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The NPF- Plunging into Surrey politics

Now that we all have been satiated, assured by Toyota, Ikea, and the Muffler shop, and of course the beloved Bonny Henry, that they are all here for us during these trying times, maybe it is time to talk about something else as we head or get driven to a utopian “new normal”.  

Recently, Brian Sauve the President and leader of the newly formed National Police Federation, which represents those in the red scarlet, managed to divert the news briefly and our attention with his pro-active coming out stance in arguing for the retention of the RCMP in Surrey.

In the last number of days in fact Mr. Sauve has been doing the full rock and roll circuit; visiting the CBC, the Province newspaper, CTV news, and running three full page ads in Surrey’s local newspaper extolling both the virtues of the RCMP and stating as the gospel truth –that the citizens of Surrey want to retain the RCMP. 

So naturally interest was piqued. Puzzling somewhat, that at this late juncture, Mr. Sauve who barely has his feet wet in his new role has apparently decided, one would assume along with his senior managers to jump with both feet into the Surrey and Provincial political arena.

It should be said that Police unions have the right to be political, but this particular set of circumstances in Surrey seems curious on a few levels. Police enjoy discretionary powers in this country and are formally required to be non-political, so a union representing those police are in a rather unique position requiring balance and forethought.

Clearly the NPF and its 20,000 strong membership are concerned about losing Canada’s biggest RCMP detachment to another union. Nobody wants to lose 850 members (about 4% of their union) before they even get started. But, according to the NPF web site there is a deeper reason for their stance: “This is about your national labour relations agency standing up for the exceptional work of all our members across Canada and internationally.”

Does the RCMP and the NPF feel chastened? Is it possible that they have missed the broader issues or more accurately the issues which have been raised by Surrey and have chosen to ignore the specifics, and just feel insulted?

Mr. Sauve seems to be conflating a local political issue with the reputation of the entire RCMP throughout Canada. He does not seem to understand that this a big city issue where the RCMP is being questioned and has been for a number of years, on its effectiveness vis a vis another more locally controlled city department. This should not be viewed as a personal affront to the membership of the RCMP.  Surrey is primarily seeking a change in structure, to no longer report to the three headed monster of Ottawa; to convert to an agency which may be more fitting to a municipal sized police force.

Mr. Sauve, more than most, should be aware of the issues within the RCMP which have been plaguing them for the last number of years, yet he feels the need to argue that they are the best solution under these circumstances? His argument if stretched out is that a unionized RCMP would be better than an independent municipal, also unionized force. 

Three of the four main players of the NPF: President Sauve, Vice-President Dennis Miller and VP Michelle Boutin all were part of the SRR program. There they would have argued for and defended members against the arbitrary and pernicious management of the RCMP.  

The fourth VP, Pete Merrifield evven stands out a bit from the others. If there was anyone who may be a little jaundiced with the RCMP and maybe even hold a tinge of bitterness towards them it should be Merrifield. Pete Merrifield during a 7 year stint, sued the Force for harassment after he had become involved with the Conservative Party of Ontario. 

In February 2017 a Superior Court ruled in Mr. Merrifield’s favour awarding him $141,000 for the “unrelenting harassment” he suffered and an additional $825,000 to cover his legal expenses. This was no small victory, but unfortunately for him it was short lived. 

The Appellate Court rejected the lower court. In fact they went even further stating that Merrifield had not been “completely truthful” with his superiors and had given them reason to “mistrust” him. 

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear Mr. Merrifield’s appeal to the highest court. 

All four of these individuals in the last number of years, clearly reached a point in their beliefs that the massive problems within the RCMP and its system could not be corrected without independent representation. A union was desperately needed they would have argued. 

Is it not fanciful that this same group of individuals is now arguing that this same flawed RCMP management is now better than another agency regardless of its makeup?

Is it possible that after a lifelong career in the RCMP these individuals who were “members” of the RCMP can not separate their apparent comfort and loyalty to the RCMP from their new roles as advocates for their membership.

However, my biggest concern in that this new union group has gone a step further than a policy decision to defend the RCMP in Surrey; but in order to defend it vigorously they went and paid for a slanted “survey” –to argue and prove their point and have been holding it up as their evidence throughout their media campaign.  

The survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights .

If one was conducting a survey to determine the wishes of the general population with regard to police force of choice, wouldn’t the obvious and clear question that should be posited would be: Do you prefer retaining the RCMP over forming a new police agency?

But clearly the NPF requisitioned this survey because they wanted to make sure it backed up their political argument. A straightforward and clear question may have resulted in statistics that may have not fit in as easily with the political argument that they wished to launch.

So they made sure that the question was couched in terms that would prove more favourable.  

The survey asked whether in these times of the virus and municipal funds taking a beating, whether the taxpayers of Surrey should be spending additional monies on a separate police agency.  The weighted survey question, which was randomly sent out to 803 people asked: 

“With the CoVid virus causing a major disruption” is now the time to “replace the Mounties?” 

This was after the city of Surrey revealed that due to the virus and the shutdown, Surrey counsel would be running a $42million budget shortfall.

This style and question format linked the budget deficit and the fear of the coronavirus to convince the polled that this was not the “time” for a change. They then took the favourable responses, translated, and interpreted these results to say that 77% support keeping the RCMP and 82% support a referendum. 

The clearly planted headline in the Surrey Now-Leader said:  “New Poll Indicates 83 per cent of Surreyites say now not the time to replace the RCMP.”  And they argued that 90% of the respondents agree that it is time to take a “step back and evaluate its spending plans to ensure that they are focused on the most urgent priorities”.  

This is spin, and spin which has been done in such a fashion as to be disingenuous if not duplitcious.  

So what should we take from all this? The NPF in its infancy as a union —elections only recently conducted for detachment representatives this month —has decided to enter the political arena, to fight the duly elected and mandated government. This despite that the political  mandate of the Mayor in Surrey was very clear during the last election and was totally tied the wanting of a new police force. 

Sauve is now publicly saying that the Mayor should have another new referendum on the same issue and vigorously points to the “new survey” as evidence of the wishes of the Surrey residents, bought and paid for by the RCMP union membership. 

The illustrious Surrey councillor Linda Annis has been coaxing the NPF in promoting both the survey and the need for a referendum.  Annis is that Surrey counsellor who has long been in a political fight with MacCallum and who has been pushed from her corridor of power since the last election. 

Annis, despite being always commenting or extolling the virtues of the RCMP in her fight with MacCallum has this blogger’s vote as probably the most ill-informed politician in this debate. Her arguments for the retention of the RCMP border on ludicrous in her effort to get back to power. For example, when asked why it wasn’t possible that some members of the Surrey RCMP may choose to go to the new agency, she felt that was not possible— because when they became police officers —they choose the RCMP.  Who could argue with that logic? Apparently she had never heard of officers changing agencies.

On a recent talk show on CKNW, emboldened by the interviewer Sauve argued that the Mounties were doing “a great job”, “despite the fact that Surrey has under-funded the RCMP for years”.  He repeated a few times that the RCMP was doing a “wonderful job” in Surrey and pointed to the  evidence that the crime rate has been falling in Surrey for the last fourteen years. This is a trend throughout Canada and not just Surrey but why quibble with details.

He was asked about the need for more officers on the street to fight the gang violence. He pointed to the amazing job the RCMP Youth group was doing in fighting the gang problem.

He grasped further by saying that if the community wanted more cops on the street, then maybe they should be discussing increasing funding to the RCMP. So Mr Sauve, had up to this time, structured his argument to retain the RCMP with the need to save money.  But if the voters were not satisfied then one of his solutions was to spend more money on the RCMP if they wanted more officers on the street.

This back and forth countering logic is a little disconcerting and shows a very shallow understanding of the issues in Surrey. 

So we end up back at the question. Is the NPF loyalty to the RCMP pushing this drive? Is their argument that no one is better than the Mounties in any circumstance? This despite having been dealing with the vagaries of the RCMP management for years; sexual harassment, claims in the hundreds of millions of dollars, still this group feels that their unionized environment within the RCMP will be better then the unionized environment in a new fresh Municipal Force. 

As their primary function is to represent their membership, do they realize that a lot of Mounties currently in Surrey may switch to a new agency and it may be in their best interest to do so.  

Maybe this is an overreaction. Maybe some officers feel better that the NPF is defending them as the Force has been going through many years of criticism. But they are late to the game, since its possible that the newly approved Surrey Police Force could be in effect as early as April 2021, less than a year away. 

As a new union, the early days are crucial, as they try to build a credible and strong representative group.  They have many diverse issues in front of them, all of which will demand their utmost attention. Their membership will become increasingly more demanding as the union begins to form and get involved in the various facets of police personnel administration. This will be nothing like the SRR program. They will need to exude the utmost professionalism because now there will be exposure and accountability. 

This is not the time to get into a fight with a duly elected and mandated government and now is not the time to demand something which is outside their purview or control. Now, was not the time to put up a slanted survey, or to gather behind the likes of Linda Annis. 

In the future, any political arguments will need to become a little more sophisticated. The NPF will need to be smarter. This is new world for everyone. The new RCMP membership is now paying for you —and they are watching.

Photo courtesy of Ewe Neon via Flickr Commons — Some rights reserved

To Heidi….

Once again, circumstances of the last number of days overwhelm our senses.  One struggles to piece together some rational thought when given such an illogical set of circumstances like those that occurred in rural Nova Scotia.

It is now clear that a single domestic abuse moment sparked in the mind of a seemingly, innocuous middle class denturist. It then ignited, and unleashed a firestorm of uncontrollable deep-seated rage. In an apparent need to destroy as well as wipe out the physical memories of his life, this disturbed male  needed to kill and burn. He needed to satiate this hunger on a byzantine trail of mayhem, a night of twisted terror, inhumane death, and hellish flames. Twenty-two people in six different communities stood in his way. 

The killing and the psychological need for destruction is not unusual, but the level of ferocity, the cold bloodedness and the instantaneous blossoming of the inner rage has rarely been seen before, at least in Canada. 

Even writing about these events it still somehow seems un-savoury and maybe premature, so it is with some reluctance that we even make some comment.

I am not going to join the chorus of former cops or “experts” who have apparently been seduced by the media to comment, seduced by the possibility of 15 seconds of fame. The audacity to think that they can offer some insight into a set of events without any knowledge of the circumstances continues to both amaze and distress me. 

Nor am I going to comment on the topic of the lack of an “Amber alert.” Each check of a residence turned up another body, another burned house, people lying in the street deformed by gun violence, their positions in death miming their last moments on earth. The officers personal survival, their minds struggling to make sense of the visual overload, would cause them to focus on the immediacy of it all. Their peripheral vision challenged.

An alert, at least initially, was likely far from the top of their minds.

To learn that it was later the next day when management, who needed to authorize such an alert, had to be prompted by the government and then that same management spent some time on the “wording”, is sadly unsurprising in this new age. Would it have saved lives, one will never know. Possibly, but it seems un- likely. 

My personal thoughts under these circumstances instead wander to how many random intersecting lives and circumstances all had to come together, and that they did so with such devastation.  A gathering of unrelated groups and their personal timelines; cops, civilians driving or walking down the street, a girlfriend tied to a chair, others huddled in their houses. A retired firefighter, two correction officers, a teacher, a 17 year old violin player and her mom and dad all united and forced into a human drama –by a cop loving or hating middle aged male who made a living by making dentures. 

 I safely sit thousands of kilometres away, on the other side of the country, in a peaceful spot on a lake, but drawn to an affinity to people I do not know and will likely never meet. The difficulty is that I can picture Constable Heidi Stevenson as if she was standing beside me; I can hear her voice, see her laugh. All cops know a Heidi.

I started my career in rural New Brunswick, in the Miramichi. It was much like rural Maritime Nova Scotia, my Portapique could have been the small fishing village of Baie Ste. Anne; Loggieville New Brunswick, your Wentworth Nova Scotia. Our night patrols like theirs covered a large swath of small often disparate villages, wrapped in endless forests or farmers fields. Often at night, we would be policing with two or three vehicles covering a vast geographic area of responsibility.

Rural policing is not the same as city or municipal policing. They are distinct entities that offer different perspectives and experience. Of course, there is crime everywhere, but in rural Canada it comes at a different pace, it is in a different rhythm. Domestic violence, impaired driving calls, and traffic accidents dominate in these often  placid and bucolic villages. Crime when it happens still is talked about, pedestrians still stop and watch as an ambulance or fire truck goes by–crime is still largely an abnormality.

If you are a police officer in these rural areas in a relatively short time, you are able to identify the problems; the individuals who are always driving drunk, the ones who are always abusing their spouses. People lose lives in hunting accidents and traffic accidents, not normally in drive-by shootings. In the rural areas you believe you know where the problem is, in the city you have no idea where danger could lurk. There are too many people, too many nameless faces. In the city you are more on edge.   

In rural Maritimes the calls are often intermittent, unlike the scroll of complaints in the city—often endless hours go by without a call. Mindless hours are common, often spent driving down seemingly endless roads, street lighting spare and halting. Continual meetings with fellow officers in the wee hours, sitting car to car, stifling yawns and talking about other things. 

Of course At 10:26 pm that changed for these H Division officers. The intersecting life lines, the fate of circumstances were about to take on a pathological tenor. Could they have predicted it? No. Could they have prevented it? No. Could they have reacted differently? Maybe, but also not likely. 

There will be questions and arm chair quarterbacks second guessing for weeks and months to come.

The Commissioner of the RCMP will implore all to seek mental help and consolation, sending out reams of material of being “there” for the members to support them in their grief and any future fears.

There will be some voices imploring for better training, for better gun laws, for a re-jigging of authorizations for Amber alerts. Psychologists and sociologists will examine the women hating characteristic which is being found as a commonality in similar situations. A group of feminists are already arguing for a full inquiry to demonstrate that misoginy was central to the eruption of violence.  

The RCMP investigation will concentrate on the weapons and how he obtained them, how he got a police uniform, or how he managed to deck out the Ford Taurus. They will promise to “review” what they could have done better. 

The SIRT group will examine the police exchanges with the suspect. They will find the shooting justified. How could they not? The SIRT group will also examine the rather bizarre shooting at the Onslow Fire Department which seems to be headed to an embarrassing finding.  

Were there any parallels to the Moncton police shooting? The only similarity may be the unpredictability of the event followed by the chaos.  

It’s possible that all this future introspection and pontificating will lead to some good. My guess is that none of it will really change anything. 

Why? Because these are events that defy definition and solution. You will always have limited resources in the small towns, you will always revert to being human in times of unbridled stress. You always react viscerally in these types of confrontations.

Some training would have kicked in, some muscle memory may be in evidence, but these are bare and raw human experiences which but for the grace of some possible higher authority few people will ever have to confront. Everyone reacts differently, their ingrained tools are what comes to the fore. 

The ability to react, the ability to see through the swamped senses, to keep your head when confronted with the unexpected is what separates policing from other first responders. A firefighter or a paramedic drive towards the known, any hint of danger allows them to fall back. No one believes them to be the enemy.

In policing, one is always driving into the unknown. In policing there is the consistent chance that you are being hunted, that you are the ultimate enemy.

I have no idea how these officers reacted or individually dealt with the unfathomable, but I am certain that they dealt with it as  best they could and individually did what was humanly possible. 

In the meantime, the aftermath to these events is predictable.

Empathy and prayers will inundate the Stevenson family, from around the country and the world. Locally, meals will be delivered, neighbours will share a bond of unmentionable grief; flowers will spray intersections and fence lines for all of those who lost their lives over those many kilometres of sadness. 

The media will take every opportunity to intone “community” grief and constantly push the rhetoric over the lack of an Amber alert. They will push and cajole all of those that they connect with to come on and broadcast their feelings of grief to a national audience. If you can cry on camera the better the footage.

I am just as certain that Gabriel Wortman deserved to die. No matter his eventual diagnosed torment and the uncontrollable demons that devoured him.

I disagree with the Prime Minister and the CBC— everyone should know his name–at least every police officer should remember his name.

But, what will last for me, what will stay with me indefinitely is that on that day– Constable Heidi Stevenson ran towards the fire.  

She did not know she was heading into a pit of madness, she did not know that she would be making the ultimate and unthinkable sacrifice. 

Your brothers and sisters now stand in solemn silence and salute you.

You were a cop.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Jan Kalab…Some Rights Reserved

Moments in Time

“May you live in interesting times”, it is both a blessing and a curse according to the Mandarin Chinese. The intended implication was that life is better when “uninteresting”. That seems apropos in this age of this latest virus, everyone now hoping for a return to some level of normalcy.   

As a former police officer of a little over three decades, I have now reached a stage where one seems to be spend an inordinate amount of time in introspection. And as one navel gazes, there is a realization that in this quick changing world, you are more than likely to live through some “interesting times” regardless of what decades you examine.  If one is fortunate to lead a sustained career, there actually may be more than a few moments where you will pine for the dull and the routine. 

 Each and every generation will have points of reference, points of time where the ordinary became the extraordinary. My run was during the late 1970’s into 2011. Of course, everyone marvels at the speed of the passage of time, a year easily blending and blurring into other years. Significant moments are easily recalled and many are common to all of us who went down this career path. Arriving at a new detachment, being in a high speed pursuit, or walking into a robbery in progress. In particular vicious and violent cases seem always to be in a special memory file. The very nature of “police“work means that “our” moments are intrinsically more dramatic and often outside the purview of the general public. Our thoughts and moments were often shielded behind “the blue wall”. The vagaries of the mind let us remember oddities such as file numbers, or peoples names, often because of the oddest of circumstances. 

Then there are those moments that change us. They are often unpredictable. Those pieces of time where events collide, where up seems like down, where right can not be told from wrong. Where pre-held opinions and beliefs get questioned, striking and shaking you at your core. It is during these moments that one almost always seems find themselves questionning the basic tenets of life. 

The generation that succeeded me, the ones now driving the streets and dusty rural roadways are in one of those moments today. The virus of 2020 will mark their personal journey through policing. In later years and beyond, they will be the greying veterans telling stories over bad coffee at a disinterested coffee shop.  Sombre stories often interwoven with dark laughter. 

For my generation, we remember mortgage interest rates in the teens, seeing our fellow officers turning over their keys to the family home to the uncaring faceless bank, unable to meet that payment on the three bedroom 1500 square foot bungalow. There were no tears outside the house, just a grim smile at the troubled economic times, after all you were not the only one. In 2008 the economic crisis would visit once again. 

But there was a very dramatic moment which was to come to us on September 11, 2001. Our world caved, turned wrong way up, the enemy was everywhere. 

As a child I had remembered when John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy were all assassinated in seemingly quick succession. Those deaths played heavily on those small, often black and white 20” screens, but we were children and we rapidly moved on. It was a story in a different country, near but far away to a child.  We were moved but we didn’t know why really.  

But September 11 happened while I was working as a police officer. It was a moment for my generation. 

On that day, I was driving to work in the usual way, coffee in hand, driving Hwy 1 in those early hours, prepared for a full day which was to involve executing a warrant on a house in Surrey which the local press had come to call “The house of Horrors”.  Arrangements had already been made for a command vehicle to be present, and ground radar was going to be brought into the backyard of the now empty, dilapidated crack house. Our investigation had led us to believe that this house had been the scene of multiple assaults and murders and it was rumoured that bodies were buried in the backyard. We were going to try and find them. It was a clear and sunny Tuesday morning.  A dark task lay ahead in the brilliant sunshine. 

A friend called while I was still enroute, their voice was quavering slightly, in a way that you know something is wrong. They told me to stop over before getting to work and began telling me I had to come see what was going on—a plane had hit the World Trade Centre in New York. A second one followed shortly thereafter as I sat on the friend’s couch transfixed. My world completely changed in a matter of minutes. Images of people covered in grey ash running from the centre of the carnage. The second plane confirmed the enormity of what we were witnessing. Two thousand and nine hundred and seventy-seven people would die that day, and over twenty-five thousand would be injured.

After watching for a few minutes though, the policing tasks for the day were still in front of me. I had to move on, work was calling, the warrant needed to be executed. So as I completed the drive to the site, my thoughts were frenetic, bouncing around from the job at hand to a world on the precipice. The a.m. Radio was acting as background, the announcers seemingly more alarmed as the weight of the “moment” began to be fully realized. 

 I continued to watch what was transpiring, on the small television from inside the motorhome “command centre” now parked in the driveway of the Whalley residence. It truly was “breaking news”. They were now diverting flights to Gander. 

Of course, the work did go on, and as we came and went from the motorhome, hurried glances at the ever-playing drama of the news, replaying sequence after sequence of the horror of planes hitting the inanimate object which had become the symbol of New York. A call part way through our day informed me that the command centre had to be re-deployed to Vancouver airport for use with processing the grounded aircraft from around the world. 

By three in the afternoon, I found myself alone, the job complete, as I sat on the curb finishing my notes. An eerie silence surrounded me. The people and usual activities of that rough and tumble neighbourhood in East Whalley, the normally busy drug chaotic humans, usually interspersed with screeching cars, horns, distant curses, homeless pushing grocery carts, all now seemingly frozen in time. 

Our generation of police officers had been through HIV in the 1980’s, and we were still destined to go through SARS in 2003, and the H1N1 in 2010. But 9/11 was different in scope, it was intentional, and we needed our government leaders to remain calm and clear in their thinking.  We trusted that they would make the right call. 

The individual stories of our generation live on. Those times of being threatened by HIV blood filled needles now being used as weapons, of terror related files now being more than an abstract. If the Air India bombing in 1985 did not bring terrorism home, this event seemed to. An abandoned knapsack in an airport would take on new meaning for the rest of our lives.

Ours was a generation marked by heavy drinking, sky-rocketing divorce, rollicking office affairs and parties. It was acceptable, a rite of passage, part of being one of the group. Not always admirable to be sure, but there was a sense of camaraderie brought about by hardship and often personal stupidity. There was no such thing or more accurately did not recognize someone suffering from depression, suffering from PTSD; no police officer being charged with assault. There was no group of non- officers questioning and second guessing every decision which had been taken in a micro-second. There were no cellphones recording your every move, there was no Twitter or Facebook in those early chapters of our generation. No one really wanted our jobs at the time. Salaries were solidly lower middle class. 

This current generation will have your stories too. You will be threatened by those claiming to have the virus in futile attempts to avoid going to jail or being handcuffed. Stories will abound of toilet paper filled houses. The clinically depressed calls for help and the domestic disputes will grow in numbers and swarm the dispatch centre. There will be anguish and concern over returning to your families after a day or a night of dealing with the 8% of society that are your “clients”. Ridiculous edicts will come down from your superiors about social distancing and being safe while doing your job—impossible to enforce or comply. 

You will be somewhat alone in your tasks. 

The parades will continue for the medical staff, gowned and masked as they enter their wards, as will the paramedics who wheel the stretchers. Some firefighters have even chosen to opt out of “medical“calls now. But you will march on. 

You will not likely be protected in the same way or have the ability to refuse attending a call. You will live “herd” immunity. You will continue to deal with the dispossessed, the downtrodden, the ignorant and the violent. You will hopefully keep a clear head; hopefully you will not succumb to the depression of incessant threats and you will be continually surprised by the ignorance of many of the general public. 

You will carry on, because there is no other way. You have no choice. Of course you will take precautions when you are able, but that will not always be the case. You will have some fellow officers who will find excuses not to be coming to work, some legitimate, some not so legitimate. You will have officer friends, in different jobs, who sit at home throughout this time, laptops at the ready, answering emails. Even they may not understand. 

Your group remaining on the 12 hour shift, will likely be under staffed, often tired, not really seeing the point of writing up that break and enter report. You will be spraying and cleansing your hands until raw. But there will be comfort in being in your group, you will laugh and point to the often ridiculous, helping to relieve the numbing reality. You will try and not touch your face, but at 3 in the morning, when fatigue begins to settle, that may be overlooked. 

Like all moments, it too will come to an eventual end. Sometime in the future, you will be looking back, proud of your singular efforts when the rest of the world seemed out of control and was not making much sense. Proud of being out there, when all the rest huddled inside. 

You may not get a parade, but inhale deeply and take it all in, as this is your moment.  

Photo courtesy of Raymond Wambsgan via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Tom Hanks has the flu!

Let me apologize for this blog from the start. I resisted, I tried, I really did, and I fretted about being lumped in with the cacophony of 24 hour looped newscasts and radio programming–  pontificating, lecturing, and speculating on what the World Health Organization  originally called a “containable” virus. 

However, there are a few aspects of this virus and the efforts to contain it which seems particularly troubling, maybe even frightening and needing comment. These worries have very little to do with the actual treatment of the virus itself. 

First and foremost is the cynical and hypocritical political elements tainting this pandemic. Layers of policy and regulation, confusion spread day after day, by multiple levels of government, all vying to give the impression of knowing and assuring us of their being in control.

Maybe even more troubling is that Canadians seem willing to suspend their beliefs, their rights and even their democratic system of government—without question or debate, to the point of allowing arbitrary arrest and detention. Rationality and common sense seem to have been put in suspended animation. 

What is also becoming painfully clear, is that our health system, which is often held to be of the highest standard, is lacking the medical architecture and preparation to deal with an event of this nature. We have a sometimes naive optimism of our health system, especially if we look south of our border, but this pandemic has exposed for the world to see that the critical care infrastructure in Canada when compared to other countries is lacking.

The final major concern is the trumpet blaring 5th Estate; continually poking and prodding those very susceptible twitter influenced politicians, not for some greater good, but so that they can engage and re-claim the viewership which a few weeks ago was disappearing. It is blatant and its alarming that journalism has erupted into a medium which is only driven by ratings. CTV, CBC, and Global have become the National Enquirers of Canadian television. Drunk in the knowledge that  blaring headlines, like the title of this blog, whether in the grocery store lineup, or on every news broadcast during an epidemic does draw looks. 

The inflammation of headlines, the use of distorted and misleading statistics, the constant blaring of dire warnings and war terminology are all an attempt to pull viewers back into their net. The election of Trump is often credited with saving the large daily newspapers in the U.S., this pandemic has become for television, their future lifeline. 

American television news and cable organizations are now seeing gains in their viewers, not seen since 2005. Canadian news, equally, has been invigorated by the need by all Canadians now drawn to their dire pronouncements, like pedestrians to a car accident, bugs to the light. They are hoping that by converting their network to strictly coronavirus news networks (CNN ironically) that they will be saved from future oblivion. They are unworried about responsible reporting or fact checking, the headline or bannered scroll is king. If this were the only repercussion from their self-interest maybe it could be tolerated, but it is driving stock markets, fomenting a possible recession, increasing anxiety and depression, and alarmist behaviour. 

 The herd mentality thanks to the networks devotion is in full swing; economic damage, reports of ridiculous and increasingly abhorrent behaviour, jammed Emergency rooms, the Prime Minister intoning in eulogistic tones of “the government being here for you”. Christya Freeland the other day telling the old folks that “we love you” all forming part of the “news”.

The media is akin to the snapping wolf at a herd of sheep, trying to incite the herd to panic. Panic after all is news, calm is not. The description of this virus as the “Apocalypse” plays through the broadcasts in a rising crescendo, day after day, one story more dire than the next. In the last couple of days the “catastrophe” is evolving to war terminology, comparisons to Vietnam war losses the latest angle of reporting. As normally an ardent admirer of the journalistic cause, the situation in Canada is dispiriting. 

 Every day, in every Province, the Prime Minister, Health heads, Cabinet, Mayors and the like trot out the daily numbers like lottery numbers, feeding the media beast, of those that have tested positive for the coronavirus. 

The problem with this of course, is that all numbers are skewed and as any one who has taken a basic statistics course will tell you, all data can be manipulated. 

 There are some basic numbers that seem consistent. Those that are being tested, believing that they may have the virus and are sick enough to come in for testing, only 6% of those people tested are hospitalized. As numbers of tests are increased, that 6% number will also decrease. So roughly 94% of the country will not be affected in any major way during this time of “crisis”.

Let’s look at another number. As of today there are 15,443 cases in Canada. That is .04173 percent of the population of Canada. If, speculatively the cases should rise to 10 times that number, to 154,443 cases. That would represent 0.4174 percent of the Canadian population getting the virus. 

In terms of fatalities there are currently 277 fatalities which represents .000748 % of all Canadians. 

Deeply flawed numbers and thus their projections and models, are what the government is going to rely on to determine if the “curve has flattened”. As the New York Times stated recently: “no complete picture of the virus exists anywhere because of factors beyond government suppression, including testing shortages and asymptomatic infections that could account for up to one in four coronavirus cases”.

Ontario just released its modelling data. Showing, of course, how many lives are being saved by medical incursion, while at the same time Dr. Aleman an Ontario doctor states that “it is essentially impossible to obtain real data”. He went on to say the at “real data wasn’t readily available for H1N1 which is just ten years ago and its not readily available now.” All this is to say that modelling and projecting is a very inexact science”.

This is not to downplay any death, but if one is developing and presenting national policies one needs to look at the larger picture, at a macro level. It may seem cold and calculating, but it is absolutely necessary to gaining some level of perspective and understanding. When imposing a policy of shutdown, it would have been more ideal to have numbers that were more relevant and verifiable.

A month ago, few were believing in the Liberals and their ability to run this country— as roadblocks halted the Canadian economy—as Alberta oil business was being destroyed piece by piece— we still had a government who for the last four years is still unable to fix the Phoenix Pay system. 

Suddenly, three weeks later we are now believers in their ability to manage government, after all they were assuring us that they are there “for you” resolutely standing “shoulder to shoulder”. Now, apparently capable of minor miracles in order to ease the suffering and pain of the virus. 

They make constant referrals to how they have learned from the SARS epidemic. Really? What did they learn? One would have thought that having enough face masks for medical staff during a time of predictable pandemics, would have been a basic learned lesson. One would also have thought that respirators were a basic component of any intensive care unit. Apparently not. 

Daily briefings by Mr. Trudeau in that sotto voce voice is pure politics. Every day he feels the need to announce something, anything. Do you believe that Trudeau and his cohorts are un-concerned about how this “plays” to the national audience? Do you believe that he is unaware that the nation turns their eyes to him, that every newscast is solely on him for a half hour a day? No one could normally afford such political advertising. 

 Their cover story for constant tuning in, and constantly changing policies is that the situation is changing “every minute”. Well that is not quite true is it?  Do you really think that there are daily changes in the virus, other than its spread. We have been told from the beginning about “social distancing” and “washing our hands”, not much is changed in terms of the science. We have known from the very beginning that the elderly and those with respiratory ailments were the most vulnerable. 

But of course Mr. Trudeau has some competition in this contest of one up man ship as the Provinces and even the Mayors don’t want to be left behind in the parade of caring. The health backed policies came out day after day, changing constantly, varied between Provinces and the Feds. No central answer or direction, all went through the governmental political filters of each Province, and then to the Municipalities.

Province after Province, declaring states of emergency.  The government actions increased day after day. Close the schools, close the parks, crowds of 500, no crowds of 50, no, no crowds at all allowed. Free flowing borders are o.k. No they are not, close the borders. 

These political decisions have led to more than a few oddities. Public Beaches in Vancouver being patrolled and individuals being ticketed for standing too close to one another, while a few blocks down on the Downtown Eastside, they lay side by side on the sidewalks. Provincial parks are closed but Oppenheimer Park, that campground of drugs, violence, and general mayhem is in full bloom. 

Below the surface the Canadian government is not telling you everything. No news about the fact that almost all the Federal government is sitting at home, and many can not work from home because of technical issues. Band-width a growing deterrent to Federal employees working at home. This includes the RCMP. Services Canada offices, the agency, which a lot of people depend in terms of employment issues etc. has closed its offices.  The CBC has closed its local offices, once an agency willing to send its journalists into war ravaged countries in the interest of obtaining the news, now unwilling to face a “possible” virus in a local Vancouver office.

It is well known that government as a functioning enterprise is flawed. It doesn’t work well, efficiently or quickly even in the best of times. Governments working efficiently with other governments is a rarity. Government working on three levels simultaneously does not happen. No government works quickly. 

 Their ability to deliver the economic promises is questionable —  but everyone wants to believe. In economic terms the Trudeau Liberals had already established a very clear method in dealing with any problem. Spend, spend, and then spend some more. 

To be fair, most economists seem to agree that the nature of this economic stalemate is that monies should be pumped into the economy.  It is contingent that when this is all over, the economy will bounce back to its former place without a hitch. That is a big assumption and as time ticks on, it is becoming a less safe bet.

The pronouncement of the Quarantine Act only triggered calls by the press for the Emergencies Act to be declared. Formerly the War Measures Act, it constitutes the complete removal of individual rights; allowing for arrests, detention and deportation with no recourse. 

Clearly we do not learn from history. We didn’t learn from SARS, or any of the other pandemics, and as history has taught us, declaration of the War Measures Act on three occasions was an unmitigated disaster. Are we bound to repeat our mistakes? Trudeau did say that nothing was off the table.

Television commentators are pushing the government on why they haven’t used it, politicians such as Rona Ambrose are even calling for it. You can rest assured that if the ill-informed cries gain momentum, pressure will build and Mr. Trudeau and his Cabinet may not be far behind. So far he has resisted in copying his father into history.

Justin Trudeau did try and pass a bill giving him total authority of spending for the next two years, and suborning Parliament. Hyperbole of “we as a nation” and “team Canada” are fuelling a consideration of authoritarian limits on individual freedom. As Mr. Trudeau says, “if it comes to that”.

The neo-Liberal press, normally playing the victimization card and the rights of the dis-enfranchised, are disconcertedly now cheer leading from the sidelines for an Act that would do away with civil liberties. Apparently their principles of civil liberties has a limit.

At the end of all this and there will be an end, Canadians need to be asking a couple of basic questions. Was this the right response to the virus? There is some evidence that we are hitting a mosquito with a sledge hammer.  Maybe a more targeted and specific response was warranted. Maybe a cruise missile rather than the atomic bomb. 

Sweden, which did undertake a contrarian viewpoint, is worth watching.  It has isolated the very vulnerable, but many aspects of life such as schooling are carrying on. 

We have quickly learned that there has been a single solitary reason to panic during this disease. Simply put, our hospitals are not equipped to handle this pandemic, in fact next to Mexico our hospitals are the poorest equipped of all OECD countries. Frances Woolley, professor of economics at Carleton University in a Financial Post article states that “a cold hard look at the numbers suggests our hospitals cannot cope with the most flattened of curves. Indeed, they cannot cope with any kind of curve at all”

Consider that Italy has one-third more acute care hospital beds per capita than Canada, and twice as many per capita as Ontario. Half of Ontario hospitals are at over capacity for much of the year. The U.S., is in contrast also in trouble despite a hospital sector that is only at 64 per cent capacity nationally. 

Will the subsequent economic damage be overwhelming and reach into the heart of both the economy and its democracy?  Only time will tell, but there is little doubt that the lower middle class and poor will suffer disproportionately .

It is doubtful as to whether the Liberal government or any of the Provincial governments will be in the mood for a critical review, much more likely they will be applauding their efforts on every front. But we need to insist on a thorough and broad examination of both our preparatory efforts and our conclusions. 

Maybe a global approach, not a closed border approach would have worked better, a sharing of information, a global scientific approach as opposed to a political singular approach with all its vested selfish interests. In this inter-connected world our first reaction when pushed, was to insulate ourselves.

In the meantime,  my only advice is to turn off the news, ignore the numbers being spewed at you. Ignore the politicians. Listen to the scientific community.  

Will we get through this? Of course, but it won’t be because of swift and insightful actions of government agencies. This is not a “war” it is a string of proteins trying to find a place to live, there is a big difference. The great majority of the population that gets infected, well over 90% will survive with symptoms resembling the common cold.

For others, it is a devastating sinister disease which seems intent on taking out those that have lived long lives and maybe we didn’t do enough to protect them. Close to 30% of the deaths in Canada are occurring in nursing homes. Hopefully in the future we will learn from this single startling fact.

The health care workers, doctors and other emergency personnel will continue to do their job, they will go to work as always.  They will improvise and go around the levels of authority to get things done. Private industry is stepping up and adapting, breweries making hand sanitizer, clothing companies making masks, private labs trying to develop a vaccine. Police officers are still answering calls and the government will “eventually” get cheques to people. 

The eerie sound of people clanging pots and pans reverberating through the downtown abandoned corridors of Vancouver will eventually subside, but that sound should not be forgotten. 

We apparently didn’t hear it the last time. 

Photo Courtesy of Dan Gaken via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Through the Looking Glass

The title of this blog reflects the feeling that one has when one delves into any government report, an apt metaphorical expression to describe when looking into that strange side, that strange parallel world which is the National RCMP. 

Only the policy nerds seem to flourish in this world, fed and sustained by a never-ending stream of political social narratives; while those looking in from the outside wonder what it all means, or whether it means anything at all.  For those that are paying attention (admittedly, that may not be many) the latest government aphorism, is a rehearsed and vetted document outlining the future for the RCMP.  It will both confound and mystify the average reader, but in equal measure it will please their political masters.  

This is a reference to the newly released benignly named: Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2020-2021 Departmental Plan.

This document is not an exception to the usual government production, as it should come with a warning label, a warning that its contents are chock full of numbing bureaucratize. The reader sometimes needs a skill set similar to Alan Turing  to break the code of government speak and terminology. It is recommended that it should only be read in small doses.  

It is also clearly designed to be somewhat obtuse, as specifics are often an anathema to any government agency. What we do get is 35 pages of clouded statements on the future intentions of the RCMP as outlined by its leadership. It includes for the novice reader, an appendix of “definitions”— in case you are wondering what is  “gender-based analysis +”. 

As one begins to read, it should be noted that this is the first time that the RCMP has an assigned Management Advisory Board in its midst, now part of the influential upper management. You may remember that Brenda Lucki in announcing this Board stated that the RCMP “thrives on diversity of knowledge and ideas” (actually the RCMP has been called out many times for being a closed system so this seems a little precious) and was looking to the Board to help build a “modern, effective, healthy and inclusive organization”. (Keep the word inclusive in mind, as it will re-surface). 

In reading this document one does get a sense of the political goals having become more intertwined with the policing goals, but there is nothing attributed to the input of this new Board otherwise.

It is also the first time the RCMP is reporting under the banner of the illustrious Bill Blair, who has gone through the “transition”, from the tough former cop to the  wholly pliable 100% Liberal politico. 

The report is broken up into its four respective groups: Federal Policing, National Police Services, Contract and Indigenous Policing, and Internal Services. It is quickly evident by the majority of the narrative that the majority of the emphasis in this particular document is under the Federal Policing banner. 

The officers in this Federal group are mandated with the ominous sounding and numerous portfolios of: terrorism, foreign interference, money laundering, organized crime, proceeds of crime, border integrity, transnational serious and organized crime, cyber-enabled criminal activities, and foreign influenced cyber crime. Out of this litany, the ultimate priorities are noted as being; national security, transnational crime, and cybercrime. Some may argue that these particular priorities are some of the already very weak areas in terms of operational performance.  Few of those that work there would argue with the fact that improvement is needed.  

The report then goes on to examine the  “Departmental results” –those of the past, alongside the new and projected targets. An examination of this area, is a little more specific and therefore a little more telling. 

They list the “Percentage of National Security Serious and Organized Crime investigations” and “Financial Crime investigations” that have been “opened and cleared” within the fiscal year(s). In Financial Crime, their future target is 30.5% of the files. Keep in mind “cleared” is open to interpretation. 

In 2016 the actual results were 7%, in 2017- 19% and in 2018 -0%. 

Thats right, 0% of files in 2018 and 2019 were opened and cleared in that year under the banner of Financial Crime. 

In the area of National Security there future goal is 11.5% opened and cleared files. In 2016 they achieved 6%, 2017-8% and last year 2019-10%.  You get the picture. 

The budget for these high level investigations on the Federal side is estimated at $870,180,294. However, over the projected next three years into 2022-2023, the monies actually drop to $862,409,515. So despite the emphasis at the beginning of their report on anticipated greater focus on cyber crime investigations and transnational serious and organized crime, no more money is currently planned nor are they anticipating any increases.    

The writers concede there are some “risks” in reaching these projected targets. They explain that “without new funding”, they “will be unable to deliver on its already narrowed and focused scope” and they will also need to “re-direct” resources to the Federal side.

Further down the list of importance comes Contract and Indigenous Policing.  Again, one needs to decipher the phraseology. In this portion of the document there are multiple references to such things as “developing relationships”, “guiding investigations”, and “supporting other agencies”.  What they mean is that in the future, it will continue to be hard to measure any impacts when they are working in an assistance capacity. It is difficult to measure success or failure, or attribute positive or negative results when one points to others. If there is a failure they will point at the others, but at themselves when it is a success.

Under the roof of Contract Policing also comes “developing” a Gender Based Violence program; a Sexual Assault Review team to “guide” others;  and to “support” other agencies dealing with Cannabis and Cannabis related enforcement issues. Contract operational policing, of which most of the readers of this blog belong, garners four lines of narrative while talking about something called “Gender Based Analysis Plus”.  There is little or no reference to day to day operational policing on the contract level. 

There is a portion of greater specifics, in the Departmental result indicator list for Contract policing, where they outline the “weighted clearance rate” across contract policing jurisdictions.

Their target is 64.5 % by March 31, 2021.

So what did they achieve in 2016–37.80%; in 2017–36.91 % and in 2018–36.6%. So in the next several months the RCMP is planning to almost double their current clearance rate. To say that is a stretch would be an understatement and one has to wonder who came up with a target number so out of reach.

What do they see as the key risks in contract policing? There is no mention of their largest detachment possibly becoming a separate municipal department. The single risk they speak about is the “lack of an effective dispute resolution process”. At least that is true, when you open up to the unionized environment, the current lack of any workable process is exposed. Things such as “binding arbitration” have never been dealt with before. Why are they worried about this risk?  Because it poses “significant financial liability”. 

Now in case you think the Ottawa types have let you down and they are not moved by the salary issues, or the bottom of the pit morale issues. You would be mistaken, because they announced—wait for it— “Vision 150”.  This is a five year plan built upon the “Four Pillars” of : “Our people”, “Our Culture”, “Our Stewardship” and “Our Policing Services”.  

Under “Our people” you will find the usual promises and problems  of recruitment, mental health, diversity and harassment. Under “Our Culture” there will be “ethical standards modeled and enforced” and they will be “fostering diversity”. 

All of you must be breathing a collective sigh of relief.  

As a carrot after the proverbial stick they did mention that they are going to be expending time on developing “apps” to allow an officer to access RCMP systems from anywhere— they will be increasing their “mobile presence”. The government which gave us the Phoenix pay system is heading down the road to greater App development.

So what is the projected budget for all of this? What is the overall cost of the Mounties? 

In 2019-2020 the forecast results are $6,175,703,214. 

The projected expenses for 2020-2021 are: $5,561,803,617. A drop of $613 million. 

Are they not expecting a pay raise for 2020-2021? To be fair though, in the footnotes they do allow for “technical adjustments later in the fiscal year”. 

All of this leaves me with a couple of impressions. The first is that the latest buzz word in Ottawa is “perimeter less”. Meaning no barriers or boundaries between the various departments one assumes. But this term bounces around throughout the pages of this document. As a career tip, most Mounties should try and include this term in any written administrative correspondence for the next year or so.  

But aside from the latest government speak, the more over-riding impression in this document is its disconnectedness. The problems of the Surrey or Burnaby member is not the problem of Federal Policing. This lack of relevance to the core mandate is striking. And that core mandate seems to be changing, slowly but inexorably.  Federal policing is clearly the popular flavour in those Ottawa committee meetings, at least in terms of projected operational priorities. 

However, at the same time, the structure for change appears deeply flawed.

Surrey detachment seems to be a microcosm of the larger problems. As this blogger has watched the progression of debate in Surrey, one can not help but be dumbfounded that the argument for keeping the Mounties centres around a belief that the opposition just want a change in personnel.

It is not a question of the personnel. It is the structure. The pyramid there is upside down and it needs to be dynamically and unapologetically flattened. Too many supervisors, too much management, too many specialized members; not enough officers doing core policing. It is that simple. But this simply defined problem is not an easily solved problem as it runs head-on into the current rank and promotion structure. 

The  broader question for Canada may be whether or not the Mounties on a national basis need to be re-structured.

The jack of all trades, master of none attitude of management is central to this debate. They seem to be still harbouring the illusion that all members are interchangeable—pluck them from general duty, give them a couple of courses at that Institute of higher learning in Chilliwack or Regina and now they are experts in their new field. 

It simply doesn’t work. Maybe, as an example, cyber crime with its multiple facets demands changes in its personnel and computational infrastructure. It seems to scream a pressing need which may demand a separate and distinct agency.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time for the RCMP to get out of the city policing areas like Burnaby or Richmond altogether. Their ability to make policy and structure for the officer in Moose Jaw do not fit the problems in Surrey, or Gander and is totally un-relatable to the Ottawa Mountie working in “national security”. But they seem resolved to try and drive square pegs into round holes.

The RCMP is being propped up by the “too big to fail” phenomena. It continues to be a monolithic organization, grinding slowly and inexorably to some ill-defined or irrelevant goal. It is without a singular vision, and that vision is blurred by its very own organizational structure, with all its complex layers and forms nullifying the ability to see clearly.

The entire current structure of the RCMP may have outlived its due date.

Alas, there is no solution or even hope in this Departmental report. This latest “report” is nothing more than bureaucratic pablum. The good news is that probably nobody is going to read it or pay it any heed. After all, why would you?

Photo courtesy of Fickr Commons by sammydavisdog- Some Rights Reserved.

Is the Cullen Commission about to steamroll the Mounties?

In a previous blog your faithful and diligent blogger had opined about the state of white collar crime in this country and the obvious and pressing need to “follow the money”. Naturally, there seemed to be an obligation to follow the formal start of the Cullen Commission on Money Laundering in British Columbia. It will be one of the few government proceedings, where in essence, following the money will be the primary and necessary investigative step of the inquiry.

So for two and a half days this blogger watched the live streaming of the Commission, which began on February 24th, 2020, held in the bland and austere government appointed room at 701 West Georgia St. in Vancouver.

The pursuit of winding trails of money is almost always fascinating, although admittedly it is often easy to drown in the details. Understanding has to start with the basic but safe assumption that in our current society, that if there is money to be gained, and if you follow that money to the end, someone will have found either a legal or illegal advantage. Many, will be found to have tried walking that often moving line between fraud and simply taking advantage of ill-written policies, regulations, and lacklustre enforcement.

This commission is about to go down some roads built by political entities who were lured by the pursuit of unencumbered government revenues emanating from the vices generated by greed. The road will wind through the corridors of power once enjoyed by the Provincial Liberals, but likely will veer past the current governing New Democratic Party. The out-stretched political hands of British Columbia in recent years are to be sure a little dirty, stained possibly by a willingness to look the other way.

There is an old maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. This is rarely heeded by the variety of Commissions, Inquiries or government projects and this Commission will not be the exception. Headed by Judge Austin Cullen it is mandated to prepare a preliminary report in 18 months and a final report in two years. By the time this commission releases its preliminary report we may be in the middle of the next election in 2021. A report that has the real possibility of pointing a finger at the former Christy Clark Liberals will be just in time for the next election. Coincidence or good planning depends on your level of cynicism.

In their defence the terms of reference for this Commission are very broad; everything from gaming, horse racing, real estate, financial institutions, money services, luxury goods, and the legal and accounting communities will be examined.

Clearly, three days in, it is far too early to come to any conclusion on the possible findings by this Commission. But, what did become clearer, even at this early stage, was where the guns were soon to be pointing. Listening to the early proceedings was like being able to look through the sights of a long rifle, the targets evident, but somewhat blurry in the distance.

It was equally clear that those wearing the dark target circles on their chests know who they are. They have been preparing their defences and strategies for some time, having already hired their own hired guns. These are the ones that have applied and received “standing”.

You couldn’t swing a three ring binder in the somewhat austere courtroom without hitting a lawyer. The Cullen Commission itself has a total of nine lawyers, and there are twenty-four lawyers representing the eighteen parties who have been granted that “ standing “. Thirty-three lawyers and we are just getting started. The Commission is expected to incur costs of $15 million, with little doubt that the majority of the funds will be going to lawyer fees, as there is not much chance of anyone doing pro bono work here.

Charles Dickens said that “if there were no bad people there would no good lawyers”.

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation has already paid (up to March 2019), a total of $1.637 million to one of the Vancouver downtown firms: Hunter Litigation Chambers Law Corporation. This is for the services of high profile lawyer William Smart QC and Shannon P. Ramsay.

The fired, or let-go (depending on which version of the story you want to hear) former BCLC Vice- President Robert Kroeker has hired the high profile lawyer Marie Henein—who has been written about before by this blogger and her representation of Jian Gomeshi and Admiral Norman .

The current CEO of BCLC, James Lightbody, felt the need to hire his own personal lawyer; not satisfied with just the lawyers hired for his employer and instead has obtained Robin McFee QC and Jessie Meikle-Kahs of Sudden, McFee and Roes LLP. Mr. Lightbody is apparently currently away on medical leave.

These initial three days consisted of the respective lawyers for those with standing, making and reading scripted presentations. All, as expected, were self-serving documents defending of their own personal predicaments. The reading into the record, with an occasional question by Cullen was at times slow, tedious, and nuanced. But, there were some interesting takes and tidbits of truth buried under mounds of legalese and acronyms.

James Lightbody, ably represented by Robert McFee, began by outlining all the myriad duties and responsibilities his job entailed, and pointed out that he was always guided by the Board of Directors in terms of strategy and annual plans. He proclaimed that he was a stalwart defender of the “vision, mission and values” of the organization and that he had worked diligently to help fulfill “social responsibility”. That he shares the public concern and always recognized the threat brought on by money laundering.

It will be remembered that previously unnamed sources have alleged that senior management at BCLC had turned a blind eye to what was going on. Lightbody argued that the evidence will show otherwise, that he made “active efforts” and that he brought in greater co-ordination with law enforcement.

The lawyer was also quick to point out that the role of BCLC was one of “Detecting, reporting and supporting” the enforcement and regulatory government branches and added that he had been pressing for more resources since 2011. He said that through him BCLC had initiated a sharing agreement with RCMP in 2014 and that JIGET (Joint Intelligence Gaming Enforcement Team) was supported and partially funded by BCLC.

Then there was the statement of Robert Kroeker, who was represented by Christine Mainville of the firm headed by Heinen. Kroeker was the former head of Security and Compliance for almost four years, but left suddenly in July 2019. He was the fourth high level executive to suddenly leave the Corporation within a year. The others being Bohm, Delinski, and Hobson. All four were earning over $240,000 per year. There was no confirmation of their having been fired, but all this occurred after Peter German’s report in 2018. Kroeker was replaced by the Vice-President of Casinos Brad Desmarais.

As an aside. If these names seem familiar; Kroeker was a former RCMP officer and was the head of Security for Great Canadian Gaming Corporation which includes the highly profiled River Rock casino, before joining BCLC. Prior to that he was a former director of BC Civil Forfeiture office. Brad Desmarais was also a former RCMP and Vancouver City Police officer and and had overseen the bungled rollout of the anti-money laundering software in 2013. Kroeker had also been appointed to a chair at the Justice Institute from which he eventually resigned under pressure after the German report.

Former Mounties have their fingerprints everywhere. Kevin deBruyckere, also a former Mountie, who at one time headed up Commercial Crime and then went to HSBC, is now the the Director of Anti-Money Laundering and Investigations at BCLC.

It seems that BCLC became a second lucrative home to many of the executives of the RCMP. Even potential witnesses Fred Pinnock and Joe Schalk are former Mounties. Peter German of course is a former Mountie. And it is rumoured that former Liberal Cabinet member Rich Coleman is going to end up being the focus from the former Liberals. He too is a former Mountie. It all seems rather incestuous.

In any event, Kroeker his lawyer said, looks forward to testifying and also defending the various “false” assertions against him. Mainville indicated rather forcefully that her client will testify under oath.

She went on to outline how Kroecker was in charge of regulatory affairs from 2006-2012 and had worked “extensively” with police and that during his time the Director of Civil Forfeiture had recovered $30 million.

He claims to have called for a tracking and monitoring of STRs (suspicious transactions reports) and it was also his understanding that after the review by FINTRAC that all activities had been cleared of wrong doing. He pointed out more than once that all information was passed on to the “authorities.”

Kroecker said that he “tried” to get the police and the regulator to investigate through 2013 and onward. That he “urged” investigations and was told by “Senior RCMP management” that all things inside BCLC and the Casinos were fine —that they were doing their part in the battle of money laundering.

In June 2014 Kroecker said that under his direction an information sharing agreement with the police was constructed. That BCLC had been led to believe that the police would investigate and that they continually raised alarms. But that subsequently there was no evidence of police investigation, nor were any investigative steps being taken. Officers with police powers were needed, he underlined, to get involved— and they weren’t. Calls for investigation were repeatedly “ignored” according to Kroecker.

In one interesting side-bar, Kroecker indicated that he tried to implement a “chip replacement” program to counter the constant holding and misuse of casino chips. It needed to be done with some stealth but that the program was delayed by GPEB (Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch) thus allowing some of the nefarious actors to get rid of the suspect chips.

Anon and malicious claims that he allowed “dirty money” to flow into casinos were patently wrong he said and that he has been cleared of this false allegation by GPEB. GPEB determined them to be “unfounded” and the “matter was now closed”. He expressed frustration that he had not been interviewed for the German report, which at first glance does appear to be a rather curious. An administrative fine against BCLC in 2010 was explained away as resulting from “technical deficiencies between FINTRAC and BCLC. He pointed out that the fine was eventually set aside.

There were other presenters.

Members of the Notaries Public appeared, clearly worried as to the allegations of impropriety in real estate transactions that have been alleged. Predictably they too claimed that they have been doing due diligence all along. They went further in saying that currently legal investigations and regulatory bodies are fundamentally “broken”. That through no fault of their own, money laundering convictions are rare. They said that the sharing of information with them was rare and would have gone a long way to make a dent in what was going on.

They mentioned being part of Project Athena, but this project got side-tracked when it took 11 months for the RCMP to get information from FINTRAC. They even implied that maybe the Stinchcombe decision on disclosure was hurting investigations.

The notaries expressed surprise that the Financial institutions were absent from the Commission. They opined that they needed and should be present and agreed with the Kroeker lawyer that money that was being laundered may be being done through banking institutions. They lamented that the financial sector have almost been ignored and may in fact be needed to help explain the problem of money laundering.

BMW was also granted standing and made a presentation that spoke about the “grey market” in high end luxury cars and the use of “straw buyers”. Money launderers were buying vehicles for shipping out of the country and then went on to describe a loophole allowing the funnelling of monies through these purchases and their subsequent applications for Provincial tax refunds. They stated that they too had passed on information to the authorities.

The Great Canadian Casino Corporation counsel also appeared. Part of its conglomerate is the River Rock Casino. They described a highly regulated industry that was at times audited by FINTRAC. They too spoke of the fact that they were not investigators, they had a duty to report, which they insisted they did profusely.

Of course the Provincial Government and the Federal Government were also present. Their presentations were guarded and as one listened you were left to wonder if there ever was a problem. All, according to these two presenters were functioning as designed and GPEB and FINTRAC were guarding our interests with diligence and concern. Acronyms and current bureaucratic buzzwords bounced off the walls with abandon, “best practises”, “working with stake holders”, and the “regime” of regulation and investigation. Of course there are the Committees, the many Committees, all designed to “educate” and involved in “intelligence gathering” and “sharing”.

The Feds did outline the vagaries of FINTRAC and outlined how a mind warping 2400 agencies and service providers reported to them. But then they reminded the Commission that they are about regulations and oversight and all criminal activities would be pointed to the Police and Crown.

At the end of the three days, where does all this predictable posturing leave the taxpaying public?

You are left with the impression that there are three spinning tops— three divided layers, none of whom seem to be interacting in anything approaching cohesion. The Federal government spins in their isolation, the Province is eager to point at the previous administration; and at the ground level are the Casinos, the racetracks, the car dealerships and the housing industry. Most will clearly point at the Police, FINTRAC and any one else charged with enforcement.

What is curious is that the RCMP did not ask for standing with the Commission.

This could either be explained by: their hope to hide behind the camouflage and obfuscation of the Federal bureaucracy, a common default position, or, that they are in denial of this Commission doing them any harm. Unfortunately, they may find there is little defence for dereliction of duty. Hopefully, they are now at least paying attention.

Photo courtesy of Images Money via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved

In need of a Churchill

There are many types of Principles. There are Principles for Life, Principles for Work and Principles for Success. The exponents of Principles vary from the Baptist preacher, to the hundreds of wannabe consultants populating Linked-In.  All preaching fundamental and quite obvious truths. There are principles of science, law, journalism and farming— but let’s deal with the fundamental building block of principles for life— that of the need to seek and speak the truth. Veracity and strength of character, in what you say and do and the willingness to sacrifice for that truth.  It is the rarest of all qualities. 

This blogger was taken down this philosophical wandering path into human principles and basic truths by a recent biography on Winston Churchill. It is an incredibly long and extensively researched book, by Andrew Roberts, a total exploration of the times in which Churchill lived and the circumstances over fifty years which led to his becoming the Prime Minister of Britain in 1939.  Appointed Prime Minister as the world was preparing for the Second World War. 

The book is not always admiring; it points to faulty decisions, obstinate views, less than charming personality traits and all the other foibles which make up every human and make us just like our neighbour.  In his long build up —as a child born into privilege, unbridled love for a less than generous father, bullied at school, a troubled relationship with his son and a sometimes unfaithful but loyal wife that all became part of his being.  This was combined with a world wide and extensive education, through travel and schooling, W.W. I, being a Prisoner of War, and shot at during the Boer War.  This mixture of circumstance and education joined with his social DNA to create the man, the man who many would argue was the saviour of Britain and the saviour of the world from Naziism and the scourge of Hitler. 

There are a few obvious characteristics which stood out to all that watched and listened every night to the BBC broadcasts during those trying times. In examining both this man and this time in history, it is impossible not to be struck or attempt a comparison to the leaders of today. Clearly, the qualities or abilities that were on full display from 1940 to 1945 are in short supply in this day and age. It is both interesting and disheartening if one considers current policing management and the general political atmosphere in Canada.

In recent days, in this country the politicians and the policing administration has been exposed. A bright harsh light is shining down on a group of leaders who seem helpless and ridiculous—hoisted on their own petard of political correctness.  Held hostage by a minority who believe that the rule of law does not apply to them. The economy stalemated by a small group of people, a radical fringe basking in their ability to cause upheaval and spout outlandish claims to the other 95% of Canada. 

There has never been a greater need for a Churchill and the qualities which seem in such short supply in February 2020.

First and foremost was a fundamental honesty. And he wielded that honesty with great relish and effect. In speaking to the masses or his political War Cabinet, even in the very darkest of times, such as the evacuation of Dunkirk, he did not underestimate, play with the numbers, or fudge the losses. He was direct and sincere in his grief. He had faith in the ability of the general public to discern truth from fiction, to tell right from wrong, and to understand dire circumstances. 

Secondly, he was a great communicator. He believed in the power of oratory, the power of inflection, nuance, and tone. He studied it, practised in front of a mirror, and when he rose in the House of Commons to speak, even the opposition (and there were many who disliked him) grew quiet in anticipation of what he was about to say. Most people do not know that Churchill was a writer, a journalist and one of the greatest historical record keepers in modern times. When out of power, he lived on his writing skills, and he wrote honestly and with endless fairness, even when speaking about those that had often opposed him. He skillfully injected humour into often seemingly humourless situations in an effort to alleviate the tension in which they were then living. 

Thirdly, he was intelligent. He studied continuously; interested in almost every vocation and profession that entered into his sphere. He was a military expert, in tactics both in the air, on the land and on the sea. He could comment on armaments, proposed one of the first tank vehicles, and could cite naval tactics going back to Lord Nelson. He predicted the Second World War and the rise of Naziism, five years before the actual event. He talked and wrote about the plight of the Jews in Germany and Eastern Europe long before it was noticed by the rest of the world. He created MI 5 and MI 6 because of his fundamental belief in the need for intelligence even when the country was not at war.  

It was intelligence based on an un-abiding intellectual curiosity, a need when in a group to speak to everyone, consider every point of view, and not avoid those with counter-views. He had no problem marching in and in front of a hostile and rambunctious crowd with little regard for his personal safety but intent in trying to argue reason over emotion. That being said he did not handle fools easily. He had no interest in the lazy and intellectually vacant. 

And finally, he was brave, tireless, indefatigable, relentless in his pursuit of in what he believed and fearless in terms of pursuing it until the end.  During the war when travelling to meetings he often carried his .45 revolver, not out of fear but out of a belief that if someone was going to try and kill him, he would only go down by taking someone with him. 

He was famous for his afternoon naps, his cigars and his enjoyment of a good drink. A sense of  life, a sense of the relatively short time we spend on earth, often working until the wee hours of the morning. While in Cabinet, he still took time to paint and to write 1500 words a day, all while the world was changing in dramatic rapidity and demands for his attention became insistent and never-ending. His decisions during the war, often involved the life and death struggles of young soldiers in the trenches, while his city was being bombed around him. 

To compare our 21st century Canadian problems to that of the past seems patently unfair, as we can not easily comprehend the world in which Churchill and many others were forced to live and endure. We can not relate to real stress. Quite naturally, we have become softer, we have entered into a time period when little things become big things where “life and death” can be portrayed in an emoji.  

Our lifestyles have grown along with our financial outlook and with our egos which are being projected into the ether, dutifully recorded by endless selfies. Twitter and Facebook allows us to share our small world problems with the rest of the world, yet paradoxically in Canada we seem to have no real knowledge of the other world.  We are immune to the wars in Syria and Afghanistan, to famine in Africa, or massacres in Rohingya. But we are often consumed whether two members of the Royal family live in Canada as if it gives us some validity as a country. The numbers of those that have contracted coronavirus are counted and published in large “War” like headlines and displayed in graphics that would be the envy of Pixar. 

But as one reviews the principles and the fundamental needs of leadership that were exemplified by Churchill, is it fair to look around and compare? Maybe not, but can we not demand that this current leadership group should have at least one quality? Can we look at Trudeau, John Horgan, Kennedy Stewart or the Commissioner of the RCMP, Perry Bellegarde of the First Nations—anyone? 

Let’s examine some of the needed principles. Honesty? Well, it has been a long time since any of us ever felt that we were not being lied to, or that we were getting the unabashed truth. When was the last time any of you sat around a police meeting room conference table and felt that there was room for honest discontent, or an opposing opinion — without the fear of being ostracized? Try to be honest in your answer.

Has not the rule of thumb to be promoted to management ranks in the RCMP or any other police force in the last number of years, been that first and foremost you must be  a “company” man or woman.  There is no room for any counter opinion or dissent. All is good, all is well is the ongoing theme for the aspirants to the top of any government institution. Preach the political platitudes and all will be well. 

Finally, are these leaders intelligent? Many are, but what is exasperating is that many have chosen to subsume that intelligence in order to advance a better career, or an increased position of power.  They are expending that intelligence on doing what plays politically. What fits the polls?  They often rose to positions of substance, by being non-committal, never getting caught in venturing an opinion, forever fearful of the negative spotlight.  They seemed to have turned that intelligence away from the honest and forthright and have adopted the belief that the truth can not be handled by the masses. Only they know the way forward, they are the elites. Free speech or even unfiltered speech no longer a founding principle for democracy. 

So where does that leave us? We have not reached the epic problems of Churchill’s time. But, we have arrived at a junction where a lack of leadership is putting us close to the precarious edge of revolt. The growth of the populist right, is being nurtured by a growing cynicism, energized by these sycophants to the liberal political ideology of appeasement at all costs. 

Yes, we are in desperate times, as we scan the horizon for a leader who exudes the qualities of a Churchill, but the landscape is indeed barren. Someone intent on speaking the truth. Willing to stand for the principles of honesty and integrity and most importantly willing to be unpopular. But convinced of their stance which is supported by experience and an extended knowledge of the situation. Someone who has a basic understanding of right and wrong.

 Chrystia Freeland, Marc Garneau, Mark Miller,  Brenda Lucki, Jagmeet Singh, Elizabeth May  and Justin Trudeau are clones; interchangeable. They are trying to propagate the belief that they and only they are the humanistic preserve of the enlightened.

Now all these issues and policies to which they marched, lock step, arms linked is now playing out on the news every night. The issues of the day are now exposing how trying to appeal to everyone, to be on both sides of the fence, will eventually lead to contradiction.  Let’s be clear. Not being on the fence, but literally trying to be on both sides of an issue.

The police have gone down this road of being inseparable from the legislative arm. No longer are they strictly the enforcers of the law, independent and impartial, they are now part of the political process, enforcing and being directed only when it meets and suits the political agenda. This slippery slope comes at great cost. The RCMP has now been tainted, painted with the brush of bias, favoured interest groups being treated differently; in this case the Liberal indigenous cause.

Police management and the politicos are clearly working together now, trying to see a way out, when neither has any vision.

The economy is now staggering under the weight of illegality, but they are currently willing to sacrifice the economy to support their policy platform to which they are inexorably tied. It is their only hope for political survival. They pray each night to the gods that the indigenous will tire of their just cause, whatever that might be as the end goal is anything but clear. Their fear of violence erupting if they adhere to the rule of law would destroy their “reconciliation” platform, and their fear is palpable. It is hard to take a stand, when your only stance is to be popular.

It is pathetic to watch and it is a long way from Churchill. 

In a famous speech Churchill said: ” Let us brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say; “This was their finest hour”.

This is not this country’s finest hour.

It was learned today that the CO of E Division RCMP Jennifer Strachan wrote to the indigenous hereditary chiefs offering to pull back from the enforcement of the blockade near Houston, B.C. as a sign of “good will”. No doubt a suggestion from some of her political bosses.

She and the others should pay head to another statement by Churchill:

“An appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile–hoping it will eat him last”

“Follow the Money”

I have a clear mental picture of on more than one occasion, sitting around a conference room table, a new homicide case fresh in hand, and debating the merits of one course of action over another. Discussions would eventually come around to one of the items that needed proving; namely, motive.

When the motive was not clear, a reliable side-kick would invariably jump up and holler: “Follow the money!” We would all laugh both because of the manner of the exclamation which had been said with such ferocity, but also because of the obvious nature of what was being proclaimed.

If you want to find crime in this country, this Province, or in your towns and cities, truer words were never spoken. You only need to “follow the money”. This would seem patently obvious to almost everyone who is paying attention. What is less obvious maybe, is whether or not in this country, we actually care. And by “we” I mean Canadians in general, and the police in particular.

Having never seen polling with regard to the views of the general population in terms of their level of concern it is hard to make some definitive statement about the views held by the country as a whole. So this is more of a question than an answer.

However, when it comes to the police the preponderance of the evidence suggests that in fact the police don’t care, or if one was more generous, have chosen to make commercial crime the lowest rung on the ladder of operational policing.

From the police officer trying to avoid the call for a “fraud cheque” or the misuse of a credit card, to the upper management of the municipal, Provincial, and Federal forces who demonstrate an innate ability to ignore the economic crime swirling around them. Their internal view seems to be that since the public is not complaining, why worry, after all it doesn’t “trend” and paper cuts do not make as good a television snippet as assaults and car crashes.

To be sure, the problem of economic crime is complicated. White collar crime in Canada like other countries includes a broad range of offences which can and do include: fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, embezzlement, cyber-crime, money-laundering, identity theft and forgery.

White collar crime is itinerant, moving easily across boundaries, from city to city, Province to Province, so it becomes necessary to co-ordinate multiple agencies and their variety of investigative groups. The investigations themselves become entangled in this web of jurisdictions and interests. Each agency have different levels of priority, different levels of expertise, different Crown counsels, and different levels of financial support. Stymied in most cases by their own current policing structures.

There are many levels to this blanketing economic cloud– ranging from large national in scope cases, such as SNC-Lavalin or the Bre-X mining scandal of 1997; to the more common such as identity theft and forgery. In between are layers of administrative, political, and government fraud in the millions of dollars.

If one just considers the world of the “scam“, the number of ways the public is being fleeced is only limited to one’s imagination: on-line purchase scams, wire fraud, romance scams, employment scams, crypto-currency scams, shady contractors, and fake invoices. And if you think that these are small problems, they estimate that $19 million was taken in, just in romance scams.

The RCMP and the Financial Crime Unit according to their own web site tells us that we should rest assured as the RCMP is mandated and “contributes to the security of the Canadian economy and seeks to protect Canadians”( take note of the terminology in that they are only “seek”ing and “contributing”). 

The RCMP themselves are also quick to point out that the primary responsibility for things such as fraud, rest with other jurisdictions and they in effect often become an “assistance” agency.

The RCMP have three parts in their weak arsenal aimed at combatting this “growing” problem; the Commercial Crime Branch, the Proceeds of Crime Branch, and the aggressive sounding Financial Action Task Force.

This latter Task Force is actually a policy-making group, Canada being one of a total of 37 other countries. They are there “to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory, and operational measures…”. They are apparently geared to “generating the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms..”. One of the areas often referred to is the need to disrupt money laundering around the world. Suffice to say that in that world, they are not doing a great job in Canada at the moment.

So while this Task Force is circling the globe attending meetings, that leaves us with the Commercial Crime Branch, and the Proceeds of Crime Branch.

Commercial Crime again according to the RCMP web site maintain 27 offices throughout the country. In terms of the work being generated it seems to often mention the need to build “awareness” and develop “strategic partnerships”. This is government language code found throughout the bureaucracies for not doing much at all. They boast of their “many successful public awareness and enforcement initiatives. ” They claim to have 450 officers in those various offices and their site features a photo of a business suited offender wearing handcuffs. But, trying to find actual examples of their “enforcement initiatives” is more difficult.

In 2019 a business and accounting firm, MNP LLP released a “Fraud Aware” study where they reviewed some 200 criminal fraud cases throughout all of Canada, in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. BC had the highest loss levels with a total of $14.3 million. What is noteworthy in this figure, and keep in mind that we are only looking at fraud charges, is not the amount of loss, but how little that their efforts amounted to. In the recent study into money-laundering in B.C alone, regulators are now estimating that $1.7 billion went through B.C. Lottery Corporation accounts with large amounts funded by loan sharks and criminal bank drafts.

Fifteen Ponzi schemes in this country amounted to losses of $549 million. Two cases of stock manipulation by themselves amounted to $87 million in losses.

The scarier figure is that they estimate that less than 5% of the fraud was reported in this country. They also indicated that civil procedures were “often timelier and routinely more effective” than reporting the matter as a a criminal offence. This is combined with lenient sentencing in Canada, unlike China where there is a possible death penalty, or even the United States where in 2002 they passed Sarbanes-Oxley act, and punishments were increased in light of the Enron scandal.

In the above studied cases, it should be added, 70 percent of the convictions asked for restitution, but the recovery rate was a mere 29%.

Many financial and legal experts that have for decades been outraged by the lack of effort in this country to combat “white collar crime”.

Spencer Lanthier, in receiving an award as a Corporate Director of some note, said in his remarks, “this city, this Province (referring to Toronto, Ontario) this country has a reputation of being the best location to carry out white collar crime, corporate fraud in the industrialized world”.

In a report on investment fraud in 2014, the Canadian Foundation for the Advancement of Investor rights reached some damning conclusions. They alleged that little data is kept on either fraudsters or their victims, enforcement agencies were not talking to each other, and that the public’s reporting rate was “extremely low”.

The police are now often seen as leaning towards giving up and spend more time trying to get out of these cumbersome, lengthy, and tedious investigations. Some argue the laws are insufficient and the burden of proof too steep. (In Ontario, the police were reportedly telling business people who had been victimized by fraud that they should investigate it themselves and that they were not interested in any event unless the fraud was over a $1million)

You need only to scratch the surface in this country to find the seedlings of suspicion.

If there is any activity involving millions of dollars, or even billions, that is where you will find the criminal and corrupt lurking. Let’s take a few of the bigger possibilities; the marihuana industry, the construction industry, or in large pipeline and hydro projects. Let’s also glance into the government funding behind large infrastructure projects, the millions being given to the indigenous, or lotteries and gaming. It seems that if there is a pot of money there will also be those willing to stick their hands in regardless of entitlement.

And in speaking of gaming, in British Columbia, we may finally be given a chance to look into gaming in this Province and the subsequent laundering of monies. It has been a long time coming, but great hope is being put into the upcoming inquiry by Justice Cullen. This writer is hopeful, but not entirely optimistic.

Cullen has a good reputation, but one must remember that he was formerly a Regional Crown and Assistant Deputy Attorney General when the NDP was in power from 1991 to 2001 before being named Judge.

He is a friend of the NDP, so count on them going after former Liberals, but not so sure the NDP themselves or their friendly compatriots will come under any pressure. Cullen, was a prosecutor for 20 years so we will have to wait and see if he thinks there is criticism needed from the effort or lack of effort put in by the police. Nevertheless, it is one of the few inquiries in recent memory where the “white collars” may be on the run.

Peter German in an interview described money laundering as the “back office for organized crime”. Will they go there? How far will Justice Cullen dig? Only time will tell.

Another group, Transparency International reported on how financial disclosures rules in this country allow “opaque corporate and land registries”. They reviewed ownership of the top 100 residences in Vancouver with an asset value of close to a billion dollars and found that over half had “murky ownership”. Their report was titled “No Reason to Hide” and concluded that Canada has become “a destination of choice for white collar criminals”.

It is bit of an understatement to say that the enormity of the problem in Canada is staggering. We point out countries like Mexico or the Congo as countries of extreme corruption. One wonders if the only difference is that we are just a little better at keeping it under cover.

The citizens of this country seem to see “white collar” criminal acts as less than other crimes. Sociologist Edwin Sutherland, in 1939, defined “white collar crime”as a crime “committed by a person of respectability and of high social status in the course of his occupation”. Maybe our complacency comes from the fact that we see it as partially victimless and partly as smart people “outsmarting the system”. After all we still applaud the person who avoids paying their fair share of their income taxes.

In a recent report, the Conservative MP Peter Kent launched a public complaint against the RCMP for their clear lack of effort in pursuing the fact that Liberal PM Justin Trudeau had been the beneficiary of three private family trips to visit the Aga Khan, the billionaire philanthropist. Trudeau had already been found in breach of four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act, yet this was not enough to prompt a criminal inquiry apparently.

Commissioner Lucki reached new heights in obfuscation when she stated that the RCMP could not “productively pursue an investigation” (my italics).

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada by the way has received over $330 million over the years of Federal support.

Economic crime is insidious and slowly eating out the inner core of this country. The levels of distrust and the growing narrative is that every public and private entity may be corrupted, and it is causing everyone to question some of the fundamental precepts of a functioning democracy.

The U.S. is already beginning to crumble. Trump is proving to be a threat to the very foundations of the U.S. constitution, not because of what he says or what policies he enacts, but because of the the level of corruption which he is fomenting. The stink of corruption is leaking into the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and has led to misuse of Congressional funds and the firing of bureaucrats who refused to be corrupted. (In another aside, there is really no Whistleblower protection in this country)

Canada may be even in a worse position with its lack of interest. A massive wake up call is needed and enormous monies and resources are needed to be spent to correct the decades long complacency in this country.

So far, there does not appear to be any political appetite from any party to begin to address this growing pandemic which is built on a belief that we are somewhat immune, somewhat removed from corruption. We follow the plane returning Canadians from China like the press helicopter following the Bronco driven by O.J. but show little interest is what is going on right in front of us.

As this blogger writes the Ottawa Citizen is reporting on former Commissioner Bob Paulson and some questionable billing for his services. It seems that Mr. Paulson’s firm, the lofty sounding Independent Investigation and Review Services billed $116,286.95 for three months work; roughly $1933.00 per day, for him and two others to “review material”, to “develop an interview plan”, conduct interviews, and of course “parking” and “mileage.”

Was this a major significant inquiry, well no, it was to do with a City counsellor for Ottawa and his inappropriate behaviour to some employees. Normally that would type of investigation would fall to a person in the Human Resources Department.

As was said earlier, scratch the surface, and just “follow the money”.

Photo courtesy of 401(K)2012 via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved

Collision Course

In a ruling this month by Justice Margeurite Church of the B.C. Supreme Court, it was decided that Coastal Gas Link, the company constructing the LNG pipeline from north eastern British Columbia to Kitimat British Columbia, had satisfied the requirements for an interlocutory injunction against the protestors of the natural gas pipeline.

Listen closely….can you hear the echo?

The year before in December 2018 the court had granted an interim injunction against these same protestors. That time the RCMP eventually moved in and 14 of the protestors were arrested and the encampment taken down. All of it much to the chagrin of a small sect of the Indigenous who were being supported and prompted by the usual wagon jumpers of the enlightened liberal left.

So here we are again, a year later, same issue, different court date. Ms. Church in this latest court verdict went a little further in her ruling saying –that there is evidence to suggest that the protestors had engaged in “deliberate and unlawful conduct” for the purpose of causing harm to the plaintiff and preventing it from constructing the pipeline.

Of added interest may be her comments reflecting on the general state of the laws pertaining to the Indigenous movement reflected in this particular case:
“There is a public interest in upholding the rule of law and in restraining illegal behaviour and protecting the right of the public, including the plaintiff, to access on Crown roads…the defendants may genuinely believe in their rights under indigenous law to prevent the plaintiff from entering into Dark Horse territory, but the law does not recognize any right to blockade and obstruct the plaintiff, to access on Crown roads.

In any event, another court decision, another group of lawyers, all kicking at the peripheral issues and avoiding the central dilemma of defining the role the Indigenous are to play in this country.

One would be hard pressed to imagine a more convoluted, ridiculous, and multi-layered predicament. Often mis- guided policy and vague initiatives have been all wrapped in endless litigation and court interpretation. The politically righteous argument of aboriginal rights, simmering away for the last forty years in a cauldron stirred by hundreds of lawyers. Apparently none able or overly concerned to define the central role of the Indigenous in this country. No one able to say whether the Indigenous are simply Canadians, just like everyone else, with the same rights and benefits, and subject to the laws of this country; or a “Nation” unto themselves, independent in spirit and governance, albeit financially dependent.

The popular view being force fed by the Liberal government Federally and a Provincial NDP government is that there is a 2nd “Nation” in this country. An ill-defined nation to be sure, no central authority, no common economic agenda or engine, old ways versus the new.

Non the less this “Nation” has indeed found a receptive audience in the current government and is grabbing for the ring of political acceptability and political empowerment, with ceaseless demands for increased financial resources and independence. It is demanding its own school system, its own policing and justice system, its own health care, its own social services, all to be run by a disparate range of communities.

A “nation” system made up of 634 different groups or “nations” speaking over than 50 different languages. Varied in language and cultural beliefs and spread throughout a massive geographic and often isolated area it is difficult to see a unified coherent and plausible plan.

As the years tick by this stew of government initiatives have been tendered, milked and prolonged by a legal and political community fuelled by the increasingly politically astute indigenous leadership.

Since 2000 there have been 21 cases involving indigenous rights and claims heard by the BC Supreme Court. There have been 9 cases since 1984 heard by the BC Court of Appeal, 14 cases heard by the Federal Court, and since 1970, 64 cases coming before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The result is layers of court systems all pronouncing their particular spin on what it all means. Supreme Court Constitutional decisions, common law precedents, treaties, Reserved land, “ceded” and “unceded” lands, Canadian law, Indigenous “laws”, hereditary chiefs, elected counsels, and Provincial declarations echoing United Nations Declarations.

The need for “reconciliation” spews forth at every turn, the beauty of the word “reconciliation” being is that it is infinite, there is no end. By very definition the issues can never be “reconciled.” The devil incarnate of course is “colonization”.

The movement has taken down statues, removed names from buildings, re-named Provincial and Federal Parks, and moved to ensure that any business done has to include a portion of the pie for them.

Some Indigenous are living in the most hideous squalid communities, living in poverty, poor education, no drinking water, and out of control birth rates. No hope of economic sustainment on one hand, while others are developing billion dollar city properties.

There are oil-rich Indigenous bands where the average income is $125,000 per year, and only 4% of the income comes from the Federal government, only because they are blessed by the good fortune of sitting on often barren lands but lands where there is black gold running under their feet. There are others that are almost 100% funded by the Federal government, defecating in buckets, no clean water, and no siding on their houses.

In this systemic chaos only the lawyers are winning. No one else.

It is all leading to darkening clouds and a possible storm of discontent on both sides of the two “Nations”. A low pressure system consisting of 96% of the population moving inexorably toward an Indigenous high pressure system made up of 4% of the population.

The latest example is now being played out near Houston, British Columbia. The Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’sen “nations” and their “hereditary chiefs” versus the rest. This latest collision to be where there is the proposed site of a natural gas pipeline to be built for a $6.6 billion by Coastal Gas Link. (The pipeline is to link to a $40 billion LNG export plant that is to be built in Kitimat, B.C.)

The NDP government of British Columbia with a straight face, state that they are both anti-pipeline and pro- pipeline. Hereditary chiefs disagree with elected counsels. Some bands are pro development seeing it as a financial windfall and the only hope out of abject poverty; others are just against it.

Last week a BC Supreme Court issued an injunction ordering that all obstacles to construction be removed. Pretty simple right?

The problem is that it was one Nation, going through their legal system, that obtained the injunction. The other Nation doesn’t recognize those laws.

Grand Chief Stewart Philip says that it is a very “complicated issue”. It’s complicated mainly because it is difficult for him to argue both for and against.

On the hereditary chief side you have reported comments like;

“It’s our territory. It’s not Canadian land. It is not the Queen’s. It’s not the RCMP’s. Its Wet’ suwet’sen land. “

The builders are “settlers on stolen land”, this is “environmental racism” all part of the “Canadian legacy of colonization”.

Immediately the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs jumped on the practised narrative, led by Grand Chief Stewart Philip who issued a statement saying: “A police exclusion zone smacks of outright racism and the colonial – era pass system sanctioned by the so-called rule of law, which our people survived for far too long”.

And in between these two nations is the politically correct RCMP. Their political masters want them to be gentle, do not offend at any cost. Their legal bosses are telling them to enforce the order and in the past, there was no hesitancy around a court ordered injunction. The Mounties traditionally and constitutionally were there to enforce the laws, not to interpret them.

But this is a different world now. This is the world of appeasement and the Mounties are going to find that they have no friends on either side.

The Mounties, god bless their souls are trying none the less, to be friends to those who can not countenance any meeting of the ways. They have asked the Indigenous protestors to meet and negotiate with the very same company that went to get the court order, the Coastal Gas Link group, who must think that they are is some sort of Twilight zone.

In the meantime the protestors have been cutting down trees and setting up their camp, while the Hereditary chiefs continue to say that the pipeline violates “Indigenous law and does not have consent”.

This is a fundamental collision. This is not going to go away.

It circles around aboriginal title which has been a decades long argument. What “title” or the “duty to confer” or “honour of the Crown” all means, with all its varied interpretations also includes such arguments as to whether treaty’s extinguished those title claims. Some even argue whether Indigenous groups in signing some of these treaties even understood them.

The countless cases which have been brought forward, have all circled around Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 which proscribes to the protection of indigenous and treaty rights. Unfortunately, it didn’t define those rights, but none the less in 1995 the government began to adopt a policy of an “inherent right to self-government”, and the Penner Report to the House of Commons in 1983 spoke of this inherent right.

Adding to the legal and political confusion is the fact that the rights being claimed by the Indigenous do not come from an “external source”–they claim it is a result of Aboriginal people’s own occupation and relationship with their home territories as well as their own ongoing social structures and legal systems.

This would mean that in their view, they control and define aboriginal title.

Today, no political party, Provincial government or Federal government wants to be seen as decisive in terms of defining what these rights will be or how they would integrate with the rest of Canada in terms of self government.

The lawyers drone on in every level of courtroom. They are seemingly content in this ongoing lucrative dark hole of litigation.

The silent majority sit back and wonder where this is all leading. Is Canada prepared to have a separate entity operating within its borders, with its own laws and government, while at the same time supporting them through tax dollars. Are they prepared to let 4% determine what flows through economically to the other 96%. It seems unlikely, but there is no current political party asking that this central issue gets addressed definitively.

At some point the police are going to have to act in Houston. Every police officer involved will be left standing out in the field and roadway and it will an open hunting season for cries of violence and racism the minute they come within a few feet of the protestors.

The journalists stand by at the ready, camera rolling, salivating at the potential for filmed violence. ( the Canadian association of Journalists even jumped into the recent fray— arguing in court the fact that they were worried that the police could use the exclusion zone to prevent media from covering the RCMP enforcement of the injunction.) Maybe this is a sad conclusion but in this age of “breaking news” it is hard to dispute their intent.

None of this is new in terms of the RCMP being the potential fall guy. There have been many times in the past where the enforcement of an injunction has been violent and they have been pilloried for their abuse of power, rightly or wrongly.

The concern is that there is not a lot of confidence or recent evidence in the current RCMP management being behind their operational officers. Will they be supportive of the laws of Canada and the enforcement of those laws, or will they succumb to the un-written laws of a frenzied very vocal political “Nation”. After all it is a management group which has been genuflecting in front of the Indigenous cause in deference and in parallel with their political masters for the last several years.

We will see shortly. Time is running out in their “negotiations”.

A note to those uniform officers. Make sure those body cams are charged up and the audible is working. It may be the only friend you have in this instance.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Tony Webster

Mixing Gender Politics with Sexual Assault

It was 1970 when Kate Millett wrote the book “Sexual Politics”, a book that would go on to become one of the bibles of the still burgeoning feminist movement. Suffice to say, it has been awhile since the process of recognizing women and their equal contributions to society began in earnest and now is still leading us into the 2020’s decade. All efforts have called for a dynamic reckoning; a need to recognize the goals of “equal pay for equal work”; greater representation in the boardrooms, courtrooms, and political offices of the country. It has reached into the very core of society, demanding fundamental change in the family structure, where sharing of responsibility is absolutely necessary in forming an equal partnership.

Many argue that the “glass ceiling” is still alive and well, despite notable progress and female politicians still wear the term “feminist” as a badge of honour. In this decades long continuum of proposed and achieved change, we have reached a point in this country, where it is now political suicide to suggest or propose anything that could, even in some obscure reference, be termed to be “anti-female”.

One must applaud the majority of changes which are enabling women to assume their rightful place in society –where nothing should be allowed to block them from reaching to the highest levels in whatever chosen endeavour.

The sexual politics of this country, historically, has been multi-layered and arriving in sporadic waves, sometimes taking a step back, only to go forward again. It seems that in all generational movements, not just the women’s movement, all change is pushed, at least at the outset, by the radical fringe which then draw in the reluctant middle majority. The fringe then becomes part of the new centre.

The Gloria Steinem‘s and the Ellen Willis’ of the world are needed to pull, prod, and chastise the non-conformers. Those who cling to past practises and policies are portrayed as “dated” — out of step with the basic tenet that everyone is created equal. The right to vote was an inalienable right, but just a single step to righting centuries of illogical, often inhumane and constricted female lives.

The #MeToo Movement is the latest incarnation or wave in this pantheon of women’s rights and it has in fact served a very real purpose. Reading Ronan Farrow’s recent book, “Catch and Kill” one can not help but be moved and angered by the still prevailing winds of male domination and entitlement that blow through, in this case, the news and entertainment industry. All males should and need to be embarrassed.

The likes of Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein, are the more notable recent American examples, all of whom needed to be pursued, outed and prosecuted. That process has begun in the United States and to a lesser less obvious degree in Canada. One wishes that the RCMP had taken such a hardened and exposing approach to cleaning out the male locker room of the RCMP.

The fact that the RCMP was often a cesspool of male domination was difficult enough to publicly absorb, but the real stain on the RCMP may be the decision to settle the class action suit(s). Thus effectively forever silencing the various allegations; which with little doubt reached the very top of the organization. The circumstances demanded radical surgery on the organization, a cut into the heart of the organization. It would have meant lengthy and costly investigations, but in the end it would have gone a long way in exposing and cleaning up the disease.

Justice was not served by payments of hundreds of millions of dollars, justice was in fact denied or at the very least diverted.

Women were paid to keep quiet about their allegations and all men, innocent or otherwise in this once proud organization were sloppily painted with the same brush. How this determinative action was going to change the “culture” remains undefined— in fact it may be the greatest cover-up ever pulled in Canadian history.

That all being said and despite the many wrongs, one must always be vigilant to the need for fairness, always seek the truth with the goal of ultimate justice. It needs to be recognized that change, or at least legitimate and broad change, takes time. One can not rush cultural change and any change which is patently unfair only sets the movement backwards.

All of which leads to a relatively recent troubling development in the area of sexual offences. To understand the problem you need to understand the current political environment.

The #MeToo Movement has an outer fringe who often take the view that if “she” said it, it is true. They are effectively ignoring that there is a tricky balance. On the one hand one is hearing from brave women talking about the wrongs from past years and only now are women, no doubt emboldened by this movement, have had the confidence to come forward.

The other darker side of the argument is that a wrongful allegation once made, especially in this 21st rush to judgement society could condemn an innocent person to jail. The accused ostracized to the point of being unable to function– their entire lives up-ended. The truism that holds that two wrongs don’t make a right should always be firmly in sight and one must always remember that the fundamental building block of our justice system is the “presumption of innocence”.

The current Liberal government has made over reaction into an art form. No trending cause is too small –if it polls with the right audience, then it needs to be enshrined in policy, regardless of the ultimate damage or outcome. No need for informed study, if it twitters favourably it must be good.

Hence, we now have a discombobulated piece of marihuana legislation and the idea has been born that individual cities should govern the banning of firearms, according to their own city views. These ideas and subsequent legislation gain favour and the head bobbing politicians standing behind the podiums go right along, seemingly undeterred by common sense or any thoughtful opposition. Millennial appeals to voters are good, outcomes the future and someone else’s problem.

The feminist movement, even in radical form, is just one of those causes which according to all the “progressives” can not be questioned. There are other examples like the indigenous, or climate change. No need for study, no need to question, no need for expertise.

In promoting the feminist cause, in their zeal, this government has brought us such things as: a new government department formed around the previous “Status of Women” counsel; “gender-based analysis” for the Federal budget, which among its mentions is that they codified the need for “more women in senior management positions”; Bill C-65 which governed the Federal government workplace, amending the Canada Labour Code focussing on the need to remove harassment and violence from the workplace.

All of this can or may be grudgingly accepted, as it is often difficult to argue against some of the intent of these enactments, however flawed in their application some of it may be.

But where the government overstepped was in the passage of Bill C-51. This was a piece of legislation also introduced by Jody Wilson-Raybould, often a martyr of the fringe, one who had no quibble with interfering with the justice system if it involved her pet causes.

Bill C-51 is an example of the fringe demanding and finding a receptive audience among the Liberals and those #MeToo members who believe that no woman can be deceptive, or less than forthright, about anything that purports to be some form of sexual assault or harassment.

For those who have not followed this Bill (which, it should be added, passed Parliament with All Party support) deals with future conduct for the trial of those accused of sexual offences and was designed primarily to further protect the victim or the accuser.

And if you are in the group of believers in the women’s right to allege and be always believed, than you need to consider the case of Jan Gomeshi. This bill, C-51 was, many have argued, in response to the subsequent total acquittal of Mr. Gomeshi and the fringe feminist public backlash at the results.

During the trial the two primary witnesses had their credibility totally destroyed by the uncovering of emails and text messages which they sent before and after the alleged assaults and rapes. They were confronted with this direct, difficult to deny evidence, by the more than capable lawyer, Marie Heinen. She personally took a great deal of heat from the “I believe accusers” group which included politicians such as Tom Mulcair. Paradoxically, she in her role, should have been heralded as one of the true examples of someone carrying the torch for feminism.

Bill C-51 came on the heals of the Gomeshi trial which pitted the arguments for a fair trial against the argument for the protection of the accuser victim. Bill C-51 passed in December of 2018. Jody Wilson-Raybould heralded it as the “first major update in 20 years”, while others quietly called it quite simply “unconstitutional”. As the bill now begins to be applied throughout the country it seems that the courts are now recognizing it as in fact being “unconstitutional”.

The bill in effect sets up a screening feature which necessitates that all defence records; things such as texts, Facebook entries and other social media, get to be scrutinized ahead of the accuser’s testimony in admissibility hearings. This has the effect of giving an alleged victim a sneak peak at the defence evidence which could have the obvious effect of allowing the Crown, and the accuser, to tailor their evidence in anticipation of that evidence. Effectively warning them in advance of something countering their evidence. It is “reverse disclosure”.

The Saskatchewan and Alberta Superior Courts now have stated that this Act violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights which deals with the right to make full answer and defence, and it also contravenes Section 11 (d), which assures the right to a fair trial.

The Crown, obliging its masters argues that the Act is fair and Section 1 of the Charter allows for reasonable limits that can be justified in a free society.

The defence argues that this is going to lead to “wrongful convictions”.

In Parliamentary hearings groups such as the Womens Legal Education and Action Fund argued that this was “necessary”. Were they arguing the possibility of wrongfully convicting someone was “necessary”?

There is little doubt that this Act and its provisions will wind its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Hopefully, even those Liberal leaning Justices may find that clearly weighting a case in favour of one side over the other, is a little too much bending in this era of professed enlightenment.

After the Ghomesi case, Peter Mansbridge interviewed Marie Heinen, in an interview which Mansbridge entered clearly in support of the leftist fringe on his cue cards. An interview intended to lament and repeat the fringe feminist maxim that all women accusers are right and truthful.

Heinen was forceful and deliberate in her counter-argument. She succintley pointed out that most evidence is circumstantial and thus often goes to credibility. The credibility of all involved; the Crown, the defence, the accused, the accusers, and the police. The central point being that all evidence needs to be tested.

Everyone needs to “get a fair shake”. She points out it is what separates our justice system from that of others and it is indeed what makes this country worth defending.

As to the feminist fringe who rage about the outcomes of any acquittal, she simply states “guaranteed results is not justice”. This is one defence counsel lawyer that every police officer should listen to, along with all of those in the feminist corner. We as a society must always be aware that legitimate progress requires full and honest examination. The price is too high otherwise.

Photo courtesy of gt8073c via Flickr Commons – Some rights Reserved