In need of a Churchill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not this country’s finest hour.

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

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

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

Dear Jennifer…

Ms. Strachan, let me be one of the first to welcome you back to beautiful British Columbia — the land of the highest gas prices, mountains, water, big trees, horrendous traffic, and where the Green Party has a pulse.

Being a born and raised Okanagan girl, no doubt you are feeling the geographic magnet that is B.C., and like Dorothy in Oz, you probably wanted to return– as there is no place like home. So with a click of those RCMP high-browns and the nod from Wizard Lucki you are now on your way.

It’s been awhile, over 16 years since you were in the policing world here in Lotus land and a lot of things have changed, so I feel bound by some inexplicable duty to give you at least a heads up on what to expect.

Let us first deal with the politicians in this land who you may end up spending some time with considering your new role. The Green party has locked arms with the NDP to see who can be more righteous; who can spend the most money, and clearly would have a love for any future unionized RCMP. It is a mixed political blessing though, as they are not pro-police necessarily, more in favour of groups like the Pivot Legal society, or the Elizabeth Fry Society.

The Federal world of Justin Trudeau and their policies still have an audience out here, even though they seem to be in a political free fall in the other parts of the country.

So don’t be fooled by the blooming Conservatism of the west throughout the Prairies. The right leanings of political philosophy has not seeped over the mountains, conservatism is merely a mirage in this marihuana infused land. There is more chance of Jody Emery being elected out here than a Jason Kenney.

President Bush was chasing Saddam Hussein when you left B.C.and the Americans were about to invade Iraq.

Paul Martin was the Liberal Prime Minister (probably one of the last times the budget was balanced).

Giuliano Zaccardelli was the Commissioner of the RCMP (who was impugned for irregularities in the management of the Pension and Insurance fund).

The RCMP was heralding the first female officer to be placed on an Emergency Response Team and the wave of female empowerment was in its infancy.

This unparalleled growth in female advancement is being mentioned because Commissioner Lucki decided that in announcing your move to head up E Division, she felt that she needed to underline your gender and not your curriculum vitae. It is a bit of the elephant in the room when it comes to the succession plan for E Division.

Ms. Lucki seems pretty one dimensional so far, aiming to fulfill her proscribed and dictated agenda, but in including you she makes you appear as a pawn in her Liberal sanctioned corporate strategy. It clearly drew attention to the possibility that your gender was a central characteristic that was needed for one to get this job. In the end it detracts from your resume, taints the appointment, and tends to confirm thoughts of the older guard.

For the record, I don’t believe the average RCMP officer gives a whit as to whether you are a woman, a man, or a variation of the two. Whether you are green, brown, wearing a turban, or wearing a Scottish tam means nothing in the current real world of policing. Gender does not imbue anyone with intelligence or leadership skills although it is quite clear that the two are equated in government corridors of power.

Putting all that aside, you are here to replace Butterworth-Carr, who heralded not only her femaleness, but her indigenous background, and she had zero impact. She didn’t stay long, enticed by an offer to join the politicos in Victoria. She used a quick stay on the job to springboard into the double-dipping pool, no doubt financially setting herself up for a lucrative run towards pension. It is hoped that you may still a little longer, as the wheels of government turn very slowly, the ability to have any impact takes years not weeks, so some time on the job is needed.

You will be hampered upon your arrival as senior members of the RCMP demographic bubble are leaving, the experienced baby-boomers are reaching their logistical end. Some, like Butterworth-Carr, have discovered a tunnel under the Georgia Strait which leads directly to the Provincial government coffers. The sands of time are changing, whether that is good or bad we will see, but there is little doubt it is creating a vacuum in terms of experience.

Since your departure from the West, almost the entire latter half of your career seems to have been focused on O Division and HQ.

You were the District Commander for N.E. Ontario from 2009-2012; then the Officer in Charge of Criminal Operations in Ontario (interesting in that in Ontario the RCMP is not responsible for most criminal investigations) from 2012-2016; then up the ladder once again to being the Commanding Officer of O Division from 2016-2018.

And of course what resume would be complete in this day and age without being the Officer in Charge of Operations Policy and Programs in Contract and Indigenous Policing in Ottawa. You then followed that by becoming Deputy Commissioner for “Specialized Policing Services”. A steady rise for sure but I will admit to being a little concerned about this rather central Canada version of the RCMP being the substantive part of your resume.

You probably don’t need to be reminded that there is a big gap between O and E, not just a couple of vowel spaces. The fact that you survived and thrived in this non-contract world can be either seen as a plus or a minus. You may be commended or condemned for being able to breath deeply in this rarefied air, as it is a milieu where most of us in the contracts would often feel out of place.

O Division has often been accused of riding and hiding behind the curtain of Federal statutes, where a lack of enforcement and investigational strength is a theme common to those that have worked in both areas. Enforcing such Federal statutes as the Migratory bird Act; or watching the Indigenous hustling cigarettes back and forth from the U.S; or helping illegal immigrants with their luggage; has never been considered the leading edge of police investigation know-how.

This lack of operational acuity has been the standard slam against this Province for years, whether management admits to this operational schizophrenia or not. Another example showed up in the last few days, in the Mark Norman case, serious questions are now being raised about this two year investigation in Ontario which resulted in a single charge. It has been stayed as the defence counsel seems to have been a little more thorough in their inquiries than the police officers that conducted the investigation and there are implications of political interference in the process. Further Mountie embarrassment is on the horizon.

The Force in general has not had such a smooth ride for the last couple of decades and there has been a number of serious setbacks during the time that you were part of the RCMP management power group. A growing legacy of mismanagement whether looking at the carbine issue, internal sexual harassment, and a large number of failed investigations.

Mountie salaries in relation to other agencies have tanked. Recruitment is down. Staffing levels have dwindled to lows never seen before. The Mounties are being questioned over their actions at every turn, whether it be the shooting on Parliament Hill, or the latest, the Mark Norman investigation.

I am not sure of what role you may or may not have played during this last number of years but there is no doubt you have been either a witness or a participant in some of the inane programs and policies which have left this agency in a state of major disrepair. It would be interesting to hear your take and historical role in this troubled time. Actually, it would be nice to finally hear from someone, anyone, of this management era who would admit to the errors, the wrongdoing, and try to set the record straight. Not crocodile tear apologies for things like harassment, but clear, concise explanations as to things like $100 million settlements. Maybe I am asking for too much.

The RCMP in its official bio of you points to your “passion for supporting others”. In 2014 you were given the Ontario Women in Law Enforcement award for the “Mentor of the Year Award”, and then in front of the International Association of Women Police you were also given a “Mentor of the Year Award”. Clearly a 21st century new policing virtue but who knew there was such a thing. Hard to argue with someone who wants to support you though.

You have been away from the dirt and grime of contract policing, living and breathing the filtered world of a Mountie in Ontario. Previously, you were in the corridors of subject matter experts, puffed up self-important people wandering in that dazed mind numbing bureaucracy all spouting pithy truisms at any opportunity.

You have now been freed and at a time in your career where you are un-flammable.

You are back to the heart of the RCMP Criminal operations block, where your Masters degree in “conflict analysis and management” will no doubt come in handy. You are being thrown into a logjam of a multitude of unaddressed and unattended issues, compounded by lacklustre stints of some of your predecessors.

You are about to be thrown into the wolfs lair. E Division with its constant stream of issues can eat and will eat managers up so you need to be careful.

I am hoping that this will be seen by you as a chance to speak out.

My primary recommendation is to be honest and straightforward and speak to the issues. Let’s hear what the RCMP stance will be if the Surrey RCMP get ousted; let’s hear what you are going to do about the vast understaffing that is in all corners of the Force; lets hear about gender and diversity promotions and your view of this dictated policy; lets hear about the politicization of the police force mandated role, which clearly is in full swing in Ottawa; and lets hear about upcoming unionization of the RCMP.

Even if one is able to be exposed to a truly honest appraisal of the issues and opens up the debate to real dialogue, you will have accomplished something not seen in many years in this Province.

The issues surrounding the RCMP will seem endless and at times look very bleak. The constant pablum being fed to the officers of just “you’re doing a great job” is both insulting and demeaning to their intelligence. Talking openly and honestly would be a breath of fresh air.

I am not optimistic, but I stand to be corrected, and will gladly sing the laurels of someone who walks the walk, speaks to the issues and puts on display possible solutions. It seems counter-intuitive that one needs to seek an open and honest management group from a police institution, but sadly this is now the case. It has been missing and it has caused irreparable harm.

Once that is all done, then you can go and enjoy your retirement….

I do wish you the best….

Signed:

A once faithful servant

Photo courtesy of CTV News via Google Images- Some Rights Reserved