Fifty Shades of Red

Twenty two victims, nine men and thirteen women, all who were alive and well on April 18th, breathing normally, carrying on normal lives–all never made it to April 20th. Their lives quickly and unceremoniously extinguished, their deaths carried out with ferocity and a single-minded intent.

The exact reasons why, now forever locked in the deceased and decaying brain of a middle aged non-entity Gabriel Wortman.

Dressed in a police uniform, driving a mock up police car, this male transformed the symbolism of  safety and security normally embodied by a uniform and the blue and red lights, into something much more sinister. The birthday party clown became the Joker. 

The largest mass killing in Canadian history unfolded over two days, possibly prolonged by a series of disparate events and plausible police miscues. One of their own, a twenty year veteran police officer drove face on to her own death. Distorted bodies lined the houses and yards of this small unheralded Nova Scotia community of Portapique. 

In the end ingenuity and perseverance did not bring down the shooter; he was brought down by a coincidence. The police and the suspect coming together by bizarre happenstance, at a local garage, where thankfully this time the police got the drop on the well armed killer.

From the very beginning there have been questions about the police and the response to the calls for help, both before the killings and during. The herd like media focused on the lack of use of the Amber alert which will likely prove to be a minor issue in the overall set of circumstances. Nevertheless, one can not shake the uncomfortable feeling that there are much deeper issues that were at play during those fateful 48 hours.

As the weeks following slid by, more questions both from the public and the family victims arose over how this individual, this denturist, who made false teeth in his normal working hours was constructing police cars in his garage, amassing weapons, and preparing for his armageddon. Violence was likely percolating for a number of years in the frontal lobe of Mr. Wortman so inconclusive evidence and analysis will occupy psychiatrists for years to come.

How had a person of such bizarre interests go undetected in such a small community? How is it possible that the local RCMP police could not have known about this person? Well, as it turns out, it sounds like they did, but the level of knowledge and any action they may have or should have undertaken is very much still in dispute. 

The family background pointed to a history of domestic violence and abuse or as the new liberals now refer to as “intimate partner violence”. Reports surfaced of the public calling in– from the likes of Brenda Forbes who alerted them to his assaultive behaviour to his girlfriend.  

Indeed a fight with a girlfriend may have been the spark that lit his anger— but this time the spark became a flame and the fire became one of increasing savagery throughout the night. 

There were concerns raised about a collection of guns being accumulated but again, no apparent response by the police, to investigate an allegation that normally should trigger alarm bells.  

During the night of killings, the police felt that they had cornered the suspect, only to find out that he simply drove out another way– to begin killing again. 

Twitter was used to warn people, probably not the most reliable warning of an emergency, especially in rural Nova Scotia. An Amber alert would clearly have worked better, but an Amber Alert is not intended for such circumstances and by the time upper management cleared the administrative fog to clear the way for the alert, the suspect had been killed. 

So for the next three months, the public demanded that a public inquiry be undertaken. After all, this was the largest mass murder in Canadian history. 

The weeks went by and the Nova Scotia government— led by their Attorney General Mark Furey— seemed to be stalling or dodging the questions that were coming up on an almost daily basis. The added twist was that Furey was a Liberal politician, and, also a former RCMP police officer of some 34 years. He retired as a manager, a District Commander for Lunenburg County.  

Both Furey and the Premier Stephen McNeil during those three months insisted repeatedly that they were “committed” to getting “answers” to the families of those killed, but neither publicly expressed any support for an inquiry or a review of the circumstances. Suspicions began to grow. 

If Furey is to be believed, and that is a big if, during this three months, he and his Ottawa Federal counterpart, Liberal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair were “negotiating” and determining what was the best way to proceed. Apparently they were discussing “all the options” during this time, including a public inquiry. 

As political pundits often note, emotionally driven inquiries are often political suicide. The RCMP has been taking body blows throughout this country for the last number of years and detailed prolonged exposure during an inquiry could and would have serious ramifications; not to mention the possible political fallout.

Old Bafflegab Bill Blair, overseer of the Mounties had to know that any negative impact on the RCMP would harm the re-election chances of the Liberals in the next election. Mr. Furey, a duly rewarded Mountie over the years may not have been eager nor relish the idea of throwing his former colleagues under the bus. 

The decision of these two muddling master minds needed to both appease the victim families and the public, but also limit their exposure, and hopefully have the results exhumed in a politically opportune time. So how could they meet those demands while still limiting the damage?

Their decision on July 23rd was to have a three member panel “review”. Closed doors. No testimony under oath. 

Even more hypocritically they jointly announced that the review should emphasize “contributing and contextual factors, gender based and intimate partner violence”  and “police policies procedures”  and “training for gender based intimate partnership violence”.  

Hearing the mandate of this review gave one pause. Did we miss something? Did somehow the cluster of circumstances which led to this deadly killing spree all be attributable to domestic violence? Did the accumulation of guns, the accrual of fake police cars, the operational decision making, the shots fired at the firehall, all turn into an issue of domestic violence and the suggested resolution be further police training in domestic violence? 

This is only understood when one considers that during these intervening months, some female protests had come about by women groups inferring that the mass murder was the result of inherent violence against women in society; pointing out that mass shootings almost always had a central theme of misogyny. These events were triggered, so this group proclaimed by the assault of the girlfriend and a history of violence between the two.

So, even though considering that the evidence of violence against women as a central theme was a bit of a stretch, it is safe territory for the Liberals. It is an intellectual territory where they are comfortable. It is a place where they can take a few body shots, but then fall back on to their righteous practised platform of support for women. 

During the news conference where they announced the “review” the talking points were clear. To assuage the public they lauded the panel members as being, “independent” and “transparent” and “experienced”. The review panel was to issue two reports, one in Feb 2021 and the final report in August 2021. 

The mandate was to look into the “causes” and “circumstances” but that it should be based on “restorative principles” and also “trauma informed”. There was emphasis on gender based violence and that the strongest need was to “inform, support and engage victims”. 

Mr. Furey laid it on thick, addressing the victim families and intoning that they, the Liberal government, would “walk with you through every step of your healing process” as the families clearly had been “injured physically and mentally”. He closed his statement by reading the names of all the victims, conjuring up images of the fall of the twin tours during 9/11.

After the two concluded their initial prepared statements, there were a series of phoned in questions from the National media, which focused in on the fact that the ordered “review” was not what the victims wanted. They wanted and were demanding a public inquiry after all, so why this?  The second often voiced complaint in the questions was that there was no ability to compel testimony of witnesses. Blair answered this by saying that he had “directed the RCMP ” to cooperate “with the review. This clearly assured nobody. 

 So, for the next 30 minutes as they continued to answer the same questions, we watched Blair and Furey dance the two step explanation of “independence” “integrity”. Their single explanation as to why not a public inquiry — it would take too long.

This was coming from the dance partners who waited three months to figure out anything at all. 

Who were these Review Board members who were “independent” and would be “transparent”? 

First, heading the review was to be Michael J. MacDonald a Chief Justice of Nova Scotia. As Chief Justice he was heavily involved in the Nova Scotia Access to Justice Coordinating Committee and promoted several judicial outreach initiatives to engage the Indigenous  and African Nova Scotian communities.  All laudable, but to think that he was coming from anything but the Liberal spectrum would a be a bit of a stretch. He had a history of championing for victims, so he would be in perfect concert with this slanted mandate of “restorative” principles. 

Number two. Anne McLellan a former four term MP, who served in the Cabinet as Public Safety Minister, Justice Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. To say that this “academic” and “politician” was “independent” is clearly laughable. She is one of the few Canadian parliamentarians to have spent her entire career as a cabinet member in Liberal governments under Chretien and Paul Martin.

Justin Trudeau in 2019 after the Liberal party did not win any seats in Alberta and Saskatchewan hired her as an “advisor”.

Apparently this ethically challenged Federal government does not see conflict of interest even when it hits them on the head, so bubbly Blair spouts the ridiculous view of her being “independent” from the Federal government. 

Finally, the third review board member is Leanne Fitch, who clearly was chosen so she could appear to be representing the policing aspect.  Ms Fitch was a police officer for 34 years, rising to Chief in that bustling city of Fredericton, New Brunswick. She was the first openly gay female who served as the Fredericton Chief. The Fredericton police department has 113 officers, smaller than Richmond or Coquitlam Detachments of the RCMP.

She had been leading the agency when the four officers were killed in Fredericton. Also, while under her tutelage a number of Fredericton police officers were outed for alleged misconduct, and the administration was found to have broken New Brunswick Official Languages Act. Interestingly, in an interview with the CBC she felt that “she doesn’t expect the force to ever be the same after the shooting”. She too likes to stress victimization. 

Ms Fitch was also investigated by the NB. Police Commission in 2016, but the nature of the complaint and the findings were never revealed. It may be telling that a few weeks before the announced investigation, two officers had been fired from the force and three other officers were facing criminal charges. One of the females charged alleged that officers “have lost confidence in the leadership of the Fredericton force”. In the same news conference police union president Cpl Shane Duffy suggested that the police force “has created a difficult, if not poisoned, work environment for the police officers there”. 

So that in total is the three who according to these two governments represent “independence”, “transparency” and “expertise” needed for this “review”.

Unfortunately for these two governments, the ruse didn’t work. 

The general public saw through the hypocrisy which was oozing through this “review” announcement.  The protests resumed– led once again by the victim families. They marched on the Truro police office, again demanding a public inquiry. 

The Federal government bowed to the political pressure on July 28th, a mere five days after their “review” announcement,; changing their minds and deciding that a public inquiry would be held instead.

Mr. Blair announced the change in heart through social media (not willing to take questions this time), saying “We have heard the call from families, survivors, advocates and Nova Scotia members of Parliament for more transparency…”.

Apparently, they had been deaf for the first three months.

They also announced that the three individuals on the review, will now be proclaimed Commissioners of the Inquiry — no need to return their company cars.

Mr. Furey now also has seen the light and even had the audacity to say that this was what he wanted all along.

So why this bumbling and stumbling attempt at a “review” instead of a public inquiry?  

There could be only one conclusion. It was a hardened cynical political attempt to divert and mollify the rising victim voices, while clearly hiding their political backsides.

Both governments realized that any review, probe or inquiry is going to raise some serious political questions of the RCMP and their Provincial counterparts. Not so much at the individual member level —but at the broader and deeper administrative and management level. Blair and Furey should be ashamed of their contrivance.

This now public inquiry has the potential to strike at the deep-rooted problems in the RCMP. Training, seniority, supervision, levels of manpower, and emergency response will all be called into a tear stained and emotionally charged examination that will no doubt be covered live by all the television media.

The Commissioners will still try to distill the anger, but it will be difficult when everything is exposed to the public eye. The Province, as the contractual overseer of the RCMP will share in the fecal laced blame that will be thrown at the proverbial khaki and blue wall.   

Broadly, in a couple of years, we will likely find that the officers that night were trapped by the insanity of a killer– but also a Federal system which has been letting them down for years. 

Commissioner Lucki will resign (retire) just in time for the Liberals to claim they are now sweeping with a clean broom and that all the recommendations are already being implemented. They will conclude any future news conference with an apology to the victims families. They will pay out a civil suit.

After all, they have become very adept at the art of supplication and living with the numerous shades of embarrassment– the shades of red that surely are going to come from this protracted examination.

Photo Courtesy of Indrid_Cold at Flickr Creative Commons – 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

The MMIWG –as Predicted: Wasteful and Disturbing results

A lunatic, admittedly an antiquated term, comes from the latin “lunaticus” or “moonstruck”, referring to a mentally ill person, or as in this case, a person who is dangerous, foolish, or unpredictable. So this blog’s nomination for the most moonstruck politician in this current age is Marion Buller– the head of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls public inquiry –which is about to end (finally) its over two year long reign as the most ridiculous waste of taxpayer money in the last number of years.

This blog wrote about the then pending inquiry in February 2017; with a prediction that it was a massive waste of time, that it was pandering to the Indigenous but offered little to no hope of it helping the indigenous. Well, it has more than met all expectations and its delayed final report will hit the new stands on June 3rd, 2019. This too is late, and late after even having won an extension as it was originally supposed to be concluded in November 2018.

This inquiry started out with a projected cost of $70.5 million so from the start it promised to be the most expensive inquiry in Canadian history. Two years in, they then had the audacity to ask for an extension, wanting another two years which they didn’t get. They did get another $50 million bringing the un-official total cost in the neighbourhood of $120.5 million.

This group is so blind to taxpayer consideration, that in honour of their massive and brilliant undertaking, they are going to have a party and fund over 100 Indigenous communities to thank all the participants and in celebration of the “conclusion of this journey with us”. It is fully expected, that Jody Wilson-Raybould will enter the official party carried by six, like Lady Gaga at the 2011 Grammy’s; an entry befitting the media’s patron saint of reconciliation.

If ever there was a gathering of people with a one dimension interest and with a single purpose in the guise of an actual inquiry, this was it. The people assigned to this working group, started off with a set of beliefs and then set out to prove it, with a surfeit of anecdotal evidence. Witnesses testifying to a time frame between 60 and 100 years ago, often anecodotal, often based on story telling.

According to the inquiry of course, in their words, they have been diligently working on “exposing hard truths about the devastating impacts of colonization, racism, and sexism…aspects of Canadian society”. That was clearly their reason for being and that is what they set out to prove. There was no inquiring in this inquiry.

Throughout this time the inquiry has been persistently hampered by allegations of mis-management and in-fighting, and even factions of the indigenous wanted it scrapped.

According to their own web site, there was a total of 2386 participants; 1484 family members and “survivors” (the last residential school closed in 1996- some 23 years ago- to date the indigenous have been paid out $1.9 billion in compensation) and 819 of these participated through “artistic expression”. This inquiry was calling it “evidence” even if that evidence came through traditional story-telling and art. With this level of understanding of what actually constitutes evidence you should not be surprised later in this blog as to what some of her recommendations will be.

There were 83 “experts”, “knowledge keepers” (my favourite term) and “officials” providing testimony.

In January 2018, the Executive Director of the Inquiry, Debbie Reid resigned. The previous Executive Director had already resigned, as had one of the Commissioners. Indigenous Relations Minister Carolyn Bennett had by now began admitting that she was concerned about the number of staff withdrawals. A total of eight people had resigned or been fired at this time.

In June 2018 Commissioner Audette threatened to resign because her request for a two year extension had been declined by Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett.

Audette, returned to work a couple of weeks later and began to make excuses for the final report saying that “the final report will not be as comprehensive as it could have been” when she had been only given another six months and not the two years she requested.

In July 2018, lawyer Breen Ouelette resigned, the sixth lawyer to do so stating that the “inquiry was speeding towards failure”. Their primary allegation being political interference from the Federal government, that there was a lack of “transparency, communication and effectiveness.” Actively biting the hand that fed them.

In October 2018, Ms. Buller and Commissioner Michelle Audette were already expressing concerns that the government had not acted quickly enough after the release of its mid-term report. Buller described the interim report as “ground-breaking” and she was concerned that the final results may be ignored. She said that it was “horribly disappointing not only to us but to Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people all across Canada”. Ms Buller may be over stating the inquiry and its eventual impact, as there are very few people in Canada who would have read it at this time.

In November 2018 two further staff members left. This was in keeping with the mass exodus of staff, which by now had reached an epic 30 staffers.

It was about this same time that co-counsel Jennifer Cox, became the 7th lawyer to leave the inquiry. Buller of course had no comment, and the lawyers who are bound to confidentiality, conveniently remain muzzled.

Now, with only a couple of weeks to go before issuing the final report, the inquiry is still in front of the Federal Court trying to get access to two RCMP files. They are arguing that these two files represent the core of the inquiry’s mandate to look into the systemic causes of violence against indigenous woman.

Seems a little late to say the least, not to mention that they have had access to many files during this two year period, a total of 119 investigations, 23 of which were related to ongoing investigations. Department of Justice counsel argue that the two files aren’t necessary. The inquiry lawyer Ravi Hira said that there are deficiencies with “one of the cases”. A little suspicious to say the least. Even the Judge asked how they were going to possibly review two large files and still make it to the report.

Throughout this agonizing process, the Federal government remained mum, did not step in, forever fearful of being accused of being big colonial brother. Hoping beyond hope that all things would get worked out by some miracle of bureaucracy.

This inquiry was an act of appeasement. Bring all the indigenous together, give them unlimited funding, give them legal and technical resources, and then have hundreds testify to the same issue.

If you spent any time at all watching these the public hearing proceedings you will have seen the same thing, played out daily for hours upon hours.

A woman or man tearfully testifying, unscripted, often meandering off topic, and never a question asked as to the truthfulness of the testimony. All that was said was accepted. There would be rows of counsellors, holding religious or sacred icons comforting the woman, nodding sagely, dramatic empathy oozing. A parade of tears, some real, some brought about by pointed prodding.

The Indigenous political factions are consistent in only two areas as this Inquiry found out.

First, a time in history when they were present on the land before the arrival of the Europeans. They were here first and this translates according to their broad interpretations, to some form of veto over all things in Canada.

Secondly, they now realize that this is their golden moment, the Federal coffers have been opened up and they have a national government seeking their approval. All levels of government are woefully short of ideas on how to solve the multitude of indigenous endemic problems. So they throw money and apologize profusely.

However, other than for these two factors the indigenous groups are divided along hundreds of political lines. Some are wanting to invest in pipelines, some are protesting, but all are seeking financial redress of varying description. Others argue that they are one of two nations in this country. Some are arguing for laws to protect their rights while others argue that the laws of Canada do not apply to them. While some want to return and preserve culture and language, others are chasing dreams of casinos and medicinal marihuana stores.

This in-fighting infiltrates any and all proposed policy options, making it almost impossible to reach consensus. They don’t even agree on the Inquiry itself, some calling for another inquiry, some just giving up.

The only constant is the constant outreach for more funds and the hundreds of lawyers now pursuing those dreams on their behalf. The lawyers also being funded by the government.

It was clear from the start that the “inquiry” was made of a political necessity, not necessitated as should be the case by an actual need to know. The statistics already pointed to the hundreds of factors that result in missing and murdered indigenous: poverty, lack of education, drug and alcohol abuse, housing, nutrition, criminal activity, staggeringly high birth rates etc. It has already been calculated that 80% of the violence against indigenous women and girls is perpetrated by their own, their families, the friends, and the neighbours.

All this was known before the inquiry and the factors will still be the same after the inquiry.

The original Commissioners of this “Inquiry” were Buller, a member of Saskatchewans Mistawsis First Nation; Michelle Audette an Innu woman who failed to win a Liberal seat in Quebec; Qajaq Robinson a Nunuvut born lawyer who was legal counsel at the Federal Special Claims Tribunal; Marilyn Poitras, a Metis law professor at the University of Saskatchewan; and Bryan Eyolfson, a First Nations lawyer who served on the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and also in the Ontario Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation.

The appearance of bias and slant could not have been more obvious. If there was an inquiry into the oil industry and all the Commissioners worked for Exxon and Shell would it be considered fair? If there was an inquiry into policing and all the Commissioners were members of the police would it be considered fair? Would there be an outcry? Of course, so why was there no outcry in the most expensive Inquiry ever taken on in Canada? Interestingly, the media was and remains completely mute.

So after this smorgasbord of like-minded social workers, lawyers, counsellors, and commissioners finish draining millions in their efforts, they are about to present that final report.

Recently, Marion Buller gave a hint of what was to come.

Testifying before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs over Bill C-75, Ms. Buller suggests, that if it is an indigenous woman that is murdered, then it should be automatically first degree murder. She believes that the Indigenous should be treated differently legally, by the courts and the judges, in that they should get special consideration.

There are only certain provisions in the Criminal Code which allow for this automatic update to 1st degree murder; the killing of a policeman, a corrections officer, or in moments of terrorism.

But now, this former B.C. Judge, Ms. Buller, believes there are different classes of victims, and that the indigenous death is more serious than the others. The policeman and the corrections officers have been singled out as the jobs they do entail the protection of the general public. Ms. Buller now wants charge determination dependent on the colour of your skin or heritage.

She deems that this would be an act of reconciliation.

It would mean an automatic sentence of life and no chance of parole for twenty-five years. When it was pointed out to her that indigenous women are for the most part killed by their own, she was therefore advocating putting indigenous killers in jail for longer periods of time; she seemed taken aback. It was almost like she had never had seen that possibility.

The recommendation is ludicrous of course. Or is it?

With a coming election and the Liberals desperate to put Jody Wilson-Raybould behind them, would they consider such a criminal code change as an act of appeasement. Another apology if you will.

If you don’t think so, consider the latest Supreme Court of Canada ruling concerning the tragic case of the death of Cindy Gladue, an Indigenous sex trade worker. The accused was acquitted, but the Supreme Court ordered a new trial for “manslaughter”.

Justice Moldaver in a 4-3 decision writing for the majority stated in the decision: “As an additional safeguard going forward, in sexual assault cases where the complainant is an indigenous woman or girl, trial judges would be well advised to provide an express instruction aimed at countering prejudice against Indigenous women and girls”. It is not going as far as Ms. Buller, but it’s at the top of the hill, looking down the slippery slope.

Qajaq Robinson, of the MMWIG, who of course intervened in the case, called it a “tremendous step forward” saying that the courts have recognized that “in cases of sexual assault against Indigenous women and girls, that there is an obligation on the courts, on judges, to be gatekeepers to ensure that bias, prejudice, racism and sexism do not form part of the evidence…”

Again, on first blush this too seems somewhat logical, but there was no evidence of this being the case in this trial, it is based on a presumption.

Complicating this was the fact that the victim was engaged in a 2nd day of prostitution with this same man and the Crown argued that it went towards a determination of “consent” and therefore evidence of the victim being a paid sex worker was relevant.

So a new trial has been ordered.

But now have a Liberal leaning Supreme court warranting “express instructions” in the case of an Indigenous victim, a Federal Liberal apologist government, and a completely biased and unapologetic special interest Inquiry, all of whom may be taking us down a very dangerous road.

Section 15 (1) of the Canadian Charter of rights says that “everyone is equal before and under the law and has right to equal protection and equal benefit under the law”.

Apparently Ms. Buller doesn’t agree.

Photo Courtesy of the Canadian Press — Some Rights Reserved