the law but it is equally largely unworkable. Remember that the law never caters or entertains an argument wherein the police or the Crown say something requires further manpower or resources.  It is a police resourcing problem they would rationalize, not a law problem. 

IHIT in this case, and apparently in several others, during the years 2007 to 2014  never complied with this Section. In fact, the Justice goes further and says that IHIT  had an actual  “policy” to contravene the Criminal Code. A written policy to intentionally break the law despite their having been legally counselled on many occasions not to do so.  

The explanation of this being “policy” is also a little more textured. 

To fully understand one must travel back in time to 2007; it was what was going on in 2007 that created the problem for the 2011 case, which was discovered in the trial of 2021.   

2007 was part of the golden era for homicide investigation. It was an atmosphere of smoke filled rooms, drinking, dark humour, and inappropriate jokes on a regular basis. It was the Mad Men years. The pace was often frenetic, demanding hours at the cost of family or relationships. But, it was good, a lifestyle choice rather than a career choice. For some reason, it also worked, with a  solvency rate that brushed against 78% in those early years, while only consisting of four teams of eight investigators.

It was also a time where the officers of early IHIT were experienced and were thus comfortable working on the high wire of the law. There was no principled argument against bending or stretching the law to meet some investigative need. Bending and not breaking was in fact the learned art. 

The Criminal Code was the only policy and guide. Crown prosecutors were trusted mentors. There were no homicide pamphlets, nor did anyone turn to an “operational manual” for any kind of guidance. Just a group of head scratching cops with a tendency to not believe anyone, trust no one, and often used a strong epithet to counter a learned argument, a disgruntled grunt serving as  a yes or no. 

Court was the stage, it was part of the game. Best player wins.  It was a small, compact and familiar group— there were the cops who investigated the murders, the Crown lawyers who prosecuted and the defence counsel who represented the “pieces of shit”.  A grudging but mutual respect built up over years.  

In 2007,  Sgt Al Ross headed one of the four IHIT investigational teams.  During a routine conversation with a  Justice of the Peace, it was pointed out to him that many officers were not complying with the provisions of Section 490, and they (the police)  needed to address the matter. Sgt Ross took it upon himself to try and find a solution to this problem; all while remaining fully aware of the logistical nightmare that this could represent. 

So he sought out and went to speak with Sr. Crown Counsel John Labossiere. Labossiere gave the correct legal answer, “there is no latitude for covert police operations” that the Criminal Code was clear in that regard. There was also discussion and recognition of the issue the police were facing —in trying to comply with this arduous section. 

Sgt Ross then goes to another Sr Crown, Terry Schultes (now a Supreme court Judge) who tells Sgt Ross that they can not ignore the law in this case. Again, there is no easy out., but informally again there was recognition that they “had to make it work”, just no solution as to how that could be done.

Sgt Ross, not known as one that gave in easily, then went to the RCMP legal counsel at the time, Les Rose, seeking yet another legal opinion. Mr. Rose one of the go-to individuals inside the RCMP had a reputation for being somewhat more pliable when it came to the policing efforts. In this case, Mr. Rose told Sgt Ross that he needed to comply, but he also opined that there was a need for “balanced risk management” and that he knew of no case where there had been an “exclusion of real evidence” based on a breach of Section 490.  

Sgt Ross met with the Officer in charge of IHIT, Wayne Rideout, and also Inspector Bill Fordy the latter being one who also leaned to the explanation of the need for a “balanced risk management”.  This was followed by “a memo” coming from the Officer in Charge telling officers not to seek extensions, if they felt that by requesting the extensions they would “attract attention to the non-compliance”.  They seemed to follow that old standard RCMP policy solution –ignore the problem, and in the meantime don’t tell anyone. 

In January 2008, Sgt Ross writes to Supt Wayne Rideout “warning of the circumstances” brought about by non-compliance however he does throw in that  “I anticipate the possibility of real evidence being excluded in a homicide is low”. He recommended that IHIT  try and obtain some further resources and manpower, absolutely needed he argued, if they were going to get some sort of ability to comply with the section.  

Fast forward now to 2011. 

