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Policing in Canada’s LaLa Land

Hitting the headlines in the past couple of weeks was the fact that the NDP led government of British Columbia released a report by the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act , dated April 2022, entitled “Transforming Policing and Community Safety in British Columbia”.

Fairly or unfairly, most times these types of reports receive little or no attention. This report by ten MPP’s seemed to garner headlines for two primary reasons; one being that both of the current political parties produced a bi-partisan report in a rare act of consensus; the implication being that this report could therefore actually result in action. Secondly, it was news because one of its eleven recommendations was that the currently contracted RCMP should be replaced as the Provincial level police force.

It is still a government report of course, so it will likely atrophy on those always burgeoning government shelves. Especially a report with especially grand recommendations. Even In the body of this ninety-six page report they state that enactment of their recommendations will take: “many years and successive parliaments to enact”. So if you are a bettor, bet the under, as the odds of retaining the political attention of successive governments are not good.

In terms of full disclosure, few of you who on occasion read this blog would be shattered to learn that there is a belief, that this once proud organization is structurally flawed and needs to be re-built. Nothing less than a tear down– if there is to be any hope of reformative change. If that is not possible, unlikely, or more accurately never undertaken, then there is little cogent argument against having the RCMP replaced in the Province of BC or any other contracted Province.

This current proposed structural re-alignment is not the first time that this has either been proposed. So no one should be shocked by a recommendation of this kind.

What is shocking is an actual reading of this report reveals some clear and deeply flawed assertions, some mis-held perspectives and is more a reflection of “woke” in-breeding than thoughtful contemplation.

What is truly appalling is the recommendations in this report which are not being talked about. Recommendations which are aimed at totally altering the policing structure in this province to the benefit of a single favoured political group. Even though they state that the goal was to work towards “modernization and sustainability”, the flaw and subjective bias in this report is revealed quickly at the very beginning of this report.

In their words there is a need to determine the “scope of systemic racism with policing agencies” and that their study must be “consistent with the United Declarations of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. Their underlining principle therefore is formed around the “increasing widespread awareness of systemic racism in policing…(therefore) transformal change is required”. This is of course a perspective that those in policing circles, if brave enough, would categorically dispute. Unfortunately, police leadership in this country are proving themselves to be sheep not shepherds.

To be fair one can not accuse this committee of not spending a great deal of time listening (and tax dollars) in the pursuit of their truth. They list over four hundred and ten agencies and individuals who came before them over the course of eighteen months. Predictably, there were the usual organizations, those that seem to appear before every committee: Civil Liberties, social workers, Downtown Eastside Women’s centre with a group called “Red Women Rising”, numerous Indian bands throughout the Province, Pivot Legal Society, and even the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre .

The police were also more than adequately represented: the RCMP, the Chiefs of Police, various Municipal police agencies, Vancouver City Police, the Pacific Training Centre, Depot Division of the RCMP, Nelson Police Department, and the list goes on. One has to wonder what these policing groups thought of the final report and whether it reflected their views in any semblance.

This smorgasbord of agencies and individuals led the committee to come up with eleven recommendations based on hearing “clear evidence of systemic racism in policing as well as the colonial structure of police services”. Ironically, they also heard that many of the Indigenous communities were both “over-policed and under served” –all in the same breath.

The “clear evidence” of systemic racism is a little more difficult to find in the report. There were muddled explanations of that evidence, such as the one by the Human Rights Commissioner who found there were “patterns of behaviour..that create and maintain the power of certain racial groups over others”. How one patterns the entire report on a presumption, without definitive evidence of the underlying premise, is manifestly frustrating.

The police agencies appearing before the Committee, with little doubt talked about things such as service delivery, oversight, accountability, and funding. There was talk of the mental health and addiction issues, and the recommendations coming from that part of the world are also highly predictable. More resources, more funding.

So what are the Eleven recommendations? They are listed here as they appear in order in the report. I paraphrase them here, in the interest of brevity.

Leading the recommendations, first and foremost, is not the creation of a Provincial Police force but:

  1. That the Indigenous have direct input into the structure and governance of police services. The Indigenous need to be involved in the drafting of a revised Police Act.

The Indigenous clearly have now garnered a special advisory relationship in all matters of government whether it be pipelines, the environment, climate change, or lumber and mining, and this now continues into policing. Special laws and special courts already exist, and now their wish is for their own police departments. Their claimed expertise seems limitless. On page 64 of the report, they go even further in that there was a need to “establish robust and well-funded Indigenous civilian police oversight bodies…in all jurisdictions”

2. The formation of a BC wide Provincial Police Force.

This is explained as now being needed primarily because of the “fragmentation” of services. The report authors also point to the needs of of consistent education and training and the sometimes jurisdictional boundaries which interfere with communication and that consistency.

3. That the Indigenous have direct input into their police “service structure and governance”.

What the authors imagine is that the Indigenous be allowed to have their own self-administered policing services as well as the full governance over those services.

This recommendation also includes a revision of the type of training and education that will be required for all police services. In effect extending programs such as “Circle of Understanding”. In anticipation of this being a successful venture they hypothesize that the Indigenous police services may be able to expand and offer up their services to other non-Indigenous neighbourhoods and jurisdictions who are in close proximity. Logistically just to be clear, in this Province there are 13 municipal departments, and 65 RCMP municipal agencies. There are 198 “distinct First Nations”. Does that mean a potential 198 new police departments? (One wonders how one points to an apparent problem of the fragmentation of police services in the province and then recommends further fragmentation.)

The Indigenous want to be involved in oversight to “observe and oversee in (all) cases involving Indigenous peoples”.

4. That there be some revision of the Mental Health Act which includes integrating Mental Health worker attendance into the 911 dispatch system. They also recommend that there be “increasing investment in social services”.

5. That there be “equitable access to high quality police…” …which is “informed by the community”. It is not real clear as to what this even means.

6. An equitable shared “funding Model”.

7. Police Education to be increased.

8. The need to collect and report “disaggregated race-based” demographics. This is interesting because for a number of years, questions directed as to race involvement in crime were in and of themselves discriminatory. The intention here is that if they gather this disaggregated evidence they will be able to prove that there is racial inequality in the enforcement of laws in this Province.

9. Civilian oversight. Not easily done but difficult to argue against and most police officials would counter by saying that there is already policing/civilian oversight.

10. Review of the Mental Health Act.

11. The establishment of an all-party standing committee on policing and community safety.

Of course this report is much more effusive under each of these categories, but you get the intended direction.

The National Police Federation are already out on the hustings, running countering media spin, no doubt apoplectic at the thought of their union representation taking a 4,000 member hit if in fact a Provincial Force was formed. They are reverting to their tried and true arguments, calling the recommendation a “little odd” and a “little premature”. After all they say they have done “waves and waves of independent research in policing in British Columbia, and consistently British Columbians have told us they were very satisfied with policing they receive from the RCMP”. Of course it is not independent research, but that may be nitpicking, but they too are missing the point. This is not about individual police officers being liked or doing a good job. This is about the structure of an Ottawa headed police force being inert and ineffectual in terms of its ability to police portions of this country.

The possibility of a Provincial replacement force, first surfaced in 1994 under Judge Wally Oppal. It has now surfaced a couple of decades later, and will likely re-re- surface again a couple of decades from now. There is little need to concern ourselves with this recommendation.

As to the other recommendations. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the government would review the report and its recommendations and consult with “community groups” and “First Nation leaders”. Apparently you as the actual police, have no input here as to the recommendations.

This report is another ridiculous and over bearing attempt by the government to genuflect to the dialogue of the enlightened, to bow to a special interest group, regardless of the actual needs of policing. It would establish a fragmented policing structure, where different laws and different levels of enforcement would create two separate classes of individuals, laws and their enforcement based on race, not on equality before the law.

This report should be buried on the very last shelf in the dingy basement of the Legislature.

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Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by Stuart Butterfield – Some Rights Reserved

Oh…Lighten up!

This is an admittedly delicate subject. In fact, there are few topics in this broad wide world which engender more rancorous discourse and will inevitably lead to someone being termed “harsh” or “unfair.” This is a subject not broached in respectful company, especially in this era of hand wringing sensitivity.

I am speaking about the problem of obesity. In particular, the problem of obesity among police officers.

The fat burning question is: are there some police officers who are too “fat” for the job? It’s a question that is clearly part of a bigger question –whether police need to be in premium shape in order to fulfill their duties. If one assumes that there is a physical element to the job, and there is no convincing evidence that upper management in the RCMP concede this; this seems like an easy question to answer.

What prompted this broad question is a policy which has been instituted, in of all places, the State of Texas, the Lone Star State of big vistas and big state boundaries. The people who run the Texas Rangers, a very well-regarded police agency we should add, has now come out and dared to go where others fear to tread. They in essence have implemented a “chubby list” –for want of a better term. They are apparently now prepared to shame some of their officers into maintaining certain health and fitness standards and have drawn a line in the sand. If not met, the officers could ultimately face suspension.

Before people start writing to this blog in protest, the least we should do is explore this policy that has been implemented.

The Department of Public Safety for the state of Texas oversees the Texas State Troopers. The “Troopers” are about 4,000 officers strong and are spread throughout the state. The Department is implementing these guidelines because they feel, and have concluded that part of a police officers job is to have a “command presence”. In other words you must look the part, as it commands respect and cooperation and therefore enables one to do their job better.

As much as we hate to admit it, one would think that most police officers would agree that this is in fact the case. Someone who is overweight, or sloppy in their appearance will seemingly not get the street respect often needed to control or coerce, rightly or wrongly; it just seems to be a fact. There have been psychological studies which in fact back up this theory and of course it is also true outside of policing in the “real” world.

So what the Department of Public Safety has dared to do was state that male officers must have a waist line of 40″ or under, and a female officer must have a stated waistline of 35″. I should say in terms of full disclosure, after 34 years in policing, the last ten years of my service meeting this standard would have been a real struggle. With middle age the downward spiral inevitably begins, or that’s what most would blame- it couldn’t possibly be the two in the morning hamburgers or muffins.

Now, we should also point out that the Department has allowed for exceptions to the rule, so it is on a bit of a sliding scale which takes into consideration; height, weight and levels of body fat. When they reviewed all their officers, 213 failed the test, a mere 5.3%. Of those 213 only two had failed the original fitness test and therein lies the rub and the argument.

Nevertheless, the officers that couldn’t meet the girth guidelines have until December 1, 2023 to slim down. Until then, they will be barred from promotion, lose any overtime opportunities, and could be re-assigned. If they is no final compliance layoffs could follow. They will all have counsellors available who will put them on less sugar diets and will encourage and teach them how to avoid fast foods. All of it geared of course, to a goal of solid physical conditioning and a healthier lifestyle. All of those involved must document their progress and be prepared to share their health records.

Of course there are protests. In 2019 the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association launched a lawsuit describing the terms of the policy “arbitrary” and “unfair to women”. The lawsuit was dismissed, but only because at that date and time nobody had actually lost their job over not meeting these conditions. (One would have thought that the lawyers for the Association could have pointed this out in the beginning). Arbitrary of course means random and unpredictable, which doesn’t seem to apply, the rules are pretty black and white and addressed to all, and all levels of management. I am assuming the “unfairness to women” is being argued due to the vagaries of child birth etc., which seems somewhat legitimate, but maybe not totally.

Clearly, there are holes in the policy as currently being reported, but unfortunately we do not have the full policy in front of us. As an example, a 5’2″ female with a 34″ waistline would likely be termed obese in normal measurement standards, but in this instance they would they meet the guidelines? How would that work? Again, we aren’t privy to all the vagaries of their current measurement system.

An interesting question is could we imagine a similar policy in Canada?

When this blogger was beginning his career with the Mounties in the late 1970’s and stationed in J Division (New Brunswick) there was a “fatty list”. And admittedly, some wore the designation with a tinge of pride. Those on the list were determined to be overweight and given a time line to get rid of their expanding bellies. Of course, like a lot of Mountie human resource mandates, there was no enforcement or follow thru, and the policy just died on the vine, never to be heard of again. Even back then, in those now archaic times, management did not have the fortitude to take on this subject.

Nowadays all police agencies demand that one pass a fitness test to gain entry. That is routine and standard. The “PARE” is the Mountie grind it out rite of passage, and all the other police departments seem to have similar tests to get in.

Once in the rank though one is free to take part in any smorgasbord or buffet that comes before you. Oh sure there are physicals every few years, but no one seems to be called up for being overweight. (Covid should have proven to us that obesity is a significant medical condition so one wonders how doctors overlook this, or more precisely ignore it in terms of one’s ability to do the job.)

The only real negative for being out of shape, other on a personal level, is that over time you may be forced to re-order uniforms at your expense to cover your waistline. Casual observation leads one to believe that having to buy new uniform every few years or so doesn’t seem to have been much of a deterrent.

The poor Mounties in terms of their looks are already behind the eight ball. The Mountie uniform has to be considered one of the ugliest in the policing universe, khaki on blue with a yellow stripe would only be something that could be approved by people who did not need to wear it. If you have a larger than normal circumference, then you throw on that bullet proof vest over top, with notebooks, pens, and assorted papers and you have quite a sight that is sure never to grace the pages of Vogue. We won’t even mention the hat. Changes to the uniform have been studied for decades, but everyone knows how that goes.

The municipal agencies seem to fare much better, with the usual dark blue or black shirt and matching pants, and for the most part have a much better uniform presence. And even though technically they have no weight and height standards, they benefit from many applicants for fewer jobs, and discreetly pick and choose those that may fit the uniform “presence” much better.

When I think of the now put upon Texas cops, quite honestly the figure of 5.3% seems low. I have seen many Dallas and Houston cops over the years, and let’s be frank, very few men would have a 38″ waist line. As they used to say about Texas, there are some “big ol boys” down there.

Kidding aside, one would be hard pressed to argue that any policy which encourages better health and fitness should ever be seen as a negative. The problem is drawing the line. Is the Texas line too harsh for application in Canada? Maybe. But right now, the Mounties and other agencies, once one is brought into the blue fold, don’t even have a line in the sand. One would think that there could be a compromise position.

If only the police could be like the fire men and women (those other “first responders”) who can work out while they work and get a good nights rest while on duty. They also eat very well judging by the amount of times I’ve seen the fire trucks parked in front of the grocery store. Let’s face it, it works, they usually look very fit. Jealously will get you nowhere.

In the overall list of problems facing the RCMP in 2022 it will be conceded that this may not be the biggest problem. The Mounties are struggling, the Province of British Columbia has also now announced the possible study and formation of a Provincial Police Force –albeit a long way down the road.

If there is any lesson in this, it should be accepted that policing is a physically tough job. It wears and tears at your body over the years, no matter how much you try to keep in shape. Police should welcome stringent guidelines, not for “presence” but for one’s own personal safety and well being. If implemented in Canada, however, there is little doubt that every police union would fight it– but that may not be a good thing. Food for thought.

Anyways, I am off to the gym. Until next time.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by Eric McGregor – Some Rights Reserved

The Art of Looking the other Way

Fraud has many formulations and iterations; corruption, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, and outright theft. In this country it has become dispiritingly common place. The blatancy apparent in whichever direction we look. Is this dwindling of basic economic honesty beginning to fester, to grow, and create a doubt. Is there a sense that our democracy and our economy may be crumbling from the bottom up, slowly but methodically. Not by a directed sense of purpose, but rather by our obsessively looking the other way.

Outwardly, those in government corridors, put on a stern and concerned face when confronted with financial matters that go wrong. They give us solace and point to our economic stability, point to our formidable banking institutions, and of course our stable democratic government. But are we rotting through incompetence, disinterest and a lack of investigative desire? Are we being effected not suddenly by a heart attack of malfeasance, but instead a slow eating cancer of general ineptitude.

Fraud, even in its most basic clear cut form is continually around us. Just consider that in a recent survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers it was estimated that half of the companies in Canada report being victims of fraud. When the Covid “waves” hit, how do we ignore and countenance that during the much celebrated Liberal CERB benefit program over $500 million was paid out to persons who were multi-collecting; from CERB, the Canada Revenue Agency, or the Employment and Social Development Canada office.

In terms of just the CERB payments, a recent House Finance committee heard further discouraging testimony that the Auditor General can not even look into the fraudulent obtained payments– for another year– even though they have known about it since 2020. The CRA confirmed that they are not expecting to make a dent in the wrongful payments until 2023, probably about the same time that Federal government workers will actually have to go back to the office. Apparently, we are waiting on the Canada Revenue Agency to get their act together.

Is it a minor problem? You decide. CERB was budgeted to cost $24 billion –it came in at $81.6 billion. In July 2020 Employment and Social Development Canada knew already that $442 million was sent out to 221,320 people in the form of those double payments.

One must always “follow the money.” Where the money goes is where you will find people looking to take benefit from it and see it as an opportunity. The structure of these particular Covid programs created enticing pots of gold. Very little deception was needed.

Since Canada seems “reluctant” to undertake any kind of investigation or go after those that ripped the system, one wondered whether this was a North America wide malaise. Did this exceptional level of forgiveness for the under-handed equally permeate all of the liberal governmental establishments in the U.S. and Canada. As it turns out the American response to the potential for fraud that they too are now uncovering was in fact distinctly different.

In fact, the contrast in our two countries, even though they were running similarly intended programs is startling. If we reflect on the differences in approach and put Canada up to the mirror, our fermenting complacency boldly looks back at us.

Of course, the money amounts in the U.S. are staggering due to the size of their population versus Canada. The PPP as it was called in the U.S. was almost a carbon copy to that of CERB in Canada. (PPP was the Paycheck Protection Plan) The Canadians and the Americans also had more than one plan in effect. For instance, the U.S. also had the Covid disaster relief fund, and the unemployment relief fund.

Before one looks at the numbers, remember that the overall justification in Canada was at the onset of Covid, also echoed by the U.S. government. In Canada sacrificing “security for speed”, getting out the cheques to the populace was more important than the “security” of the system and the quick dispensation of the monies. The U.S. authorities also admit that most of the money was and is, “unrecoverable”.

Unlike Canadians, the Americans are a little more harsh in their language. They have no hesitancy in saying the program was: ” an invitation to fraudsters”, and the “largest fraud in U.S history”. That according to the official who was overseeing the payouts.

The Americans estimate that 10% of the monies paid out under their PPP was fraudulent. (We have seen estimates in this country under CERB of up to 30%). The Americans paid out $800 billion, therefore they estimate that $80 billion was paid out to fraudsters.

In addition, they estimate that $90 billion at a minimum and up to a maximum of $400 billion was taken from the secondary unemployment relief fund. Another $80 billion from a third program, the Covid disaster relief fund. Interestingly, they estimate that at least 1/2 of the stolen funds from the unemployment relief fund were stolen by “international fraudsters”.

Unlike Canadians, the Americans seem upset. They have set up the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee which is headed by General Mike Horowitz. This group has been given a mandate of 10 years to pursue the fraudsters.

Their results so far are in their words “minimal”, with only 178 people “convicted” so far. One wonders if in this country in the last thirty years if we have charged that many with significant fraud. What the investigators have uncovered is that the size and scope of the fraud may be overwhelming, continually expressing surprise on”how blatant it was”.

Using AI programming they are now scanning over 150 million records to identify patterns of fraud, such as the gas station in Houston whose phone number was used for over 150 applications for PPP. The perpetrators are appearing and being charged in increasing numbers; David Hines in Miami took them for $3.9 million; another person $7.2 million, some spending their financial gains on Lamborghini vehicles and mansions. A California couple stole $18 million and eventually pled guilty– the husband getting 17 years in prison, while his wife got 6 years. Yes, in the U.S. they also go to jail.

They have found that the service provider BlueVine, who was contracted to help the government dole out the funds and gave out $4.5 billion bragged about processing applications in less than 5 minutes. They estimate that a stolen identity or a fraudulent single identity could translate into a possible $30,000 in possible claims and benefits. The perpetrators would steal legitimate company names from the internet, inflate the number of employees or create the employees and then apply for the business loans.

One of the more blatant fraudsters was Danielle Miller out of Boston. Taking names from the state website and applying for Covid relief loans allowed her in 40 minutes make $100,000.

There is another myth that is also now also being dispelled. In speaking with experts in the fraud industry and in talking with private businesses they are quickly finding that “trade offs between speed and security” is simply not true. As one person pointed out, if this were true, why wouldn’t large private industries with a consumer facing business and who featured rapid response; why are they not going bankrupt? They describe it as categorically “false” narrative that speed necessitates neglect and oversight.

Of course, maybe none of this could happen in Canada, maybe we are much too honest here.

Auditor General Karen Hogan released a report which included the fact that the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) “focused on delivering the benefit quickly…both organizations understood the rules…” and they “relied on applicants good faith”.

Let’s remember that the Canadian CERB program allowed anyone over the age of 15, who made a minimum of $5,000 in 2019, could apply for $2,000 for a period of 28 weeks; following an extension of the program in August 2020. If that was not enough, once the CERB ended for these folks, the government then directed them to a revamped Employment Insurance Program.

The Auditor General admitted that a “pre-payment screening structure could have been put in place” and that telling the government agencies to “ignore warnings or red flags” of fraud may not have been a good thing. The CRA did open a “snitch line”. The thinking must have been, if they couldn’t find the fraud, maybe the public could lead them to it.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by the end of January 2021 had 8500 cases of CERB related identity theft.

In a 2020 FINTRAC Report made public in November 2021, that the CERB program was “knowingly and actively defrauded ” by scammers, organized crime, and that payments were made to people engaged in illegal or suspicious financial activity”.

Have we learned anything? In 1991 in Vancouver, Murray Pezim was investigated for fraud, the classic pump and dump strategy in mining stocks. In 2022 the U.S. Securities firm (not the Canadian authorities) charged David Siddoo for employing the same system. In 2021 the Cullen Commission exposed billions of dollars in money laundering. Really, nothing has changed.

In this country we are structurally not set up to look for fraud, or any variation of fraud. And if we aren’t looking we are sure to never find anything. The RCMP were recently investigating Trudeau and the Aga Khan who were allegedly influence peddling through elaborate vacations– and lo and behold they found that there are no rules that really apply.

The RCMP which should be the first stop in large scale fraud investigations in this country, as an organization has proven itself time and time again as incapable in the field of economic crime. Investigations in this country are talked about in years, not days, weeks or months. The solution is either that this type of crime is pulled from their organizational mandate, or they need to be dismantled and re-built and resourced to 2021 standards.

Maybe, the general public is willing to let their rage to continue to bubble away just below the surface. The Liberals and the NDP are counting on it. Is it that we are so complacent, so ensconced in our own sphere of security and relative prosperity that we just shrug it off, politically helpless, morally and ethically spent.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by Ryan Steele – Some Rights Reserved

Good-bye to Commissioner Lucki?

It has been widely rumoured, keep in mind, one knows what an Ottawa rumour is worth, that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is headed to retirement in June 2022. Let’s say from the outset, I do not know Ms. Lucki personally, have never even seen her in a public forum, so on a personal level one can only wish her a the best in her retirement after a lengthy period of service.

As an interested observer from afar however, or as simply a member of the general public, the time seems appropriate to evaluate her time on the Mountie throne.

In terms of our ability to measure her time and effectiveness, she did not leave us much to go on.

Ms. Lucki was “the leader the Mounties needed” according to Justin Trudeau in 2018; who he judged to be the “absolutely best person for the job, who just happens to be a woman”. The fact that he needed to add “happens to be a woman” is clearly a glimpse in to what Mr. Trudeau saw a pre-requisite for this job.

She was heralded as the 1st “permanent” woman to head the RCMP, her predecessor Bev Busson only being around for a short time in her “temporary” position. (Long enough clearly though to score sufficient points for an eventual Senate seat.)

In 2018 the decade of women advancement in policing was in full bloom much like in all the other government departments across the country. Women were reaching new heights in terms of leadership roles across the organization and at an unprecedented speed. They were in effect being “over-represented” in order for an organization to progress and just as importantly to at the very least be deemed progressive.

In her acceptance of the post as the 24th Commissioner, Lucki outlined her primary plans for “bolstering diversity”and “reconciliation with indigenous persons”. She pointed to her previous successes with the First Nations of northern Manitoba. The speech could have and may have been written by Gerald Butts. No real mention of the brewing problems of contract policing or the upcoming possible unionization of the membership. She, unlike most of her predecessors was a one dimensional candidate, with a singular approach to what ailed the Mounties. Diversity and inclusion would be from the beginning to the end her single mantra.

Her background reflected an insular policing career–in the Peace keeping program in Ottawa, as the head of Depot training centre in Regina, as part of the United Nations protection force in Yugoslavia. None of these positions pointed to a larger understanding of Federal or Provincial policing, the true fundamental core of the RCMP.

The problem of course, like many Federal employees is that Lucki was a liberal in speech only, in knowing the right things to say and where to say them as opposed to knowing the machinations that would be needed to carry out any re-conditioning. She was playing the game of “representation” and “diversity”, without really knowing how she was going to accomplish this, or fully appreciating that the Force that extended past Ottawa didn’t share the same level of concern. Secondly, decades of processes and ingrained cultural history were simply not going to be won over from the confines of a committee room in Ottawa.

In essence she was pulled up by the language of the Woke, then got entangled in the spider-web language of the Woke. Her credence and her dilemma began to unravel once she came under the Liberal magnifying glass of the truly Woke of Ottawa. She aptly demonstrated her conundrum a mere two years later when she flip-flopped on the term “systemic racism”.

She also quickly learned that the Indigenous leadership in this country will turn on you very quickly– should you dare to question their “truth”. Her award for building relationships in Manitoba was as flimsy as the paper on which it was written when confronted by the dialogue of the Indigenous victim. She was caught between knowing that in fact, in the policing world, there is little evidence if any of “systemic racism” by its true definition and on the other side was what she needed to say to appease. She floundered. She knew that if she stated her truth she would have been in full conflict with the people who put her there.

So twenty-four hours later desperate to be on the side of the righteous left, she became a convert, and admitted to “systemic racism”. Unfortunately, she was then asked for examples to prove her conversion and once again, she became the proverbial fish out of water. The example she felt that bolstered her new claim of “systemic racism” was the “height” requirements for Mounties. When someone pointed out that this was more likely “discrimination” rather than “racism” she bumbled once again. The next day, Bill Blair had to come to her rescue and do damage control.

So a mere two years after her start, Perry Bellegarde the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs called for her “resignation”. Apparently her “strong focus on advancing Indigenous reconciliation” had failed– the Indigenous now not wanting to “reconcile” with the Commissioner.

She kept trying though. When asked during an interview as a leader of the RCMP what was the toughest decision she faced, she confusingly answered that it was listening to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry testimony. Her need to appease clearly had overwhelmed her ability to even understand the concept of what constitutes a “decision”.

It may have became clear early on to the Liberals, that it may be best if she remained silent and in the background.

Suffice to say that for the last couple of years, we have never had a quieter Commissioner. We went from the somewhat bombastic Paulson to the uncomfortable introvert.

Even when the Force was chastised or lambasted for its lack of leadership, she remained quiet, seemingly unable or incapable to defend. Recently the Information Commissioner of Canada said that “the RCMP is failing in terms of its obligation to ensure Canadians have access to information about its operation and decision making…” that this “lack of action on the part of the RCMP leadership” had been going on for too long.

When a human rights watchdog agency had its requests ignored about the “spying on Indigenous and climate activists” it led to “inexcusable delays” and they accused Lucki of simply ignoring the matter. So the Commissioner who had promised to a program of “listening and learning” wasn’t listening and had not learned that one needs to get ahead of issues. The ongoing examination of the incident in Portapique, is looking like another embarrassment of riches in terms of failures to get things done, at least on a broader level.

Under Lucki, the organization has continued to be inert, unable to act or react, weighed down by a suffocating bureaucracy.

This would have been a difficult time for any Commissioner, it would have taken an extremely strong leader to counter the accepted narrative. Commissioner Lucki clearly did not have that capability. One would have had to at times embarrass the Liberals, stand up to ridiculous assertions, outline the resourcing and staffing difficulties, and point to the failings as well as the successes. She did not or could not do that.

We should also remember that Ms. Lucki was picked by a large panel of seven individuals headed by former Premier of New Brunswick Frank McKenna. How is it that this crew could have felt in those tentative times, that Ms. Lucki was the best choice from across Canada?

One wonders that if there was a Walk of Fame for former Commissioners built outside Leikin Drive –who would get a star or a set of spurs in concrete. Maybe Paulson, if infamy is important, for his crocodile tears on settling the sexual harassment suit and paying out millions of dollars. It was at the very least a memorable media moment.

Elliott who ran into the wall of Mountie intransigence and was apparently given to throwing papers around. Not likely. But then again his intemperance may have been earned.

Zaccardelli who was forced to resign by Harper over the Maher Arar incident for not quite telling the full truth about the RCMP involvement. Again, not likely.

Busson will probably get one after all, she was the first ‘woman” to accept the post, at least temporarily.

One wonders for the next round of Commissioner applications if we are we still in the age of firsts– first woman, first black, first Indigenous, first LGBTQ member? One can only hope that in the next selection for Commissioner we have run out of “first” as being a qualification.

So who will that next Commissioner be? There is another rumour that it may be the current Acting Executive Director of Strategic Policy and Planning Directorate, Alison Whelan. Apparently she is good friends of Lucki, but I am not so sure that Lucki’s pick will carry much weight.

Ms. Whelan is a policy wonk and a long term civilian civil servant in the RCMP. She joined the Federal government as a policy analyst in 2003, then into the RCMP in 2013 to “manage policy development” and to provide “analysis on national security, serious and organized crime.” In 2018 she moved over to National Security and Protective policy. She has a Masters in Political Science from Memorial University in Newfoundland and is co-chair of a task force to create National Hate Crimes Policy Standards as well as an executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Policy, is clearly her noteworthy strength, policy is central to her being, but is the policy bureaucracy of Ottawa the place where we should be looking for change, understanding, and leadership? Would a “civilian” leader be the right choice at this time?

(On the off chance you want to learn more of Ms Whelan– she will participate in a “fireside chat” on May 4th, 2022 at the Law of Policing Conference.)

There have been a long list of Commissioners over they years, none of who’s names usually spring quickly to mind.

Remember Malcolm Lindsay in 1969, after all we named a boat after him.

There was William Higgitt in 1973– we also named a boat after him. He was followed by Nadon in 1977, and yes we named a boat after him as well. Simmonds and Inkster soon followed and we named boats after them. You would have thought we were building a navy.

Nevertheless, as we say bon voyage to Ms. Lucki maybe a new boat is in order or, at least maybe a small raft as she sails into retirement. Maybe, if we built a big raft, we could put the real root of the problem, Mr Trudeau, on the raft with her.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons via Benito Condemi de Flice – Some Rights Reserved

Regina vs. MaCallum

Even with the slapping of Chris Rock by the ridiculous Will Smith, the clap heard around the world, I find it difficult to shift my comedy seeking focus away from the Cirque de Surrey. I last wrote about the antics going on in this city in November of 2021, but I have been drawn back.

