Is the World spinning Faster?

Policing issues and the stories that surround it seem to be growing exponentially, always accompanied by surrounding commentary and self-proclaimed expertise flowing from every social platform. Instagram, Reddit, Facebook and Twitter abound with the examination of the police and a professed expertise. The armchair investigators of Netflix are in full voice. In trying to understand why, I have learned that In the last few years the earths rotation has in fact been speeding up (on a normal day the earth travels at the speed of 1000 miles per hour as measured at the equator). So as I find my eyes ricocheting from headline to commission to judicial decision, blaming the earth’s rotation as being responsible is as likely an answer as any other.

In the past week to ten days we have had the start up of the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa; we have learned that 469 foreign criminals are “missing” according to the CBSA; two officers were killed in answering a domestic dispute in Ontario, ambushed by a male with an AK-47; and an Ontario court Judge has ruled that if you are an Indigenous offender you are not allowed to be cross-examined as to any previous offences. So now not only do you have the Gladue decision, you know have it dictated that the Indigenous are not to be subjected to the same trial process.

Closer to home, in the Surrey civic election the old dodger with the sore foot, McCallum, has been replaced by an equally woefully inadequate Brenda Locke. In the first 48 hours, she has already painted herself into a corner, by saying she is giving the Mounties back their job in Surrey, regardless of reality and cost.

So having to choose one story over another is difficult this week. That being said, as much as I would rather ignore it, I guess we will have to go with the Public Order Emergency Commission as the lead story, which is being headed by the Honourable Judge Paul Rouleau. This Commission (we have sure had our share of them lately) has been tasked with understanding “the Government’s decision to declare a public emergency, the circumstances that led to that declaration, and the effectiveness of the measures selected by the Government to deal with the then-existing situation”. As in all Commissions of Inquiry, one needs to be reminded that none of this is to determine criminal fault or civil liability. This is all to determine the “effectiveness” of the implementation of this draconian piece of legislation.

And like all good government Commissions, this too is filled with lawyers of every stripe and denomination: there are two co-lead counsel, five senior counsel, three regional counsel, twelve just “counsel”, three senior policy advisors, seven research counsel, and two “staff”. So including the Judge, there are thirty-two counsel and that is just on the government side of the ledger. The audience at these hearings will be for the most part other lawyers and the media. With this many lawyers there is diminishing hope that the truth behind the declaration of the emergencies act will not be watered down through all these filtering lawyers.

Judge Rouleau is a native of the Ottawa area, went to the University of Ottawa and then went on to be associated with several central Canadian legal firms such as Heenan Blaikie and Cassels Brock and Blackwell. He has been a Judge since 2002 and a strong advocate for French language rights, and would have probably been a better candidate for the Supreme Court than the new Justice O’Bansawin–but let’s put that aside for now.

The good Judge will be overseeing the evidence of sixty five potential witnesses, however do not despair and give up on your regular life schedule, as it is likely that you only need to begin to pay serious attention to the last twenty or so witnesses– which include the politicians such as Trudeau and Freeland. After all, the police have already established that they did not ask for the Emergencies Act, it has also been established that there was no real intelligence indicating that there was a foreign inspired threat in the makeup of the convoy group, nor conspiracies to commit violence, which should leave the Commission with some rather obvious starting points. There is going to be a lot of dancing to be sure. Commissioner Lucki has already done the two step in public committee hearings, where she was forced to admit to not having asked for the implementation of the Emergencies Act. As a devotee to Blair and company, she needed to backtrack, and she did this by saying what a great thing it was, once they had been given these extra powers. Justin Trudeau who spoke publicly about “foreign money” was clearly lying as the intelligence community today said there was no such evidence.

One should also remember that the government is not holding this hearing because they wish to be frank and forthright to the Canadian public, it is because the law states that they have to have an inquiry within 60 days after the enactment of the Emergencies Act. This particular group of Liberals are not fans of focused scrutiny, whether it is in the House of Commons question period or in front of a Commission. They have released some Cabinet documents but have raised “confidence” issues on them; so the general public may never be shown them.

In checking out a Commission it is always helpful to find out who has been given “standing” and “funding” in terms of appearing before the Commission, which simply put, is based on who has a direct and vital interest in the proceedings. So in this case, groups such as the Criminal Lawyers Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ottawa Coalition of Residents and Businesses line up for standing, and of course for the government to pay for it. These three groups were in fact granted both permission and funding.

However, there was some rather unusual decisions in this regard. Take the case of Mr. Eros who applied for “standing”. Mr. Eros is a CPA and dealt with financing and accounting matters related to the Convoy Group. He was also intricately involved in the administration of the crowd-funding campaign with this same Convoy group. He was however denied standing, as the Judge ruled that he was merely a “witness”. This may be fair.

However, incredibly, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs was granted “standing” and “funding” to participate in this matter. They argued that they had a substantial and “direct interest in the commission” based on its “role as an umbrella organization representing Indigenous governments” and that it plays a “critical role in governance in Canada in terms of its ensuring that other governments are held accountable for their actions”. Some of you may be surprised at their being Indigenous “governments” in Canada. However, to think that they are there to hold the other “governments” accountable is audacious to say the least, even under the current Federal Liberal love-in regime. So we now have a group who has supported its share of protests, such as the damaging of pipelines and the burning of rail lines which is now going to sit in judgement of the governments reaction to the Ottawa convoy.

The witness testimony has started and began with the bubble wrapped represented citizens of Ottawa talking about the nights of continuous air horns, the disruption of their businesses and the “occupation” of Ottawa. Terms are being bandied about such as a “siege” and a “horrific experience”. The lead plaintiff in the civil suit Zexi Li, is a data analyst, and the second witness. She was working for the government from home and her testimony was how it completely disrupted her life, a story which under cross-examination was by no means dramatic. Most of the city of Ottawa were at this time working from home.

In the last few days the Commission has now started to examine some of the government and police response, before, during and after this clearly “unprecedented” upheaval. What would you expect to find when you have three levels of government; the city, the Province of Ontario, and the Federal Government all weighing in on strategy and tactics with three different police forces, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ottawa City Police, and the RCMP? Now consider the Ottawa mayor who liked to have confidential discussions with Trudeau, Blair, and Mendocino, but not share those discussions with the Ottawa Police Services Board who supposedly were the designated oversight to the operations. There were Provincial and Federal concerns with the OPSB itself. Then throw in the new Ottawa Police Chief who with the other police managers from the other jurisdictions could not even agree on a “command structure” for several days. Throw in a request for 1800 Ontario Provincial officers, while at the same time consider the initial lacklustre involvement of the RCMP, and then consider an inability to even develop a policing “operational plan” for over 10 days.

Needless to say it was all bureaucracy, miscalculation and the very definition of too many cooks in the kitchen. Bill Blair was suggesting to the Ottawa Chief that he consider more bylaw enforcement, even though by that time 2000 bylaw tickets had been issued. I am sure he thanked Mr. Blair profusely. Justin Trudeau was busting on Doug Ford not doing enough, while at the same time, the OPP seemed to be the best at getting extra officers to the scene. Chief Slolys then resigned. With little doubt he was about to become the scape goat in this massive cockup.

The enacting of the act seems quite clearly to have been a reaction to a discombobulated police management action brought created by a lack of foresight and intelligence gathering, combined with meddling by the usual political group which surfaces in any calamity. It was done for the singular purpose of gaining a political upper hand in the media, to show that they were doing something, and it was concocted by the Federal government and the Liberal ruling party.

The core or the fuel for this action seems to been an inherent inability on the part of the liberal left to relate to the protestors driving these big trucks. They were seen as the working class, the blue collars. This was more than a paper exercise to the protestors. They had lost jobs and the ability to feed their families, and now they were being ignored and pushed to the sidelines. They were at times crude and in your face, willing to physically push back, but their cause was the centre of their existence. This was not a philosophical theory dealing with “systemic” complaints, theirs was a cause that affected their mortgage and their ability to make a living. They were not bubble-wrapped, did not speak in plural pronouns, and did not understand or adhere to the niceties of government levels and protocols. They were not from Ottawa, they did not look like they belonged there, they were not Liberal constituents, and most troubling of all– they drove very big immovable trucks.

So when they got to Ottawa, no one would talk to them, no one even liked them, and they needed to go, at any cost. It was hurting the images of the politicians in power. And the media were willing to report it without question or due diligence.

The protestors prevailed as long as they did because they were met with an unprepared and ill-equipped police force, governed by layers and layers of Ottawa political mandarins concerned only with optics. The politicians found themselves facing, according to the Ottawa mayor’s chief of staff, a “crescendo of collapsing confidence”.

They were also scared. They did not understand and could not relate to the visceral outpourings of the protestors. Their problems were not their problems. So this “local emergency” demanded in their view, the full force of government, the suspension of their inherent rights, and the seizure of their personal financial assets– and now they will be lying to justify it.

Photo courtesy of Ross Dunn via Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Start taking down the tents…

For some time now, there has been a large tent set up at 134th and 104th Ave– Surrey City hall.

The tempest under the tent is about the nascent Surrey Police Service and it brings to mind the three rings of Barnum & Bailey. Jugglers, hire wire acts, trumpeting elephants, and clown cars all featured as part of what makes up Surrey civic politics.

This show under the big top has been going on for awhile now, it was 2018 when Mayor McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition were voted in, under two main election promises; cancel the contract with the RCMP and secondly the further extension of the skytrain. At the end of this month, the new SPS is to actually begin patrols, in coalition with the RCMP, as this plodding along transition carries on. Many are predicting disharmony, resentment, and at the very best an awkward moment or two. 

The transition process has met with infighting, personal barbs and innuendo, even allegations of assault and intimidation have been echoing off the walls of the city council chambers. In the last few weeks it seems to have reached a crescendo of inanity and misinformation. Those of us who once policed this burgeoning municipality of five police districts were often want to say in those days “only in Surrey!” This disparate community has always seemed willing to defy the expected norms of a civil society. 

A multi-cultural community of distinct areas, a diverse populace of haves and have-nots, abject poverty and street level violence versus one acre mansions of multi-million dollar homes. Whites, south east Asians, blacks, all forming up in their distinct neighbourhoods of Cloverdale, Newton, Whalley, South Surrey, and Fleetwood. 

It should not be assumed that they are living in harmony. In the nineties we patrolled the high schools which were even then being inundated by racist fights between south east asians and caucasians, each group not allowed to enter into the school property of the other. This is to say that there is nothing singular or cohesive about Surrey and there never has been an honest discussion of the many problems which afflict it. 

It is a unique area to police and it is where an eye for an eye tooth for a tooth mentality is visceral.  Often police officers having worked in Surrey have seen it as a badge of courage having once survived the posting and then moved on. And they almost always move on. 

So who are the people in this three ring circus, all vying to drive the clown car?

On the one side is the irascible Mayor McCallum, a curmudgeon, smug, wily, and of long standing. Mr. McCallum has never liked the RCMP, and vice versa. The animosity has always been well known but never publicly stated. This uncomfortable relationship is now coming to a head as the exasperation builds on the part of the Mounties who are about to be booted out and those seeing themselves as pioneering a new police model for the city. Ironically, the people sweeping the place with a clean broom are actually hiring a bunch of ex-Mounties to lead and aid in the takeover.

On the other side is a group of disgruntled and pushed from power politicians, a new union head for the RCMP, and the media who doesn’t like McCallum who continually refuses to be party to their reporting. 

Neither side ever reach a point where the real issues could be debated. Both sides continually throwing up illogic and misstatement as their campaigns wage war, and it has reached the stage of the whole exercise being a bad punch line. 

The current opposition to the quickly advancing police service is made up primarily of three groups; the National Police Federation with self-appointed constant spokesperson Brian Sauve; the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group and those behind the highly publicized petition entitled “Surrey Police Vote”. 

These groups in turn have the political support of the likes of Linda Annis, Brenda Locke, and Jack Hundial. All three of these politicians have a particular political axe to grind. Annis, was the sole politician who survived the purge of the once in control Surrey First group started by Diane Watts. Her antipathy to McCallum has reached a very personal level. 

Brenda Locke is also a long standing Liberal, once a Provincial Cabinet Minister and MLA , she too now thwarted by a largely Provincial NDP stronghold in Surrey. Also ironically she, along with Jack Hundial got elected on the coattails and under the banner of Mayor McCallum and the Safe Surrey Coalition who proclaimed the need for a separate police service. Clearly, since then there was a falling out with the mayor and she and Mr Hundial left the civic party and became independents. 

Jack Hundial was a police officer with Surrey for 25 years. When McCallum announced the people he had picked for the tripartite transition team, Mr. Hundial found himself left out, out in the cold despite his Surrey policing background. Since that time he has been an outspoken critic of the motion to form a city force even though he, Locke, Annis, and Steven Pettigrew had all originally voted for it. 

Knowing Mr. Hundial personally, I was somewhat taken aback at this reversal and his current support of the RCMP after having had many conversations with him about the dysfunctions of the Federal Force which had nursed him and now provides him with a pension. Politics clearly does make strange bedfellows.

All the parties explain their reversal in support because of the “secrecy” they allege about the transition, and the hidden costs they believe are forthcoming. They extoll the fact that the Fed’s subsidize the Mounties to the tune of 10% each year– therefore in theory they are correct, they are likely always going to be a cheaper alternative. The transition costs they allege are skyrocketing and is a harbinger of dangerous over-spending to come. 

The current transition costs are estimated to be at $63 million, going up since 2019 when they were estimated to be $45 million. What the councillors don’t often say is that is the estimate is spread over the next five years. Surrey’s current overall budget to offer some perspective, is $1.2 billion with its 600,000 residents., and this year Surrey will be borrowing about $150 million to meet those expenses. The councillors often rant about the costs of transitioning all these officers, but usually do not mention that the vehicles, equipment and station buildings are already owned by the City of Surrey. 

The NPF has been quite vocal and has been spending the union dues of their RCMP members to fight against the transition. They often pretend it is an issue of defending their members. They bought and paid for ads, lawn signs, and polls to firm up their position. They continually quote that “84 % “ of Surrey residents have a “favourable impression” of the RCMP and that “76%” say the transition should be “halted”. 

The Surrey Safe Coalition headed by MaCallum show their own polling and say that their polls indicate people that only 6% of the Surrey residents prefer keeping the RCMP and their “cardboard cutouts”. 

How does one get such disparate polling results. Its all in the questions you ask. Neither poll from either side should be seen as anything more than political posturing. 

The NPF has clearly got a reason to fight the situation. They do not want to lose the largest RCMP detachment in Canada and they are clearly worried about these thoughts of policing independent from the Federal force as a possible trend. (Alberta has recently talked about getting rid of the RCMP—and there is a great deal of conjecture that if Surrey falls, there will be renewed consideration for a Lower Mainland Regional Police service –or some version of it). It should also be noted that the new SPS will also be unionized under CUPE. For them, this is a union fight.

So this assembled group of dissenters then added a couple more tactics to their arsenal by introducing a petition to call for a referendum in Surrey utilizing the Referendum Act which flows from Elections B.C.  Those that follow this kind of thing would shake their head a bit at this, as it is a momentous task to force a referendum; wherein one is required to obtain 10% of voter support in all the ridings throughout B.C. 

 Do the people of Castlegar, or Radium, concern themselves with the Surrey police issue? Highly unlikely one would think.

The petition went ahead in any event, entitled the Surrey Police Vote, and it was primarily fronted by the Keep the Police in Surrey group. (Interestingly, this group bragged about raising $10,000.00 for their cause but would not comment how much money came from the NPF)

Somewhere in the process, once they realized that this could never be pulled off Province wide, the group concerned itself with only going after Surrey residents on their petition. 

They enlisted Darlene Bennett to head the Committee and Eileen Mohan to be a spokesperson. Both of whom will be remembered as being victims of violence themselves. Darlene’s husband Paul was killed mistakenly in his driveway (still unsolved) and Eileen’s son was killed in the infamous Surrey 6 file. Both horrendous cases, both generating unspoken grief.

However the arguments for retaining the RCMP by these two women although emotional, lacked specifics and quite frankly make little sense. Definitely nothing that could contribute to the debate. Being a victim of crime unfortunately does not necessarily translate into knowing about policing issues. However this group felt that by exploiting their personal agonies it would draw out the petition signers. Quite frankly it was manipulative and crass.  

Nevertheless, the petitioners, in a November 15 press conference, publicly proclaimed that they “did it” and held up a sign saying they had raised 42,000 signatures, representing about 13% of the population. 

When asked why they think this would succeed, as clearly it did not meet the referendum guidelines, they prevaricate, and dubiously argue that they are asking that the Provincial government to take into consideration the results regardless of it not meeting the current criteria. They are asking that the Provincial government in effect reconsider and change their rules. 

During the search for signatories the rhetoric and nonsense escalated. The group argued that they were being harassed by Bylaw enforcement and that they were being victimized by he slow turnaround at Elections B.C. Paul Daynes of Keep the RCMP in Surrey called McCallum a “little tinpot fascist dictator”.  McCallum in turn banned seven members of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group from the city council meetings.

Then there was “Toe Gate” on September 4th.  In the normally placid South Surrey enclave of the well off, McCallum confronted some petitioners who were using the Save On Foods parking lot as a place to rally the troops. A verbal argument ensued between one of the petition organizers, Ivan Scott, who was sitting in his car, and McCallum who was standing outside it. After going back and forth and Scott demanding McCallum resign, Scott drove off, and McCallum argued turned the car in such a way as to hit him in the hip and drive over his toe. McCallum contacted the police and made allegations of assault. 

The RCMP somewhat surprisingly, within a week then swore out a search warrant for CTV video footage of the interview of McCallum, under the auspices of a possible public mischief charge, clearly implying they did not believe McCallum. Having worked in Surrey for many years, public mischief is not usually a first step, so there is good reason to believe that this too is politically motivated. As a result, the Provincial government has had to hire a Special Prosecutor to look into it. We are still awaiting that judgement and the Keep the Police Surrey movement needless to say is hoping to see McCallum led off in handcuffs. It seems unlikely.

Where is Commissioner Lucki in all this? Should we assume she is under some sort of gag order from the Liberals? 

However, the comment about the “cardboard cutout” mounties stirred the harnessed wrath of Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, head of the Surrey RCMP, who called the remark a “deliberate attempt to undermine public safety”. That the tweet was “disrespectful” by “ending public confidence in policing at the current time”.  Really? 

The coalition group responded “in spite of the efforts of a bitter minority surely the indignation that he has voiced today equally applies to these groups organized efforts to de-stabilize and de-moralize our city’s incoming police force”.

And where is the Provincial NDP government in all this? Well they are busy reviewing the overall structure of the police in B.C., by examining the structure of the Police Act to: “examine systemic racism and modernize laws in alignment with UNDRIP (the U.N declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)”.  

To sum the issues up which are facing Surrey residents is in fact quite easy. Do the citizens of Surrey wish to have a more accountable police department? If so, how much are they willing to pay for it? There is no doubt among the current officers of Surrey detachment that the RCMP, in its many and varied forms is suffering—at every level. 

Would or should the cost savings mean more to Surrey residents than being subservient to Ottawa and susceptible to the vagaries of Federal policies–which seem more intent on gender identification than the property crime rates in Whalley? 

No need to worry about the officers in Surrey. They will be just fine, they will move on to other details, other detachments and other policing challenges; and Ottawa might finally get the message of growing discontent and the need to reform.

The citizens of Surrey clearly voiced their opinion once before and decided to elect McCallum and his platform.

It is clearly time to undo the tent pegs and bring down the circus tent.

Time to move on.  

Photo courtesy of Steve Parker via Flickr Creative Commons – Some rights Reserved