S/Sgt Gorgichuk, who was then a Constable with the 2nd generation of IHIT investigators, was the file co-ordinator for the Gill attempted murder case. She appeared at the trial in 2021. Her testimony and explanation of Section 490 did not go well. 

In this case, search warrants were executed on the Gill residence. They seized nine cellphones because “they didn’t know which one was the accused”. They also seized a home security videotape (which was not included on the warrant), after getting access to the residence. Amongst the phones seized was a 60 second audio clip, captured apparently because of a “pocket dial” during the time of the shooting; which implicated Mr. Gill in the killing and therefore a central piece of evidence for the Crown. 

Unfortunately the Crown and their police witnesses ran into a very able and formidable criminal defence attorney Matt Nathanson. One could question Nathanson’s choice of high paying clients, but one could not question his experience and intelligence.  

Nathanson challenged the seizure of the video on the grounds that the home security camera was not on the warrant.  He also challenged the seizure of the phones on two primary grounds. The “over reach” of the warrant and the criminal “policy” of IHIT of not complying with Section 490 of the Criminal Code as testified to by S/Sgt Gorgichuk. Nathanson no doubt with his most theatrical voice pronounced that he had “never seen anything like this before”, this wanton disregard for the law.

Justice Masuhara agreed. The over reach or what the Justice calls “over-seizure”on the cellphone seizure and the fact that it was an unlawful search of the security camera system was what warranted exclusion of the evidence flowing from it. 

What pushed the Justice over the line seemingly was the “policy” which S/Sgt Gorgichuk “acknowledged her awareness” of —that  “direction” in 2007  not to comply with Section 490.  

Far be it for this outsider to question S/Sgt Gorgichuk, but it is difficult to believe that she did not comply with Section 490 in the Gill case— because of a remembrance of this “direction” that was issued in 2007. Gorgichuk was a Constable in 2011.

 The Justice wasn’t enamoured with her when describing her evidence: “I determined that S/Sgt Gorgichuk was not a credible witness and that she engaged in advocacy, though I did not find she intentionally misled the court…  As I have stated, I did not find S/Sgt Gorgichuk to be a credible or reliable witness …she refused to acknowledge errors in her testimony even when confronted with clear evidence..her testimony was nonetheless misleading, combative, and at times contradictory” 

S/Sgt Dwayne MacDonald (now the Officer in Charge of Federal Investigation Services and Organized Crime) was the Team Commander for the Gill case. The Justice speaks to his testimony and of his apparent cancelling of the “directive” in 2014 (worthy of noting that the Justices’ language went from calling it policy to a directive)when he says:  

“On XXXX 2011, S/Sgt Dwayne McDonald was a Team Commander at IHIT, responsible for the investigation of the murder of XXXX Kajla. Since 2007, the senior management at IHIT had provided direction with respect to applications for the extension of 5.2 Detention Orders. Specifically, that no extension of the 5.2 Extension Order would be sought upon the expiry after 3 months (I believe that the two XXXX references by A/Comm Dwayne McDonald in this email were a direct result of him not remembering the exact information);” In other words, he was guessing a bit. 

From a police perspective, is some of this understandable and even arguable? Maybe. 

This writer believes that non-compliance with this Section is rampant in every part of this country, in every police agency in the land. It is largely an unworkable Section of the Criminal Code that needs re-vamping, especially in times of limited resources and “defunding” of the police. 

It is obvious though that IHIT rolled the criminal trial game dice, and they lost, they busted.  In doing so have blemished the already burnished reputation of IHIT.  Only Mad Men would have taken the chance. 

For the record, this writer does not believe there was any “policy” of non-compliance. In fact the Acting Officer in charge Michelle Tansey of IHT recently said “this was not policy”.

David Eby the Attorney General for the Province of B.C. is “studying the viability of an appeal” even though the BC Prosecution Service has already stated that an appeal would “not likely” be successful.

To measure his chance at a successful appeal, Mr. Eby may want to go down the hall in Victoria and speak with his new hire—the Director of Police Services for the Province— Wayne Rideout– and ask him whether in fact he authored a  direct “policy” of non-compliance. Seems simple enough.

Or the NDP and the RCMP can just roll the dice again …and hope no one else goes free.

(Full disclosure: this writer was one of members of Integrated Homicide Investigation Team from its inception in 2003 to 2008. All the parties in this blog were not only known by me, but I worked and consulted with the cops and the lawyers mentioned in this blog on a relatively regular basis. In addition, as a team leader of one of the investigative teams would also have been privy to any policies within IHIT )

Photo Courtesy via Flickr Commons by PositiveCandie_N –Some Rights Reserved

The Corrupted Trial of Derek Chauvin

There is no such thing as the police being completely faultless, after all being human keeps us from being perfect. So when it comes to police being on trial, there should not be any particular viewpoint, each case a measure of a singular set of circumstances.   

However, the Derek Chauvin trial has badly shaken my confidence in the American judicial system where a visceral jury has been swayed by video and audio sound bites and rendered incapable of discerning fact from fiction.

This conclusion will not be popular with most segments of society, even some cops– for it goes against the grain, it goes against even the middle of the road liberal, it goes against what the mind is perceiving in a few seconds of videotape. This trial was originally framed as a measure of the level of racism in policing, about a white cop and a black innocent. None of that was true either as there was never any evidence ever produced of this case being about race. 

The circumstances in the death of George Floyd brought forward three charges against police officer Derek Chauvin; second degree unintentional murder which required proof of the “intentional infliction of substantial bodily harm”; third degree murder which alleged that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death by “perpetrating an act eminently dangerous to others and evincing a depraved mind, without regard to human life”;  and second degree manslaughter which alleged that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death by culpable negligence whereby the person creates an unreasonable risk, and consciously takes chances of causing death or great bodily harm”.

As most are aware, reasonable doubt is the prosecutorial hurdle which must be climbed and surmounted in all criminal trials both in the United States and Canada.  

Unfortunately, for the State and the masses demanding retribution, doubt was in evidence throughout this entire trial; doubt as to the cause of death, doubt as to the intent of Chauvin which was necessary to prove two of the three murder charges; doubt as to the lead up circumstances, and even doubt as to the political motivation of the State Attorneys. 

The third degree murder charge which was added at the last minute should have been thrown out with little fanfare, in fact both murder charges should not have been under consideration when one watched and allowed the evidence to unfold. The only charge which should have some examination was the second degree manslaughter. 

This case was televised and with the usual hyperbole some media outlets called in the trial of this century. Kindling to the fire of the reflexive cries of racism. Black lives concerned groups were quick off the mark, any confrontation between a white police officer and a black male should be a foregone conclusion.  With the aid of pressurized full throated liberal media and a captured television audience the protests began, followed by the rioting and looting. 

The activists of the black movement in Minneapolis from the outset, before the trial even started, proclaimed that if “they” do not get a guilty verdict the town will burn to the ground; they demanded not only a guilty verdict but a sentence worthy of murder charges. A life sentence was presumed to be the only way of satisfying this carnivorous crowd. 

The usual attention seeking personalities, celebrities and politicos filled the airwaves, before the trial, during the trial and after the trial. The message theme was that there was no need for a trial, the evidence so obviously clear of Chauvin’s guilt. No heed should be paid to the Constitution and the need for due process after all –we have video.

There is only one truth, their single unassailable truth.

The reporting so blatantly slanted that as one followed along, one began to question if you were in fact watching the same trial and the evidence that was being presented. The news photos they released were of Chauvin as he was being booked –dressed in an orange prisoner jump suit, staring straight faced and pale at the camera— Floyd is in civilian clothing, leaning nonchalantly against a brick wall. 

Chauvin’s trial began to take on the feel of a political and social lynching.

Chauvin throughout the trial sat erect, disciplined, robotic, attentively writing on a yellow pad of legal paper which never seemed to grow in size. Neatly attired with a mid-level suit and tie, the picture of a cop getting ready to testify. His eyes only visible above his Covid mask, his eyes the only measurable hint of humanity and the emotions laying deep within.

This case also raised some serious questions that should have been asked of the District Attorney’s office and their conduct in this case. They were proven to have withheld evidence, not allowed a witness in the car with Floyd to testify, and have tried to bury the defence with last minute loads of information. They argued against their own Pathologist who performed the autopsy and not satisfied with his findings, began a country wide search for “experts” —an opinion that could aid their public theory. 

The case and the circumstances were nuanced and understanding required an open mind to details.

The State attorneys constant mantra from beginning to the closing argument was “believe your eyes”.  They were counting on emotions to carry the day, their clear hope was that by playing incessantly a few seconds of Chauvin leaning on the neck of Floyd, that the emotion generated would carry the jurors to only those selected few minutes and away from some of the facts that were problematic. 

One must also remember that the City of Minneapolis before the trial started announced a $27 million settlement for the Floyd family. A historic amount. The timing of this was at the very least unethical and jeopardized finding an impartial jury. The defence rightly asked for a change of venue and the sequestering of the jury. All were denied despite the crescendo of media and public voices speaking for a guilty finding. 

The first State witnesses were representative of the prosecutor’s theme of emotion over fact. They were asked and allowed to testify as to their “feelings” in this case, how it had affected their daily lives in witnessing the death of Floyd. This should have been ruled completely irrelevant, but strangely was allowed to be admitted; setting up further grounds for an appeal. 

The cause of death, which was clearly central to all three charges was where the State’s case was the weakest. 

The State pathologist, Hennepin County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Andrew Baker, in the post mortem of  George Floyd said categorically that the cause of death was: “cardiopulmonary arrest during law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression”. Other contributing factors were “coronary disease” the use of fentanyl and methamphetamine. He further testified to the stress of Floyd’s arrest having “overwhelmed his already burdened heart”, that it “tipped him over the edge”.  So in your opinion Dr. Baker, the defence counsel Mr. Nelson asked: “both the heart disease as well as the history of hypertension and the drugs that were in his system played a role in Mr. Floyd’d death?” “In my opinion, yes” replied Dr. Baker. 

The State Attorneys wanted on the other hand to prove that Mr. Floyd died from “positional asphyxia “, resulting form the knee on the neck.  So here they were faced with their own pathologist testifying that the knee, according to Dr. Baker did not “did not anatomically cut off Mr. Floyd’s airway.” Dr. Baker pointed to the fact that there never was any physical evidence of asphyxia ever brought forward no bruising, no hyoid damage as would be expected in such a case. 

We learned that the State met with the Pathologist several times over a few months, and when the results of Dr. Baker went stubbornly unchanged, their only recourse was to seek an outside “expert” opinion. This is a tactic usually reserved for defence counsel in trials.

The case was investigated by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. There were fifty case agents assigned, twenty additional agents from the FBI, and fifty members of the Minnesota Police Department. They interviewed all the command and training staff and two hundred civilian witnesses. Twelve warrants were executed (mysteriously two alone on the vehicle Floyd was in). They then provided to the defence fifty thousand pages of evidentiary documents, the classical information dump trying to drown out resource limited opposition.  

The medical expert the State found was Dr. Tobin a pulmonologist from Ireland; who after watching hundreds of hours of videotape, over and over again, came to the conclusion that in his opinion, that Mr. Floyd being face down, was unable to breathe and therefore died of positional asphyxia. He testified that the weight of Chauvin, 23% of which was transferred on to the neck and back of Mr. Floyd was what killed the victim. Chauvin is 5’9” and 140 lbs, Mr. Floyd was 6’3” and 230 lbs. His evidence was that a maximum of  32 lbs could have been transferred on to the body of Floyd at any given times, the weight shifting from the back, the shoulders and the neck. 

Defence counsel produced other experts who confirmed the findings of the State pathologist Dr. Baker. In cross examination of Dr. Tobin, and in their witness Dr. Folwler the defence produced twenty-three studies showing that — being face down on the ground, even if “hog tied” or “hobbled” ( the more drastic methods of police condoned restraint)  in a normal healthy human being, would not cause death.  It turns out all the teachings of it being a lethal position to put someone in stems from a study in the 1980’s. All agreed that Mr. Floyd was not a healthy individual by any measure. 

The State’s Attorney argued that the “speed ball “ of fentanyl and methamphetamine would not have played a role, since Floyd would have a life long “tolerance” to drugs. They did not prove this conclusion and glossed over the fact that Floyd had twice the fatal limit of fentanyl and was passed out in the vehicle prior to the police arrival after having consumed the drugs. 

In terms of the drugs Mr. Floyd had taken, the State, in a highly suspicious decision, refused to grant immunity to Morries Hall, who was believed to be Mr. Floyd’s drug dealer and in the vehicle with him at the time of the incident. By not granting immunity, which only the State could do, this forced Hall “plead the fifth” and not testify — therefore not incriminate himself.  In the American criminal system the defendant is entitled to a fulsome defence, it would be hard to argue that a key witness being excluded by the State, who may have provided a lethal dose of drugs to Floyd was not allowed to testify was highly unethical and manipulative. 

Hall, who had been basking in the limelight after the death of Floyd,had left the State, but was eventually arrested in Texas for other charges. He never testified. The Judge ruled that he could not review the State decision not to allow him immunity, as that was an executive decision and not subject to the review of the judiciary. 

The original call by the employees of the store came in at 8:02 pm on May 25th to the intersection of 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis, a high crime and largely black neighbourhood.  The store employee in calling in the complaint described Floyd as being “intoxicated” due to his erratic behaviour in the the store and described him as “a large man.” 

Dispatch requests that the first car respond Code 3 (lights and siren).  At 8:04 the police car with Officers Lane and King arrives at the scene and are directed to the Mercedes SUV across the street —where a passed out George Floyd sits in the driver seat. At 8:10 the dispatcher hears them struggling with Mr. Floyd and Chauvin now heads to the scene for backup, once again Code 3. 

At 8:11 Floyd is removed from the car, and an all clear signal is given at 8:12. 

Chauvin slows down, parks and walks up to the other two officers at 8:17 as the two other officers once again, begin to struggle to put Floyd in the car. 

Mr. Floyd is erratic, shouting inanities, and screaming he “can’t breathe”.  

At 8:18 Chauvin begins to wrestle with Mr. Floyd as well. 

At 8:19 the struggling stops and they are containing the handcuffed Floyd and Mr. Floyd is on the ground with two officers pinning his legs, and officer Chauvin on his back. 

At 8:21 the ambulance is called as the officers believe that this is a more medical emergency due to Floyd’s use of drugs. Paramedics arrive five or six minutes later and because of the hostility of the crowd, they do a “load and go”, wanting to remove him from the area before treating.  

The State alleged that Mr. Chauvin was shoving Mr. Floyd’s face into the “unyielding pavement”, “lacerated his knuckles” described the pavement “tearing into his skin” while the “horrified bystanders..watched it unfold”. Bystanders pointed to the blood coming from Mr. Floyd’s nose. This was when Floyd hit himself into the shield in the back of the police car. The bystanders pointed to the fluid on the ground near Floyd, believing that he had urinated. The fluid was actually from the nearby police vehicle. 

It was the State’s argument that Chauvin then began to “assault Mr. Floyd” by keeping him in the face down position and having a knee on his back, shoulder, and neck area. The defence argued that in fact, he was complying with his training, and using a taught restraining method and continued to hold him down due to the passive resistance by Floyd. 

The State argued that the Mr. Floyd was no danger to anyone, that this was an “assault”, a felony level of assault, that Chauvin was “doing it on purpose” and that he was “not following the rules”.  Not only, they argued, must you “trust your eyes”, they asked the jury to read the “body language”. They implored that it  showed that Chauvin was exhibiting an “ego based pride”. 

They argued further that Mr Floyd did not want to get into the squad car, because he was “claustrophobic” and that he was “experiencing a crisis”. Mr. Chauvin they opined should have recognized that as  the crowd grew and hissed around him, he should have offered aid, and maybe even done CPR. The police should have “re-assessed about putting him in the car”. 

The State grudgingly admitted that there were “other causes” contributed to Floyd’s death—but that did not relieve him from his “responsibility”. The State argued in their closing that Mr. Chauvin had “intentionally applied unlawful assault” and “intentionally inflicted bodily harm” all while wearing a body cam, was surrounded by other body cams, was being videotaped by onlookers and was at an intersection of city surveillance cameras. 

All admitted, including the State, that the arrest, attempts to put him in the police car, and then the putting him on the ground was “reasonable” for a police officer to do under these circumstances, putting him face down was ok, it was just the length of time that it was done which warranted two murder charges. One could argue that the charge of manslaughter was debatable, if you believed Chauvin should have been fully aware of Floyd’s medical stress throughout but the intent needed for the murder charges simply was not there. 

The circumstances and how the events unfolded is straightforward. The call for the police, the attendance by the police, the arrest of a struggling Mr. Floyd, the wrestling of Mr. Floyd to the ground plays out hundreds of times every day across North America. It should be pointed out that none of this was about Mr. Floyd being black, the police came because they were called and they performed a legitimate arrest of the alleged suspect. 

No officer should be smug in viewing this trial play out. No officer should assume that the intersecting of circumstances that transpired in this case is somehow unique. No officer should assume that the cloud of alleged racism could not darken and obscure any set of investigational facts. 

Due process and the right to a fair trial should no longer be assumed in any courtroom in the United States; nor in this country. 

This case is a bell wether and should give every police officer pause. Your very ability to function as a police officer now needs to be viewed through this prism of mob driven social justice which now demands perfection in all actions and deeds and starts with an assumption of presumed guilt. 

There is no officer who has worked the streets who has not handcuffed a subject and placed him on the ground and knelt on his back or neck. I know of no officer who has heard screams from the suspect that they were in pain or hurt, or demanding real or imagined medical attention. I know of no officer who has not had to arrest an intoxicated or high suspect who is combative. I know of no officer who has not been called derisive names or had insults hurled at them from a distance. I have never heard of an officer who has not been accused of being racist if that officer happens to be working in a racially diverse atmosphere, which includes those officers of colour or a different ethnicity. And in this day and age I know of no officer who has not been videotaped by an onlooker or a suspect. 

In other words, every street police officer could have been the one sitting in the seat of Derek Chauvin. 

Every officer could have their senior managers with their finger raised, testing the political winds, testify as to your contravention of the policy, your dereliction in not caring enough or showing enough empathy. Your fellow workers could come forward to second guess, to exclaim that they would never have left that knee on the neck to suppress a prisoner, well, maybe for a short time, but they would have had the good sense to not do it for as long as Officer Chauvin. They know better. Your life and your very freedom could come tumbling down around you for not paying strict attention to the instantaneous ebb and flow of those overly simplistic classroom “use of force” models. 

The jury verdict was reached after about eight hours of deliberation. “Guilty” on all three counts. This was not even enough time to analyze the three counts in any depth or review the evidence of thirty eight witnesses. Clearly the jury had made up their mind early, they had “trusted their eyes” as they had been directed by the State. Possibly they worried about their city being enveloped by violence, the place where they work and live.

President Biden clearly was not worried about interfering in the judicial system. He called the Floyd family prior to the verdict being rendered —saying that the evidence was “overwhelming”. Maxine Walters a black Representative in Washington, again before the verdict, urged the black community to offer resistance to the police if there was a not guilty verdict.  

Fast and predictable, Chauvin had no chance. Street festivals broke out, the mob now dancing around the flames, with the head of Chauvin on a stake. 

Biden and his Vice President Kamala within hours called a press conference. They thanked the jury and announced that they had proposed the “George Floyd Justice and Policing Act”, in honour of Mr. Floyd. Strange bed fellows for the Democrats, as this is the George Floyd who had multiple “brushes with the law”, including five years for armed robbery in 2007, where a pregnant woman was assaulted and robbed, a gun allegedly pointed at her pregnant stomach. 

Justin Trudeau welcomed the American verdict. 

These are indeed very dangerous times. The far left has now become indistinguishable from the far right. The Nation has officially divided.  

Black history in America has been troubled, fraught with slavery, discrimination and violence. The Mississippi and Louisiana of the 1960’s, segregation, and the impoverishment of the disadvantaged will forever be a blemish on the American being. However, an unjust verdict, a revenge seeking verdict, will never right the wrongs of the past. Even Dr. King would be embarrassed, as all Americans should be embarrassed.

Photo courtesy of Lorrie Shaull via Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved.