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Burn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cake”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darkening Clouds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait, there is more,. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of Flckr Commons by Groupka -Some Rights Reserved

A Difficult Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Gently into the Homicide Night…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, he’s probably right. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Mika ___ Some Rights Reserved

Rolling the Dice in a Homicide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fast forward now to 2011. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy via Flickr Commons by PositiveCandie_N –Some Rights Reserved

The Corrupted Trial of Derek Chauvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is only one truth, their single unassailable truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Trudeau welcomed the American verdict. 

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

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

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

Don’t look in the Microwave

Reams of paper flow down the Federal government pipeline, not often drawing any attention or comment. Regulations, policies, new legislation, amendments to old legislation, reports and findings by committees and oversight groups. They are for the most part ignored by the public, unless of course they touch upon current popular narratives: discrimination, racism, and Covid, topics which push all other stories aside. If you can find or elicit tears and find victims willing to reveal themselves you have the prescription for all the news and the tik tok’ing social mediums.

The recent report by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) into the Colten Boushie homicide investigation had all the ingredients to fill that thirty second vacuum of profound insight. Police wrong doing mixed with that witches brew of allegations of racism, is too heady a mixture for the scribes and pundits. Stir it up and feed it out in small doses. No relevance or examination required. The medium is now the message.

The ringing cries of racism in this country are predictable, commonplace, often formed around the flimsiest of circumstances and often supported by a warped historical interpretation. On almost every occasion it quickly and effectively prods the government of the Liberal and progressive left to jump into action or reaction. These outbursts of discrimination and racism spur the government into paroxysms of apologies and statements by the Prime Minister that “we need to do better”.  

For the messengers the ability to prove those accusations is secondary to achieving the reaction. We no longer demand authentication or even allow it. This latest report and the reporting of it is no different; further proof over how far we have fallen from the the factual record.

This latest government chronicle, took a total of 107 pages and over four years to produce. (the RCMP Senior Executive are almost equally culpable for the time expended— apparently it took on average 17 months for the RCMP HQ  to respond to a request for information from the Commission during this investigative period)

Like all government inquiries, if left unchecked, they tend to grow in size and scope with little prompting. This review was no exception. It grew to include whether or not there were any errors in the overall criminal investigation itself.

However, the headlining focus of the complaint and their inquiries came to focus on one particular day. It was on that day when the officers attended to the Baptiste/Boushie residence. That day the officers had a dual purpose; to both search for a missing, possibly armed and intoxicated suspect from the shooting, while at the same time notify Ms Baptiste of her son’s death. This large question took four years to investigate: did they discriminate against Ms. Baptiste during their twenty minute visit to the house and in performing these two uncomfortable tasks?  

The RCMP had already conducted its own internal investigation in December 2016. The results of that internal investigation were delivered to the family in October 2017. The family didn’t like the results, deemed it unacceptable, and then filed another complaint to the CRCC. The RCMP, undoubtedly due to the continuing indigenous cries of racism and discrimination and the need to relieve the political and  media pressure, then joined in the asking of the CRCC to review the matter. 

This writer blogged about the trial and Gerald Stanley’s subsequent acquittal on February 13, 2018 so there is no need to go over old ground. The written narrative of that blog was admittedly heated due to what was believed to be the outrageous reactions by our government to the verdict at the end of the case. Our Prime Minister and our then Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, upon hearing the jury findings, quickly went on to  misstate the facts, blame shaming the jury, while also opining that there was a drastic need to change parts of the judicial system. “We needed to do better”. 

Those government reactions at the time of the trial were fuelled solely by a manufactured narrative. The Indigenous, and their legal and social representatives, once outside the courtroom and in the comforting arms of the media, contorted both the evidence of the case and the jury system to fit their cause. 

Now, the Indigenous and their usual support groups are back at the same old barricade. Now claiming that this latest CRCC report finally confirms all of their suspicions. Once again the facts on which they rely for their arguments are weak, their statements to the news media are spurious, and once again Mr. Trudeau is telling us “we must do better”. 

The CRCC report had forty-seven findings; and of those, twenty-five were ruled as having no errors or misconduct. In fact the report states that the police “were generally professional and reasonable”. That “arrests were lawful and reasonable”. That the “investigative team was adequately staffed” and that the interview of Mr. Stanley was reasonable”. 