Now under the Big Tent is Mayor Doug MaCallum, ably representing the white geriatric set of South Surrey balancing as usual on the high wire of political intrigue. Below trying to dislodge the safety net are some other old white men and women from South Surrey–the Keep the Police in Surrey group. Admission to this circus is being put up by the taxpayers of this often troubled Metropolis.

Mr. MaCallum and this other group have been cajoling and sniping for sometime now over a separate police force for the citizens of Surrey.

The last altercation between the wearing thin placard carriers and the soon to be heading out of office Mayor took place, appropriately enough, in that rough and tumble South Point Save On Foods parking lot. Also known as “the hood” for retirees. These Jets and Sharks forming up for battle on 16th Avenue thankfully didn’t involve guns, knives, or broken bottles; the weapon of choice this time were Michelin radials.

It all started when Mr. MaCallum was shuffling into the grocery store and was then confronted by a car driven by a woman who is one of the spearheads of the Surrey Police Vote/Keep the Police in Surrey group. They were already at the grocery story collecting signatures for their petition, and no doubt saw the leader of the Safe Surrey Coalition fortuitously heading their way. She stopped the car and began a verbal argument with the crusty mayor who was none too pleased to see the group at his grocery story where he likes to buy his hamburger trying to get signatures to stop his crusade for a separate police force.

At some point the car turned and drove away, leaving MaCallum hollering that he had just been run over, or more specifically, claiming that she had hurriedly turned away and in so doing glanced her car’s bumper off his leg and then ran over his foot. In a t.v. interview he claims he went to the hospital and was checked out. On this video news coverage he also demonstrated for the camera, the now obvious limp in his walk. When the police officers attended they asked Mr. MaCallum if he wished to press charges and exhibiting his usual stubborn disposition said that he would, after all, he was a “victim” of a heinous crime.

Of course, this is where the file, or the investigation of this complaint, should have come to a grinding halt. The attending officers should have seen that the physical damage to the Mayor, if any, was minor if at all. They should have spoken with both parties, explained to the mayor that furthering this investigation was a waste of time, a waste of police resources, and a culmination of two childish acting individuals trying to further their cause. Nothing was to be gained by going further.

That of course didn’t happen, apparently common sense was not too common that day, either because of the insistence of the Mayor, or the intrepid police officers were bored and in order to get rid of it, escalated this “political file” to the plainclothes unit. In a city where there is rampant drug and gang problems, why not spend time and resources and go after the perpetrators of this parking lot mayhem.

So the usual process of investigation begins. The General Duty (uniform) members who attended wasted no time in ridding themselves of this “major” crime and duly took their Prime reports and put them in the pneumatic vacuum tubes directly into the office of Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards the head of Surrey Detachment. Further brain storming meetings undoubtedly ensued as little is done in the RCMP now with out a committee meeting.

Edwards of course has had his differences with Mr. McCallum and has spoken out previously against McCallum’s party, the Safe Coalition group. For those that have been ignoring the Surrey news, the new Surrey Police Services group is over two hundred officers now and the process of replacing the haggard Mounties is well underway. The Mounties are keeping a brave face and pretending that everything is normal.

So along comes Mr McCallum’s complaint. Clearly McCallum was exaggerating his victimhood, clearly this was a very childish matter on the part of both parties. Mr. Edwards must have recognized that this could be an opportunity to embarrass his civic enemy. But he was astute enough to also realize that because of his past history, there was a clear “conflict of interest” in having the soon to be exiting Mounties investigating the fellow who is opening the door for them.

So to whom did Edwards give the investigation?

“To ensure there was no potential for real or perceived conflict of interest or improper influence” Mr. Edwards announced he was turning it over to another RCMP group, the RCMP Major Crime Section, Special Projects Unit, based out of E Division HQ.

How Mr. Edwards could not see this as still a conflict of interest is indeed baffling. Did he think that the fact that they were working out of E Division HQ, in a different building, that no one would notice that they are also RCMP? However, this fact did not seem to draw much media attention, so the investigation went forward.

Lo and behold, a mere three weeks later, the RCMP Major Crimes unit served a Production Order (a type of warrant) on the offices of CTV News. The warrant sought the unedited footage of the interview with McCallum and the reporter Catherine Urqhuart. The investigation according to the warrant was under Section 140(1)(a) entitled Public Mischief. The Mounties had clearly and quickly switched from this being an occasion of “assault” where McCallum was victim, to one where the victim was now the suspect.

The CTV news group, in dramatic fashion announced the raid on their offices, and immediately intoned that the maximum sentence for such an offence was five years. The veiled and intentional implication was that McCallum was indeed headed to the slammer.

This seemingly horrendous crime of assault, lack of assault, or public mischief, now deserved only the best legal minds one can buy. A “Special Prosecutor” was demanded by these apparently complicated legal circumstances.

So Richard Fowler was appointed. Mr. Fowler QC has had a fairly long and established career and according to his firms biography specializes in “large, complex cases”. He had previously worked with his former mentor David Gibbons on the defence of one of those accused in the Air India case. He even defended Glen Clark, the former Premier of the Province on charges of breach of trust and fraud. Therefore, he was with little doubt suitable for this more than serious undertaking. At significant cost of course.

Mr. McCallum, not to be outdone, hired legal gun slinger Richard Peck QC . Mr. Peck has been in the news recently as the defender of Meng Wanzhou . The extremely able, high profile, and also costly Mr. Peck is usually facing the challenges of defending murderers, sex offenders, and other sundry violators. His defence in this high profile case may come down to being able to read tire impressions.

Mr.McCallum was charged with public mischief on December 10th, 2021, an offence whereby “everyone commits public mischief who, with intent to mislead, causes a police officer to enter or continue an investigation…”. His defence counsel said that Mr. McCallum would not enter a plea at this time as they were awaiting “outstanding information”. Four months had gone by since the execution of the production order. Quick with the warrant, not so quick with the full disclosure package.

So on March 8th 2022, the case was put over to the Friday March 11, 2022 just to set a date for a “pre-trial conference”. The pre-trial conference has now been set for April 11th, 2022.

The lawyers have indicated that if the matter goes by trial, they will require five court days for the trial. The date of that trial will be determined, if needed, after April 11th. So four months have gone by since the charges and the court case has yet to begin. In comparison, if one is interested in measuring legal speed, in the high profile highly-charged and very complicated George Floyd incident in the U.S., Derek Chauvin was charged with murder. Four months later the legal proceedings began.

So what is going to come of all this time, money and resources. Mr. Fowler has already stated in the case of Mr. McCallum that they will be proceeding “summarily”. This means that they are treating this as a “less than serious offence” and are therefore opening the resolution to a lesser punishment. Fines less than $5,000 with a maximum jail time of “two years less a day”.

So as we await Mr McCallum’s fate and find out whether it in fact goes to a five day trial, one can only hope that in the pre-trial conference saner heads will prevail. The way things go in Surrey, this may in fact turn into a long running three ring circus.

All over a file call that two officers just out of recruit field training should have ended in ten minutes– including the paperwork.

Photo courtesy of Waferboard at Flickr Commons — Some Rights Reserved

A Very Private Canada

Mr. Trudeau and company set out on his second personal convoy to Europe in the last couple of days, to present himself as a leader in the western world’s semi-defence of the Ukraine. It is likely, however cynical it may seem, that his political image makers felt that this would be another, second golden opportunity to re-shape his tarnished narrative at home. War seemingly, has always had the ability to bolster ones captaincy.

The only blemish or hiccup which surfaced in his multiple highly structured appearances is that he had to entertain some questions from some of the European based journalists– who still seem to exhibit some vestiges of old school journalism–who apparently were not quite as appreciative of the coziness of the Canadian media to their leader.

After meeting with the Queen, the British Prime Minister, and the NATO secretary general there was a press conference. As many of the Canadian journalists dutifully stood in silent attendance, they watched as our Canadian Prime Minister was peppered with questions. The Prime Minister not recognizing a slight change in tenor in Europe, had done what he always does, whether it be in the House of Commons, or in front of a bank of friendly microphones. He simply launched into “talking points”; those short speeches of practised and safe verbiage. The usual “standing strong”, “Canadians are with you”, blah blah blah.

Some of the European journalists turned to their colleagues from across the pond, clearly perplexed, and said to them, “you know, your Prime Minister doesn’t answer questions?”. They were baffled. How is it that he doesn’t answer? After all they reasoned, this was a serious time with a serious series of questions awaiting clarification.

The Canadian journalists of course are aware of their Prime Minister and his constant avoidance of questions. They have been grinning and bearing it for a number of years. By tolerating it they of course unwittingly condone it. It has now become part of the Canadian parliamentary accepted political playbook. Chrystia Freeland, Melanie Joly and the other Cabinet Ministers are all now mimicking their master.

Why don’t the media push back, why don’t they ask the clearly glaring follow up question?

The answer is that journalism is struggling in our country. Newspapers and standard cable television are being swallowed up and spit out by the internet. Readership and viewership is dwindling to the point of being almost irrelevant. Those few that are left behind, need to have access to the PM, they need to get a free ride to the event. To act otherwise would kick them out of the small circle and they would lose their ticket on the plane.

Furthermore, their editors and producers, in order to compete with the social media who blurt incessantly, are trying to fit everything into a 150 word Twitter blip or a thirty second sound bite. They therefore need the headline and thus they need access to the providers of any headline no matter how tamed. When one is operating under these constraints there is little opportunity or desire for a probing question.

As a country we the people, seem willing to accept this lack of insight. No time in our busy schedules, no real interest in anything past a bare headline. Therefore we are not overly concerned about tenacity in our journalists. We believe or are willing to believe, at least on some surface level, what we are being told by those somber sounding talking heads every night at 6 o’clock.

Running in parallel to this evasiveness and more potentially dangerous may also be our seeming acceptance of our government to be allowed to conduct business as they see fit; in privacy, out of the public inquiring eye. We apparently trust our government operatives to operate ethically. This assumption of honesty may be disproportional to the evidence. Or are we just dis-interested, complacent in our Canadian security?

The government’s desire for privacy is enveloped by and enforced by the legislation and entirely consistent with the desire for secrecy. First and foremost there is the Federal Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. If one dares to venture into the world of intelligence, then there is the Official Secrets Act. The Provinces have their own separate privacy acts. In the Province of British Columbia, there is the Personal Protection Act layered on top of all the other Acts. All of them are designed and have the express purpose to limit access to “private information”. In broad simple terms they are sold to us as a necessity to the overriding good. The devil, as always, is in the details.

In reading the complete version of these Acts, you can begin to see the over-reaching nature of these Statutes. You are not allowed to see the position or function of a government employee, the title or business address, classification or salary of that employee. In fact you are not allowed to see the name of an individual on a document. You are not allowed to know anyone performing services or under contract to government including the terms of a contract, and the names of individuals on that contract. You are not allowed any information relating to any discretionary benefit of a a financial nature, including the “granting of a licence or permit conferred on an individual, including the name or the exact nature of the benefits”. In fact the very “existence of the information does not need to be disclosed”.

If curiosity arises and you put in a Freedom of Information Act request, you will likely be waiting 18 months to two years for the information; which will also likely be redacted to the point of often being useless, not to mention untimely. It recently took this blogger 18 months to receive the answer to a request of how many officers were working on a particular Watch at a particular RCMP detachment. The answer was itself missing half the information, saying they didn’t know, or that they did not gather such information. (apparently they don’t know how many people were working on a particular shift) When I was able to double check the actual numbers that were provided, the numbers were in the end not accurate either.

The Federal Privacy Act applies to all government institutions, an extensive list of Crown Corporations and government sponsored entities. The list numbers in the hundreds. This includes such groups as the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the Specifications Board (whatever that is) and the Nunavut Water Board.

Three point six million Canadians worked for the Federal Government in 2010, another 844,762 worked for the Provincial and Territorial Governments. This is roughly 20-25% of the population depending on the measure. If you include those that work in the private sector but are under contract to various levels of government those Government Business Enterprises (GBE) add another 350,000 employees.

If we look at the Courts and the administration of Justice in this country, records are regularily hidden from public view, despite the principal need for justice to be seen as being done.

Defence counsel and civil counsel will almost invariably ask for publication bans in the name of privacy, and those bans are routinely given by Judges with little forethought or examination of the public’s right to know. Media companies often have to go to court to fight these publication bans, but of course an individual usually will not have those kinds of legal and financial resources.

Our labour arbitrations are the masters of keeping quiet. Settlements never exposed, no matter how egregious. If you leave a company employ, you sign a non-disclosure agreement.

Civil case settlements will almost always include these non-disclosure clauses to protect “privacy” It is effectively also protecting the secrecy of the wrong-doing. One does not have to look further than the sexual harassment suits which were signed off by the RCMP. Lawyers and Judges in quiet wood panelled rooms get to see the details, but not you, the taxpaying public.

The irony is that this is all happening as the government continues to gather individual and private information on you. Your health records under the cover of Covid being put on a government application. We are assured that these apps could never be hacked. The tethering of our phones to our lives and our very existence means that we are more than willing to let data aggregators know where we live, what book or food we like, and which toothpaste we like to buy.

The ability to control information is a powerful tool. The war in Ukraine is playing out constantly on the waves of the internet, both sides producing mis-information in the battle for our approval and acceptance and to extol their positions. Safe to say there really are no principled sides. Right or left, Liberals or Conservatives, North America or Russia.– one only needs to look to the examples that Wikileaks and Snowden exposed. No one should trust their government implicitly.

The problem is overwhelmingly complex, layered, and few show any interest in peering in. There are some banging on the gates of secrecy that surround Canada’s institutions, but right now it is for the most part falling on deaf ears. Government employees and our representatives are not going to give up their hiding spots easily. Transparency in what transpires in government corridors throughout this country is non-existent. It is election rhetoric at best, nothing more. Our current Federal leader even when asked a relevant question feels no need to expose information of any kind.

On a more recent intimate level, there is the story of Liette Savoie and her quest to uncover the details of an investigation of the death of her 17 year old daughter in Bas-Caraquet New Brunswick in 2007. The other driver was convicted of impaired driving causing death. She is on the quest for further information as there are many rumours of the crash being the result of a high speed chase and that there was another car involved. The initial answer by the RCMP was that the Access to Information Act did not allow for disclosure due to a 20 year before release rule. They were pressed by the Federal Commissioner and they again argued that the personal information of the deceased (yes, her dead daughter) was protected for 20 years and that the public interest in disclosure “did not outweigh the invasion of privacy that would result from disclosure”.

This kind of story can be multiplied hundreds of times over.

It is heart breaking and maybe even more disturbing when the police as instructed and directed by an allegedly democratic government, simply go into hiding.

The Liberals just negotiated a deal with the NDP, to insure a majority style government. Even the Liberal MP’s did not know it was coming.

The agreement, of course, was negotiated in secret. That is the way we do things in Canada.

Photo courtesy of Flickr by European Parliament via Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved

The “Casualty Commission”

The Mass Casualty Commission has finally begun public hearings in Nova Scotia. Two long years since the tragedy of Portapique, a night of infamy when twenty-two people were killed over an agonizingly long thirteen hour period; the perpetrator driving the back gravel roads– his victims pre-determined, his justification firmly contained in his own mind. His thoughts and twisted goals now locked forever by his glory seeking death in an innocuous Irving gas station parking lot.

Two years in our lives would seem more than enough time one to conduct and complete any serious criminal investigation. After all, the one and only suspect was dead, albeit with numerous crime scenes but all conclusively tied to him forensically. However this is government, so we are just now at the stage of public witnesses and the tendering of what this 38 person Commission has found to date. Barbara McLean who is the Director of Investigations, even went so far as to say that the investigation is “ongoing” despite having collected thousands of documents and taken numerous statements numerous times from all involved.

These particular public hearings are to go for a further several months with the final report not due to be completed until November 2022. Some observers allege that the length and breadth of this investigation is in itself, by design, structured to mute the outrage. Time, or the buying of time, being the best governmental tool to dilute an upset public.

It began on February 22nd and the public record of it goes up to March 9th as this is being written.

Former Supreme Court Justice Michael MacDonald began the hearings with the usual thanks to the Indigenous for allowing it to take place on their “un-ceded territory”, which if nothing else signals to all that we are indeed involved in a governmental hearing. This is followed by a daily tribute to the victims with a listing of all of their names. Day after day this tribute will be repeated and over time runs the danger of becoming more political governmental theatre than substance.

The majority of the first day was an orientation, which then evolved into a panel discussion on the psychological impacts of the events on Nova Scotians and on the rest of Canada. This panel, which consisted of a therapist, a psychology professor, and the President and CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. There were a few others, but suffice to say they were there to continue and extend that mantra of all of us having been victimized by the events in Portapique. The Commission felt that part of their mandate is a need to help us “normalize and validate emotions people have felt or have been feeling”.

This somewhat incongruous start continues into the next day which begins with another panel discussion this time designed to “introduce the communities”. This second panel consisted of Chief Sidney Peters who spoke about the Indigenous causes(Chief Peters specializes in Agricultural and Housing Programs); an Anglican Rector Nicole Uzans; Alana Hurtle, the head of the Rotary Cares Committee; and Mary Teed, a social worker.

The rather bizarre use and questionable need for these panels was summed up by a Global News reporter who asked during a question and answer session what these opening remarks and panels had to do with the questions uppermost in the minds of the families. He asked pointedly: “Do you feel that you have lost the families?” While another reporter asked the more obvious: “Whats the point of the panels?” A Halifax Chronicle reporter, clearly miffed at two already long days listening to pointless and mostly irrelevant commentary, asked whether if it was “necessary” to hear what it was like to be living in “rural” Nova Scotia.

It was suffice to say a rocky start.

One would be remiss at this time to not outline the nature and make up of the Commission. If one ever wanted to see a liberalized government structure in full bloom, this is your opportunity. One must also keep in mind that the Commission was formed after some reluctance by the Attorney-General for Nova Scotia and only after pressure arose from the victims families.

The Commission themes play consistently like bad Muzak. There is obsessive talk of victims, the constant strum of words like “working together”, “safer”, “stronger”, “shared understanding”, and a “shared purpose”. In his opening statement head Commissioner Michael MacDonald says with grandeur that one of the goals of the Commission is to make “sure that it never happens again”.

The other two primary Commissioners are Leanne Fitch, the retired seven year Police Chief of the Fredricton police department; who in her opening statement talks of her work in community policing, dealing with what she deemed the “most vulnerable”. The third Commissioner, Dr. Kim Stanton, a lawyer and academic speaks to making the world “safer”, and the commission leading to a “shared understanding” and a “shared purpose”.

Then there is the rest that make up the Commission. There are the Commission Directors: eight of them. Then there is the Commission Team which consists of a further 27 individuals; nine of whom are lawyers. One thing that sticks out, in fact it is rather striking, is the number of women on the Commission staff. Twenty-seven of the thirty-eight are women, thereby making up 72% of the Commission (22% of the RCMP in Nova Scotia are women). I honestly don’t know what that means or whether it will have any bearing on the outcome– one can only hope. The assigned seven “investigators” are all men.

Did I mention there were a few lawyers? The ones mentioned above just work for the Commission; then there are the lawyers for the victim families, the Federal Justice Department, and lawyers for the National Police Federation to name just a few. Those logging 8 hour billable days may be the only group which will survive this lengthy process.

So with all these lawyers one can make a few predictions. It’s going to go longer than necessary. Secondly, the gut wrenching truth, the bare truth, will be softened and weakened by a layer of protection over the various interests that may feel, or imagine, they have some exposure.

Running in the background and outside of the Commission are a couple of civil cases the lawyers for whom are present, and would more than relish some damning information to come out of these hearings. One is being brought by the victims families, and the other by Lisa Banfield who is suing over the suspect Gabriel Wortman’s $1.2 million estate.

Maybe, this is being too harsh or cynical, after all this is not a criminal proceeding. This is, in the words of the Commission mandate “…is not designed nor intending to determine guilt or assign blame”. They are there to work “in a restorative way”. They are there to “restore a sense of safety”, to insure that there is “public safety in our communities”.

To outline the investigational narrative this Commission is using what is termed “Foundational documents”. Although Roger Burrill, the Commission counsel, states that they are “foundational” and not “determinative”. The use of these “Foundational documents” is not common.

In a criminal proceeding one would tell the narrative with the presentation of evidence and witnesses usually in some form of investigational order. In this instance, they are only using witnesses in their words to “fill in the gaps” left by the Foundational documents. They are also vetting out crime photographs and you will not hear all of the 911 calls in their entirety. This they explain is so that they don’t victimize the victims once again; even though this policy clearly flies in the face of a fulsome disclosure. Our sensitivity as a Nation according to this Commission precludes us from knowing all the details, as gruesome as they may be and as uncomfortable as that may make us.

So far, three foundational documents have been shown– twenty-seven more are coming.

There are twenty-seven proposed witnesses up to this point in time and those witnesses will eventually include Commissioner Lucki, A/Commissioner (retired) Lee Bergerman and C/Supt Chris Leather. That will happen when they get around to the foundational document entitled “Command Decisions”. That testimony should prove slightly more interesting than a panel on whats it like to live in rural Nova Scotia but that may show my personal bias.

The first two foundational documents now on record pertain to the events in Portapique on April 18th and April 19th 2020. These are the base events from which all else will follow. The first officers responding, the calling of ERT, the trapped kids in the residence on Orchard Beach Drive. Even abbreviated, the circumstances facing the officers who arrived thirty minutes after the initial call and their subsequent ninety minutes spent together in the dark, not knowing where the suspect was, or even the extent of his damage will awaken the senses of every police officer listening.

Csts. Patton, Beselt and Merchant, were the only police in this man-made Hades. The house fires lit their way as they stumbled across bodies lying bloodied and unmoving in a yard or gravel driveway. Their senses over-loaded and in the end even though reacting as an “active shooter” procedure, can do nothing but “hunker down”. They deserve all our credit.

The original caller, Jamie Blair, calls 911 at 10:01 pm on that fateful night, witnessed her husband Greg being gunned down on the porch. She will die a short time later as Wortman comes after her and kills her in cold blood. The phone call ending.

The heroes will likely be the four children who huddled together in the basement of 135 Orchard Beach Drive, two of which, ages 9 and 11, had witnessed their parents being murdered. The two escaped to the McCauley residence.

Earlier Lisa McCauley an Elementary school teacher, had guarded the bedroom door, her children trembling behind her. She was shot through that door. When Wortman enters the bedroom, unaware of the children behind her, he shoots her once again.

The horror of those thirteen hours and the single mindedness of someone capable of such extraordinary violence is numbing to even listen to.

It is indeed unfortunate that this Commission is off to a less than auspicious start. Their desire to project empathy and understanding seems to overwhelm them, and thus may overwhelm the ability to get to any meaningful dialogue or expose what may have gone wrong. Legalistic and bureaucratic niceties seem destined to dull the edge of this inquiry. Future months of interminable testimony could prove more banal than enlightening.

There will be the predictable complaints of manpower, broken communication, and the odd moment of embarrassment. It seems likely that the lack of police investigation in the early days of Wortman, those days preceding his violent crusade, his domestic abuse, and his gathering of offensive weapons and building replica police cars will likely prove more damning than a lack of a Provincial wide Alert. The evidence of Lisa Banfield will undoubtedly give us a glimpse into a crazed man. Maybe it was all predictable, but these psychological breakdowns usually defy our current ability to understand.

This Commission is not designed to assign blame so blame they will not find.

In the end, Government Recommendations will flow with abandon from an over wordy eventual report, and they will all likely be dealt the fate of most government recommendations.

Making the families endure another eight months of this may in fact be the real re-victimizing– the families despair likely to be replaced with ever mounting frustration.

The rest of us may all be just another “casualty”… but stay tuned.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by mrbanjo1138–Some Rights Reserved

Conviction politics

This is a policing story, or more accurately a story about how the police should police. The resulting judicial action in this story should send a chill down the spine of all officers. It may even require you to re-assess your career choice.

This story originates in that bastion of polarized viewpoints and guileless political pandering that makes up those fifty states and one District to the south of us. The theory is that if you want to predict upcoming policing developments in Canada you usually don’t need to look much further than to our brother and sister officers in the U.S. of A.

At first blush it is easy to point out that the atmosphere in the United States and in Canada over the last couple of years would not be one that has conjured up positive attitudes to the police. With Trump gone (albeit astoundingly threatening to come back) Uncle Joe has now found his new left social conscious. We are watching as he and Justin, holding hands, run to the social democratic cliff like Thelma and Louise. Their audience and intended target for their attention and genuflection, and hopefully they assume their votes, is anyone who is in a minority– take your pick.

Racism in the United States is racism in Canada. Systemic racism in the U.S. crosses the border unencumbered to every level of government policy in Canada. The need for diversity in the U.S. is quickly mirrored with cries for diversity in Canada. Tearing down Confederate statues in the U.S. is met with the Indigenous and all those that consider themselves “woke” tearing down statues in Canada. We seem to copy the U.S. collective guilt with gleeful abandon.

We mimic their police in our garb and militarization, our stance indistinguishable from our Southern neighbours, so it is natural that we also suffer the consequences of policies designed to curtail the authoritative nature of policing or when things go wrong. We copy but then express surprise at the negative consequences.

The George Floyd incident in Minnesota left those already convinced of racism at every level spitting in rage and indignation. It sparked the de-funding police movement, and it sustained the belief that all police are systemically racist and ill-intentioned. The black community demanded justice at this the latest outrage, and rioting swept through the country. When the charges were laid against Derek Chauvin, there was a palatable fear of an acquittal by the government overseers of the police. The evidence as a result became secondary– a show trial was demanded, granted, and delivered.

Did George Floyd deserve to die? He did not. Was it intentional murder was then and remains the relevant question; the question that many are afraid to voice in this climate of angered throng justice.

Despite our differing histories, the after shocks in Minnesota and Portland Oregon were borne along by the allegedly shocked media, travelling unabated and unquestioned into this country.

Defunding the police, Black Lives Matter, “systemic” racism and uncontrolled cries of victimization, now resonant and rebound off the walls of government committee rooms on Municipal, Provincial and Federal levels. All allegations no matter how outlandish are now met by nodded knowing assurances from our politicians and their constant pledges of forthcoming change. Apologies have become an art form. To do otherwise, to even countenance the merits of an argument, is met by denunciation and ridicule.

So now the George Floyd case has produced another unjust and unreasonable outcome.

I am speaking of the conviction of the three officers who were also in attendance during the George Floyd arrest.

Two of the three officers were rookies, brand new to the topsy-turvy world of policing.

They were convicted of failing to intervene and prevent officer Chauvin, the senior officer at the scene, from kneeling on the neck of George Floyd on that dark day in May 2020. In essence they were convicted of failing to save the life of George Floyd. It was the proclaimed truth that Mr Floyd was in fact being “murdered” in front of them, and they did nothing to stop it.

Even the NY Times described it as an extraordinary “rare” example of the Justice Department prosecuting officers for their “inaction”. The Times also stated in typical rarefied righteous Liberal thinking, that this was a “signal” to the police– that “juries may become more willing to convict not just officers who kill people on the job, but also those that watch them do it”.

The officers, Tou Thao, age 36, J Alexander Keung, age 28, and Thomas Lane age 38 had apparently violated Mr Floyd’s constitutional rights by not providing “medical care” when he lost a pulse–two were guilty of not intervening to stop a fellow officer from planting a knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Even though there was evidence at the Chauvin trial that this was a police taught restraint technique.

Keung and Lane during the incident assisted in the arrest and had wrestled with the resisting Mr. Floyd on the ground when he was being handcuffed. If you watched the video and who hasn’t, Mr Thao was the one standing some distance away –trying to keep the crowd from interfering.

The officers could be sentenced to life in prison.

If that is not enough, they are also facing other charges of aiding and abetting a murder and have another trial scheduled for later this year. If you ever wanted to see a legal dog-piling of charges; this is it.

Of course, there is a huge problem with this verdict. It is illogical. It is naive and it defies common sense and observation. It comes from an ivory tower perspective and a viewpoint one where reality never dares to come into focus.

It is entirely hinged on the belief that the officers knew, or should have known that officer Chauvin was “murdering” George Floyd. Again, if one watched the video that was played across the nation every 15 minutes on the cable news networks, there was no evidence in the officers reactions that would support this theory.

One must also remember that an ambulance had already been called to attend to Mr Floyd. If you were witnessing, condoning, and sanctioning a “murder” would you be calling an ambulance? Would you intentionally kill someone In broad daylight with several onlookers– who were willing to film it and even though someone was getting “murdered” –did not think they should intervene?

It completely defies reason– except in a court system which in recent years in the United States has become distorted and warped by the winds of political expediency. Somewhere along the line the judiciary lost the ability for judicial reasoning.

Joe Biden has promised and is on the record as saying that he was going to be more aggressive in prosecuting civil rights violations. This Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Lyndon Johnson and was an act which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin”.

In this case, the jury had to be convinced that the officers actions or inactions was based on racism. It was because Mr. Floyd was black, not because they were responding to a complaint about Mr. Floyd. Yet, again, there is no evidence whatsoever that was introduced at the trial which gave rise to an allegation of racism. For the record, Mr. Keung is Chinese, Mr. Thao is Vietnamese.

But Biden and the Justice Department is playing to those that elected him as the Democrats struggle to keep the votes for the upcoming Senate and House Elections. If he was going to look forceful to the black vote to which the Democrats now desperately cling, George Floyd presented the first high profile case where he could flex his political muscles. It is this same desire which made him announce ahead of time that he was going to appoint a black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. No matter the rightful logic, announcing it ahead of time was pure politics, he couldn’t help himself.

This is not to argue that there are no circumstances where officers should not intervene. There clearly are times when officers are in the wrong.

In the Rodney King incident in Los Angelas, four officers stood by while officers beat Rodney King into submission. They were never charged although they clearly should have been. The recurring question is whether or not that incident is comparable to the George Floyd incident.

Upon hearing this latest verdict in the George Floyd matter, the press predictably turned the cameras to the more than willing Floyd family and in a clearly staged and rehearsed moment, George Floyd’s brother said that he “can finally breathe again”.

This was an unjust death, but it has now been layered over with an unjust verdict. The public believe that in this case two wrongs do make a right.

Could this happen in Canada? Of course, it could and likely will. Trudeau and the current administration see racism in every element of society and are thus determined to eradicate it. This is their truth as well. Commissioner Lucki has agreed, well at least after a gentle prodding.

In the United States Georgetown University has already enrolled 215 police departments on a course teaching how police officers should “intervene” if observing misbehaviour of other officers. It is also called “active bystander training”.

As a principle, this seems like a worthwhile course. As a practical exercise it is fraught with peril. By definition it runs head long into the paramilitary structure of policing. What no one seems to be currently considering is that this very same para-military structure is often paramount to street survival.

So on the one end of the pendulum, “snitching” on another officer is removed as an obstacle. At the other end of the action pendulum could be an officer failing to take control and command in a violent situation. The reality is that the instantaneous form of decision making which is prevalent in policing, is usually not conducive to open, long, or prolonged debate. That happens in those white towers.

When police officers get in trouble, it is normally because of an inability to control anger. The anger is often instantaneous and unpredictable. I am not so sure that this course will alter any outcomes despite the best intentions. Maybe time needs to be spent on an officers psychological make-up early in the recruitment process. Maybe trying to intervene with an angered officer, with the wrong disposition, maybe too little too late.

One can rest assured though, that if any police officer in Canada finds themselves in similar circumstances in this country, the politically enlightened will embrace the George Floyd verdicts regardless of borders or history. The staging and production of the George Floyd trial will become a touring company, soon to be coming to a theatre near you.

Photo courtesy of Renoir Geither via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

The Sledgehammer and the Peanuts…

As Justin settles into his darkened library in the night, blanket over his knees, alone with his thoughts– in a MacKenzie King moment, his father whispers to him from the darkness– haunting, possibly taunting him. Pierre Trudeau, the deceased former Prime Minister spirit shadowing his young son the high school teacher and latest Prime Minister; as his lesser equipped son try’s to find out how to remove a Peterbilt from in front of the Centre Block.

The Emergencies Act? Really son, you think that this is comparable to my day when I was facing the FLQ”

“Dad these people are “terrorists”.

“well not really son, …those Quebec bastards in October of 1970 were real terrorists..or at least that was the way they were acting. They kidnapped people and even killed a Provincial cabinet minister. They were actually plotting the secession from Canada.”

“but these guys Dad, they are not like us, they are all white supremacy extremists, you know the type, redneck roughnecks from that middle part of Canada.. they even put a ball cap on the statue of Terry Fox… and those damn horns…the noise Dad, the noise…besides the media are all over me, comparing me to you, portraying me as ineffectual and weak.”

“Yes son, I hear them, but let’s face it you are not me. You know I always hoped you would become more like me than your mother. But, if it will make you feel better, go for it. Keep in mind, you can’t let up if you want to stick to this narrative, you need to keep using those words of insurrection and occupation, that they are a threat to national security. Let’s face it, this doesn’t really meet the definition of a national emergency. Keep referring to them as Nazi’s, nobody likes a Nazi. You will be alright in the end because by the time it goes through a week in the House and the Senate, everything will be long over, and you can at least look decisive and not really have to face any of the negative consequences”.

“True… thanks Dad I feel better now”.

Other than being visited by the ghost of his political upbringing, there can be no better explanation for Mr. Trudeau Jr. to now step up. Clearly he does not know history and maybe he hasn’t even read the Emergencies Act, after all it has never been used before, so why would he. What he did know was that he was getting angry with “those people”, he was getting angry that no tow truck drivers would cooperate, he was getting angry with the media egging him on questioning his ability to govern and his toughness. He was getting especially angry that people around the world were paying attention to the dispute in Canada; how was it possible that the enlightened leader of Canada could be being called out, dispelling the Canadian utopian image.

Even Grandpa Joe called from the U.S. to say, hey get on with it, those cars need their parts.

To understand the Emergencies Act, one must first understand its predecessor, the War Measures Act.

The War Measures Act which gave broad powers to the Federal government was to be instituted as a “declaration of war, invasion or insurrection”. Which would explain the Liberals deftly referring to an “insurrection” all the time now. The need for WMA and its imposition came about only three times. During WWI, WWII, and during the 1970 “October Crisis”.

During WWI, between 1914 and 1920 it was enacted to intern Ukranians and some other Europeans, who were declared “enemy aliens”. It also allowed them to disallow any person who had membership in a “socialist or communist organization”. We have since apologized for our behaviour.

It was used during WWII to intern the Japanese. We have since apologized about our behaviour then too.

And it was used in October 1970 to thwart the Front du Liberation de Quebec, who kidnapped James Cross and Pierre Laporte. Laporte was later found murdered. The FLQ were making demands and pushing the Province secession from Canada. The Army invaded the streets of Montreal and by the end of it 465 people were arrested without charges and eventually released. The law effectively removed the need for habeas corpus.

The War Measures Act in 1970 was not without dissenters. The NDP leader Tommy Douglas said the that Pierre Trudeau was using a “sledgehammer to crack a peanut”, and the separatists argued that they were criminalizing the separatist movement. To this day, the decision to enact at that time was dividing. This may explain why Yves Blanchett last year asked for apologies for the enactment of the War Measures Act for his fellow Quebecers. (This would also explain why the Premier of Quebec is now saying that he wants assurances that the Emergencies Act will not be employed in Quebec.)

Ironically, when it was discovered that the RCMP may have exceeded their authorities during this time of the War Measures Act implementation, they ordered a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the RCMP; known as the McDonald Commission. After a lengthy inquiry the McDonald Commission recommended a curtailing of the War Measures Act, which led to the production of the now in the news Emergencies Act.

The new now apparently gentler Emergencies Act, which has taken its place and is front and centre in the news of today, lays out four criteria for its implementation.

  1. a public welfare emergency
  2. a public order emergency
  3. an international emergency
  4. a war emergency.

In the regulations you will also find that in order for conditions to be met for the implementation of this Emergencies Act, it has to be pre-determined that “the existing laws of Canada are not effective in addressing the situation”

If any of the above criteria are met, and that is a big if. this Act would allow the government to “ban gatherings” around such things as national monuments and the legislatures” , and to make there be “protected places” such as Justin’s house. It would “prohibit public assembly… other than lawful advocacy or protest or dissent”. It would allow the government and the banks to determine who was providing funds through platforms such as GoFundMe and the like, and it would allow the government to freeze the bank accounts of those that contributed.

So as we examine the criteria, does this constitute a public welfare emergency? Across this nation is the welfare of the public in danger. Well, if not that then, is this a public order emergency? Is there a need for public order across this country? Do you now feel threatened sitting in Vancouver, in Calgary, in Halifax right now? Maybe in Ottawa off Bank Street, but now this protest into its third week and slowly being dismantled has been determined as a public order emergency? Is this a threat to all Canadians or just to the shrill folks of the Ottawa Police Board?

In terms of the criteria in points 3 and 4. Neither of the latter are applicable.

So how do we explain this ongoing lunacy?

Is the infringement of human rights a legitimate concern? If the answer is yes, why is it that the Prime Minister refuses to meet with them? He clearly went down the political path of labelling them, speaking down to them, and could not personally relate to them. He orchestrated this dialogue and thus put himself nicely in a diplomatic box. His stubborn attitude and ego is keeping him there.

To explain this lack of dialogue, he had to turn up the heat to prove that these people were illegitimate. The convoy raised a great deal of money during their trek to Ottawa, so they even went after the GoFundMe page, and the page folded to that political pressure.

They went after the fringe players that are always drawn to any type of anti-government protest. Lets face it, all protests draw the lunatic fringe. When the indigenous were protesting did they go after the flags they were showing, the tearing down of statutes they were orchestrating, or the multiple torching of churches? Did they examine those involved in the Indigenous protest and seek out the radical few on Twitter or Instagram? Did they stop any funding to the Indigenous?

Do you think Black Lives Matter has a few radical elements? Do they think the environmental protestors had not radicals. Of course, they all do. So what makes this different?

The police in all this are in the usual difficult position of trying to smoothe out a litany of missteps by our illustrious politicians. The “progressive” Ottawa Police chief resigned. The Ottawa police board has now fallen apart as the politicos are throwing around recriminations and in-fighting. The Federal Liberals have been trying to direct the investigation of the convoy from the outset, even trying to direct where the trucks should be parked but most importantly effectively orchestrating the us versus them dialogue with inflammatory language and accusations. (Yesterday in Parliament Trudeau accused a Jewish Conservative member of being in favour of the Nazis—in the category of you can’t make this up)

Are the existing laws of Canada not sufficient to quell this “uprising”?

It seems that when pushed the police are charging people and arresting people and towing away some vehicles. So the laws are there, but the willingness to enforce, and the resources to enforce are in short supply–lets face it they underestimated the support this convoy would generate.

Do you think it is coincidence that this convoy has been compared to the January 6th uprising in the United States, which the Democrats in that country are working hard to try and prove that Trump was trying to overthrow the duly elected government. Similar claims of right wing Aryan nation types abound in that dialogue too. Proof of it is far less compelling.

Now the government is pointing to four individuals who have been arrested and charged with “plotting to murder RCMP officers” and nine charges of mischief and weapons offences against nine others. The police press release says that they launched into an “immediate and complex investigation to determine the threat and criminal organization”. The group of four conspirators, all of whom work for a lighting group in Calgary, had “three trailers” associated to them and a warrant was duly executed. In it they found 13 long guns, a handgun, body armour and a machete along with ammunition.

This could require some thoughtful dissecting. It was acknowledged that the conspiracy to commit murder of the RCMP officers stems from, in the police wording, that this group had a “willingness to use force if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade”.

Not for a moment do I think that these are unwarranted charges. If they were planning to bring out the guns if the police moved in, they should be prosecuted and the police applauded for cutting off potential violence.

My only question is the portrayal of the investigation as a discovered attempt for insurrection and a “conspiracy to commit murder”, planned resistance being far different legally and morally, then planning to go out to kill police officers.

Looking at the background of those charged and the various ages of those involved, one also wonders whether this would constitute a normal person’s version of a no named “criminal organization.”

It all just makes you wonder where all this ends up when it goes through the inevitable court siphon.

But Trudeau, Freeland, and Mendocino know one thing.

The majority of Canadians according to the latest poll want the convoy to end, and they don’t mind if some people get hurt.

68% of Canadians felt that they wanted the military and the police to do so by force.

Just 26% of Canadians thought that they wanted a negotiated settlement.

Paradoxically 54% a slight majority are not impressed with the politicians.

Maybe the people of this country who have been willing to set aside their civil rights in the fight against a virus, comprised of a generation of individuals who have never faced a real crisis such as war, are now more willing to take it out on others. The media portrayal has indeed worked while to be fair, even some of the journalists were thwarted when asking for the evidence. The overall effect however has been an us versus them, good versus evil. The always right against the perpetually wrong.

It is time they say, and clearly believe, to unleash the power of the government on the people who disagree and dare to voice those concerns.

In this writer’s opinion, this is a sad and dark day for Canada. Not for the actions of the police but for the actions of the politicians carried out by the police.

If things go badly in the next few days, and people get hurt, including the police, my guess is that years from now, we will be apologizing once again. The police are now facing an intransigent group, a cornered dog that has had rocks thrown at it for three weeks, and now is facing clubs being swung at its head. Some may bar their teeth and snap back even though a leader in the convoy said that if approached they will take a knee.

My hope though is that in a few years this will not be remembered, the overtime cheques will have been duly paid, and we are left with this having been a tempest in the teapot. One albeit, that was totally avoidable. All we needed to do was listen.

Then all the restrictions will be off– something the convoy wanted from the beginning.

Photo courtesy of Hailey Sani of Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Breaker, Breaker…got your ears on Justin?

I will admit at the outset, that anything that tends to shake up the political minions of Ottawa, usually makes me feel a little better. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ottawa, went to University there, strolled the Sparks Street mall with the polyester suited crowd of government workers on lunch. Enjoyed the tax funded parkways and museums.

Ottawa is the leading “government town” in this country where roughly 40% of the employees work for the Federal government. It is therefore a town that caters and kneels at the feet of the Liberals. This week they are shaken, scared by the coming to town of the dishevelled, those unwashed “anti-vaxxers”.

The government mandarins are usually safely ensconced in their Ikea designed home offices, family dog at their feet, who are in no hurray to actually go back to work –are now feeling “threatened”. Those damn incessant horns disturbing their Apple watch controlled sleep patterns.

They are our 21st century landed gentry, while the honking truckers represent the medieval farmers storming the barricades. During this Covid shutdown, their productivity sliding, this Federal government work force has actually grown in size. Some of them have actually obtained pay raises; unimpaired by the pandemic restraint on others, their economic well-being never being threatened, their safety guaranteed by being able to live in their new bubbles.

It was ok to make a vaccine exemption for the truckers, for two years, when the initial threats against the food chain delivering your loaf of bread and the steady same day delivery of Amazon packages were being threatened. But now, the political thinkers surrounding Mr Trudeau and Mr Biden in the U.S., now they feel the time is right, now is the time to impose further restrictions. All while the rest of the world is going in the opposite direction.

How dare a group of outsiders (meaning middle income mostly rural working class people and farmers) challenge this current and righteous aristocracy. After all, they are the enlightened, they are the believers in science, a science only which they can properly interpret. They who are now demanding vaccines for children less than five; they who are open to the idea of fining anyone who dares to show up at a hospital having not been vaccinated; and they who want to limit those that don’t vaccinate from the ability to function in daily life. No restaurants, movies, no ability to travel, or special events for you. And if you are working for the Federal government you will be fired unless you agree to let the government inject you with a vaccine. How dare anyone question the logic of restrictions and their haphazard and diverse application.

The overall justification for three years of lockdown is to protect us, but the justification for the vaccine is vacillating. It now protects you from getting really sick from Covid. It doesn’t stop you from getting Covid.

Ignore the mental health concerns, the increasing rate of suicide, the losses of years of education, the thousands of cancelled “elective” surgeries. Ignore it all.

Make no mistake about it, this convoy of largely blue collar workers has touched a nerve. They are pressing on the accepted and acceptable narrative nerve. How dare they challenge these enlightened that form a minority government in Canada. How dare they confront the social democratic changes which Canada is now undergoing and the massive growth in government oversight and regulation. The government now tinkering with control of the message and forms of communication and ones ability to speak freely. Think of Bill C-51.

“Public safety” is our new God. A risk free society the ultimate goal.

So to the barricades the Liberals march, the dutiful media close behind, relaying their portrayals of the ignorant protesters, seeking those afraid of the bellowing air horns, believing it plays well to their albeit quickly disappearing audiences. The Liberals don’t want to fight as they are really not good at confrontation, they are after all appeasers by heart and by trade.

The media on the other hand welcome a fight, they raise the January 6th storming of the Capitol as a comparison, after all nothing draws viewers like violence led by clearly evil minded people.

Ironically and a point often missed is that the “anti-vaxxers” who are being portrayed as right wing radicals, uneducated, ignorant, fringe members of society, daring to drive their big rigs into the heart of woke society in Ottawa. They are not actually anti-vaccine. The vast majority of the people involved have been vaccinated. This misstatement of the issue on a continual news loop is disheartening and dishonest.

The convoy is about “restrictions” and the imposition of those restrictions which is having an adverse affect on their ability to work and to feed their families. It seems to be a legitimate gripe, at the very least it seems to be a discussion worth having.

But the Liberals and their supporters have made a call to arms, there is no turning back, they have already determined that these protestors are not worthy. They have established their position and they are not going to sway from it. After all, they are not Indigenous, they are not members of Black Lives Matter, they are not protesting members of the LGBTQ community. They have no standing like these other groups. Clearly, they are also not likely Liberal supporters, so they are patently irrelevant.

So how do the the Liberals and their followers do battle? Through innuendo, false narratives of impending violence, searching out the fringes of the movement for the ill-advised comment, the inappropriate flag carrier.

They are searching out the outliers knowing that the fringe of any group is always off-side, ill-tempered and wanting to foment upheaval. That is why they are called “the fringe”. The larger group tolerates them, but ignores them for the most part.

The police reaction to all of this?

First and foremost one must understand that if you want to find a “woke” police department, you probably came to the right city in Ottawa. You could have picked Toronto, or Vancouver as well, but Ottawa has to be the most firmly entrenched group of the politically like-minded. The police chief and those surrounding him immediately took the side of what they surely believed was the side of the righteous.

The language of those in government went straight to inflammatory, and the Ottawa Police Chief followed suit with Chief Peter Sloly espousing his “surge and contain strategy” to stop this “very dangerous protest”.

“This is putting our city and our residents at great risk”.

He intimated that there was “reason to believe that money from the U.S. is helping the anti-vaccine mandate”. The Ottawa Deputy-Chief Trish Ferguson, before the convoy even arrived in the city, said that they were “preparing for a range of risks” from “counter demonstrations” and “interfering with critical infrastructure” to “criminal activity”.

As of this writing the Chief clearly languishing in his 15 minutes of fame is saying that he may call in the Army to dispel the protestors. He is continually calling on an increasing police presence, more Provincial police, city police, RCMP and the RCMP Emergency Response Team. There is constant oblique references to domestic terrorism, funding from the outside, social media disguised as intelligence. No evidence is ever presented.

The Prime Minister of our country was not “going to be intimidated” by the protestors. This after having being “moved to a safer location” for security reasons. Trudeau continues to refuse to meet with the protestors saying that they are “an insult to truth”. They are a “fringe minority” although no explanation as to how this fringe raised $10 million GoFundMe dollars in a couple of weeks.

For two days the media searched out the radicals, the violent among the protestors, there big discoveries the unfurling of a single Confederate flag and the fact that someone had put a ball cap on the statute of Terry Fox. They hit the jackpot when someone raised a Nazi flag.

As it turned out though the protestors were using it as an illustration of the Nazi’s mistreatment of the Jews as similar to their rights being removed( not a good comparison for sure) but the media outlined it as Nazi’s being involved in the protest. The baseball hat on the statute of Terry Fox was a desecration according to the apoplectic media commentators equal to the burning of a cross on a front lawn.

There was a story that some people danced on the Tomb of the unknown soldier. Not a good image, but there was little coverage of the the fact that convoy members then formed a ring around it to keep out some of their “fringe” players.

So Trudeau marched to the podium, armed with the latest media evidence. Trudeau grasped and gasped at the “…Nazi symbolism, racist imagery, and desecration of war memorials… “.

Let us compare this to other protests.

When 2,000 aboriginal protestors marched on Ottawa on December 12, 2021 making demands under the “truth and reconciliation commitment” as part of the “Idle no More” movement; saying that “we are not going to back down” to the gathered media, what did the government do. They agreed to meet with the protestors, saying they “are constitutionally entitled to” meet with the government. The media reported that the march “remained peaceful” even though it too had “shut down a major downtown street”.

When Black Lives Protest hit Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau waded into the crowd, and then took the opportune photo moment to take a knee with the protestors who had as a rallying cry the defunding of the police.

When more recently the Mohawks in Ontario and Quebec stopped and burned rail lines there was nothing but talks of conciliation.

As this becomes a week long protest, as sympathetic demonstrations are happening throughout the country, the media breathlessly awaits the confrontation. In Vancouver today, the media is warning people of the threat of violence, before a supportive convoy from Langley to Vancouver had begun; saying that the convoy would be driving by three hospitals. The hospital unions began warning their staff, not to wear their scrubs in case they be singled out for violence. The absurd inferences almost laughable.

This is first and foremost a convoy of ordinary people. An ordinary people who are completely frustrated, alienated and trying to struggle with the proper words when faced with a barrage of microphones and cameras. They go to work, go to the local Tim Hortons for the “double double”, and maybe even the local bar at the end of the day. Their lives are not glamorous, their social calendar was once filled with taking kids to soccer fields or hockey games and for the last two years we have robbed them of their ability to lead those lives, and even more importantly their chance to financially survive. At times they can be rough around the edges but they are also what keeps this country going, even during Covid. They don’t like Trudeau though, but then again he doesn’t like them.

Mr. Singh for his part is for the working man, just not these workers.

Mr. O’Toole flip flopped on the convoy issue, part of the reason he lost his job this past week. There is no other voice for the protestors.

This is not a fringe element. The GoFundMe page, which the government and the police pressured to shut down was the 2nd largest raising of money in Canada since the tragic Humboldt bus crash in Saskatchewan.

So we have a government and their supporters; in favour of censure; in favour of restricting individual and collective liberties; in favour of a controlled media message (bill C-51); and in favour of police actions which reflect their wishes. Does it sound vaguely similar to other countries.

Could it be any clearer that we are at a dangerous place right now and the police are in a even more dangerous place?

The police management in this country are now fully politicized. No longer the neutral upholder of laws, now the perpetrators of selective enforcement. The target of that enforcement fully determined by political winds and and the social media that drives it. Police normally survive on good faith and a sense of fairness and being a neutral arbitrator. Under this generation of police leaders they have badly strayed.

All this could have been averted, de-escalated at the very least by Mr. Trudeau. The protestors are Canadians and the very least he could do is listen to what they are trying to say. Meet with them. Don’t be scared. They also have a constitutional right to be heard.

The decried polarization of the U.S.-between the right and the left, urban versus rural, disadvantaged versus advantaged, the educated versus the uneducated is now being grown in the little petrie dish of Canada. I am not so sure Canadians in general have thought this through.

And for the citizens of Ottawa, when night falls, put your Ipods on and listen to some soothing water sounds of the Rideau canal, it will help you sleep and awake fully refreshed for another day of Team calls and committee meetings.

Photo courtesy of Zarina Petrova via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved