No need for a Polygraph

Well, as luck would have it, there was nothing better for me to do on a hot cloudless July summer afternoon but to tune in to the Public Safety Committee hearings in Ottawa, and be given another opportunity to listen to Bill Blair and Commissioner Lucki testify to whether there was any political interference in the investigation in Portapique Nova Scotia. Judging by their on screen looks and overall demeanour, they didn’t want to be there either.

For those that have not been following the controversy, all of it stems from Ms. Lucki demanding and getting a meeting after a press conference on April 28th, 2020, which had been conducted by the H Division group overseeing the Portapique investigation. This was held a week into the investigation of Canada’s biggest mass murder. According to C/Supt Darren Campbell of H Division, who had taken notes as most police officers do, Commissioner Lucki had been “displeased” in this meeting with the local commanders. She was upset at her H Division underlings for not releasing information about the makes and models of the guns used in the attacks; details they had decided not to release in order to safeguard the ongoing investigation. This seemed logical and in keeping with investigational protocol, since much of the gun investigational inquiries was being conducted by the Americans. To release that information as the Americans were still trying to track the gun movement, would not have pleased their American counterparts and could have hindered the investigation.

C/Supt Campbell went on to describe that Commissioner Lucki said that she had “promised” the yet undisclosed information to the “Minister” and proceeded to chastise the H Division Mounties for not understanding her political world and that this all tied to the impending gun legislation, which coincidently, the Liberals were going to announce in a few days. She wanted that information.

The question is therefore: could this belligerent and clearly pressured Commissioner, eager to score points with her Liberal masters, in particular Mr. Blair; could this be translated or legally interpreted to say that she and the Minister were interfering in an investigation?

So these proceedings and this Committee composed of Liberals, Conservatives, NDP and Bloc members were there to determine through their intrepid investigational techniques whether this constituted an interference in the investigational process by the Commissioner and the politicos.

For anyone that has not watched similar proceedings, one has to point out that these types of inquiries very much fall along party lines. In this case, the Liberal members of the Committee know they are in jeopardy and the evidence was not looking good. So the Liberal ministers on the Committee form a protective verbal V to shelter and block for Blair and Lucki. They were clearly there to try and defuse and their blatancy was at times laughable. The NDP member professed a cerebral approach and seem to be focused on what we can do better, the NDP credibility questionable at all times due to their current agreement to keep the Liberals in power for the next couple of years. So it is clearly up to the Conservatives and the Bloc to ask the tough questions, and to do so given the heavily constraining committee time rule limits.

It should be noted, that the Conservative MP from Manitoba Raquel Dancho was prepared and hard hitting and could arguably be said to have been the star of this particular show. She should be applauded for her efforts.

The huggable Minister Bill Blair started it off as the first witness. He was his usual rumpled self and as all LIberal cabinet ministers are now trained to do, answered any question with an unrelated political speech. When asked a question he began by immediately segueing into his gun legislation and his ongoing efforts to “continue to keep Canadians safety” at the top of his agenda. There were also his tried and true usual references to his being a former police chief. His Deputy Minister Rob Stewart sat dutifully beside him, quiet, never looking Blair’s way. Stewarts only contribution was that they were not solely focused on the guns, but just trying to learn the “full story of what had happened”.

Blair has been around awhile. He flatly denied speaking with Lucki “directly” or “never asked” her specifically about the guns. He says he was not in the meeting with H Division and therefore could not speak to it. The entirety of his evidence pointed to his Chief of Staff being the one orchestrating the gun legislation and trying to tie it to Portapique. The Chief of Staff was not there.

Next was the illustrious Commissioner Lucki, who is admittedly a little more poised and getting a little better at the deflect and obfuscate. But Lucki was immediately on the defensive, and obviously could not deny the notes of Campbell, but quibbled with the words “promise”, substituting “confirmed” as what she think she said.

She admitted to being “frustrated” with the flow of information coming to her, and denies that she had a particular interest in the guns that were involved in this mass killing. The question that was never asked was why would the make and model of firearms be the most pressing question in this large investigation that was still unfolding? How it was important could only be interpreted and tied to the Minister of Public Safety and National Security. He was in a few days introducing gun legislation through an order in council that was focused on the 1500 types of firearms they were going to ban. So there does not seem to be any other reason for the focus of Lucki and Blair’s department. There is no other reason for their drive to obtain this information.

On April 23nd a few days prior to the April 28th meeting, Ms Lucki had in fact been told that there would be no release of the gun information. She forwarded an email to that effect, saying that the information shouldn’t be released. This was forwarded to the “Minister” and by implication the PM’s office.

Between the 22nd and the 28th something changed in regard to the gun information. By the 28th she says she believed that the gun information was going to be released, based on her conversations with her press group, who in turn were talking to the H Division press group. It doesn’t appear like anyone in the investigation team told her that this was to be the case. A possible mis-communication? Who would believe in the current RCMP there would be such a thing?

Ms Lucki admitted to having a conversation with Bill Blair’s Chief of Staff where she was asked if the gun information was going to be released in the press conference on April 28th. She told him that it would be and no hesitancy in later that evening forwarding this information to others in the political machinery. By the time of the H Division press conference the Liberals were no doubt by now primed for this information to be released; a perfect springboard to show that the Liberals and their perspicacity when it comes to the banning of firearms. The biggest mass murder in Canada had some political points to score and maybe even a chance for a photo op with guns on full display. Ms.Lucki clearly knew this.

So the April 28th briefing was held by but there was fly in the ointment–H Division at the press conference never released the gun information.

In an email from Commissioner Lucki (that had no context) she sent to Blair’s chief of staff after the press conference said that the press conference “had not gone as expected”.

And it was after this that Commissioner Lucki called a meeting with H Division personnel.

Ms. Lucki according to her account was “frustrated” or “angry” according to the H Division people.

Ms. Lucki said she had been frustrated by the lack of information flowing to their offices in Ottawa. All of the information, not just about the guns. But about the guns, she says she was upset because she takes pride in the information she sends out and was frustrated that the information was wrong. She said she is “only a messenger”. She denied tying them to the gun legislation or Minister Blair. She did not want to argue with the notes from Campbell but that was how she remembered it.

So we had a classic case of he says, she says– except that Campbell took notes– and the Committee had not yet heard from the other officers in H Division that were up to testify next. Lucki left the meeting clearly on the ropes, the dramatic question which was about to unfold –could she survive the next witnesses? Would their loyalty to her win the day?

It is not often that this blogger gets to congratulate the senior executives in the Mounties, but I was surprised and was about to have some of my very diminished faith restored. Retired Commanding officer Lee Bergerman and Chief Superintendent Chris Leather became the next witnesses.

Mr. Leather who had been chastised many times in the press after the mass shooting, not only stood up well, but was articulate and refined, steadfast in his evidence and approach. Ms. Bergerman was succint and to the point, not mincing any of her words. Both showed courage in their convictions.

Both said that they agreed with the notes as taken by C/Supt Campbell. That they were an accurate reflection of the conversation and the tone of that conversation. They said they were taken “aback” by the conversation, “a bit stunned” and “confused” at these allegations by the Commissioner. Bergerman said that Lucki was “angry” and “knows her well enough” to say that. She confirmed as did Leather that Lucki spoke of getting “pressure from the Minister” that “she was under pressure”, and she had in fact mentioned the upcoming gun legislation.

Leather testified that it all began on April 22nd when he was asked by the Commissioner’s office to obtain a list of the guns. He said that he did forward a list, but under the direction of the shooting oversight body, SIRT, who specifically directed that this information was to stay in RCMP hands and not be disseminated. Bergerman and Leather were both asked if they would have in any event shared this information with anybody outside the investigational group. Both said they would not.

So Ms. Lucki defence is that it was all a matter of miscommunication and can give no real answer as to why she was so intent on getting the gun information to the Minster and his Chief of Staff.

The miscommunication Ms Lucki said stemmed from her in ability to get a “team” on the ground in H Division. Her reason they didn’t. Covid. The government would not allow it she said. Her reason was of course incorrect and dismissed later by Bergerman who said they could have come to H Division. There was no rule stopping someone from entering Nova Scotia if they were working during the Covid bubble.

Clearly there is some truth to the miscommunication allegation and the controversy that ensued. The myriad levels of bureaucracy that abounds through the RCMP and in particular in HQ has been well catalogued.

As has been stated many times before in this blog and by many others in the political chorus, Ms. Lucki is merely a foot soldier for the Liberal political elite, an echoing sycophant to the policies of “systemic racism”, “diversity” and “inclusion”. She has memorized the lines and been practising in front of a mirror. That is who she is, that, as she would say, it is part of her “DNA”, and that is how she was elevated to the highest RCMP office in the land. The lane one must stay in as Commissioner is a jagged and bumpy lane, and she has driven into the ditch, she doesn’t even seem to see the line.

The Committee hearings will continue and there will others coming to the committee, including Campbell and Blair’s Chief of Staff. But there is really no need for further revelations. The picture is already clear. Will there be a “fall” person? Maybe, but it is not likely to be Bill Blair. Have I mentioned he used to be the Chief of Police?

There is no doubt that Lucki is blurring the truth (some would call it lying) and she has now been caught, and not only caught, but called out on it by her own senior officers. It was as close to a revolt as one could get. Anyone with a sense of principle and a sense of what constitutes leadership would resign. She has lost her audience.

Picture provided by Marcin Wichary via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Reflections from a distance

Recently, this blogger had the opportunity to leave this country for a couple of weeks. For me, usually a time to re-generate one’s faith in the greater good, to re-gain some perspective on the news items of the day, to adjust one’s vision on Canada and where it fits into the world. It is somewhat naive in this day and age to think that one can totally escape from the digital blather, there is no real way to hide the constant onslaught and the insistent reminders from “back home”.

So as I found myself maneuvering through the various airport security systems, my ArriveCan app firmly embedded in my phone, there continued the never-ending notifications on flights and flight times, the constant beep of information headlines coming from my pocket wanting to make sure you haven’t missed a minute of the breaking news that was washing over this country, as if I was of some importance, and the need for me to have the information vital to my survival. The first headline was the airport itself.

As I stood in the never-ending line of wannabe “check-in” passengers, I was increasingly thankful that I was not flying through Toronto, where Pearson International has apparently turned into a rugby scrum played in the middle of thousands of un-claimed Samsonites. Canada now stands proudly number one in the world in something– cancelled flights and late arrivals.

The “at least” three hour check-in times are of course ridiculous, but the airline industry has for a number of years put passengers at the lowest end of the priority scale. They have made it seem that the client relationship had been inverted. We were there to please them our job was to be thankful that they are taking us anywhere. They have expanded the numbers of seats but in ever-increasingly small planes and the joy and excitement of flying has now officially been replaced by a feeling of herded cattle being moved through the gates of the abattoir.

Then of course there is the fact that the Federal government group who was responsible for security screening at Canada’s airports had not “anticipated” that a shortage of staff and a pent up demand for travel could result in a strain on the system. Maybe working from home made them numb to the exertions of the general working public. In any event, I dutifully strapped on the mask for a number of hours, as the tv monitors in the airport displayed the twice infected Trudeau on his private plane, skipping through Europe with Melanie Joly and Anita Anand into the latest NATO meetings.

I did not of course have the luxury of travelling with the entourage of the Governor General, who although she does not speak both official languages, is clearly well versed in the language of Federal government largesse. She apparently served up three dinners, breakfasts, lunches and snacks while en route to Kuwait to electrify the troops with her presence. I had a bottle of water and some cheese and crackers.

The next breaking news item concerned the beleaguered and battered Commissioner of the RCMP, who seems to trip every time she goes public. Commissioner Lucki is truly turning into an embarrassment, possibly only outdone by Minister Bill Blair the senior party member in that Cabinet of high schoolers that Trudeau has brought together. She and Blair continue their Abbott and Costello routine of who’s on first –in terms of who is telling the truth and who is lying. Clearly they are both lying.

Does anyone in the country believe that Supt. Campbell made up the notes? It would be a weird thing to make up, whereas it would not be hard to believe that Lucki was given orders to release some information on the investigation that would assist the government in their proposed gun legislation. The timing was perfect after all; a perfectly timed mass shooting had the government salivating over how to score some political points; a chance to illustrate how dedicated the government is in protecting us from ourselves.

Clearly, the need to please her Liberal masters was front and centre in Lucki’s less than savvy mind. A clear feat of insensitivity considering the subject matter of the meeting. The fact that Campbell’s notes were not in the first disclosure package to the Commission, and then were found in a second package will bring out all the conspiracy theorists. One will need to tune in next month’s public hearing where one will be able to watch Lucki try to dance on the head of a pin. Expect riveting well coached explanations such as “It was a tense discussion..my need for information should have been weighed against the seriousness of the circumstances”.

Politics of course often gets pulled in and over an investigation in the policing world, the more high profile the investigation the more the pull for politicians. I experienced it on a couple of files, as did many of my colleagues. One has to be strong to withstand what is sometimes incredible pressure. She is clearly not strong. So the revelation that she was trying to score some points for the Liberals, should not be surprising, she simply just got caught at it. It needs to be admitted that the RCMP Commissioner role is by its very nature, half politician and half police officer. It is a fine line that needs to be walked if one is to enjoy any level of success. Strong principles are paramount to that success. She is not principled.

This incident has put on full display he one dimensional style of leadership and underlined her lack of credibility with the RCMP membership. It is a glaring illustration of how she managed to get to the highest job in the Mounties and how she got there with little understanding of an investigation or the characteristics of an investigation. If the foot soldiers in the Mounties had felt any kind of loyalty to her, that has now been washed away, gone forever. She has become a caricature.

The other story albeit a little less dramatic, which captured my attention was the release of the Cullen Commission. 133 days of hearings, 199 witnesses, thousands of investigative hours, resulted in an 1800 page report. 600 pages more than Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”. (I often wonder if Judges, like typists, get paid by the word.)

The conclusion of this massive multi-million dollar legal effort were the more than obvious conclusions that FINTRAC had failed and Civil forfeiture provisions need to change. That’s it. There was no evidence uncovered of parties having been “motivated by corruption”, but plenty of evidence of bureaucrats and all those involved in the industry doing nothing– despite knowing about and observing the clear violations.The farthest Judge Cullen would go out on the judicial limb was by saying “They should have to explain why they didn’t take the steps to combat money laundering”. In the end though nobody loses their job for not doing their job, and the clear moral of the story for bureaucrats if observing criminal behaviour– look the other way.

Mr. Cullen recommended that there be more “education” for lawyers, accountants, and mortgage brokers. This seems to be based on the somewhat naive thought that they were unaware of what was going on. Is it not more more likely that they were gaming the system, knowing full well that nobody was investigating them? He did say that a lot of the problems in what went on have been addressed and possibly rectified after the earlier Peter German report; which only makes me want to conclude that this Commission was a redundancy.

My travels went well despite my futile attempts to keep myself in some form of isolation from Canadian news. I firmly believe that everyone should leave this country and look back, it changes the perspective and alters your tools of measurement. There is no denying that this is a country of benefits and resources. At the same time, there is clearly a particular North American culture and society, subtly different, but indeed different from Europe. Different mores and aspirations. A culture where we seem keen to imitate the U.S. Their problems and their solutions are our problems and our solutions.

This led to some minute observations as I walked through the aging and historic cities. Cities which presumably are not immune to the same world problems we all share. There was a different atmosphere, difficult to identify, but it gradually became clearer. There was no blatant pan-handling, no mentally disturbed persons yelling and swearing at the heavens, the streets and public washrooms were cleaner and there were no multiple reports of people being randomly accosted on the streets. How was this possible? There were less sirens and air horns, no observable road rage, less eyes-down purposeful walking, a place where people seemed to work only to live. The police seemed more approachable, more one with the public, less robotic, less military. There seemed to be a greater element of trust of the people.

Has age and history simply made them more mature, more prone to pay attention to the history.

It is always good to get home and we do have a good country, but it is a young country. Maybe like teenagers we think we know everything and maybe know nothing. There was a lingering gnawing sense that maybe, just maybe, we have taken a wrong turn somewhere along our path.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Nicholas Doumani – Some Rights Reserved