Mixing Gender Politics with Sexual Assault

It was 1970 when Kate Millett wrote the book “Sexual Politics”, a book that would go on to become one of the bibles of the still burgeoning feminist movement. Suffice to say, it has been awhile since the process of recognizing women and their equal contributions to society began in earnest and now is still leading us into the 2020’s decade. All efforts have called for a dynamic reckoning; a need to recognize the goals of “equal pay for equal work”; greater representation in the boardrooms, courtrooms, and political offices of the country. It has reached into the very core of society, demanding fundamental change in the family structure, where sharing of responsibility is absolutely necessary in forming an equal partnership.

Many argue that the “glass ceiling” is still alive and well, despite notable progress and female politicians still wear the term “feminist” as a badge of honour. In this decades long continuum of proposed and achieved change, we have reached a point in this country, where it is now political suicide to suggest or propose anything that could, even in some obscure reference, be termed to be “anti-female”.

One must applaud the majority of changes which are enabling women to assume their rightful place in society –where nothing should be allowed to block them from reaching to the highest levels in whatever chosen endeavour.

The sexual politics of this country, historically, has been multi-layered and arriving in sporadic waves, sometimes taking a step back, only to go forward again. It seems that in all generational movements, not just the women’s movement, all change is pushed, at least at the outset, by the radical fringe which then draw in the reluctant middle majority. The fringe then becomes part of the new centre.

The Gloria Steinem‘s and the Ellen Willis’ of the world are needed to pull, prod, and chastise the non-conformers. Those who cling to past practises and policies are portrayed as “dated” — out of step with the basic tenet that everyone is created equal. The right to vote was an inalienable right, but just a single step to righting centuries of illogical, often inhumane and constricted female lives.

The #MeToo Movement is the latest incarnation or wave in this pantheon of women’s rights and it has in fact served a very real purpose. Reading Ronan Farrow’s recent book, “Catch and Kill” one can not help but be moved and angered by the still prevailing winds of male domination and entitlement that blow through, in this case, the news and entertainment industry. All males should and need to be embarrassed.

The likes of Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer and Harvey Weinstein, are the more notable recent American examples, all of whom needed to be pursued, outed and prosecuted. That process has begun in the United States and to a lesser less obvious degree in Canada. One wishes that the RCMP had taken such a hardened and exposing approach to cleaning out the male locker room of the RCMP.

The fact that the RCMP was often a cesspool of male domination was difficult enough to publicly absorb, but the real stain on the RCMP may be the decision to settle the class action suit(s). Thus effectively forever silencing the various allegations; which with little doubt reached the very top of the organization. The circumstances demanded radical surgery on the organization, a cut into the heart of the organization. It would have meant lengthy and costly investigations, but in the end it would have gone a long way in exposing and cleaning up the disease.

Justice was not served by payments of hundreds of millions of dollars, justice was in fact denied or at the very least diverted.

Women were paid to keep quiet about their allegations and all men, innocent or otherwise in this once proud organization were sloppily painted with the same brush. How this determinative action was going to change the “culture” remains undefined— in fact it may be the greatest cover-up ever pulled in Canadian history.

That all being said and despite the many wrongs, one must always be vigilant to the need for fairness, always seek the truth with the goal of ultimate justice. It needs to be recognized that change, or at least legitimate and broad change, takes time. One can not rush cultural change and any change which is patently unfair only sets the movement backwards.

All of which leads to a relatively recent troubling development in the area of sexual offences. To understand the problem you need to understand the current political environment.

The #MeToo Movement has an outer fringe who often take the view that if “she” said it, it is true. They are effectively ignoring that there is a tricky balance. On the one hand one is hearing from brave women talking about the wrongs from past years and only now are women, no doubt emboldened by this movement, have had the confidence to come forward.

The other darker side of the argument is that a wrongful allegation once made, especially in this 21st rush to judgement society could condemn an innocent person to jail. The accused ostracized to the point of being unable to function– their entire lives up-ended. The truism that holds that two wrongs don’t make a right should always be firmly in sight and one must always remember that the fundamental building block of our justice system is the “presumption of innocence”.

The current Liberal government has made over reaction into an art form. No trending cause is too small –if it polls with the right audience, then it needs to be enshrined in policy, regardless of the ultimate damage or outcome. No need for informed study, if it twitters favourably it must be good.

Hence, we now have a discombobulated piece of marihuana legislation and the idea has been born that individual cities should govern the banning of firearms, according to their own city views. These ideas and subsequent legislation gain favour and the head bobbing politicians standing behind the podiums go right along, seemingly undeterred by common sense or any thoughtful opposition. Millennial appeals to voters are good, outcomes the future and someone else’s problem.

The feminist movement, even in radical form, is just one of those causes which according to all the “progressives” can not be questioned. There are other examples like the indigenous, or climate change. No need for study, no need to question, no need for expertise.

In promoting the feminist cause, in their zeal, this government has brought us such things as: a new government department formed around the previous “Status of Women” counsel; “gender-based analysis” for the Federal budget, which among its mentions is that they codified the need for “more women in senior management positions”; Bill C-65 which governed the Federal government workplace, amending the Canada Labour Code focussing on the need to remove harassment and violence from the workplace.

All of this can or may be grudgingly accepted, as it is often difficult to argue against some of the intent of these enactments, however flawed in their application some of it may be.

But where the government overstepped was in the passage of Bill C-51. This was a piece of legislation also introduced by Jody Wilson-Raybould, often a martyr of the fringe, one who had no quibble with interfering with the justice system if it involved her pet causes.

Bill C-51 is an example of the fringe demanding and finding a receptive audience among the Liberals and those #MeToo members who believe that no woman can be deceptive, or less than forthright, about anything that purports to be some form of sexual assault or harassment.

For those who have not followed this Bill (which, it should be added, passed Parliament with All Party support) deals with future conduct for the trial of those accused of sexual offences and was designed primarily to further protect the victim or the accuser.

And if you are in the group of believers in the women’s right to allege and be always believed, than you need to consider the case of Jan Gomeshi. This bill, C-51 was, many have argued, in response to the subsequent total acquittal of Mr. Gomeshi and the fringe feminist public backlash at the results.

During the trial the two primary witnesses had their credibility totally destroyed by the uncovering of emails and text messages which they sent before and after the alleged assaults and rapes. They were confronted with this direct, difficult to deny evidence, by the more than capable lawyer, Marie Heinen. She personally took a great deal of heat from the “I believe accusers” group which included politicians such as Tom Mulcair. Paradoxically, she in her role, should have been heralded as one of the true examples of someone carrying the torch for feminism.

Bill C-51 came on the heals of the Gomeshi trial which pitted the arguments for a fair trial against the argument for the protection of the accuser victim. Bill C-51 passed in December of 2018. Jody Wilson-Raybould heralded it as the “first major update in 20 years”, while others quietly called it quite simply “unconstitutional”. As the bill now begins to be applied throughout the country it seems that the courts are now recognizing it as in fact being “unconstitutional”.

The bill in effect sets up a screening feature which necessitates that all defence records; things such as texts, Facebook entries and other social media, get to be scrutinized ahead of the accuser’s testimony in admissibility hearings. This has the effect of giving an alleged victim a sneak peak at the defence evidence which could have the obvious effect of allowing the Crown, and the accuser, to tailor their evidence in anticipation of that evidence. Effectively warning them in advance of something countering their evidence. It is “reverse disclosure”.

The Saskatchewan and Alberta Superior Courts now have stated that this Act violates Section 7 of the Charter of Rights which deals with the right to make full answer and defence, and it also contravenes Section 11 (d), which assures the right to a fair trial.

The Crown, obliging its masters argues that the Act is fair and Section 1 of the Charter allows for reasonable limits that can be justified in a free society.

The defence argues that this is going to lead to “wrongful convictions”.

In Parliamentary hearings groups such as the Womens Legal Education and Action Fund argued that this was “necessary”. Were they arguing the possibility of wrongfully convicting someone was “necessary”?

There is little doubt that this Act and its provisions will wind its way to the Supreme Court of Canada. Hopefully, even those Liberal leaning Justices may find that clearly weighting a case in favour of one side over the other, is a little too much bending in this era of professed enlightenment.

After the Ghomesi case, Peter Mansbridge interviewed Marie Heinen, in an interview which Mansbridge entered clearly in support of the leftist fringe on his cue cards. An interview intended to lament and repeat the fringe feminist maxim that all women accusers are right and truthful.

Heinen was forceful and deliberate in her counter-argument. She succintley pointed out that most evidence is circumstantial and thus often goes to credibility. The credibility of all involved; the Crown, the defence, the accused, the accusers, and the police. The central point being that all evidence needs to be tested.

Everyone needs to “get a fair shake”. She points out it is what separates our justice system from that of others and it is indeed what makes this country worth defending.

As to the feminist fringe who rage about the outcomes of any acquittal, she simply states “guaranteed results is not justice”. This is one defence counsel lawyer that every police officer should listen to, along with all of those in the feminist corner. We as a society must always be aware that legitimate progress requires full and honest examination. The price is too high otherwise.

Photo courtesy of gt8073c via Flickr Commons – Some rights Reserved

Mandate

Like a 1950’s child running to meet the postman for the Sears catalogue, one wonders whether Ms.Lucki dashed to greet the postman who was delivering  her new “mandate” letter.

If you were bored, frustrated, killing time waiting for shift end, or enjoy a little masochism, then you too may have read with anticipation the Honourable Ralph Goodale’s “mandate letter” to Commissioner Lucki.

The document is surprisingly brief from the illustrious Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It was likely “ghost written”, by a high placed bureaucrat and screened by a legal team, nevertheless it is still revealing. With a little in-between line reading, if there were any doubts as to why Commissioner Lucki rose to the surface and became the cream of the crop in the view of that Liberal august selection committee, then this document should remove that doubt.

What is interesting is what is missing, what was not worthy of mention. If you want to believe that operational policing is the soul of the future RCMP under Commissioner Lucki, you may be wrong. If you think terrorism, cyber crime, white collar crime or child pornography are occupying the minds of the RCMP management in the endless future meetings at 73 Leikin Drive in Ottawa,  you will likely be disappointed.

The letter begins with a reference to Section 5(1) of the RCMP Act where the Commissioner of the RCMP has the “control and management of the RCMP and all matters connected to the Force”, but of course at the “direction of the Minister”. He goes on to say that “police independence underpins the rule of law and ministerial direction”,  that he will rely on the “advice and input” to “help me” establish “strategic priorities.” Blah blah blah.

All that requisite dribble aside, he then goes on to outline what Commissioner Lucki’s “role” will be. Which will be to “reinforce” and “support” the organization in its effort to modernize and reform the RCMP’s culture”

Its future “transformation”, as envisioned by that old sage Goodale will include the “health and safety of the RCMP employees”… “including from harassment and violence in the workplace”….and of course “enhancing its role in reconciliation” with “Indigenous peoples”.

All predictable of course, in light of Justin Trudeau and his cabinet recurring themes, but stark all the same in its simplicity.

The next paragraph mentions “internal and external governance structures and practises”, no doubt a reference to a future civilian administrative oversight.

Then the letter returns to clearly its main preoccupation. “You will need to prioritize that the RCMP is free from bullying, harassment, and sexual violence” and that she should prepare an extensive response to the reviews that were outlined by Sheila Fraser from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. She will need to “ensure that the RCMP is representative of Canada’s diverse population, including gender parity, and that women, Indigenous Peoples and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership”.

Mr. Goodale ends by reflecting on Commissioner Lucki’s previous posting of Training Branch in Regina, and he lauds her for her commitment to training, including “diversity, inclusion, and a respectful workplace”.

So where does this leave us? Like any change in power, whether it be in government, or in a government agency, it is helpful to look at the scope and focus of the change and try and determine who are the winners and who are the losers. Who are now in favour, and who have fallen out of flavour. Here are some predictions.

The Winners

If you are indigenous in the RCMP, or if you are even partially indigenous, or if you can claim a distant ancestry to anything resembling an indigenous group you are a clear winner.

If you are a member of the First Nations Policing Program in 2018 the Liberals have already invested $291 million in the program over the next five years. You are a winner.  This group which is overseen by this same Ministry is designed to “enhance the effectiveness of policing services in First Nation and Inuit communities.”

What “enhance” means in government speak can be anybody’s guess, but lets face it, they will likely be able to reach that goal.

If you want further proof of the constant indigenous theme, don’t stop at Ms. Lucki, look at the rest of the Senior Executive Committee of the RCMP management. Besides, a clear background tendency to the Federal policing side, you will also constantly see the theme of indigenous relations and its level of importance.

Even the more vocal and somewhat rebellious indigenous groups in Northern Manitoba are winners. Commissioner Lucki worked and resided in that area and received an Order of Merit for her “efforts to improve relations”. It doesn’t say that she did improve them, just that she made an effort of course.

The second clear winner are female officers.  With a relatively pristine record, and if you have more than 15 years of service, your odds of becoming management have become markedly greater.

This is not new. The trend for more women officers has been moving along at a high clip since the 1980’s when they first became the hiring priority.  In 2006 there were only 6% of officers were female, in 2016 that number has increased to 21%; more than a 250% increase. In 2016 as well, 13% of senior officers in policing were women.  There will need a massive advancement of female officers in the next few years to have a visible measurable impact, one which Lucki can hold up as evidence of success. Expect demands for more flexible work hours, greater considerations for pregnancy and eventual return to work accommodations.

If you self identify as a member of LGBTQ during the recruitment process or a member of any of the visible minorities, then you too should be a winner.

If you have a claim under the sexual harassment class action you will be a winner. There is little likelihood that this Liberal free-spending government will be eager to deny any claims even if some may be spurious and would normally warrant some authentication. There has been an exponential growth in claims, so expect that to continue.

The Losers

If you are a farmer or resident of the North Battleford area of Saskatchewan which enjoys the highest crime rate in Canada you are a loser, and you should not expect any improvements in policing for the next few years. You are in the way for those who will be pushing the indigenous agenda, so therefore you are politically expendable.

If you are an officer in Chase B.C. or Dauphin Manitoba, hoping beyond hope, that a replacement will be found to fill your position, you are a loser. The current staffing consensus indicates that there are not enough new people to even fill the retirement levels. Lack of manpower has been the theme for a few years, but expect this to continue as it never even gets honourable mention anymore. Clearly, they have given up on the phrase “more for less”, as its marketability has become more irritant than salve for the masses.

If you are optimistically expecting a pay raise to bring you back into contention in the police universe, you are a loser. The Federal government is clearly sitting back and waiting for the union process to get settled. Is it necessary to also point out that manpower and wages are not mentioned in the mandate letter? They haven’t quite figured out that morale, quality of life and optimism are directly linked to these issues.

Are we making too much of this mandate letter? Is this the thin edge of the knife?

The concern of course is that there has always been a curtain drawn, a line not crossed when it comes to the relationship between the police and the State. Goodale even makes reference to “police independence” in the beginning of the letter. However in real terms policing is at a crossroads. In the U.S. Donald Trump is trying to wrest control and direction of the FBI with political shenanigans only impeded by a robust 5th Estate, and an unwilling to go along attitude of the Justice Department and the FBI themselves.

Has Canada, the docile and compliant country that we are, now entered into a relationship between the police and the state which is a little too close for a properly running democracy? Have we now rolled over and woken to a new political RCMP, one wholly directed and run by the authorities?

Has that line been crossed? Is Commissioner Lucki now no different than the other Ministers who rely on the government of the day for their survival?

Maybe we are reading too much into it. Maybe the RCMP bureaucracy is so stultified that nothing will ever get done, maybe we can rely on bureaucratic incompetence to keep us safe.

But there is little doubt the RCMP is teetering, in fact it may be too late. It may have already become a fully engulfed political institution, part of government, not separated from it, no longer an ethical divide between them and the governing party of the day.

In the end the ultimate winner may be Commissioner Lucki herself.

After all, if she succeeds in pleasing her political masters in the next few years and if the Trump of the north continues to reign, who knows, maybe the Liberals will make her a Senator too; for a job well done of course, a job done as directed.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by elPadawan Some Rights Reserved