Basically, they found “no discrimination except in talking to Mrs. Baptiste”. 

The allegations of discrimination after examining a lengthy investigation and court case according to the CRCC narrowed down to the 20 minutes at the Baptiste residence.

Before examining those minutes that according to family spokespersons “caused unnecessary suffering to his family” it is insightful to first look at the  comments about the actual investigation, so one can get a sense of the level of 2nd guessing that was replete throughout the report.

There were comments such as“interviewers failed to establish trust with the witnesses”. That they should have been made to “foster a state of mind that was conducive to witness cooperation”; after all the witnesses were “hungover, tired” and suffering from “trauma and shock”. The report ignores the fact that these individuals were also “suspects”, none of whom, suspiciously have ever faced charges. 

The CRCC was concerned that the Major Crime Unit who were traveling to a local hotel after completing their work should have attended that crime scene that night— where others were already in attendance— “to gain an appreciation of ongoing activities”. 

The Indigenous found especially egregious and the CRCC concurred was that the police attended to the “wake”. They were there to speak with Mrs. Baptiste and update her on the investigation and this was deemed “unreasonable”. This attendance, where the officers asked if they could speak with Mrs. Baptiste after she emerged from the funeral “disrupted their ability to enact their cultural protocol in relation to the death….where four days are needed and each day has its own meaning”.  

They report that there was an “unreasonable delay” in obtaining the search warrant. They feel in their report that a 12 hour delay in waiting for an experienced affiant was unacceptable. Having spent countless hours of my life waiting on search warrants and writing those search warrants this complaint is specious no matter how much one can relate. The precious irony here is that this group took four years to right a report but can not imagine a search warrant taking 24 hours.  

The primary evidence of a “botched” investigation that was often brought forward during the media conferences concerned the blood in the vehicle. The vehicle which contained only the blood of the victim, went uncovered and rain washed some of it away by the time the vehicle was examined by the Forensic Identification Section. Again, according to the CRCC this disturbed the ability of the “blood spatter” experts to be able to obtain crucial evidence they argued. 

In the best of circumstances the covering of the car could and should have been done. That would be normal operating procedure as the vehicle was part of a crime scene and there was going to be a delay in its eventual examination. But this has become the Indigenous “if the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit” moment.  

Was it crucial to this case? No, not in the slightest.

The blood was that of the victim Colten Boushie.

The evidence of the case was that Boushie was shot as he was sitting in the vehicle. The blood spatter analysis would under the best of circumstances show the direction of travel and the proximity of the shooter. None of that was in doubt in this case. It was an already admitted set of circumstances and that is what the court ruled at the time in the case. That the case was mishandled is quite simply misstating the implication and facts of the blood found in the vehicle.

The toning down of the culpability of Boushie and the others is toned down throughout the report.They weren’t conducting an armed rural home invasion —which the case facts detail —they were merely “interacting with others vehicles”. Misguided youth “interacting” with the Stanley family. 

The CRCC brushed over the firearm in the vehicle, which they apparently accepted was going to be used for “hunting”. This firearm that had been stolen from a residence they were at previous to coming to the Stanley farm.

The CRCC constantly brushed over inconsistent statements by the witnesses, one of whom later even admitted to making a false statement.

The spokespersons for the Baptiste’s said that even the  RCMP media release at the time was biased. The release saying they had “entered private property” and thus painted Boushie as a “thief” and and “sowed discord in the community”.

Up to this point, there is little that could even constitute mention in any government report, let alone forced the Commissioner of the RCMP to agree with the conclusion that Baptiste was “racially discriminated” and that what happened later during the next of kin notification was “handled insensitively”

Evidence, in any case of discrimination is usually evidence that unless rebutted, would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or fact. In this case the police rebutted the evidence, but apparently the CRCC felt that the family and their seven witnesses was more believable than the thirty officers who also took notes. Even though the Crown at the time of the trial even warned the jurors that there were “contradictions” in the stories of the witnesses.

So it came down to this. The RCMP according to the CRCC “treated her (Ms. Baptiste) with such insensitivity that her treatment amounted to a prima facie case of discrimination”. (An interesting use of the legal term prima facie; which means, what something looks like on its face, or at first glance.) The CRCC stated their findings of discrimination were framed and influenced by “colonial assertions, stereotypes, and a troubled history of police and indigenous relations”. 

Chris Murphy’s version (the lawyer for the Baptiste’s in their ongoing civil suit against the RCMP), of what happened at the residence, sensing that this was his Johnny Cochrane moment, exclaimed that “they swarmed their house” and then “you search her home” and “you call her a drunk and you call her a liar”.  

Let’s deal with Mr. Murphys exclamations separately.

First the “swarming” consisted of seven officers attending to the residence, to look for an armed missing suspect. The cops needed to also advise Ms. Baptiste of her son’s death at the same time. Doing both tasks at the same time was an unusual set of circumstances, but also clearly unavoidable. To cover off all four sides of the house as well as search the residence. is unclear as what Mr. Murphy would consider a good number for such an event; three, four?

As to the second allegation that they called Ms. Baptiste a drunk. They did not, they asked if she had been drinking. There is a world of difference. 

If the person being advised of horrific news of a family members death, has in fact been drinking or is high, then the approach by the officer responsible needs to be nuanced. Any officer needs to be assured that the person receiving this information has all their faculties, can understand, and can absorb that horrible information.  If someone is intoxicated, another party or family member would have to be brought in and included in the conversation. You need to ask the question to assure comprehension if you have concerns about someone’s level of understanding, or their ability to cope with the situation.   

The liar allegation.

Ms. Baptiste upon their arrival said that she had been waiting for Colten to return for dinner; in fact she had put his dinner in the microwave. The officers discriminatory act according to the CRCC and Commissioner Lucki was to open the microwave and thus corroborate what she was saying. 

The CRCC doesn’t seem to comprehend, nor apparently does Commissioner Lucki, that Police need to confirm everything they hear and are told. Whether you are a witness or a suspect. Whether you be Irish, German, or from Mozambique, police do not take anything at face value and some minor observation like that may help to establish a time line or act as some corroboration of information already known. A good police officer believes no one at face value, cynicism is your bread and butter in the investigative world.  Every good officer falls back on the axiom, don’t believe anything you hear, or half of what you see.

So there is the prica facie case of the heinous deeds by the police which has prompted extensive CBC news coverage and the crying and the shouting of abuse and trauma. They asked if she had been drinking and they looked into her microwave. None of it had anything to do with the colour of her skin. We should also take this time to point out that some of the officers involved in this investigation self-identified as Indigenous themselves.  

The biggest question should be, can the police expect anything approaching fair comment in this age of unbounded liberalism? No, seems to be the obvious answer. The government and the powers to be in this country, when it comes specifically to the Indigenous have driven off the cliff, they are in free fall, unable to reverse their position of everything being systemic and discriminatory. Honest and truthful comment has long disappeared as a principle of discussion.  

As the Mounties prepare to add another course of “Cultural Awareness and Humility” to their already 29 learning programs with Indigenous content, they will need to mentally file this report along with a lot of others– on the dust covered shelves of government. It does not deserve further comment. Does the civil suit initiated in 2018 by the Baptiste family central to understanding these latest publicity appearances? They are in point of fact, surrounded by their lawyers during all these press conferences.  All in attendance are vested in the suit outcome. 

Commissioner Lucki in agreeing to the discrimination finding is actually now in counterpoint to her own officer executives in Saskatchewan, who up to now have been defending the civil suit by saying there was in fact no discrimination. One can only assume she has not helped their cause and that suit too will be settled out of court— undoubtedly to the benefit of the Baptiste family. 

All of the Commissioner’s supplication to the Indigenous is not even helping her profile. They are still calling for her removal. She hasn’t gone far enough they say, and how far far enough is, is yet to be defined. She has clearly given up on the support of her police officers. The need for honesty is still a non-negotiable element for most police officers and will not be forgotten.  

This betrayal of the facts, this wandering away from the reality is both frustrating and dangerous. Further polarization in this country will continue, this crying wolf syndrome is damaging, not healing. 

This is not the first case, nor it will be the last, where a special interest group tries to take over the proceedings or bend the courts to their cause. For those of us that enjoy a democratic government and a judicial system founded on due process, we have to be guarded and vigilant against any that strive to tear or warp it to their benefit. We are not always successful, but the effort has to be made. 

Power, money, and political gain are the three fundamentals that are often at the root of any process —in this case the fight against discrimination was a distant fourth.  

Dilia Opekokew, an often quoted Indigenous lawyer and advocate in offering favourable comment on this report said: 

“There must be truth before reconciliation”.  

You’re right. 

Let’s start there. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons –Mike Maguire–Some Rights Reserved

So, how is that “Defunding” going?

We seem to be now living in a world of catchy phrases, facile answers, and overly simplistic diagnosis. We can no longer tolerate complexity. We can no longer live in the world of the grey— black and white answers are being demanded. Daring to disagree or present a counter-point can only lead to banishment. The video and sound bite world is today’s dialogue, inflamed, exaggerated– a fire hose  of outrage, discontent and victimization. We have lost the ability to reflect or to understand nuance. 

It is in this world that the trial of the Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin is about to begin. Accused of the cold-blooded killing of George Floyd. It is in this world that todays frenzied headlines talk about an anti-Asian serial killer who targeted the massage parlours of Atlanta. 

But beneath the obvious conjecture and quick assumptions that instantly become facts there is a deeper layer. It is found in the folder of corroborated and tested information where historically you would have gone first. Once opened, you would be exposed to something completely at variance to the various assertions voiced by the indignant social warriors. 

Joe Biden is travelling to meet up with the Asian American community today, to console and pledge to fight the anti-Asian racist scourge, yet, there is literally no evidence that the killings in Atlanta were perpetrated or targeted against Asians. After 24 hours of exclaiming that this was evidence of the xenophobia in America, we are now learning that this individual was sexually twisted and fighting the demons of his religion. 

The “can’t breathe” seconds long George Floyd video that tumbled around the world and generated massive black outrage is not quite the facts that are now reluctantly being exposed. Is it pertinent that Mr. Floyd was screaming that he couldn’t breathe long before he was on the ground? Is it relevant that the subduing of Mr. Floyd was actually a taught restraint position by the Minneapolis Police Department? Is it also relevant that the autopsy showed overdose levels of drugs? It doesn’t matter in this world. The damage has been done, the points scored, the leaders of the day have proclaimed the guilt of officer Chauvin many months ago. 

Even more spine chilling is that even if the world is corrected about the circumstances; there will be no stepping back, no correction for the record, no recanting of the story as originally told.  One needs to go deep into Google search to find any actual circumstances of the Floyd incident. Even then, the inference and headlines remain the same. The City of Minneapolis who seem to have caved to the social guilt, long before trial, have now settled a civil case against the City and awarded the family $27 million. A staggering amount with highly suspicious timing.  

It was the George Floyd incident of course that sent the Black Lives Matter movement from simmering into full boil. Banners and protests filled the news screens for days on end, chants of indignation in front of every thrust microphone. No one could countenance the over-whelming injustice of it all.

Their answer: “Defund the Police”.

These three words had all the characteristics of the perfectly designed cry of anger. It swivelled the focus of the t.v. cameras and the radio talk shows. It was short and easily shouted, obvious in its conclusions, and proposed a simplistic understandable solution. Perfect for the masses who convene on Twitter and Instagram. The police must be “broken” the argument goes, unable to cope with the societal needs of the progressives, ill equipped to recognize this new age of victims and the vulnerable. Like all the headlines of the day this was an inarguable cause.

However, once one got past the slogans and a few months went by, the purveyors of this belief have stumbled. They are unable to deal with the obvious follow up question of how? Their demands and solutions it would now seem were simplistic if not blatantly ignorant.

Nevertheless, most politicians were undeterred and once again the principles of honesty and fairness ran a distant second to the need to appease. Picture the Prime Minister on bended knee on Parliament Hill. Picture Commissioner Lucki forced to kneel with him at the alter of “systemic” racism.  

So, now that a few months have gone by, after a year of COVID ravaging any critical thought in this country, where are we with this defunding?

How is the defundthepolice.org coming along? Have they figured out what they are going to defund? Have they figured out the actual role the police play in this country and how they are going to be replaced?

A search for signs of progress for this movement in Canada is indeed sparse.

One thing that they have managed to do on their .org web site is add up the amount of monies spent on policing in this country.  It is a large number and hard to miss. In this country, policing on the municipal, provincial and Federal level amounts to $15.1 billion.  So the proponents of de-funding almost invariably point to the large amount and then simply conclude that these budgets need to be cut for the mere fact of its overall size. Too big must fail.

The thrust of their main and central policy argument is that “others” are better equipped to respond. They propose that social workers and doctors attend to calls for mental health services. They recommend civilians take over “traffic services”.

They make statements such as “police intervention into an ongoing violent crime is rare”. Domestic disputes and abusive relationships seems to be beyond their level of comprehension or life experience. It is truly a utopian future in their world of alternate policing options. 

Since these more complicated issues are proving to be difficult to countenance they have lately been transitioning their policy options to more simplistic levels. A recent favourable solution is to ask for the removal of the police from the “school” programs. Or if the laws can’t be enforced by their solution matrix then let’s decriminalize all the drug laws.

In this country, thankfully, their efforts are for the most part being completely stymied. They are running headlong into the wall of reality and they are getting an obvious headache. 

In June of 2020 even the City of Vancouver (with its left leaning city government) rejected a 1% cut to their $339 million budget. 

This same month the City of Toronto rejected a 10% cut to their $1.12 billion budget. 

In Victoria, home to those deep political thinkers the “Raging Grannies” were unable to reject the progressives completely; the city settled for a review of the “gender and ethnic component of the police force” but the police have now asked for a 1.5% budget increase.

In NDP led British Columbia, a government who never ignores a good cause, are trying to appease the left by “reviewing” the Police Act to “examine the scope of systemic racism”. Premier Horgan does admit when pushed that the defunding mantra is “a simplistic approach”.

 In Saskatchewan they are moving to more body cams for the police while in Regina, the City counsel have rejected outright any de-funding as the “crime rate is too high”. 

In Manitoba, Premier Palliser says that de-funding is a “no go”. 

In the North West Territories where normally the Indigenous cause reigns supreme, even there, the Justice Minister says that “Indigenous led justice systems” is “not practical”. 

In Montreal the mayor, Valerie Plante says that a cut in funding of $300 million “would be a big and trying conversation”. They have now voted to increase the police budget.

Halifax, no doubt under the influence of its relatively large African American community could only manage to defund its plans to buy an armoured vehicle for the police— giving the monies to the local housing authority. 

The Edmonton Police Service seems to have gone the farthest down the road to placate the disenchanted. It has cut its funding by $5.5 million per year for the next two years, amounting to a 3% budget cut from their $388.8 million dollar budget. They are forming a “four step” process which includes a “community safety and well-being task force”. The Edmonton activist Tesa Williams calls it a “slap in the face”.  

In many ways the activists in Canada are only imitating their counter parts in the United States. After all, aren’t their problems our problems? Isn’t their racism our racism, the long discrimination of African Americans and its often shameful history is our history. Of course, this isn’t true, but nevertheless what’s playing in video feeds in the U.S. now stokes the narrative of this country. So the “defunding” formula is imported in all its silliness no matter its relevance, no matter its history. 

The NYPD, led by the failing Mayor de Blasio, which policies a city of 25% African Americans has gone the furthest, slashing $1 billion from its policing budget. How have they done this? They have reduced or eliminated uniform and civilian overtime by $352 million; and they have moved the School Safety Agents out of the NYPD and moved them to the Department of Education, for another savings of $307.5 million. They have done sundry other small reductions like moving School Crossing Guards from the NYPD at a savings of $55 million. 

The LAPD who police that bastion of wokeness, Los Angelas, slashed $150 million by cutting police hiring. This hiring freeze has a more meaningful effect to be sure, as now the LAPD is at the lowest manpower it has been at in 12 years. It was proposed that the money saved would go to street paving and sidewalk repairs, but that was voted down. 

L.A. even had a plan to send crisis intervention workers to “non-violent 911 calls” but that has not passed the committee stage, no doubt hung up on the fact as to how one would ever determine that a “crisis” would not always have the potential for violence. 

So where does this all leave the police of today? Should recruiters stop going to “career days” at the local high school? Should mid career police officers look to change into carpenters and plumbers or take that on-line course on photography? Seems unlikely.

One just has to remember that everyone wants to play with the lights and siren but no one is rushing into the blood and the guts.  The activists, the politicians of every stripe, and the talking heads will no doubt continue to shriek to the converted of the injustice and the “systemic” discrimination. 

One must be patient, even though it’s not easy to ignore the absurdity. Remember that they are just toggling the sirens and staring in awe at the blue and red lights. They don’t really want to be in the position of answering the calls. As that oft quoted Mr. Einstein said, “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”.

Photo Courtesy of Backbone Campaign via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Pandering

Under the cloak of COVID, while monies are raining down from on high, the Canadian government has decided that this is an opportune time to pander to the select groups who hold the Federal Liberals dear to their socially active and political hearts. Their slobbering self interest doesn’t seem to know any bounds and it is certainly not constrained by any concern for budget. 

Is it all aimed at a near future election call by the Liberals? Most likely. Is it cynical, opportunistic and ethically questionable? Yes it is. Do their actions have any merit? Possibly, but it would be difficult to measure. However, their motivations are obvious. 

On February 19th of this year, in a single day, the Prime Minister announced three items with that somber voice designed to instil righteousness and clearly aimed at those of us with Grade 8 education levels.  

The first, which is economically debatable but politically obvious, was the extension of the CERB benefits for an additional 12 weeks. Sick benefits were extended as was Employment Insurance for a cumulative total of 54 weeks. The pros and cons of doing this is one for the economists to debate. Clearly though, the handing out of funds never seems to engender any liberal or social antipathy and Mr. Trudeau seems to relish the daily ritual coverage of the doling out of monies, as he guides us to health and prosperity and implores us to save lives.

The second announcement was the re-tooling of the Official Languages Act, which Mr. Trudeau described as legislation to further enhance that “beautiful french language”. In this “modernization” of the Languages Act  as presented by Ms.Joly (a rumoured “favourite” of Mr. Trudeau) should raise some concern and debate; although admittedly no one seems to be paying close attention to an Act to do with languages. It seems like strange timing in terms of priority, until you read what the changes entail. The Bloc Quebecois and the NDP who are currently supporting the minority Liberals must be aware that Mr. Trudeau is preparing to try and pull the rug out from under them— by usurping their claim as being a better representative of the people of Quebec. 

The first amendment is to Section 83 —which states that “nothing in the Act abrogates or derogates from the rights of other languages, by explicitly mentioning Indigenous languages”.  This is lawyer inspired convoluted language but the intended results are that Nunavut and the North West Territories will officially recognize English, French and “indigenous languages as official languages”.  Surprisingly, little fanfare to announce that Canada has another “official” language? It may also seem trite but compliance to this could have profound effect on the courts and the providing of government services.

Also in this Languages Act the government is proposing to “encourage” further funding for french immersion across the country– including the hiring of more french immersion teachers, and even stream lining a “Francophone immigration corridor”. All this to aid them in their search for French speaking teachers outside of Quebec. 

No matter how meritorious this promotion of the french culture and language it is coming at a time when French as a language and culture is dwindling. Using their own statistics, the francophone population outside of Quebec in 1971 was 6.6%. It was 3.9% in 2011 and is anticipated to be at 3.0% by 2036.  One has to question whether an “immersed” Canada outside of Quebec is a relevant and achievable goal. The Liberals clearly think so, but they are likely more concerned in how it will “play” in Quebec. 

Finally, since 2016 the Government of Canada has been “committed” to appointing “only functioning bilingual judges to the Supreme Court of Canada”. However, there was an exception clause in the act under Section 16(1) which was purposefully placed there in consideration of the need for geographic representation on the courts and a possible lack of bilingual judges in the unilingual West. The Liberals are now going to remove this exemption, so that all will have to be fluently bilingual to serve on the highest court in the land. This could have a direct impact on the makeup of this highest court, more francophone than representative.

As an oblique aside, the Government says that “it will be necessary to keep in mind the importance of representativeness of Indigenous peoples in the highest institutions of our country….”. They then direct the Government to “actively envision the appointment of Indigenous judges to the Supreme Court of Canada”.  One has to admire the “actively envision” language as camouflage for a direct order.

Which brings us to the the third announcement of this busy day.

It pertained to Bill C-22, which is to deal with the “Mandatory Minimal Penalties (MMP) as outlined in the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  They are announcing changes to the fourteen offences in the Criminal Code and six in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Why? If you follow this Liberal government you probably have already guessed. Because, minimum sentences “targets black, indigenous and racialized communities”. 

Their blatantly stated goal is to bring down the numbers of the Federally incarcerated who are there due to “systemic discrimination and racism” and a system which they believe punishes “black and indigenous people”.   Mr. Lametti seems to want us to believe that this “over representation” was some form of pointed racist selection process, not the result of persons having committed the crimes.

The statistics are bold and clear.

 From 2007-2017 they argue “black and indigenous were more likely to be admitted to federal custody for an offence punishable by a MMP”.  Although only 5% of the population is indigenous, they make up 30% of the Federal inmate population; blacks represent 3 % of the population but represent 7.2% of the incarcerated. The answer, according to the social progressives, is not to try and stem the crime by fighting the obvious crime instigators like poverty and unemployment in these communities. Their solution, if parties are caught in a criminal offence, is to promote “judicial discretion”. They are directing Judges that they “must take into consideration the individual and their experience with systemic racism”. 

They will even be funding $28 million to “social contracts training” for  Judges in case they are missing the message. 

Is there evidence that mandatory sentencing doesn’t work? Yes, but there is also evidence that it does work, so this reformation is not necessarily based on the evidence— what it is based on is playing to a certain minority.  

In 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that minimum sentencing was constitutional but maybe not an “appropriate response” to Section 12 of the Charter which deals with cruel and unusual punishment. 

The pros of minimum sentencing point out that it eliminates disparity, provides consistency, and avoids Judge shopping. If one holds that the law should reflect the peoples wishes, in 2005 —74% of Canadians felt that sentencing was too lenient. It should be remembered that the minimum sentencing was brought into effect under the dreaded Stephen Harper Conservative government in response to Canadians and their complaints about the lack of justice. 

But none of this seems to have been the motivating factor for Justice Minister Lametti. What may be more relevant is that the multi-party “black caucus” issued a call to action  and “demanded the elimination of mandatory minimums”. Mr. Lametti a signatory to this document.  

There is little doubt that Mr. Lametti has been emboldened and given comfort by the courts, which are allowing him to play to the minority audience. 

In 2016 in R vs Lloyd, when dealing with some drug offences, the court thought that the drug offences and sentencing for them did not take into account “indigenous heritage and the impact of colonialism”.  In R vs Gladue the Judges said that a different “analysis and approach is required by Judges when sentencing aboriginal offenders and that “imprisonment is a less appropriate or less useful sanction”.  

Far be it for this writer to be in disagreement with the learned judges of the Supreme Court of Canada. They are a distinguished group of scholars, but their voting records seem to have a very natural lean to the left. Mr. Lametti and the Liberals are also playing in the Biden band and trumpeting whatever is currently playing in the North American media. The riotous Trump entourage is now thankfully gone but we now have the Trudeau and Biden love-in which could prove equally destructive and divisive with its approach to social issues, or rather its dogmatic adherence to Twitter driven policies.

Having lived most of my life in the criminal world, the positions of this Liberal government when it comes to crime and minority rights, seems at times completely ludicrous. We have been traveling down this left branch of the victim road for an interminable many years now. One has to wonder and ask that with each further step— are we getting any closer to some ill-defined justice utopia ? By creating different classes of criminals with different levels of personal and cultural responsibility are we moving towards justice and fair and equal treatment, or away from it? 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the definition of justice is a concept on ethics and law “that means people behave in a way that is fair, equal and balanced for everyone”. Minimum sentencing seems to fit that definition whereas the policy of Mr. Lametti feels that the principal of proportionality applies and one should allow for “the role of the social context”, which seems counter-intuitive.

The symbolic scales held by the Roman Lady of Justitia symbolizes giving fair and objective consideration to all evidence, without showing bias one way or the other. Mr. Lametti and his Liberal colleagues are unhesitatingly standing on those scales and even trying to influence who hold those scales. They are brazen in their efforts, choosing a time when debate and accountability have been Zoomed out.

The fifth estate have been completely coopted by the the social agenda, content to just count the number of COVID cases and their variants. To them, application of justice, or the breach of charter and constitutional rights are far less interesting than Oprah, Harry, and Meaghan. The pablum of celebrity successfully diverting us from worthy debate on issues of importance; and, that is what the Liberals are counting on.

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved