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the numbers of seats but in ever-increasingly small planes and the joy and excitement of flying has now officially been replaced by a feeling of herded cattle being moved through the gates of the abattoir.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