Free Speech, not quite as free in policing

As everyone knows, under Section 2 of the Charter of Rights, everyone in Canada has the right to freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression. The official document of the Canadian Charter of Rights has as a preamble: “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of Law”.

One would think then, at first glance, in consideration of that “supremacy of God” line that you as a person would be free to join the “Church of Trudeau”.

Of course I am not referring to a real church, it is in fact a Youtube site created by and starring one of the police community’s own Brent Lord. However there has been a problem developing inside this pew-less church outside of the fact that Brent is a member of the RCMP currently assigned to Trail detachment. The problem is that it is a satirical site which went after Trudeau, mocking the Liberal policies, concerning all those hot take issues such as the Indigenous, Immigration and the financial spending of the Federal Liberals. Policies which can not be questioned in polite company.

There are two issues at play here, issues which admittedly have surfaced in other forms previously in the policing world. One is the basic rights and freedoms for free speech guaranteed to all Canadians, and the other is the limits that is put on police officers under their Code of Conduct regulations.

When the outraged public complained (this may have been only one person) the Mounties said they did “a fulsome review of the highly unprofessional offending materials was completed and administrative options are being considered”. This statement does not disguise their clear presumptions and equally indicates that their final findings were not ever going to favour the Mountie. But, lets leave that aside. We should also note for the record that the Constable never appeared or represented himself as a police officer on the site. This was a personal site and it was silly, more a rant than a detailed examination of any policies. One would have to question whether the Constable really thought this entertaining, it was political for sure, but whether it met the artistic threshold would be the real debate.

The RCMP in addressing the media said “The website and videos were not representative of the views of the RCMP, nor its employees as a whole, rather they were the expressions of an individual”. True. “The content and the viewpoints on the web site fell far short of meeting the levels of professionalism expected of our officers”. Probably also true, but one has to remember that the “professionalism” expected of our officers is a wandering goal post, not easily defined in this 21st century policing model.

Was Commissioner Lucki being political during the Portapique incident when trying to score some political points with the Liberal hierarchy. Was that “political”, was it “un-professional”? One must ask whether or not if this Constable had put up a supportive site for the Liberal policies and trumpeted the good deeds the Liberals would it have been measured with the same stick. Would have it been considered “un-professional” if instead he had professed a liberal progressive stance? It clearly would have been political but my guess would be that it would not have been declared un-professional. In fact, they may never have addressed the issue at all if it was about diversity or inclusion.

It is truly ironic, that we have reached a stage in this country where the right to free speech is being severely limited by the social progressive or “woke” perspective–a group that would historically have been associated with the rights of individuals and the freedom of expression. The evidence of this censorship is everywhere and it is frightening to anyone who believes that free speech is a right worth protecting. Take a look at the cases of Dr. Mathew Strauss in Kingston, Ontario who proposed some very anti-covid restrictions, or Terry Glavin who wrote an article saying quite obviously that there was no evidence of genocide in the residential schools as none of the grave sites had been examined. Recently Dr Jordan Peterson, who has become a bit of a global phenomena is being pursued by the Ontario College of Psychologists for some tweets he put out. They are ordering that he, the global academic with millions of followers, should undergo “media training”. Laughable, but apparently they are serious and threatening to take away his licence if he does not comply. Of course, it is the fact that he expresses views contrary to the current liberal regimes that have taken over our governments and their institutions that is the real reason they are going after him.

The allegation in all these free speech cases and the people involved that always gets put in the headlines is that they are discriminatory, racist, or un-professional. That is the go-to argument in every case. One person is offended, the world is offended. Stanford University, a school of world renown, in the heart of the California woke culture recently issued their proposed “Elimination of Harmful language Initiative” to address “harmful language in IT”. They found 100 words or phrases that they deemed to be “harmful”. Included are such words as “American” because it was “imprecise it should be “U.S. citizen”. To use the phrase “you guys” was deemed harmful, because it “lumps a group of people using masculine language and/or into gender binary groups which don’t include everyone”. Needless to say, this policy group have drawn some highly critical reviews. All of it simply demonstrates that maybe the pendulum is still swinging to the extreme left.

Closer to home, just today the Vancouver City Police made an announcement concerning the wearing of the “thin blue line badges”. No you can’t they said. These badges, which consist basically of a thin blue line through the red maple leaf insignia has been around since 2016 and seems to have started in Calgary. At that time, the badge was said to “recognize officers length of service to frontline policing duties” and to remember “fallen officers”. Seems like a pretty harmless thing, but apparently some from the very vocal left said that the symbol was being “co-opted by hate organizations in both the U.S. and Canada”. The evidence to back this allegation is weak and historically it was in fact an adaptation of the “thin red line”; which was worn by the red coated members of the Scottish regiment in the British army for standing ground against the Russian “foes”.

When you enter the theatre of the absurd in woke politics, the usual spokespeople surface. Grand Chief Stuart Philip who heads the Union of BC Indian Chiefs says wearing the thin blue line patch was the “equivalent to wearing a swastika”. Also laughable, but he does represent the outer fringe of the progressives and is a media favourite.

Currently if you want to wear the patch as a police officer you would have to join the BC Transit police as they still allow them to be worn. But you know it is only a matter of time before someone makes a complaint on that side of the house as well. Remember, it takes only one person to complain about having been offended.

Taking into consideration the rights of every individual including a police officer I must admit to being still firmly against politics being entrenched in policing. It is difficult to argue against the politicization of the RCMP and other municipal and provincial police agencies at the upper levels of management, which I have done in other blog posts, and then turn around and argue for police officers at the working levels to be allowed to be personally politicized. Politics is politics.

Let us consider and admit that politics is firmly embedded in the current police management culture. Are not the political policies of “inclusion and diversity” being practised in every government venue, by their very definition discriminatory. As a blatant example the CBC recently offered up their “Anti-racism, diversity and Inclusion plan”, which in its affirmative action seeking goals is offering positions in their organization, or training opportunities, to only those deemed to be under-represented. Even the recruitment process of most policing agencies is now in fact one of discrimination. They are based on race or gender and that decision to implement this policy is a political decision at its heart.

Robert Reiner wrote a book in 1985 entitled “The Politics of the Police” which explores all the problems that are intertwined when the police get political. Jack Young, a British sociologist described the police and politics as being “terrible twins”. Politics and the principle of free speech is indeed a difficult issue, not easily defined in the policing world. We are living in an age when police officers are being offered up greater freedoms in terms of health, clothing, and even grooming, while at the same time they are trying to further limit the right to speech and opinion. The upper levels do not seem to have any problem with the RCMP management in Surrey celebrating and supporting the politics of Brenda Locke, who is trying to restore the Mounties in Surrey, but these same managers do not want you to wear a badge which many regard as simply supporting fallen officers.

Wendell Holmes a famous jurist while on the Massachusetts Supreme Court said in 1892 that “a cop has a constitutional right to talk politics but no constitutional right to be a cop”. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed stating that police officers right to free speech was a “narrower free speech right”. Police officers “should not be able to make statements in their personal capacity that undermine their ability to maintain the trust of the community they serve” according to the RCMP policy.

There are extreme viewpoints at both ends of the spectrum. There was a picture recently of a police officer in Miami wearing a support Trump mask while patrolling a polling booth. Clearly this should not be allowed as you can easily draw the straight line from support to intimidation. But if cops are participating as members of the general public and are speaking out on “matters of public concern” it gets a little stickier.

There have been 13 off duty cops who were protesting the recent U.S election and participated in the march on Capitol Hill. All have been suspended or charged. Put aside all the anti-Trump bias, should police officers be allowed to march in a political protest? Should an off-duty officer be allowed to march in a Black Lives Matter march? Or a march in support of the LGBTQ community? Make no mistake about it, they would be both political marches, both are political commentary. My guess is that there would be no action taken. In fact don’t the police try to get into every Gay Pride parade wearing their full uniform and it is applauded by every news site and mainstream politician. On the other hand, the RCMP is investigating officers who supported the Freedom Convoy protest in Ottawa. Clearly it depends on which side of the political spectrum one lands as to whether you are going to be in hot water with your bosses. The politically held views of the Convoy protestors were on the wrong side of the political spectrum not to mention on the wrong end of the Emergencies Act.

I’m not a betting man, but I firmly believe that most police officers are not in favour of Mr. Trudeau and his cohorts policy decisions and initiatives. However, they are not allowed to express those opinions publicly and they were smart enough not to join the “Church of Trudeau”. Do you remember when the Police Chiefs in the United States supported candidate Trump.

Clearly, everyone’s outrage or lack of outrage depends on the current and direction of the political winds. Clearly, police officers, in the course of their duties need to maintain some level of neutrality, their whole reason for being and the core of their support depends on the appearance of fairness and a balanced viewpoint. It is just hard for the ground level to understand this when their supervisors and heads of their organizations have become extensions of their political masters. Freedom of speech and the practise of it are the most fundamental of rights. We must preserve it, guard it, and use it wisely. And it needs to apply to everyone in policing.

Photo via Flickr Commons courtesy of Newtown grafitti – Some Rights Reserved.

2023 ready or not, here we come…

Well we made it to another year. Congratulations. Making it to this point is a good thing.

In our last post we looked back, now we are being encouraged to look forward. We are of course relieved to hear that Justin is back from Jamaica; refreshed, no issues with baggage or told to lie down on the airport floor for a couple of days while the airline tries to figure things out. The fact that there was a state of emergency in that country did not impair him from strolling the beach taking the odd selfie, patently oblivious to most anything back in Canada.

The Governor General has “hope in her heart” for we Canadians. Is that relevant to anyone? Or are we more interested in Harry and Meaghan and the stress that life brings these poor unfortunates? One can only assume that the Governor General’s New Years resolution includes cutting back on flight meals to Europe.

Forgive me if I take a larger look, beyond the borders of the usual policing issues. What is on the horizon for “we the people”? Honestly, at first blush, it does not look to be that exciting of a year ahead of us;, although most of us might accept a certain level of dull, a year free from the drama of the past couple of years.

To listen to the Prime Minister and his cohorts, all is good in Canada and our future prosperity is guaranteed. Nothing is “broken” and we should all just be thankful to be heading into a banner year led by such a dynamic family of politicians on the Federal, Provincial and Municipal levels. Calling us “broken” is where Mr. Trudeau says he puts his foot down, that is where he says the Conservatives have crossed over the line. He is such a half full guy.

Locally, the RCMP Mounties and the officers of the Surrey police service should very shortly hear the decision of the Provincial government as to whether they carry-on with the transition to the Surrey Police Service, or return to the tried and true Mounties. It would seem completely illogical for them to dismantle the current Surrey Police Service at this stage of the game and the argument being put forward by Surrey Council simply does not hold water. The recent dramatic announcement and twisting of the figures by Mayor Brenda Locke is meant to raise fear and it is based on the belief that most Surrey taxpayers are not very bright. But this is politics and a decision to be made by new Premier Eby in British Columbia. He who has been on a massive drive to raise his profile with almost daily good deed announcements and promises to spend more. Any person in that position is only looking at the problem from one angle–whether the policing controversy will hurt him or help him politically? When a politician is in those circumstances, no one can accurately predict the outcome.

A burning question (well, maybe thats an exaggeration) is whether Commissioner Lucki will resign this year. It is truly remarkable that she has managed to keep her job for this long. Maybe she should run for the Chief’s job of the Ottawa City Police? One of her favoured Deputies, Superintendent Lesley Ahara, is in the running I am told. Ahara is apparently a fan and a favourite of Commissioner Lucki. It would be hard to believe that the Ottawa city police would be considering a Mountie for the job after all the fallout from the Emergencies Act and Portapique. But again, this is being decided in the whisperings of the diverse and inclusive back room’s of the illuminated Ottawa.

There is some interesting legislation which will come under scrutiny this year. Bill C-92 which will give Indigenous the rights to create their own child welfare system, their own family policies and in fact even their own laws pertaining to child welfare, is now being challenged. The Act is already implemented and underway, with five Indigenous bodies asserting their control over child and family services. However, it is now being challenged, and it is making its way to the Supreme Court of Canada because of Provincial opposition. So far, Quebec, Alberta, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories have all joined in opposition to the legislation.

One needs to understand the enormity of this issue. Currently, as of 2021 –53. 8% of all children in the child welfare system were made up of Inuit, First Nations and Metis children. The logistical issues of the Indigenous taking over responsibility for these children is overwhelming, and in fact on a local level could prove dangerous to children, as they swap culture for safety. Of course, as always, it is part of a larger issue for the Indigenous. They are translating this and seeing this as a “watershed moment for Indigenous self-government in Canada”. The opposing Provinces are arguing, that the Indigenous simply do not have jurisdiction under the Constitution, that this is in fact under Provincial purview. Should the left leaning Supreme Court go along with the Indigenous broader self-government it will in effect re-shape the constitution of this country. Quebec went for independence and we fought them mightily. The Indigenous in a hazy, unspecific and disorganized way are trying to achieve the same level of independence, but this time with the aid of a Federal liberal government consumed with being on the side of the righteous and apparently willing to have the taxpayers of the country finance this independence. We should all be paying attention.

In February this year we will hear from Judge Paul Rouleau and the Emergencies Act Inquiry or the Public Order Emergency Commission as they like to call it. We will as well get the results of the Commission of Inquiry, or what they like to call the Mass Casualty Commission into Portapique. Neither of these reports will be a good or positive thing for policing in general, especially for the Mounties in Portapique and the Ottawa City Police during the convoy protest. One should not get overly concerned however. There will be a lot of hoopla headings when they are released, but it is highly un-likely and improbable that anyone will be held to account. Both investigative groups seem more intent on comforting rather than elucidating. All the named groups will promise to carry on–with the usual accompanying promise to do better.

The Canada Revenue Agency will in the next year probably not collect any of the “suspicious” $24.7 billion paid out for Covid. The Auditor General has alerted them to it, they just don’t know how they are going to get it back. The evidence suggests that the political popularity of the Liberals overrode any fiscal responsibility at the time. When questioned– the first response is always how “quickly” they got the money out, the political equivalent of throwing out cash instead of candy in the Santa Claus parade.

Bill C-21 dealing with the firearms regulations, will continue to be discussed in this coming year, as the Liberals try to position themselves politically to “fine tune” the legislation. Their original legislation was poorly thought out, another knee-jerk reaction to a headline, and it was not long before someone pointed at some obvious flaws despite all their “consultations”. It would appear that this Liberal government who feels that they have the inside track when it comes to what is good for us, felt no need to approach and consult with groups like farmers and hunters. In Liberal progressive circles, those individuals are known as the “unenlightened”. Now they have a real mess, a detailed mess which most people would never understand if forced to read the actual legislation.

It is also a foregone conclusion for the coming year that every storm and every strong wind will be referred to in 2023 as “climate change related”. Whether they are right or not, is not for discussion, Greta Thunberg tell us it is so. Greta, now a learned 19 years of age, was the youngest Time Person of the Year in 2019. So how could this teenager be mistaken? Mind you they had also named Donald Trump as Person of the Year in 2016.

Will we have a Federal election in 2023? It seems unlikely. The economy is souring, Mr. Jagmeet Singh is still in danger politically and needs to buy as much time as he can. It was only a little over a year ago that Trudeau thought he would ride in to a majority as the saviour of Covid, the dispenser of funds, the provider of masks, the overseer of the greatest needle use in the country outside the Vancouver Downtown Eastside. But he only ended up with another minority government. It would not seem advisable to swing for the fences again. Singh is unlikely to develop a backbone over the next 12 months.

Of course an over-riding story of interest to mainstream Canada is the economy. Inflation appears to be still out of control and the Bank of Canada is now going to try and repress the worst inflation in the last 40 years. It seems highly likely that this squeezing will cause a recession, it is just a matter of how deep of one. Which for the workers at the lower echelon will not be a good thing. Government workers will be fine as will the high paid executive levels of this country, who never seem to take a hit, or can at least re-structure themselves around the problem. The number of government workers expanded during these last few years, and almost all have by now been given pay raises. The grocery chains, the banks, and the oil industry will continue into 2023 trying to put a spin on how they achieved record profits during this time of enforced austerity. The average person in this country will continue to not be able to buy a house, or travel, or eat beef. If you are lucky and have a house, the people, especially in the east of this country may not be able to heat that home, as the government pursues their carbon tax agenda.

I think we should expect some serious outrage in the months to come.

There will be three Provincial elections this year; in Alberta, P.E.I, and Manitoba. If anyone cares there will also be a gathering of the Green Party in Manitoba. Meanwhile the Sovereign Act in Alberta is driving the progressives wild. Therefore, Trudeau will be hoping that Danielle Smith loses in the Manitoba election– so that he will not have to go face-to-face with the U.C.P. Smith, for her part seems to be itching for a fight.

The biggest story in 2023 will remain the Ukraine/Russia conflict. Putin seems determined to re-build the former USSR and he has played to the weaknesses of the west, initially taking over Crimea without a whimper. Ukranians are putting up a determined and deadly fight to retain their relatively new found freedoms and to avoid once again coming under the oppressive regime of the Soviet Union. As people die in horrendous fashion, on both sides, we must always remember that first and foremost– this is a war like all wars. It is a political war and in this 21st century that war is also being fought on social media.

Ukraine could not win this war on its own, it needs others, and they need to win the social media wars as much as the war on the ground. They need to continue to convince the west that they are the vanguard in holding back Putin and his conspiratorial plans to overtake all of Eastern Europe. To do so, they want into NATO, because a clause in NATO would mandate that the NATO nations would thus have to join the war thereby forcing all the NATO nations to take up the military option. It is indeed scary to consider Putin winning, but it may be equally scary if Ukraine manages to pull all the others into the war. Meanwhile, other countries are now the economic and political hostages. At the controls, the ones who are able to pull the levers, there is the aging and often senseless Joe Biden, a former stand up comic in Zelensky and a former KGB officer in Putin.

The Western media has fully endorsed Ukraine and the countries of the West. Rightly so. The Russians were the ones that started it. But it should always raise concern and be suspicious when we are being exposed to the herd news mentality which is now pervading the West. There is no counter-narrative being suggested or sought out. Putin is evil, Zelensky is good. Russians are committing atrocities, Ukraine is not. But this conflict is more complicated and conflicted than one that can be boiled down to a single aphorism.

Their internal histories go back centuries, not just since Ukraine won their independence. This war like all wars is heavily layered and being fought over economic power, political power, oil interests and military ports. It is being fought to re-draw boundaries and the control of riches; boundaries which have been re-drawn over the centuries several times. Neither side is willing to compromise, although in the end you know someone will have to compromise.

The poor and the uneducated, who are the ones usually enlisted to fight all wars, will continue to fight. Both sides of political leaders will bring up images of patriotism to spur on their troops and try to gain an upper hand in public approbation. Those fighting will face dying a horrifying death, and their family units will continue to be dis-membered and crushed. Nothing good can ever come of this war, which now seems destined to go throughout 2023 — no one should be cheerleading this war.

The war serves only one good purpose and that is to diminish the scope of our problems in Canada.

As our hospitals struggle unable to cope with an influx of flu cases, as winter storms completely disintegrate our airline and transportation infrastructure for days at a time, as unwanted pieces of legislation get pushed forward, as our food bills increase and those on fixed incomes watch their savings diminish, I can not possibly forecast a good or great year.

Admittedly, I’m more of a glass half empty person.

Photo courtesy of Ron Frazier via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

The Dog Days

Well, we have finally reached that part of the year, the mid-August doldrums; the time of the year that Hellenistic astrology connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fear, mad dogs, and bad luck. Check, check, check, check. These are indeed the dog days of summer. 

During this brief summer sojourn there is a couple of weeks when the news of the world and the torturing headlines which endlessly announce another dilemma, another wrong doing, another catastrophe in the making, all fuse into a gauzy shade of blue. 

All those exclamatory headlines and social media alarms which have been demanding your immediate attention, now flow over and around you, the waves of shouted discontent dissipating in the waves of dry heat. It is as if you are under three feet of water looking up at the refracted light just above the surface. You can hear the voices, you can hear the speakers agitation, but the words are muffled, jumbled into drawled out nonsense. The narrative of continuous pessimism during this past year, miraculously transforms in the sticky humidity into something else, something less important. Whether you sit on the sand, waves a few feet away, or stare aimlessly at the embers of a campfire you enter this neutral state of mind. And it’s ok. 

There is a legitimate scientific reason for the “dog days” of August. This is when the Sun occupies the same region of the sky as Sirius (not Siri)  and it is at this time of the year that Sirius is actually the brightest star visible from any point of Earth—part of the Constellation Canis Major; the Greater Dog. 

So as you take comfort in your bliss of unfettered thoughts and guiltless pleasures, it is incumbent upon me —in fact it is my duty to prepare you for the coming months, for the days and months when your stupor will sadly end and you will be forced to re-focus.  

Let’s begin.

Mr. Trudeau, as predicted, only two years into his mandate, has already dissolved Parliament and you will find yourselves at the polling booth lineups on September 20th. The newly appointed Governor General, with her one official language, who has now taken up residence in her fancy digs, has now given him her permission. The story that will be brewing is the raising up of the mailed in ballot, expected to go from 50,000 to 5,000,000 which will cause a delay in announcing the results. Apparently Canadians were not paying attention to the furor in the United States during their last election over mailed in ballots.

You will awaken to a campaign in full swing, a cacophony of practised and unsurprising slogans and issues. Pancakes being flipped throughout the country. The economy, jobs, global warming, the restoration of the middle class, the taxing of the very rich, and of course reconciliation. It will be difficult to tell one leader from the next. Thirty second video and radio sound bites will dominate the air waves; the political managers will insure that every race, gender and relationship will be represented on your television screens. Even though it only constitutes  a four week election campaign you will be numb by the end and likely no better informed.

As you emerge, shaking yourself awake, the Covid vaccine campaigners will be in full force in their fight against the Delta variant. (Just wondering, are the next variants, the Echo and the Foxtrot?) The government will continue to push for further restrictions of your human rights, your ability to travel or attend events throughout the country. The Government is apparently now comfortable decrying that you as a member of Canadian society have no choice. (One government agency was even giving out yellow stars to be worn if you were one of the enlightened chosen.) You must take the sanctioned injection or be barred and banned from participating in society.  So quit pointing out issues such as human rights, show your card or newly minted medical passport and you will be allowed in. After all you are saving lives. 

It being September when you awake, you will find the teachers front and centre. Masks on, masks off. The debate will not likely every involve math or history. It will instead focus on the quality of air filter systems and the teaching of critical race theory.

By the time you rise, there will be another class action lawsuit by the Indigenous. The one currently in seed and should be in full bloom soon will be one concerning the hospitals that were formed in 1945 in the fight against tuberculosis. The Indigenous have started a claim, that they were treated worse than all others when sent to these hospitals. Word of mouth passed over the generations is their evidence and they will never be accused of originality as they are even seeking funds to look for grave sites in and around the hospitals.  

As your eyelids flutter open, you will be quickly alerted to the fact that there has been no progress in the church arsons and no one seems to be talking about it anymore. 

In all likelihood as you re-awaken, soot from the wildfires will still be falling and the wildfires  themselves will still be burning “out of control”.  So depending on where you live some of you may find that your most pressing and singular issue could be your livelihood or your home.

The farmers euthanizing their cattle so they don’t suffer a horrific death and losing their ranches in Westwold and Falkland are not commandeering many headlines, but those that have been greatly affected, contrary to the hope of the NDP government in British Columbia, may not go quietly into the night. There should be some further information on what went on in Lytton. There is a mysterious silence on who or what caused that fire as the police wait for “forensics”.    

As the fires continue, there will be building pressures for the B.C. Wildfire Service to give some accounting as to what happened. Grossly unprepared, under resourced or ill managed?  Questions should be asked.

Afghanistan will have fallen to the Taliban and one of the most inept military and global strategies ever undertaken by the west will be making all foreign policy headlines. The soldiers who died in this losing cause will likely never forget or forgive. Canadians and Trudeau have already agreed to take in 20,000 Afghans (although there seems to be a problem with the logistics of actually doing this) who are being forced to flee in some sort of panacea to an ill thought out and performed military operation. 

Stress will be the mental health issue and the word of the day into the future months. Work stress, school stress, family stress, relationship stress, loneliness stress, financial stress, medical stress, and by the time you awake — the no CRB available stress. 

Unemployment will continue to remain high and inflation once again may be talked about in government circles, unless of course the Liberals return to power. 

We will need more housing for the first time buyers and for the homeless. The homeless have a better chance. 

The opioid crisis will be ongoing and unchanged. People are bored with people dying in the streets apparently.

Bike lanes will continue to grow despite little growth in the number of people riding bikes.

On a more local level, The National Police Federation under President Brian Sauve will continue his political in-fighting with the newly formed Surrey Police Service. His ill thought out and seemingly personal campaign to keep the Mounties in Surrey is reaching new lows, now calling on Ms. Mohan whose son was a victim in the “Surrey 6 ” Mountie case for her support. Apparently she loves the Mounties and is therefore qualified to address the issues of the necessity or sustainability of the new force. “They are like family”. It was during this case, you will remember, that the investigators got caught sleeping or trying to sleep with the suspect girlfriends and almost jeopardized the entire case. Strange case choice for political support.

So, one can only hope that you are enjoying these dog days. They are good days, a chance to re-sort and re-assemble. Time to pay attention to the little  things in life. When these days end you are going to be faced with the new news, which will greatly resemble the old news. The world will be moving forward regardless. 

The policing world will be un-changed, still demanding, still impatient, and still inexorably slow to change. 

In spite of what is going on around the town, around the city or around the globe, policing and the practised art of investigation is a constant, rarely impacted by outside influences. It is virtually un-deterred by pandemic or cries of defunding. The calls will still come in, the lunacy of people interacting with other people will carry on unabated, adrenalin will still on occasion course through your veins, and there will still be the laughs amidst man’s inhumanity to man. 

But by the time you return, another summer will be in the glow of the tail lights, the harvest moon not far off. And once again we will try and make sense of the caterwauling. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by William Prost – Some Rights Reserved

Casting a Blue Ballot

As the Provincial and Municipal politicians dutifully follow behind Mr. Trudeau, like gulls to a BC Ferry, their hands grasping at the dollar bills gracefully floating through the air behind the wake of the woken Prime Minister. With a spring in his step Mr.Trudeau bounces along, freshly shaven, oblivious to all but the CBC paparazzi. Ms. Freeland, scurries behind at a respectful distance trying to put the hose of monies spewing forth in some semblance of a thought out policy. Destined for at least another election to be the gal with the shovel behind the elephants in the political circus. 

Besides making the world go round, money of course is the best harbinger for a nearing election. Trudeau and his crew apparently now confident that they can keep it to a one issue election —the issue being how well they dispensed (no questions asked) monies during a time of “crisis.” There is the secondary issue of climate change nipping at the politico heels but that is more controversial, being that it is still difficult to sell an electric F-150 to the oil patch worker or convince many in the general public that paper straws at A & W is the most efficient way to attack our 1% world portion of greenhouse gases. 

Every election, police organizations and their card carrying officers have always been required to walk a fine political line. Police officers are dictated by political norms to be apolitical. They are told not to express their views or get involved politically, but it is a line which has been crossed many times. Active police officers have even tried to run for political office.  But for the most part they are supposed to stay uninvolved, enforcers of the law, not makers of the law. 

Where you do see officers taking off their officially issued blinders and actually get involved with that pesky public is when they retire or resign. Then they are then able to find their voice. Some have even risen to great heights; usually propelled by a puffed up policing career and resumes filled with Queen Silver Jubilee medals. There is the likes of the illustrious Bill Blair in this country, or the Democratic front runner for the mayor of New York, Eric Adams, who is a former police officer, who has no compunction against championing his relatively brief stint with the NYPD. 

The burning question now though– is who should a cop vote for if in fact Mr. Trudeau calls a Federal election? Should they vote with their head, heart, or wallet? Is the young cop of today a different voter than the more predictable officers of the past, those whose favourite colour has always been blue. 

Traditionally the old cops were the poster children for law and order, right over wrong, all answers black and white. No colours or shades of grey cluttering up a polar argument.  He or she did wrong — therefore he or she must pay goes the dictum.  

So when it comes to the current law and order issue, what is different between the parties? Can the police officer find a clue in who to support by examining the platforms of the political parties?  

Mr.Trudeau is clearly soft on most crime issues, well to be completely accurate, all crime issues. He takes a knee on Parliament Hill or apologizes to the Indigenous for one wrong after another on a continuous basis.

In fact, if you go to the official Liberal party platform, law and order as an issue is nowhere to be found. In their 72 plus page document, crime and the issues that flow from it do not even appear. You could interpret this two ways. Everything is perfect in the policing world or it simply doesn’t warrant attention from the myopic Liberals. 

Mr. O’Toole (who?) who leads that dynamic Conservative Party has only one issue that comes close enough to be called a law and order plank in his platform. That is priority #2 if you are following along. They want to pass an anti-corruption law for no other reason than they think they can then go after the Liberals in Ottawa. So, this historically and tradition law and order party have no promises or political planks to deal with such issues as the growing rural crime, cyber, white collar and organized crime or the insufficiencies in the courts. Nothing even warrants a “promise” or a policy change. 

Then there is Mr. Singh and the New Democratic Party. As this is being written if you go to their “platform” site you are greeted with the message “we are in the process of updating this page”.  It is truly hard to imagine the NDP running anything in this country with any level of success. 

If a cop would like to get financially comfortable, maybe one should be tempted to go towards the NDP. After all, they are the Victim party;  everyone suffers, everyone is misunderstood, each of us a victim of some form of discrimination. They believe that everyone is under “stress”and is wistfully dreaming of a fixed annual salary. Their reasoning is that the government is the best positioned to take care of us all and bring us all to a peaceful harmony.  If they obtained power, an admittedly unlikely prospect, then all officers could theoretically argue, with little effort, to be suffering from PTSD. A medical pension for life would not be far behind. Everyone would be calm in their self induced altered state. There would be no need for police or mood rings.  

The Green Party? Ya, you’re right, not a chance. They are even having trouble keeping their newly-elected leader Annamie Paul around. The former tree hugging leader Elizabeth May now doing her best impression of American Sniper, aiming directly at the new leader. Not enough medical marihuana on Vancouver Island to ease her discontent. 

So, even in this year of defunding the police slogans reverberating through the corridors of policing, none of the parties are interested in law and order issues. So where is the dedicated copper wrapped in concern for his country and the Canadian flag supposed to turn? 

Should the Mounties follow their leader Commissioner Lucki to the ballot box. Clearly, at least publicly, she is about as Liberal as you get. It served her career and it preserves her current job to be the doppelgänger of any preeminent Liberal politician. Maybe she is also aiming for a Senate seat too.  

Is it possible she is a closet conservative and in her fevered dreams she wishes for a rejuvenation of Stephen Harper? Possibly she is tired of spending her lunch hour wandering Sparks Street Mall looking for anyone of colour to pull into the recruiting office. We may never know, so in that sense, we can not let her be the guide as to how one should vote. 

What if the police were to vote with their wallets?  If that was the case there would be no contest. The Liberals would be the uncontested winners, hands down. They just gave the Mounties a 23% raise. Is this  enough to garner all those Red serge types to go “ahhh, he’s not that bad” and biting their tongue, cast that X for the Liberal candidate. These new young Mounties are more career focused than those of old, advancement is important, money is more important. Pension is still God. If the Conservatives got into power and come face to face with the actual debt and deficit would they not be looking for ways to cut back. Government pensions have been a traditional target and that would have the Mounties wringing their hands in worry. Would the Conservatives cut off the thousands of Veterans benefits now going to retired Mounties with poor hearing or a bum leg? 

Ramblings aside, as the election draws near, it is truly disturbing how little choice exists. The parties and their platforms are almost indistinguishable except for the size of their political wallets.  As a country we seem to be in desperate need of a new broom. But, who would dare to step forward in this era of examination, this era of Tik-Tok and Instagram tailored speeches. No one who has stood at the barricades or formed an opinion would make it through the electoral political filters now in place which regulates speech and action. 

To expect the largely publicly funded  5th  Estate  to establish some sort of fire break between what the politicians promise and what they deliver is apparently just wishful thinking. 

Thomas Jefferson famously said “the government you get is the government you deserve”. Really, what did we do to deserve this?  Have Canadians become sheep? Soft in the middle voters, all hoping for that government pension and lulled into a sense of mediocrity? Has our need to not offend given us a government we deserve? 

The cop out answer (pun intended) to not voting is often said —“they are all the same anyway”. That’s too easy.

We need to vote, cops and all Canadians need to find their voice. The police in this country, as in all countries, is a true reflection of the held values that can be found within their boundaries. We need to like what we see.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Liz West – Some Rights Reserved

“Cake”

The officers of the RCMP just got handed a magnificent piece of “cake”. A surprising large slice of a pay raise, a 23% larger piece —albeit spread out in several layers to cover the period from 2017-2022. 

The Mounties have been salivating since 2017, as various municipal agencies boldly ate their cake right in front to them, licking the crumbs from their lips. Times have now changed, the involuntary Mountie patience paying off, the timing exquisite in terms of a possible Federal election. 

Now, the retroactive cheques alone, have them blowing out the candles and dancing in the aisles of Leikin Drive in Ottawa. The spending fairies now twerking in their stetson covered heads; a new boat, a new car, private schools for the kids. 

A young Constable or Corporal are about to get retroactive cheques in excess of $16,000; a Sargent in excess of $19,000;  and a S/Sgt in excess of $21,000. That is indeed mouth watering. 

According to some reports, the calculation of the settlement was based on a 1.5% annual salary increase and a “market adjustment of 1.5 to 2.5 % per year”. In average citizen terms, this market adjustment and new rate of pay was designed to move the RCMP into the top ten paid police forces in Canada. 

Mounties for years, and most recently the NPF have been lamenting their fall from the police “universe”, that comparative scale of other police agencies. They were below 100th place in the rankings, and now they are back in the top 10. A young constable by the year 2022 will now be making $106,576.83 per year. A S/Sgt  $138,463.95 per year. This will add $238 million to the annual RCMP payroll. Sick leave and benefits have not been touched. (The Mounties get unlimited sick leave currently)

All in all they have done very well in the current political climate that continues to spill over from the United States, those bleating cries for defunding and/or decreases in police funding. The negotiators for the union membership of the RCMP would have also been up against a tidal wave of bad news emanating from the Mounties. The last number of years have not been the best for the Mounties pride and reputation.  Daily allegations of assaults captured on video, cries of racism, cries of an unadaptable structure, mindless bureaucracy, ineffectiveness against white collar crime, unsolved homicides, all while burying their heads in their single-minded hunt for diversity and inclusion. The “defunders” would also be quick to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been paid out of Federal taxpayer dollars for the claims of sexual harassment within this once mighty organization.  

To be fully objective, one needs to put the size of this raise in perspective. In the most expensive city in Canada, Vancouver, the average “family” income is $96,423. The average “single” income in Vancouver is $50, 271.00.  Even before the pay increase the most junior Mountie was making more than the average single individual in Vancouver. The current single salary for the RCMP Mountie, with three years experience, will be greater than the combined family income in Vancouver. This is not including benefits and a more than generous sick leave provisions. 

However, this is not a debate as to whether the raise is warranted. Police salaries and the ratcheting up of those salaries has been going on and upwards for years. That is the crux of the issue which needs to be addressed in the near future. The police bargaining logic has always been the same. They have always pointed their organizational fingers at the Municipal groups, saying if they are entitled, we are entitled. Clearly it is a logic primarily found in government circles and does not often work in private industry but it has worked for policing. 

The cost of policing in general terms has been steadily increasing for many, many years and this blogger has previously written about the levels becoming precarious in terms of government budgets and the ability to afford policing as we currently envision it.  

So what goes into the bargaining process for policing? Usually the cost of living in a particular city or area, the danger element of the job ( let’s keep in mind that the operational side of the RCMP worked throughout the pandemic, and no one was throwing them any parades of appreciation). After those considerations things get a little stickier and much harder to measure, especially in the national scope and broadly structured RCMP with its myriad levels of function and administration, where there are hundreds of officers, if not thousands, for which this criteria would not apply. While operational officers worked through Covid, there were many officers “working from home” in Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal as an example.  

Productivity measurement in the RCMP, or any police force, is a tremendously difficult measurement. Number of arrests, type of area you are policing, number of cases you are handling, what measurement tool would you put in place? Some of those would be considered basic elements of police productivity, but they would have almost no bearing at all on other parts of the country and in the roles of the RCMP. 

Like all rising waters which floats all boats there are many officers benefiting greatly from this raise, who likely are not “operational” using the strict definition. In the RCMP there are thousands of officers in the 20,000 strong force who are in no danger whatsoever —other than tripping on their laptop cord on the way to the lunchroom. And therein lies the hitch—and what makes the RCMP unique. No matter what job you are doing in the RCMP, one salary fits all. 

Cost of living calculations is also difficult when considering the RCMP. Local police forces use as part of their negotiation the cost of living in their particular area. In the RCMP you can be living in Manitoba, Vancouver, or Gander Newfoundland. An officer working in Kingston Nova Scotia is getting the same wage as the person working in Vancouver or Toronto. Mounties in small town Canada are often some of the highest paid people in the town while in the more expensive cities they struggle. 

There are many RCMP officers who work hard, work long hours and often sacrifice their families for the greater good. And, it should be pointed out that you can work just as hard in a small rural community as a big city.  It would be difficult to argue that those officers don’t deserve to be in amongst the other police agencies in terms of salaries— especially if you want to keep recruitment levels equal or provide sufficient monetary compensation for a job where everyone feels that you are an easy target, including your own bosses. Whether they should be in the top 10 or the top 20 is a mugs game.   

There are layers to this raise though that have ominous overtones, which could alter policing as practised by the RCMP in this country and change the very face of policing. 

The vast majority of operational RCMP officers are working in “contract” provinces. The various Provinces have signed contracts with the Federal RCMP to police their jurisdictions and have been providing this service for decades running on twenty or twenty-five year contracts. 

The Province in turn, then downloads to the cities or small towns either 90% of the costs or 70% of the cost, depending on the population size. So the Federal government agrees to a settlement of enormous size, and then with sleight of hand they effectively download those costs to the Provinces— through these Provincial Police Service Agreements. 

The towns and cities can only raise money through property taxes, it is their only source of revenue. When the light goes on there will be some serious pushback and an outcry from the already financially strapped communities. No one is broadcasting the fact that in many areas of the Provinces the RCMP is simply not able to fulfil even its current contracts. 

During this negotiation phase, the RCMP has been telling the various Provincial bodies and municipalities that they should be budgeting for a 2.5 % per year raise. Whether some or all have done this remains to be seen. This raise amounts to 4% per year. 

The Alberta government has already stated that this increase in policing budget will have a direct impact on the discussions underway as to forming their own Provincial force. The RCMP’s biggest detachment Surrey, is already in the process of being lost to a municipal style police force. 

The Toronto Star recently did an article on the municipality of  St. Mary’s Nova Scotia, which pays 70% of the cost. The article was mourning the thought of the recent increase in the police budget of $19,000 which they were not anticipating. The monies they allowed for policing paid for 3.5 officers with an annual budget of $513,990.  This  allowed  for one officer for the day shift and one for the night shift. 

This was before this most recent pay increase. To now absorb this just announced increase the town will likely have to forfeit policing coverage, as it is now possible that they will not have enough funds to provide a single police car for a day or night shift. 

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has been warning their members of the upcoming raise and retroactive wages. They have told them to anticipate a 30% increase in Constables pay and a 15% increase in a first class constables wage. Have the cities and towns of B.C been listening? 

In the town of Oliver, B.C. Residents have faced recurring 9%property tax increases for the last number of years, and then when the population exceeded 5,000 residents, the town then found themselves on the hook for 70% of the policing costs. The current anticipated budget to maintain six officers in Oliver is $1.1 million with their increase in population, so to cover this the chief financial officer was anticipating another 14-15% increase in property taxes. This too does not anticipate the current pay raise

The NPF will begin boasting about their hard work soon in obtaining such an increase (and nobody can deny its a very large increase). The same NPF that spent the last year campaigning against the new Surrey Police Service as the Mounties were —“cheaper”. The NPF knew from the outset that the Mounties were going to get more expensive, so their campaign was at best duplicitous.  

This agreement reeks of a settlement that was designed to keep everyone happy. The Liberals felt the need to move the Mounties up regardless of the possible outcome for those in the municipal and Provincial trenches. That price will be paid later on, when people have forgotten and the Liberals are hoping to have been re-elected to a majority government. 

The alternative for the Provinces is that the free spending Trudeau and Freeland come riding in once again to dole out additional funds to re-imburse the very hard pressed Municipalities and rural areas.   

Otherwise, this may be the pay raise which generates police lay-offs. 

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprising, there is very little being reported in the media. The agreement has not been ratified as of yet, so it hasn’t been made “official”, but why write about the public security being threatened when instead you can report on the various ways to avoid sun exposure in a heat wave. 

Meanwhile the celebratory dance will continue in the detachment dance hall under that scraggly Buffalo head, and there is now plenty of cake to go around.  Pre-retirement aging Mounties have even found their dancing legs, and will decide to stay in for awhile, to get the old “best five” in terms of salary leading to pension. That could be good or bad.

For the most part we should be happy for those hard working Mounties, but we should not lose sight of the fact that there is always a cost to unbridled largesse. There will be fundamental policing changes in small towns and cities throughout this country. The once “cheaper” Mounties are no longer a bargain which may stir up political dreams of an independent and more accountable police force. 

The RCMP executive for the time being has gone deep, running silent, not wishing to rock the boat as the executives themselves now can enter their own negotiations for a pay raise, “ratcheting up” on the unionized contract. Commissioner Lucki did say this was a “monumental day for the RCMP”. 

But, as the taxpayers begin to pay more, for less and less policing services— this pay raise will not likely be quite as comfortable for management, or quite as defensible to the Canadian public.   

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons – Stephanie Chapman – Some Rights Reserved

An update:

Commissioned officers have settled. In fact they settled back in March 2022. 1.75% for every year from 2017 to 2022. In total a 18% raise over the next six years. For added perspective, In April 2017 a Sr Inspector made $134,507. In April 2022 a Sr Inspector will be making $156,682. A Supt from $149,303 to $171,566. And so on..Deputy Commissioner from $214,988 to $237,352..All in all a pretty good raise, but apparently the officers involved in the negotiation were upset, that they didn’t get the equivalent 22% that went to the non-commissioned.

Let them Eat Cake

As you or may not be aware, there are three classes or categories of employees within the RCMP according to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act.  The first are those that have representation; those officers now being represented by the novice union, the National Police Federation (NPF), and the officers are now dutifully paying union dues. The second category are those who are managerial, but are excluded from representation, civilian members for the most part. The third and final category are the officers of the RCMP who have no representation. This final category are the upper managerial ranks —Inspector and above, purposely distinguished from the rank and file by their “white shirts” and their brass laden uniforms. 

No doubt you are wondering how these “white shirts” are faring in this day and age when the RCMP is being pummelled from all sides. They have had no pay increases either since 2017— despite this loftier status.

To be sure many of those in the elevated ranks have already gathered up their challenge coins and headed for the exits, driven out by old age or a sense of foreboding. Some are clearly worried about their perceived paltry pensions and are seeking salvation and further riches on the civilian horizon; bound for guarding the pipeline, the Independent Investigations Office or dare one mention the new Surrey City Police.  

But for those that remain behind and for all those that aspire to become one of the knighted, there is still some hope. 

The general public may be a little amazed to to learn that these officers, who have gone from one disaster to another in the last number of years, feel that they need a pay raise and an increase in benefits, usually the reward for a job well done.

However, in the policing world, pay raises are the result of a constant ratcheting effect, a keeping up with the Jones’ kind of rational. 

That aside, the difference this year is that for the most part, their pay and benefits are going to be paradoxically tied to the unionized rank and file and the capabilities of the union negotiators of the National Police Federation.  

Recently, I listened in to a recorded zoom style meeting, billed as a “Town hall” meeting which was open to all of the white shirts of the RCMP.  Admittedly, it was a bit like crashing a get together at a Masonic Hall, as one could not help but feel that by listening in, without an invitation, was somehow illicit. 

The meeting was chaired by C/Supt Leslie Ohare and Supt. Bert Ferreira who have been overseeing the “Officer Consultative Committee”. This committee is designed to be an intermediary or representative body for the officers with the Treasury Board Secretariat. The TBS will end up making the final determinations as to the white shirted officers in terms of pay and benefits and is the same Treasury Board Secretariat that is currently negotiating with the NPF. 

So things have now changed with the coming of age of this union movement. The white shirts are for the first time facing Treasury Board, cap in hand as usual, but this time dependent on the NPF settlement. The reason is that Treasury Board must know the end results of those negotiations, before they can make a determination as to the rates of pay for the senior executive. 

There were two terms heard when listening in on this meeting with reference to the demands of the executive and that is what they call the “pay line” and the need for there to be “no inversion”.  In simple terms, they just mean that depending on what a Staff Sargent gets will by necessity determine what an Inspector gets. The accepted labour relations argument being that there is a need for pay separation and also satisfying the need to incentivize these higher positions. They don’t want some lower position getting greater pay and benefits than the white shirted, which would be an “inversion” of the salaries. It is a caste system after all, so one could not bear the thought that some operational lower rank could surpass an administrative manager, no matter what their respective roles and responsibilities. 

So, now the white shirts are cheering on the NPF. Ironic to say the least considering that for decades these same managers argued and fought the battle against unionization.

In terms of the current ongoing NPF negotiations, Treasury Board confirmed during this meeting that the negotiations are currently scheduled into June 2021. They are meeting monthly (the next meeting is scheduled for March 2-4, 2021) and all  are hoping to have a deal done by the summer –which would require ratification by the rank and file and a possible pay raise by the Fall of 2021. 

Should no agreement be reached and arbitration needed, it was also learned that this would delay any settlement for at least another year. One would think that this would not be a very sellable position for the NPF.  

Originally, the NPF was arguing publicly for a 17% pay request, but lately in their news releases or interviews they seem to be avoiding those bald numbers in terms of what they are asking, likely thinking that it is better to slightly dampen expectations. One would have to think, that inflation alone for the last few years would probably guarantee an 8% increase. That in itself would bring the 131st rated RCMP constable from $86,110 to $92,998. This is still a long way from the Delta Police who are currently ranked number one at $107,840. Even third ranked Edmonton is at $106,262, still leaving a discrepancy of $13,264 per year. 

Of course no one knows what the free spending Liberals are thinking. The Treasury Board makes recommendations to the Cabinet and they base their recommendations on three major factors; the size of the total compensation package, the internal relativity to other similar agencies, and the “state of the economy”. One of the negotiators with Treasury Board described the negotiations with the NPF as “the mood being receptive” but added that there were still “many issues outstanding”. 

During this “town hall” the officers asked why they couldn’t get their pay raise immediately, but were given the standard answer of needing to wait for the NPF.  These same officers are  also now demanding (or asking for) : – unlimited sick leave, an increase in their pay to make up for the fact that they do not get overtime, and forty more hours of annual leave. They were also seeking greater benefits. On their list were increases in the dental service allowance; an increase in the PSHCP dependent coverage and an increase in life insurance from $160,000 to $500,000 with the employer paying all premiums. 

These demands would or should not be considered out of line in terms of executive compensation. However, it will be difficult for the general public to rationalize demands for pay raises with the demonstrated fallibility of the RCMP senior ranks. The RCMP has hit a new low in terms of recruitment, morale, pay, and the implementation of the diversity and inclusion agendas. 

The last few years has also watched them pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from the harassment suits, has seen report after report demanding changes of the RCMP. Shortages in manpower have been termed a “crisis” and over 3,000 complaints were filed against the RCMP in 2017 alone. The use of force during this era of Freddie Gray has risen 10% in the last three years. It has overseen operational and investigational disasters such as Mark Norman and are now waiting for the fallout from Port au Pique, and Cameron Ortis. An internal audit in 2020 said that the Mounties were accepting applicants who were poorly qualified and some even with criminal records. That the emphasis was now on “the quantity of applicants with less focus on the quality”. The solution to these recurring pitfalls is not either obvious or on the horizon.

The senior ranks throughout history have promoted their distinct and honourable position in the RCMP. They are to be saluted when passing, paying deference to their wisdom, experience and at having reached the upper echelons of a world class police department. All of these perceived notions can now be effectively argued and challenged. Promotion to this group has become diluted by policy, dwindling experience and best intentions. The red serge is becoming threadbare, exposed threads being pulled on a daily basis.

This fraying of this once proud organization has been overseen by this same group who are demanding, in fact assuming, they are to be rewarded nevertheless.

Like Marie Antoinette telling the throngs to eat cake in lieu of enough bread to eat, they seem to have “a frivolous disregard for the starving peasants and a poor understanding of their plight.”

Their personal financial goals on the other hand are seemingly quite clear. The senior ranks of the RCMP will continue to demand their cake.

Photo courtesy of Irina via Flickr Commons – some Rights Reserved

Bowing to Ignorance

It was hard not to feel sorry, or a better word may be uncomfortable for the beleaguered Commissioner Lucki, or maybe even the befuddled Deputy Commissioner Zablocki. These two individuals have risen to the upper echelon of the Mounties and have been drinking in that rarefied air, playing to a political agenda in relative peace and harmony. But here they were, in the last few days, cornered and out-gunned by the more politically correct, the masters of appeasement. Even they could not have imagined this looking glass world of righteous indignation which was being thrust upon them with increasing ferocity.  

Through their careers they have been promoted and extolled for their adherence to the themes of diversity and inclusion, and in many cases had to abandon ethics and principle. They were required to chant in unison the mantra of the enlightened progressives. Go along to get along would have been their placard as they eyed and encircled that executive corner office. In this and that environment there was absolutely no tolerance for dissension or counter-point. Similar minds were recruited and pulled up the ladder by the other similarly minded. 

Say nothing offensive, say nothing for which you could later be held accountable. Job experience or the position that was held was a distant second to conforming to “the system”. Pandering to those favoured interest groups and following the progressive line has been “systemic” for a number of years. 

But in the last number of weeks, we reached a point of significant accounting, a “crisis” if you prefer the new word for news. Of course I am referring to this newly professed outrage of police brutality and rampant racism in the RCMP, all of which had been ingrained by some sort of conspiratorial process.

The force of the cable news pushed Ms. Lucki out of hiding. Most of all the throngs were demanding acquiescence. Like the Papal blessing from the Vatican, they wanted the head of the RCMP to publicly acclaim their beliefs and proclamations of “systemic racism”.

So, she consented to do an interview with that bastion of special interest bias, the CBC, to be conducted by the“Senior Political correspondent” Rosemary Barton. Ms. Barton, who no doubt feels that she is the epitome of the probing journalist, is well connected to Justin Trudeau and the inner Liberal sanctum. Ms. Lucki must have believed or may have been comforted in the fact that she was in normally friendly territory. 

Throughout this interview, it was clear that Ms. Lucki was referring to her notes when she was being pressed on the terminology of “systemic racism”. Finally, Ms Barton pushed, so “you you didn’t answer the question, do you believe there is systemic racism in policing organizations, including yours in the country?” 

What followed was an inept stumbling meandering response to that “interesting question”.  Clearly, Ms. Lucki knew it was coming, clearly it was the thematic background for the entire interview. It was also equally clear that  the CBC was pressing to have Lucki admit on camera to “systemic” racism. The masses demanded it. Ms. Lucki was not ready. 

Ms. Lucki chose to respond by saying that she was confused by the many definitions of “systemic racism”.  One had a mental picture of Ms. Lucki surrounded by Funk and Wagnals, Oxford English, or Miriam-Webster dictionaries desperately thumbing the pages trying to gain some insight. But, it was all to no avail apparently, frustrating she said, as there were so many “versions” of it. 

It should be noted that the interview with Ms. Lucki was a day or so after the interview given by Mr. Zablocki— who in after an apparent dose of sodium amytal stated that there was no “systemic” racism in the RCMP. Unfortunately, the dosage wore off a few hours later. 

Still struggling, Lucki looked down at her notes to say “if you mean unconscious bias” —then she would admit that the RCMP was guilty as charged. 

The interview painfully continued and Ms. Barton opined at one point that in this country “people feel scared calling the police”.  Even this outrageous comment did not force the docile, pliant Commissioner to react in defence. She trotted out her tested and true response: “We need to get better”…”my expectations are high”. She went on to agree to review the carotid hold which was still in use, to bring better accountability through possible use of body cams, as that was part of her “digital policing strategy”. After all “we need to get better”.

The interview concluded with the Commissioner inappropriately telling Ms. Barton “thanks for your respectful questions”. She was clearly relieved; but this too would be short lived. 

A day or so later, Trudeau threw them all under the bus. 

Of course, there is systemic racism in the RCMP according to Trudeau. It was everywhere. 

No one missed the irony that this was coming from the three times “black face” Prime Minister, the white privileged Prime Minister. 

Shortly thereafter, predictably, Ms. Lucki turtled, fell into the prone position, hands over her head and ears, instinctively warding off the blows of the persistent masses. Through the safety of a press release said:

“…I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP…I should have”. 

So given this state of confusion, this intrepid blogger feels obligated to help these poor confused mandarins of the RCMP.  

“System”, from which the word systemic originates, is referred to as the “structure, organization, order, complex, administration” etc. If one stretches the definition and refers to “the system” in the modern vernacular, one could be referring to “the ruling class, the regime, bureaucracy”.

So follow along you poor, confused, Mountie managers, if one is claiming “systemic racism” one is claiming that the bureaucracy, the administration, the laws of this country, the structure of the RCMP, is in fact racist. Systemic racism to exist and meet the definition, must be built into the rules and the structure of the organization. Miriam Webster says that “systemic” means that it is “fundamental to a predominant social, economic or political practise”

Does anybody inside the RCMP believe that to be the case? 

Of course, you are allowed to have that opinion but, there is a convincing argument to be made that in the last twenty or thirty years that the administration and the bureaucracy, and the management of the RCMP organization has in fact been the exact opposite. 

Affirmative action hiring, recruiting, promotion, transfer policies, have in fact been tailored to meet the demands of the growing multi-racial society of Canada. Community policing, school liaison programs, Youth Intervention, and the like have all been tailored to meet the growing demand of diversity and inclusion. (How successful they have been is quite another matter. )

Nevertheless the Commissioner of the RCMP (and there have been no dissenting voices among the other RCMP managers) has now implied that everyone and everything in the Mounties is racist. The entire system. 

This charge is absolute nonsense. But, no one is daring to step in front of the stampeding herd. The herd has declared it to be, therefore it is. Celebrities and sports figures joined in.

It should be noted that when we go to these protestors, or their talking heads and seek specific examples of this systemic racism none are proffered.

Chief Allan Aden of the Athabascan Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta stated “If a white man is denying systemic racism, that is systemic racism”.  This is the level of intelligent debate in this country.  If I deny I am a sexual predator, I am therefore a sexual predator. 

This very same logic was used by the minority leaders of the Opposition NDP who has never missed a cause or a bandwagon on which to jump. So he was poised for this latest cause. He proposed a “unanimous consent” bill, for all parties to agree, that the RCMP was systemically racist and that RCMP officers were killing the Indigenous and blacks in this country. It was clearly an act of grand-standing, and after making his support speech, he pompously sat in his seat, assuming all would agree.

All political parties voted for it, a disturbing lack of support for the police to say the least, but one single member of Parliament, Alain Therrien for the Bloc PQ, said no.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, jumped up, clearly upset. He then called the Member of Parliament a “racist” for not going along with the bill.

He was a racist according to Mr. Singh because he didn’t agree with Mr. Singh. The same logic as the Chief.

Justin Trudeau, went further and refused to criticize Mr. Singh, despite Mr. Singh having been removed from the Commons for the day for his “un-Parliamentary” comments. His justification was that Mr. Singh was a “racialized” leader and therefore it was forgivable.  

These last few days, the seemingly endless accusations continue to be stoked by the irresponsible of this country. It is discouraging and is tearing at the very fabric of this country. The lack of informed narrative, and the often ridiculous proposals to counter this ill-defined problem have left many parts of this country speechless. The pundits and media commentators in this progressive world have gone from being expert on the coronavirus to experts on policing with often comedic speed. A quote from Oscar Wilde resonates, “by giving us opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community”.

Where will it all end? When will reasonable dialogue return? It is difficult to say. This blogger never imagined a time when political dialogue in this country was so blatantly biased and absent of substance. The level of this demand for conformity rivals any historical third world despot.

The tearing down of statues and the rewriting of history, the calls for defunding the police, and the chants for a revamping of the RCMP will one day run into the wall of reality. These protests and cries for reformation are not based on any intimate knowledge of policing, they are based on slogans. The day when the social worker arrives at the domestic dispute or to deal with the mental health patient instead of the police, is a very long way off. 

When someone can actually point to systemic racism with an objective rationale, then we can begin to address it. The danger now is knee-jerk policy to appease the masses and Trudeau is already floating trial balloons. Most will end up meaningless, a let them eat cake moment and of no intrinsic value. 

As for the Commissioner and the rest of the Executive of the RCMP. Maybe they should consider that now is the time to fade into the night. Their time to show leadership arrived and they shrivelled before your very eyes. They should be bowing their heads in shame.

Some one should also wake up the National Police Federation from their slumber. Although willing to speak out about the formation of a Surrey Municipal Force, they have now conveniently lost their voice, when their officers are being slandered, ridiculed, and even endangered in the heat of these protests.

Maybe, it’s time for the police of this country to march on Ottawa. Maybe it’s time that the ground level police nationally form a strong and singular political voice. It may be time for their protest. And if I was planning the parade route, it would definitely go by Mr. Trudeau’s “cottage”, and end by occupying Mr. Singh’s office.

I wonder who they would call to remove these 68,000 blue uniformed protestors? Maybe a social worker.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons and Yannick Gingras – 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 war in Strathcona…

In a recent foray into the Main and Hastings corridor, an area known to this blogger for over 30 years, it was truly shocking to see the level of human desperation which continues to consume that area. What have we to show for the last decades of effort? Seemingly nothing. A whole community is under siege and burning before our very eyes. The area known as Strathcona is gradually being swallowed whole by an industrial level of drugs and the suffocating undercurrent of violence. Mental anguish and conflict layered on top of excruciating poverty.

This despite 30 years of a victim centric infrastructure which has been created, developed and now maintained by myriad levels of social workers, housing advocates, drug counsellors, medical staff, firefighters, police, sanitation workers and all those academics that like to “study” the problem. The advocates of all stripes have been continually moving in and out of these garbage strewn streets and alleyways, pausing long enough to relay their latest theory on how to correct this miasma of despair. Playing in the background, on some sort of victimization verbal loop, is the ever constant narrative of the “oppressed”, the “downtrodden” and the “unable to fend for themselves”.

It is scary place. It is depressing, but it is equally disgusting that in a country as bountiful as Canada, that this monument to everything that ails this society, stands in proud defiance.

Where has it all gone so wrong? Millions and millions of dollars expended in this apparent never-ending war on a drug fuelled mental health epidemic. It is a magnet which draws from all over the country. A bizarrely twisted tourist attraction, for all the wrong reasons. A place where even the hardened from other cities are truly taken aback at such a level of lawlessness and depravity.

Drastic and innovative action is clearly long overdue. Not innovation designed by the leftist victim advocating culture wing of our society, but by some with a modicum of common sense and where individual responsibility becomes part of the solution.

But the very first step, desperately needed and absolutely essential, is an honest managerial and expenditure review. A macro look over decades of funds and governmental decisions. A far reaching and inclusive appraisal of what has been spent and the effectiveness of those expenditures and the managers who have been overseeing the policies and processes for years.

The Washington Post recently unveiled a sweeping story sourced by thousands of pages of information which looked at the true cost of the war in Afghanistan. One can not help but be taken by the many parallels to what seems to be a similar story about the the war zone at Hastings and Main.

What the Washington Post and others found was that the war and the efforts of the Americans and the many other countries, including Canada, in Afghanistan has proven to be not just a failure, but a failure of epic proportions. It’s worth looking at their findings.

It was in 2001 that President George Bush announced the first military action in Afghanistan with the goal to disrupt terrorist operations and attack the Taliban. Today, eighteen years later, the Taliban control much of the country and are killing Afghan security force members sometimes in the hundreds per week. Even though the leadership of the Taliban moved to Pakistan, they have now expanded into Yemen, northern Africa, Somalia and Syrian.

Over $10 billion was spent on counternarcotics. Despite this, Afghanistan remains the source of over 80% of the global supply of heroin. Before the war the Afghanistan government had almost completely eradicated opium when the actual Taliban were in power. Opium production has now quadrupled.

They spent $87 billion to train Afghan military and police forces yet today no one believes that the Afghan military could support themselves. The army is continually fighting desertion and casualties making them replace over a third of their Forces every year.

War related spending has doubled the size of the Afghan economy but the current rate of unemployment is 25%. Corruption in all its forms still runs rampant.

$30 billion was spent on infrastructure and reconstruction. Most of that money has been considered “wasted”. The Inspector General documented over $15.5 billion lost to fraud and abuse between 2008 and 2017.

$500 billion on interest to finance the war spending, as all the monies have been borrowed which will take years to pay.

Over $1.4 trillion will be spent on veterans that fought in post 9/11 wars by 2059. About $350 billion has already gone to medical and disability care for veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are estimating the total spending bill for the medical problems, over the next 40 years, to amount to another $1trillion.

Afghanistan remains one of the largest sources of refugees and immigrants.

What has this got to do with all of us? It demonstrates the problem when incremental spending and single narratives are accepted as gospel and when the problem is allowed to fester year after year. It demonstrates the need for a great big spotlight to be shone on this smaller version of Afghanistan. Not a study by an interest group that continually circles the DTES, but an independent study, independent of all who have been part of the thirty years of problems.

The usual self-described experts always avail themselves to the cameras and microphones, to riff or to lecture the rest of us on what they believe is the cause of the problems. They have no shortage of people to blame, but that blame seems to stop short of any introspection.

The Libby Davies or Jenny Kwans, or the Pivot Legal Society do not need to be consulted in this proposed study. Their versions are already clear and predictable. They are always pointing to some level of government not providing “more”. The money being demanded is an endless request which re-invents itself with another justification, in one form or other, for the next year.

Money clearly is the common cure all whether you are asking the firefighters or the housing advocates.

Each agency demands annual funding, taking credit for successes which go unchallenged or doesn’t seem to reflect the reality.

There have been studies and counter-studies over this continuum. The studies, like the DTES many services often operate in silos and not always in a singular approach.

Donald McPherson, is a typical example. The former drug policy co-ordinator for the city of Vancouver (who now heads another Drug Policy Coalition) talks about the 10 year plan outlined in the Vancouver Agreement in 2000. It was designed to improve housing and social welfare. He blames the collapse on the Harper government.

Mr. McPherson in this proposed future study should also be ignored.

Governments themselves have come and gone, each offering up their particular version of what is needed. Liberals and NDP equally share responsibility for these disastrous results. None of them take the time to look in the mirror.

On one side of the ledger, groups like the BC Centre for Disease Control takes credit for saving 3000 lives between April 2016 and December 2017.

On the other side of that account is that 2177 people also died in this Province during this time.

There is no shortage of positive spin.

Twenty-three operating supervised injection sites claim to have saved 230 deaths. The overall goal of these sites is to decrease “needle sharing”. Their “observational studies” dutifully report favourable results. Their evidence is that fewer people are “injecting in public”. Anybody walking down Hastings may disagree.

The annual operating cost for the injection sites alone is $ 2,948,101.

The injection sites define “saving lives” and count those that have been treated by “agonist treatment” or “opioid replacement” treatment where the people get put on a methadone program.

Meanwhile those running the Needle Exchange program say that Insite is exaggerating the numbers.

In 2017, 60,000 naloxone kits were distributed. At roughly $70 apiece that works out to about $4.2 million this year just on the kits.

Health officials claim that through their services that they have saved “hundreds of lives” but the numbers often vary according to the individual study quoted. The dearth of agreed upon results and the fact that there is a lot of self-reporting remains one of the major roadblocks to any comprehensive study.

But the fail safe fallback to any counter-argument is the oft quoted maxim that “even one life saved” means that their programs can be deemed a “success”.

On the negative side of the ledger.

Calls to Oppenheimer Park in 2019 for the Vancouver City Police have increased over 50%. Shots fired calls have increased over 800%, weapons calls have increased 300% and assaults in progress are up over 17%.

Vancouver City police estimate the policing costs for Oppenheimer park encampment are over a million dollars so far this year. That is for an encampment of about 100 people in amongst the 2700 estimated homeless in the area.

Meanwhile the BC Centre for Substance Abuse and the University of British Columbia in a recent study argued that the police need to stop policing the DTES because it leads to drug users fearing the police, intimidated, and being harassed by the police.

How did they come to this conclusion: they interviewed 72 persons in the DTES and spent 200 hours hanging around overdose prevention sites. They feel police shouldn’t be checking for drugs, or running persons for warrants and such minimal breaches of the law.

What is not answered is how do they propose that we “de-criminalize” if the people are still doing criminal acts?

In the last five years the number of break-ins to vehicles has doubled to 6538 incidents in the Strathcona area alone.

Vancouver City Police records show in 2018 there were 666 assaults and 68 robberies in the Strathcona area.

In the single month of June 2019 in this small geographic area there were 70 assaults, 106 thefts from vehicles, 11 robberies and 31 break-ins to businesses and residences.

To add insult to injury the number of homeless has increased from 2181 people last year to 2223 this year.

Like the war in Afghanistan over 18 years have now gone by since Mr. McPherson’s study in 2000.

Does anyone doubt that during this time there have been misuses of funds, fraud and corruption? Does anyone believe that governments are providing a full accounting of the costs?

Maybe, just maybe, government spending for more counsellors, housing or drugs is not the answer.

Maybe, it is unjustifiable, or maybe an alternative to a policy of more of the same is out there somewhere.

However, it is difficult to contemplate any alternative which does not include forced rehabilitation; or removal from the core (sorry Pivot Legal Society).

The only way to honestly answer is to see the entire package of funds and resources which have been expended over the many years; the layers of government action and in-action; the levels of bureaucracy; the levels of private industry and the number of social housing models which have been proposed and tried over the decades.

The results may be shocking, but nothing less than a Royal Commission level of study is needed. Just as importantly, it must all be seen by a fresh set of eyes–eyes from outside the DTES, eyes with no vested interest in the promulgation of the current norm.

The first thing is the most difficult admission, especially for those that have toiled under the most trying of circumstances with the best of intentions, is the admission that as of today, it has all been a massive failure. On a small scale, this may be our Afghanistan.

*All crime statistics are from the Vancouver City Police records, as reported by the Vancouver Courier.

Photo courtesy of Dan Toulget of the Vancouver Courier – Some Rights Reserved

Did the RCMP purposely aid the Liberals in the election?

On September 24 2019 Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives announced to the public that there would be an impeachment inquiry of the 45th President of the United States Donald Trump. It had all been initiated by a “whistleblower”, and for the last month there have been a half dozen witnesses paraded before the Justice Committee overseeing the “investigation”. Most of their evidence has already been corroborated by a team of investigators. Several persons including the U.S. Attorney General William Barr have been implicated.

Let’s compare the speed and efficacy of the U.S. with the Canadian ability to investigate political over-toned “investigations”.

Go back to February 2019, when former Attorneys General Peter McKay and Douglas Lewis (albeit Conservatives under Harper and Mulroney) in an open letter to the RCMP requested that the RCMP investigate “fully and fairly” allegations of obstruction on the part of Justin Trudeau and several of his inner circle. In total, five former attorneys-general also came forward, calling for this same investigation.

An official complaint which would under normal circumstances trigger a formal “investigation”. This is relevant because the RCMP from the beginning, in the odd public utterance or reference, has been glossing over the “investigation” terminology. This in itself should raise an eyebrow.

Is it that they don’t like to implicate themselves in anything for which they will be asked to be accountable? Are they reluctant to even go so far as to use the very phrase just to avoid any taint associated with the word “investigation”?

Even seven months after this initial complaint, in August, the RCMP stated in a press release that “The RCMP is examining this matter carefully with all available information and will take appropriate steps as required” according to spokesperson Chantal Payette. Examining? Carefully?

It is not often that one sees this obvious dancing on the head of a pin. An investigation being referred to as a “careful” examination. The evidence was continuing to mount that the RCMP was more than reluctant to call this an investigation. Any reason for this terminological dance could only come down to politics.

The “careful examination” wording came in spite of a separate report from the Ethics Commissioner which was issued this summer. In the report the Ethics Commissioner concluded rather emphatically that indeed the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, had in fact violated the Conflict of Interest Act.

Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion stated in his findings that Trudeau had “improperly pressured former Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to reach a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC Lavalin”.

The Ethics commissioner’s report did not stop there. It described:” flagrant attempts to influence Wilson-Raybould…directly and through the action of his agents to circumvent, undermine and ultimately attempt to discredit the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions”.

We also learned, maybe even more significantly, that even though the Ethics Commission produced their report, they also remarked that their investigation had in effect been hampered in gathering the testimony of nine (9) witnesses. It had effectively been blocked from gathering further evidence by the Prime Minister’s office.

Mr. Dion was damning in his criticism: “Decisions that affect my jurisdiction under the Act, by setting parameters on my ability to receive evidence should be made transparently and democratically by Parliament, not by the very same public office holders who are the subject to the regime I administer. ”

This of course created a bit of kerfuffle in those old limestone buildings and a tingling in the groin of the Conservatives. So the matter which had begun to fade from the public conscience came to life once again.

All the righteous Liberals who were implicated, pointed to the clerk of the Privy Counsel Office, Ian Shugart, as their scapegoat. They said it was out of their hands because Mr. Shugart was, conveniently, described as the ultimate guardian of “cabinet confidences”. To underline their lack of culpability, Cameron Ahmad, a spokesman for Trudeau, said that the PMO had no role in the Clerk’s decision. However, he didn’t dawdle on the fact that Trudeau could have waived that privilege.

In other words the foxes were guarding the henhouse.

Now, in a freely functioning and unencumbered police agency, whose job is to ferret out crime, you would have thought this alone would have spurred the Mounties to at least think that they needed to get moving on their separate investigation.

There are a small group of people who would be central to this “investigation” or “examination”. That would be of course, Jody Wilson-Raybould, Gerald Butts and Michael Wernick. They testified in a very public forum, to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in late February and March of 2019.

In other words the version of three of the key players, all of which would have to be instrumental in any complaint of obstruction had now exposed the details, in their respective versions of course. Or as Wilson-Raybould likes to call it “her truth”. She also later revealed that in the spring of 2019 she had already been interviewed by the RCMP.

It is indeed rare for any investigator or investigative team, to have the bulk of the statement evidence handed to them on a platter and already on the public record, which would it make it difficult to refute at some later date. The speed of this investigation and the complexity of it was greatly aided by these details, making it even more difficult for someone to argue that this was a long drawn out investigative process.

There was a bit of a slip up in this iron curtain that had been put up by the Commissioner when on September 17, 2019 Lucki during a news conference which had been called to deal with the latest embarrassment for the the RCMP. Wannabe spy, Cameron Ortis (an apparently favoured child of ex-Commissioner Bob Paulson but that may be another blog) had been found out and charged with seven counts of having contravened the Security of Information Act.

It was during this rather painful press conference that Lucki was asked– off topic –about the SNC-Lavalin investigation. The ever smiling cherub faced Lucki grew a little ashen, stumbled a bit, but came back with:

“Today we are here for the Ortis investigation so I don’t want to comment very much…but we do take all investigations seriously and investigate to the fullest”. The counter narrative to this of course would be that the RCMP doesn’t investigate fully and some of those investigations are not to be taken seriously.

Lucki however with her repost did not get her out from under the press glare. After the press conference was over, no doubt once she was back in the safe hands of the media liasion group, she discovered that she had gone off her earlier practised talking points. She had committed the sin of referring to the matter an “investigation” and not an “examination”.

That political tiger, Andrew Scheer, hiding in the Conservative weeds leaped on this quickly; tweeting immediately that his nemesis Justin was in fact “under investigation.”

The Mounties had to act quickly.

An RCMP spokesperson Cpl Caroline Duval came to the rescue of Commissioner Lucki and provided a clarification. She re-framed the words of her boss saying that her leader’s statement was just “a general statement about investigations”. She was able to say this with a straight face. For good measure she underlined the fact that “The RCMP will not comment on the SNC-Lavalin issue”.

Phew, back to calling it an “issue”, not an “investigation”. Scheer had to take back his tweet as a result of the RCMP clarification.

Since September and up to the time of this blog, the RCMP are still saying nothing. The usual “no comment”— a stance which seems to be becoming commonplace under Ms. Lucki’s reign.

In October just before the election, the Globe and Mail further revealed that the RCMP will put the investigation on “hold” pending the “election”. In the Globe story they confirmed that there was indeed an “investigation” into the SNC-Lavalin affair, and that the Mounties had been stymied, like the Ethics Commission, by the lack of witnesses or documentation that would support the allegations due to cabinet privilege.

The decision to put any investigation on “hold” pending the election is alarming.

If true, the RCMP may have crossed the line. Were they now purposefully aiding the Liberals in the election?

At this time it might be beneficial to go back in history. One must also keep in mind that Commissioner Lucki at that time was reporting to Ralph Goodale, the Minister of Public Safety.

Back in 2006, we were also in the midst of an election campaign, one which eventually would bring Harper to power. The Liberals were suffering in that the “sponsorship scandal” was tainting them; although still leading in the polls.

The RCMP Commissioner at the time was Giuliano Zaccardelli, who announced during this election period that there was a criminal investigation into an alleged leak from the Federal budget. The Liberals had decided not to tax income trusts and that information leaked out from somewhere in the Finance Department.

Commissioner Zaccardelli named Ralph Goodale in that investigation and there were calls for his resignation. Goodale was eventually cleared and an official in the Finance department was eventually charged. Many argued at the time that this allegation and investigation was a fatal blow to the Liberal campaign, who ended up losing to Harper.

The RCMP complaints commissioner of that time looked into the matter, but concluded that there was no evidence that Zaccardelli meddled in the election for political purposes. Interestingly, Zaccardelli refused to answer questions during the investigation by the complaints commission.

The parallel is obvious and a little disarming.

So what can we conclude from all this?

a) The Mounties would have had to enter into an investigation. Anytime a formal complaint is made, a file is started, a file number assigned. Whether the investigation is big or small. In this case, several individuals had made complaints, and formalized those complaints in writing. If the RCMP did not open a formal complaint, they were simply derelict in their duties. Call it an examination if you are so inclined, but there is no doubt a process was started.

b) What was being alleged is a serious offence.

The definition of Obstruction under Section 139(1) of the Criminal Code: “every one who wilfully attempts in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice in a judicial proceeding, a) by indemnifying or agreeing to indemnify a security, in any way and either in whole or in part …”

This is termed an indictable offence; with a maximum 10 year sentence.

c) The investigation may have been hampered by Cabinet confidences which blocked testimony and documentation. But, is there an obligation on the RCMP to report that fact; to report that indeed the investigation had been compromised by the Privy Counsel office and that the PM did not waive those privileges? Does the public have a right to know this fact? Justin Trudeau Prime Minister Mandate Letter to Ralph Goodale in Public Safety, emphasizes the need “to set a higher bar for openness and transparency in government”. If only they chose to live by their words.

d) Has sufficient time passed to have conducted this investigation? The complaint was originally received in February 2019, so at the time of this writing nine months have gone by. This is more than sufficient time to have conducted this investigation. The case was not complicated, the numbers involved relatively small and the documentation for the most part would have been emails. The key witness Raybould-Wilson was interviewed in the “spring” and even some of the email documentation was willingly provided by some of the witnesses.

That being said HQ division operates at a pace of a snail on heroin, so it is still possible that they have not concluded their investigation, but investigations besides being competent should also be timely. The Supreme Court Jordan decision was based on this very principle. As was referred to at the beginning of this article, the U.S. may impeach the President before the Mounties can investigate a relatively simple obstruction charge.

For the investigation to still be ongoing is the equivalent of being put on hold in terms of its effect. There is only one political party that would benefit from this. The same party that appointed Lucki as the Commissioner.

It should be stated that this blogger is not convinced that Trudeau and his associate actions in this case were in fact an act of obstruction.

It’s not clear that Trudeau didn’t obstruct justice, but it’s also far from clear whether there is any reasonable expectation of conviction.

Maybe, there is no crime.

Even Wilson-Raybould testifying before the Senate committee said she did not believe that it amounted to a criminal action, but forgive this writer for not holding the legal opinion of Ms. Wilson-Raybould as the learned final authority on this matter, especially when she at the time was trying to remain a Liberal.

But we can reach one final conclusion. The RCMP, under Lucki, made a concentrated effort to both downplay the investigation, and then to withhold any results until after the election.

There is only one party that stood to benefit from nothing being said. The same Liberal party that appointed Lucki, and a Liberal party which has now been re-elected with a minority government.

Is it possible that a revelation, whether proven or not, of a criminal investigation of a Prime Minister would have dealt a fatal blow to the Liberals? Equally, is it possible that the RCMP purposefully aided the Liberals in their election?

If there is any element of this thesis which is indeed correct or is later proven to be correct, then it is a very dangerous political game the Mounties are playing, one that could and should result in the removal of the Commissioner if true.

It is a game that has no place in a democratic government.

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