Breaker, Breaker…got your ears on Justin?

I will admit at the outset, that anything that tends to shake up the political minions of Ottawa, usually makes me feel a little better. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ottawa, went to University there, strolled the Sparks Street mall with the polyester suited crowd of government workers on lunch. Enjoyed the tax funded parkways and museums.

Ottawa is the leading “government town” in this country where roughly 40% of the employees work for the Federal government. It is therefore a town that caters and kneels at the feet of the Liberals. This week they are shaken, scared by the coming to town of the dishevelled, those unwashed “anti-vaxxers”.

The government mandarins are usually safely ensconced in their Ikea designed home offices, family dog at their feet, who are in no hurray to actually go back to work –are now feeling “threatened”. Those damn incessant horns disturbing their Apple watch controlled sleep patterns.

They are our 21st century landed gentry, while the honking truckers represent the medieval farmers storming the barricades. During this Covid shutdown, their productivity sliding, this Federal government work force has actually grown in size. Some of them have actually obtained pay raises; unimpaired by the pandemic restraint on others, their economic well-being never being threatened, their safety guaranteed by being able to live in their new bubbles.

It was ok to make a vaccine exemption for the truckers, for two years, when the initial threats against the food chain delivering your loaf of bread and the steady same day delivery of Amazon packages were being threatened. But now, the political thinkers surrounding Mr Trudeau and Mr Biden in the U.S., now they feel the time is right, now is the time to impose further restrictions. All while the rest of the world is going in the opposite direction.

How dare a group of outsiders (meaning middle income mostly rural working class people and farmers) challenge this current and righteous aristocracy. After all, they are the enlightened, they are the believers in science, a science only which they can properly interpret. They who are now demanding vaccines for children less than five; they who are open to the idea of fining anyone who dares to show up at a hospital having not been vaccinated; and they who want to limit those that don’t vaccinate from the ability to function in daily life. No restaurants, movies, no ability to travel, or special events for you. And if you are working for the Federal government you will be fired unless you agree to let the government inject you with a vaccine. How dare anyone question the logic of restrictions and their haphazard and diverse application.

The overall justification for three years of lockdown is to protect us, but the justification for the vaccine is vacillating. It now protects you from getting really sick from Covid. It doesn’t stop you from getting Covid.

Ignore the mental health concerns, the increasing rate of suicide, the losses of years of education, the thousands of cancelled “elective” surgeries. Ignore it all.

Make no mistake about it, this convoy of largely blue collar workers has touched a nerve. They are pressing on the accepted and acceptable narrative nerve. How dare they challenge these enlightened that form a minority government in Canada. How dare they confront the social democratic changes which Canada is now undergoing and the massive growth in government oversight and regulation. The government now tinkering with control of the message and forms of communication and ones ability to speak freely. Think of Bill C-51.

“Public safety” is our new God. A risk free society the ultimate goal.

So to the barricades the Liberals march, the dutiful media close behind, relaying their portrayals of the ignorant protesters, seeking those afraid of the bellowing air horns, believing it plays well to their albeit quickly disappearing audiences. The Liberals don’t want to fight as they are really not good at confrontation, they are after all appeasers by heart and by trade.

The media on the other hand welcome a fight, they raise the January 6th storming of the Capitol as a comparison, after all nothing draws viewers like violence led by clearly evil minded people.

Ironically and a point often missed is that the “anti-vaxxers” who are being portrayed as right wing radicals, uneducated, ignorant, fringe members of society, daring to drive their big rigs into the heart of woke society in Ottawa. They are not actually anti-vaccine. The vast majority of the people involved have been vaccinated. This misstatement of the issue on a continual news loop is disheartening and dishonest.

The convoy is about “restrictions” and the imposition of those restrictions which is having an adverse affect on their ability to work and to feed their families. It seems to be a legitimate gripe, at the very least it seems to be a discussion worth having.

But the Liberals and their supporters have made a call to arms, there is no turning back, they have already determined that these protestors are not worthy. They have established their position and they are not going to sway from it. After all, they are not Indigenous, they are not members of Black Lives Matter, they are not protesting members of the LGBTQ community. They have no standing like these other groups. Clearly, they are also not likely Liberal supporters, so they are patently irrelevant.

So how do the the Liberals and their followers do battle? Through innuendo, false narratives of impending violence, searching out the fringes of the movement for the ill-advised comment, the inappropriate flag carrier.

They are searching out the outliers knowing that the fringe of any group is always off-side, ill-tempered and wanting to foment upheaval. That is why they are called “the fringe”. The larger group tolerates them, but ignores them for the most part.

The police reaction to all of this?

First and foremost one must understand that if you want to find a “woke” police department, you probably came to the right city in Ottawa. You could have picked Toronto, or Vancouver as well, but Ottawa has to be the most firmly entrenched group of the politically like-minded. The police chief and those surrounding him immediately took the side of what they surely believed was the side of the righteous.

The language of those in government went straight to inflammatory, and the Ottawa Police Chief followed suit with Chief Peter Sloly espousing his “surge and contain strategy” to stop this “very dangerous protest”.

“This is putting our city and our residents at great risk”.

He intimated that there was “reason to believe that money from the U.S. is helping the anti-vaccine mandate”. The Ottawa Deputy-Chief Trish Ferguson, before the convoy even arrived in the city, said that they were “preparing for a range of risks” from “counter demonstrations” and “interfering with critical infrastructure” to “criminal activity”.

As of this writing the Chief clearly languishing in his 15 minutes of fame is saying that he may call in the Army to dispel the protestors. He is continually calling on an increasing police presence, more Provincial police, city police, RCMP and the RCMP Emergency Response Team. There is constant oblique references to domestic terrorism, funding from the outside, social media disguised as intelligence. No evidence is ever presented.

The Prime Minister of our country was not “going to be intimidated” by the protestors. This after having being “moved to a safer location” for security reasons. Trudeau continues to refuse to meet with the protestors saying that they are “an insult to truth”. They are a “fringe minority” although no explanation as to how this fringe raised $10 million GoFundMe dollars in a couple of weeks.

For two days the media searched out the radicals, the violent among the protestors, there big discoveries the unfurling of a single Confederate flag and the fact that someone had put a ball cap on the statute of Terry Fox. They hit the jackpot when someone raised a Nazi flag.

As it turned out though the protestors were using it as an illustration of the Nazi’s mistreatment of the Jews as similar to their rights being removed( not a good comparison for sure) but the media outlined it as Nazi’s being involved in the protest. The baseball hat on the statute of Terry Fox was a desecration according to the apoplectic media commentators equal to the burning of a cross on a front lawn.

There was a story that some people danced on the Tomb of the unknown soldier. Not a good image, but there was little coverage of the the fact that convoy members then formed a ring around it to keep out some of their “fringe” players.

So Trudeau marched to the podium, armed with the latest media evidence. Trudeau grasped and gasped at the “…Nazi symbolism, racist imagery, and desecration of war memorials… “.

Let us compare this to other protests.

When 2,000 aboriginal protestors marched on Ottawa on December 12, 2021 making demands under the “truth and reconciliation commitment” as part of the “Idle no More” movement; saying that “we are not going to back down” to the gathered media, what did the government do. They agreed to meet with the protestors, saying they “are constitutionally entitled to” meet with the government. The media reported that the march “remained peaceful” even though it too had “shut down a major downtown street”.

When Black Lives Protest hit Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau waded into the crowd, and then took the opportune photo moment to take a knee with the protestors who had as a rallying cry the defunding of the police.

When more recently the Mohawks in Ontario and Quebec stopped and burned rail lines there was nothing but talks of conciliation.

As this becomes a week long protest, as sympathetic demonstrations are happening throughout the country, the media breathlessly awaits the confrontation. In Vancouver today, the media is warning people of the threat of violence, before a supportive convoy from Langley to Vancouver had begun; saying that the convoy would be driving by three hospitals. The hospital unions began warning their staff, not to wear their scrubs in case they be singled out for violence. The absurd inferences almost laughable.

This is first and foremost a convoy of ordinary people. An ordinary people who are completely frustrated, alienated and trying to struggle with the proper words when faced with a barrage of microphones and cameras. They go to work, go to the local Tim Hortons for the “double double”, and maybe even the local bar at the end of the day. Their lives are not glamorous, their social calendar was once filled with taking kids to soccer fields or hockey games and for the last two years we have robbed them of their ability to lead those lives, and even more importantly their chance to financially survive. At times they can be rough around the edges but they are also what keeps this country going, even during Covid. They don’t like Trudeau though, but then again he doesn’t like them.

Mr. Singh for his part is for the working man, just not these workers.

Mr. O’Toole flip flopped on the convoy issue, part of the reason he lost his job this past week. There is no other voice for the protestors.

This is not a fringe element. The GoFundMe page, which the government and the police pressured to shut down was the 2nd largest raising of money in Canada since the tragic Humboldt bus crash in Saskatchewan.

So we have a government and their supporters; in favour of censure; in favour of restricting individual and collective liberties; in favour of a controlled media message (bill C-51); and in favour of police actions which reflect their wishes. Does it sound vaguely similar to other countries.

Could it be any clearer that we are at a dangerous place right now and the police are in a even more dangerous place?

The police management in this country are now fully politicized. No longer the neutral upholder of laws, now the perpetrators of selective enforcement. The target of that enforcement fully determined by political winds and and the social media that drives it. Police normally survive on good faith and a sense of fairness and being a neutral arbitrator. Under this generation of police leaders they have badly strayed.

All this could have been averted, de-escalated at the very least by Mr. Trudeau. The protestors are Canadians and the very least he could do is listen to what they are trying to say. Meet with them. Don’t be scared. They also have a constitutional right to be heard.

The decried polarization of the U.S.-between the right and the left, urban versus rural, disadvantaged versus advantaged, the educated versus the uneducated is now being grown in the little petrie dish of Canada. I am not so sure Canadians in general have thought this through.

And for the citizens of Ottawa, when night falls, put your Ipods on and listen to some soothing water sounds of the Rideau canal, it will help you sleep and awake fully refreshed for another day of Team calls and committee meetings.

Photo courtesy of Zarina Petrova via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Start taking down the tents…

For some time now, there has been a large tent set up at 134th and 104th Ave– Surrey City hall.

The tempest under the tent is about the nascent Surrey Police Service and it brings to mind the three rings of Barnum & Bailey. Jugglers, hire wire acts, trumpeting elephants, and clown cars all featured as part of what makes up Surrey civic politics.

This show under the big top has been going on for awhile now, it was 2018 when Mayor McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition were voted in, under two main election promises; cancel the contract with the RCMP and secondly the further extension of the skytrain. At the end of this month, the new SPS is to actually begin patrols, in coalition with the RCMP, as this plodding along transition carries on. Many are predicting disharmony, resentment, and at the very best an awkward moment or two. 

The transition process has met with infighting, personal barbs and innuendo, even allegations of assault and intimidation have been echoing off the walls of the city council chambers. In the last few weeks it seems to have reached a crescendo of inanity and misinformation. Those of us who once policed this burgeoning municipality of five police districts were often want to say in those days “only in Surrey!” This disparate community has always seemed willing to defy the expected norms of a civil society. 

A multi-cultural community of distinct areas, a diverse populace of haves and have-nots, abject poverty and street level violence versus one acre mansions of multi-million dollar homes. Whites, south east Asians, blacks, all forming up in their distinct neighbourhoods of Cloverdale, Newton, Whalley, South Surrey, and Fleetwood. 

It should not be assumed that they are living in harmony. In the nineties we patrolled the high schools which were even then being inundated by racist fights between south east asians and caucasians, each group not allowed to enter into the school property of the other. This is to say that there is nothing singular or cohesive about Surrey and there never has been an honest discussion of the many problems which afflict it. 

It is a unique area to police and it is where an eye for an eye tooth for a tooth mentality is visceral.  Often police officers having worked in Surrey have seen it as a badge of courage having once survived the posting and then moved on. And they almost always move on. 

So who are the people in this three ring circus, all vying to drive the clown car?

On the one side is the irascible Mayor McCallum, a curmudgeon, smug, wily, and of long standing. Mr. McCallum has never liked the RCMP, and vice versa. The animosity has always been well known but never publicly stated. This uncomfortable relationship is now coming to a head as the exasperation builds on the part of the Mounties who are about to be booted out and those seeing themselves as pioneering a new police model for the city. Ironically, the people sweeping the place with a clean broom are actually hiring a bunch of ex-Mounties to lead and aid in the takeover.

On the other side is a group of disgruntled and pushed from power politicians, a new union head for the RCMP, and the media who doesn’t like McCallum who continually refuses to be party to their reporting. 

Neither side ever reach a point where the real issues could be debated. Both sides continually throwing up illogic and misstatement as their campaigns wage war, and it has reached the stage of the whole exercise being a bad punch line. 

The current opposition to the quickly advancing police service is made up primarily of three groups; the National Police Federation with self-appointed constant spokesperson Brian Sauve; the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group and those behind the highly publicized petition entitled “Surrey Police Vote”. 

These groups in turn have the political support of the likes of Linda Annis, Brenda Locke, and Jack Hundial. All three of these politicians have a particular political axe to grind. Annis, was the sole politician who survived the purge of the once in control Surrey First group started by Diane Watts. Her antipathy to McCallum has reached a very personal level. 

Brenda Locke is also a long standing Liberal, once a Provincial Cabinet Minister and MLA , she too now thwarted by a largely Provincial NDP stronghold in Surrey. Also ironically she, along with Jack Hundial got elected on the coattails and under the banner of Mayor McCallum and the Safe Surrey Coalition who proclaimed the need for a separate police service. Clearly, since then there was a falling out with the mayor and she and Mr Hundial left the civic party and became independents. 

Jack Hundial was a police officer with Surrey for 25 years. When McCallum announced the people he had picked for the tripartite transition team, Mr. Hundial found himself left out, out in the cold despite his Surrey policing background. Since that time he has been an outspoken critic of the motion to form a city force even though he, Locke, Annis, and Steven Pettigrew had all originally voted for it. 

Knowing Mr. Hundial personally, I was somewhat taken aback at this reversal and his current support of the RCMP after having had many conversations with him about the dysfunctions of the Federal Force which had nursed him and now provides him with a pension. Politics clearly does make strange bedfellows.

All the parties explain their reversal in support because of the “secrecy” they allege about the transition, and the hidden costs they believe are forthcoming. They extoll the fact that the Fed’s subsidize the Mounties to the tune of 10% each year– therefore in theory they are correct, they are likely always going to be a cheaper alternative. The transition costs they allege are skyrocketing and is a harbinger of dangerous over-spending to come. 

The current transition costs are estimated to be at $63 million, going up since 2019 when they were estimated to be $45 million. What the councillors don’t often say is that is the estimate is spread over the next five years. Surrey’s current overall budget to offer some perspective, is $1.2 billion with its 600,000 residents., and this year Surrey will be borrowing about $150 million to meet those expenses. The councillors often rant about the costs of transitioning all these officers, but usually do not mention that the vehicles, equipment and station buildings are already owned by the City of Surrey. 

The NPF has been quite vocal and has been spending the union dues of their RCMP members to fight against the transition. They often pretend it is an issue of defending their members. They bought and paid for ads, lawn signs, and polls to firm up their position. They continually quote that “84 % “ of Surrey residents have a “favourable impression” of the RCMP and that “76%” say the transition should be “halted”. 

The Surrey Safe Coalition headed by MaCallum show their own polling and say that their polls indicate people that only 6% of the Surrey residents prefer keeping the RCMP and their “cardboard cutouts”. 

How does one get such disparate polling results. Its all in the questions you ask. Neither poll from either side should be seen as anything more than political posturing. 

The NPF has clearly got a reason to fight the situation. They do not want to lose the largest RCMP detachment in Canada and they are clearly worried about these thoughts of policing independent from the Federal force as a possible trend. (Alberta has recently talked about getting rid of the RCMP—and there is a great deal of conjecture that if Surrey falls, there will be renewed consideration for a Lower Mainland Regional Police service –or some version of it). It should also be noted that the new SPS will also be unionized under CUPE. For them, this is a union fight.

So this assembled group of dissenters then added a couple more tactics to their arsenal by introducing a petition to call for a referendum in Surrey utilizing the Referendum Act which flows from Elections B.C.  Those that follow this kind of thing would shake their head a bit at this, as it is a momentous task to force a referendum; wherein one is required to obtain 10% of voter support in all the ridings throughout B.C. 

 Do the people of Castlegar, or Radium, concern themselves with the Surrey police issue? Highly unlikely one would think.

The petition went ahead in any event, entitled the Surrey Police Vote, and it was primarily fronted by the Keep the Police in Surrey group. (Interestingly, this group bragged about raising $10,000.00 for their cause but would not comment how much money came from the NPF)

Somewhere in the process, once they realized that this could never be pulled off Province wide, the group concerned itself with only going after Surrey residents on their petition. 

They enlisted Darlene Bennett to head the Committee and Eileen Mohan to be a spokesperson. Both of whom will be remembered as being victims of violence themselves. Darlene’s husband Paul was killed mistakenly in his driveway (still unsolved) and Eileen’s son was killed in the infamous Surrey 6 file. Both horrendous cases, both generating unspoken grief.

However the arguments for retaining the RCMP by these two women although emotional, lacked specifics and quite frankly make little sense. Definitely nothing that could contribute to the debate. Being a victim of crime unfortunately does not necessarily translate into knowing about policing issues. However this group felt that by exploiting their personal agonies it would draw out the petition signers. Quite frankly it was manipulative and crass.  

Nevertheless, the petitioners, in a November 15 press conference, publicly proclaimed that they “did it” and held up a sign saying they had raised 42,000 signatures, representing about 13% of the population. 

When asked why they think this would succeed, as clearly it did not meet the referendum guidelines, they prevaricate, and dubiously argue that they are asking that the Provincial government to take into consideration the results regardless of it not meeting the current criteria. They are asking that the Provincial government in effect reconsider and change their rules. 

During the search for signatories the rhetoric and nonsense escalated. The group argued that they were being harassed by Bylaw enforcement and that they were being victimized by he slow turnaround at Elections B.C. Paul Daynes of Keep the RCMP in Surrey called McCallum a “little tinpot fascist dictator”.  McCallum in turn banned seven members of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group from the city council meetings.

Then there was “Toe Gate” on September 4th.  In the normally placid South Surrey enclave of the well off, McCallum confronted some petitioners who were using the Save On Foods parking lot as a place to rally the troops. A verbal argument ensued between one of the petition organizers, Ivan Scott, who was sitting in his car, and McCallum who was standing outside it. After going back and forth and Scott demanding McCallum resign, Scott drove off, and McCallum argued turned the car in such a way as to hit him in the hip and drive over his toe. McCallum contacted the police and made allegations of assault. 

The RCMP somewhat surprisingly, within a week then swore out a search warrant for CTV video footage of the interview of McCallum, under the auspices of a possible public mischief charge, clearly implying they did not believe McCallum. Having worked in Surrey for many years, public mischief is not usually a first step, so there is good reason to believe that this too is politically motivated. As a result, the Provincial government has had to hire a Special Prosecutor to look into it. We are still awaiting that judgement and the Keep the Police Surrey movement needless to say is hoping to see McCallum led off in handcuffs. It seems unlikely.

Where is Commissioner Lucki in all this? Should we assume she is under some sort of gag order from the Liberals? 

However, the comment about the “cardboard cutout” mounties stirred the harnessed wrath of Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, head of the Surrey RCMP, who called the remark a “deliberate attempt to undermine public safety”. That the tweet was “disrespectful” by “ending public confidence in policing at the current time”.  Really? 

The coalition group responded “in spite of the efforts of a bitter minority surely the indignation that he has voiced today equally applies to these groups organized efforts to de-stabilize and de-moralize our city’s incoming police force”.

And where is the Provincial NDP government in all this? Well they are busy reviewing the overall structure of the police in B.C., by examining the structure of the Police Act to: “examine systemic racism and modernize laws in alignment with UNDRIP (the U.N declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)”.  

To sum the issues up which are facing Surrey residents is in fact quite easy. Do the citizens of Surrey wish to have a more accountable police department? If so, how much are they willing to pay for it? There is no doubt among the current officers of Surrey detachment that the RCMP, in its many and varied forms is suffering—at every level. 

Would or should the cost savings mean more to Surrey residents than being subservient to Ottawa and susceptible to the vagaries of Federal policies–which seem more intent on gender identification than the property crime rates in Whalley? 

No need to worry about the officers in Surrey. They will be just fine, they will move on to other details, other detachments and other policing challenges; and Ottawa might finally get the message of growing discontent and the need to reform.

The citizens of Surrey clearly voiced their opinion once before and decided to elect McCallum and his platform.

It is clearly time to undo the tent pegs and bring down the circus tent.

Time to move on.  

Photo courtesy of Steve Parker via Flickr Creative Commons – 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

Darkening Clouds

There is a storm brewing on the East coast of this country, but unlike the usual storms that gather over the Atlantic and then spiral into the rugged coastline with pounding rain and high winds— this is a political storm –but of potentially equal force and potential damage. It is a perfect storm of deceit and ineptitude, the clouds having been salted by the senior ranks of  the RCMP.  

The eye of this metaphorical storm is over the normally quaint and rural Portapique area of Nova Scotia; now a place in time grounded in infamy as being the centre for the biggest massacre in Canadian history. Twenty-two persons murdered, gunned down, their houses burning around them. All of it seemingly non-sensical, but at the same time carried out with a deliberation characteristic of all mad men. A gun wielding, police obsessed, denturist. Charlie Manson with a banal Canadian  twist. 

The questioning residents of Portapique have since the beginning of that long night in April have been desperate in their need to understand, both on a personal level and on an organizational response level. Their aggravation continues to mount as to the process now underway designed to provide those answers— is failing them. 

The RCMP and the Commission designed to investigate have now become front page headlines in their own right. Lawsuits have been launched against the RCMP by the victim families and despite this raised sensitivity, the Mounties have now managed to put more fuel on the fire of a possible cover-up. 

The response to the 911 calls during the night of April 18, 2020 would and probably should  always be a matter of after the fact examination. No matter how prepared or unprepared any responding agency may have been, the night of terror was clearly unprecedented in scope and human toll. A thorough and concise examination of the response should be undertaken, as painful as that may be, because it is only from that can one learn. Any hope for soothing of the now pointed and partially warranted anger is by necessity predicated on the truth being revealed. Even if that truth hints of negligence. 

With a cursory viewing of the public information now available, there is almost no doubt that the response by the police that night was flawed— whether it be by police action or police inaction, albeit in extremely trying circumstances. So we should expect in any review, to hear the usual combination of malfunctions that are obvious to even the most casual observer in this current RCMP world: inexperienced police officers, a shortage of manpower, miscommunication, and a lack of supervision . 

It is equally likely that hiding behind those officers on the ground and their eventual testimony, will be the RCMP senior executive, likely claiming that the fog of communication hindered them in their duties. 

Sixteen homes and vehicles ablaze, distorted bodies strewn on driveways, scenes that would befit the darkest recesses of a Tolkien novel. The sensory overload of graphic and gruesome detail will form part of the explanation and this will engender some understanding of what the officers were facing. 

Those that have now been assigned to review that night’s operational decisions which were made in minutes and sometimes seconds will be given the luxury of hindsight, after poring over documents in excruciating detail and reviewing and re-reviewing audio. They will then likely pronounce that the police should have gone left not right, that they should have foreseen what was unseeable in the moment. Undoubtedly, they will recommend further training. 

There are two primary and signifigant areas of concern in terms of the response by the RCMP. One is encapsulated in  the history of Gabriel Wortman, the perpetrator who spent years building up an arsenal of guns, imitation police cars and police uniforms. 

Mr. Wortman was convicted in 2002 of assault. In 2010, he was investigated for threatening his parents, who who in turn told the police of his gun collection and advised them of his desire to kill a cop. In 2011 Truro police forwarded a report on the “tip” they had about Wortman, which prompted a visit by the RCMP but no further action. 

In 2013, the most damning information was provided. A couple of retired ex-military personnel got to know Wortman who showed them his illegal weapons and was seeking assistance from them to obtain more. They were also aware of his abusive relationship with his girlfriend. They reported it to the police, who told them they would “check on it”…and then added that there was “probably nothing we can do”. 

Did the police “write off” the files rather than conducting a full and complete investigation? If they did, the real squirming will begin then and any explanation will likely be completely unsatisfactory to anyone listening.

The second area of major concern which has already caught the public attention in full glare is the fact that no warning was disseminated through any in place public warning system, in particular one which could have gone out over everyone’s cellphones. Instead the RCMP “tweeted” 10 times throughout the night and they have already stated relied on local media to pick up their “tweets”. In addition, the information they provided was sparse and only hinted at a “firearms” complaint. Would a better warning system saved lives? No one will ever know for sure. 

The seemingly always defensive senior Mounties of Nova Scotia have been maintaining that they did not have enough satisfactory information on the suspect until the next morning, long after many people had lost their lives. 

Well, guess what? They were lying and have now been proven to be lying. The small satirical magazine operating in the Atlantic area “Frank” magazine, in a report by Paul Palango, has managed to obtain three 911 calls from that evening where the RCMP was told that the suspect was  a “denturist” in the area, that he was “driving a police car” and they provided his name. Two of the three 911 callers were minutes later killed. The third caller was a 12 year old boy, who survived. His call is gut wrenching but he was in control, some say better than the dispatcher who handled the call.

It would be 8 hours later that the RCMP would finally identify the suspect Wortman by name and that he was driving an imitation police car. 

When the story in Frank magazine began to surface the RCMP doubled down —saying that they didn’t have “enough” information to make an announcement.

Frank magazine being a small player and having “scooped” all the major media outlets in Canada, knew that they would be questioned as to the leak authenticity; so they actually produced the 911 tapes, in all their gruesome detail. All the major media outlets, their noses clearly out of joint on this scoop, criticized Frank for publishing the audio calls, none initially went after the fact that it was proving that the RCMP had been lying throughout. 

With no escape possible now from their story what did the H Division RCMP do? They actually sent out an internal memo to the members of their Division that they should “refrain” from “reviewing the article or its recordings as they are sensitive and could be triggering”. They were in the process of “actioning wellness resources” for all those Mounties who now have been exposed to hearing the tapes. 

It gets worse, Assistant Commissioner Lee Bergerman in charge of H Division, issued a statement that they will be “investigating the source of the recordings” and any “related offences” that “may have occurred  with respect to unauthorized release, possession and subsequent publishing”.  The reporter Paul Palango is no novice, as he is a former reporter for the Globe and Mail and MacLeans magazine. It is likely that he will be prepared for this shoot the messenger attitude of the RCMP. 

So that we understand fully. Faced with their lies, the RCMP reaction is to give the H Division members a group hug –and then vow to go after the reporter and his source.  

Along comes the illustrious Mass Casualty Commission. (Its very name should give you a hint where the focus of this Commission is aimed) condemned the media report by Frank magazine because of the damage it would do to the victims. Again, no mention of what the story was actually exposing. 

This Commission has been tainted from the start. Originally the Nova Scotia Justice Minister, Mark Furey, a former RCMP officer, wanted to have an “Independent Panel Review”. After a public outcry by the families of the victims there was  a reluctant agreement to form a joint Federal Provincial public inquiry. 

The Commission is headed by former Supreme Court Justice J. Michael MacDonald, and he is joined by seven women Commissioners. The head of “investigations” is Barbara McLean a former deputy with Toronto Police Service who has been lauded by theToronto Police Service for her “significant outreach to the LGBTQ community”.  The other Commissioners are in charge of things like Mental Health and Community outreach. 

If you lean to any kind of conspiracy theories, it would be very easy to argue that the overall aim of this Commission and the RCMP is to thwart any raw truth telling. This group seems designed to focus on the victims, the laying of wreaths and apologies, not on the suspect and the police response. After all, according to H Division, all the cops are victims too. 

This Commission is not due to report until November 2022, again, maybe by design, it will likely be after any  Federal Election and Portapique is a fading memory in this limited attention span nation. 

Wait, there is more,. 

There is little doubt that there is a couple of genes missing in the DNA of those anointed as white -shirted Mounties. In their lifelong pursuit of patronage and “double dipping” retirement opportunities they have become blind to possible conflicts of interest which may arise from it. It comes of course, from never having to answer to or be measured by outcome.

So now, they find themselves once again in front of the media scrambling to answer how the spouses of RCMP H Division Commanding Officer Lee Bergerman, and Halifax RCMP Commander Janis Grey are working for the RCMP— and had been now seconded to the Commission as investigators. Bergerman and Grey are two senior officers who will likely be front and centre for accountability in the Portapique incident. By their relationships they will have insider knowledge of anything coming out of the Commission investigation. 

Bergerman’s husband, is once retired Mike Butcher, who follows Bergerman to Halifax, nicely gets hired into a contract for the RCMP, and then they assign him to assist with the Commission.

Janis Grey’s husband is C/Supt John Robin. You remember him, he was in charge of IHIT, when  the Surrey Six file was in full swing. It was under his leadership that officers Attew and Brassington were allowed to party and have sexual relationships in Montreal with the gangster girlfriends. Well Mr. Robin shortly thereafter left IHIT, arrived in Ottawa with his wife Grey and then followed her to her last promotion to in charge of Halifax RCMP. He too was then seconded to the Commission. 

All these officers mentioned are known to this writer. It is difficult for me personally to find fault with their credibility as investigators or their capabilities, but they are missing that vital gene which most people have. They are so wrapped in the RCMP sense of entitlement and have been recipients of the RCMP largesse for so long that they can’t even see the problem. 

All of these officers, if they wish to retain an ounce of credibility should step aside or take a leave of absence until this Commission is underway and completes its work. Their very presence and their actions to date demands that they try and restore this inquiry to some level of credibility. They owe it to the survivors and their families. 

Meanwhile the RCMP and Ottawa will try to weather the  heavily buffeting of the narrative which will be coming from the commission witnesses. They will ask for forgiveness. They will claim that they will and can do better. They will also claim that they have already implemented the recommendations of the eventual report. 

The RCMP have become professional apostles of apology and proponents of the theory that everyone is a victim– even them.

They will in the end have to paper over the pending lawsuits with non-disclosure agreements and cash.  Avoid further scrutiny but keep telling the victims that they mourn for their loss. 

The biggest casualty for the Mass Casualty Commission, in the end, may be the actual truth about what happened. 

Photo Courtesy of Flckr Commons by Groupka -Some Rights Reserved

So, how is that “Defunding” going?

We seem to be now living in a world of catchy phrases, facile answers, and overly simplistic diagnosis. We can no longer tolerate complexity. We can no longer live in the world of the grey— black and white answers are being demanded. Daring to disagree or present a counter-point can only lead to banishment. The video and sound bite world is today’s dialogue, inflamed, exaggerated– a fire hose  of outrage, discontent and victimization. We have lost the ability to reflect or to understand nuance. 

It is in this world that the trial of the Minnesota police officer Derek Chauvin is about to begin. Accused of the cold-blooded killing of George Floyd. It is in this world that todays frenzied headlines talk about an anti-Asian serial killer who targeted the massage parlours of Atlanta. 

But beneath the obvious conjecture and quick assumptions that instantly become facts there is a deeper layer. It is found in the folder of corroborated and tested information where historically you would have gone first. Once opened, you would be exposed to something completely at variance to the various assertions voiced by the indignant social warriors. 

Joe Biden is travelling to meet up with the Asian American community today, to console and pledge to fight the anti-Asian racist scourge, yet, there is literally no evidence that the killings in Atlanta were perpetrated or targeted against Asians. After 24 hours of exclaiming that this was evidence of the xenophobia in America, we are now learning that this individual was sexually twisted and fighting the demons of his religion. 

The “can’t breathe” seconds long George Floyd video that tumbled around the world and generated massive black outrage is not quite the facts that are now reluctantly being exposed. Is it pertinent that Mr. Floyd was screaming that he couldn’t breathe long before he was on the ground? Is it relevant that the subduing of Mr. Floyd was actually a taught restraint position by the Minneapolis Police Department? Is it also relevant that the autopsy showed overdose levels of drugs? It doesn’t matter in this world. The damage has been done, the points scored, the leaders of the day have proclaimed the guilt of officer Chauvin many months ago. 

Even more spine chilling is that even if the world is corrected about the circumstances; there will be no stepping back, no correction for the record, no recanting of the story as originally told.  One needs to go deep into Google search to find any actual circumstances of the Floyd incident. Even then, the inference and headlines remain the same. The City of Minneapolis who seem to have caved to the social guilt, long before trial, have now settled a civil case against the City and awarded the family $27 million. A staggering amount with highly suspicious timing.  

It was the George Floyd incident of course that sent the Black Lives Matter movement from simmering into full boil. Banners and protests filled the news screens for days on end, chants of indignation in front of every thrust microphone. No one could countenance the over-whelming injustice of it all.

Their answer: “Defund the Police”.

These three words had all the characteristics of the perfectly designed cry of anger. It swivelled the focus of the t.v. cameras and the radio talk shows. It was short and easily shouted, obvious in its conclusions, and proposed a simplistic understandable solution. Perfect for the masses who convene on Twitter and Instagram. The police must be “broken” the argument goes, unable to cope with the societal needs of the progressives, ill equipped to recognize this new age of victims and the vulnerable. Like all the headlines of the day this was an inarguable cause.

However, once one got past the slogans and a few months went by, the purveyors of this belief have stumbled. They are unable to deal with the obvious follow up question of how? Their demands and solutions it would now seem were simplistic if not blatantly ignorant.

Nevertheless, most politicians were undeterred and once again the principles of honesty and fairness ran a distant second to the need to appease. Picture the Prime Minister on bended knee on Parliament Hill. Picture Commissioner Lucki forced to kneel with him at the alter of “systemic” racism.  

So, now that a few months have gone by, after a year of COVID ravaging any critical thought in this country, where are we with this defunding?

How is the defundthepolice.org coming along? Have they figured out what they are going to defund? Have they figured out the actual role the police play in this country and how they are going to be replaced?

A search for signs of progress for this movement in Canada is indeed sparse.

One thing that they have managed to do on their .org web site is add up the amount of monies spent on policing in this country.  It is a large number and hard to miss. In this country, policing on the municipal, provincial and Federal level amounts to $15.1 billion.  So the proponents of de-funding almost invariably point to the large amount and then simply conclude that these budgets need to be cut for the mere fact of its overall size. Too big must fail.

The thrust of their main and central policy argument is that “others” are better equipped to respond. They propose that social workers and doctors attend to calls for mental health services. They recommend civilians take over “traffic services”.

They make statements such as “police intervention into an ongoing violent crime is rare”. Domestic disputes and abusive relationships seems to be beyond their level of comprehension or life experience. It is truly a utopian future in their world of alternate policing options. 

Since these more complicated issues are proving to be difficult to countenance they have lately been transitioning their policy options to more simplistic levels. A recent favourable solution is to ask for the removal of the police from the “school” programs. Or if the laws can’t be enforced by their solution matrix then let’s decriminalize all the drug laws.

In this country, thankfully, their efforts are for the most part being completely stymied. They are running headlong into the wall of reality and they are getting an obvious headache. 

In June of 2020 even the City of Vancouver (with its left leaning city government) rejected a 1% cut to their $339 million budget. 

This same month the City of Toronto rejected a 10% cut to their $1.12 billion budget. 

In Victoria, home to those deep political thinkers the “Raging Grannies” were unable to reject the progressives completely; the city settled for a review of the “gender and ethnic component of the police force” but the police have now asked for a 1.5% budget increase.

In NDP led British Columbia, a government who never ignores a good cause, are trying to appease the left by “reviewing” the Police Act to “examine the scope of systemic racism”. Premier Horgan does admit when pushed that the defunding mantra is “a simplistic approach”.

 In Saskatchewan they are moving to more body cams for the police while in Regina, the City counsel have rejected outright any de-funding as the “crime rate is too high”. 

In Manitoba, Premier Palliser says that de-funding is a “no go”. 

In the North West Territories where normally the Indigenous cause reigns supreme, even there, the Justice Minister says that “Indigenous led justice systems” is “not practical”. 

In Montreal the mayor, Valerie Plante says that a cut in funding of $300 million “would be a big and trying conversation”. They have now voted to increase the police budget.

Halifax, no doubt under the influence of its relatively large African American community could only manage to defund its plans to buy an armoured vehicle for the police— giving the monies to the local housing authority. 

The Edmonton Police Service seems to have gone the farthest down the road to placate the disenchanted. It has cut its funding by $5.5 million per year for the next two years, amounting to a 3% budget cut from their $388.8 million dollar budget. They are forming a “four step” process which includes a “community safety and well-being task force”. The Edmonton activist Tesa Williams calls it a “slap in the face”.  

In many ways the activists in Canada are only imitating their counter parts in the United States. After all, aren’t their problems our problems? Isn’t their racism our racism, the long discrimination of African Americans and its often shameful history is our history. Of course, this isn’t true, but nevertheless what’s playing in video feeds in the U.S. now stokes the narrative of this country. So the “defunding” formula is imported in all its silliness no matter its relevance, no matter its history. 

The NYPD, led by the failing Mayor de Blasio, which policies a city of 25% African Americans has gone the furthest, slashing $1 billion from its policing budget. How have they done this? They have reduced or eliminated uniform and civilian overtime by $352 million; and they have moved the School Safety Agents out of the NYPD and moved them to the Department of Education, for another savings of $307.5 million. They have done sundry other small reductions like moving School Crossing Guards from the NYPD at a savings of $55 million. 

The LAPD who police that bastion of wokeness, Los Angelas, slashed $150 million by cutting police hiring. This hiring freeze has a more meaningful effect to be sure, as now the LAPD is at the lowest manpower it has been at in 12 years. It was proposed that the money saved would go to street paving and sidewalk repairs, but that was voted down. 

L.A. even had a plan to send crisis intervention workers to “non-violent 911 calls” but that has not passed the committee stage, no doubt hung up on the fact as to how one would ever determine that a “crisis” would not always have the potential for violence. 

So where does this all leave the police of today? Should recruiters stop going to “career days” at the local high school? Should mid career police officers look to change into carpenters and plumbers or take that on-line course on photography? Seems unlikely.

One just has to remember that everyone wants to play with the lights and siren but no one is rushing into the blood and the guts.  The activists, the politicians of every stripe, and the talking heads will no doubt continue to shriek to the converted of the injustice and the “systemic” discrimination. 

One must be patient, even though it’s not easy to ignore the absurdity. Remember that they are just toggling the sirens and staring in awe at the blue and red lights. They don’t really want to be in the position of answering the calls. As that oft quoted Mr. Einstein said, “reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one”.

Photo Courtesy of Backbone Campaign via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Fires burning…

One wondered what would break the journalistic overkill on the Covid virus story. What could possibly interfere with that  endless diatribe of  stories?  The litany of accounts, after a few months were admittedly beginning to weaken slightly, as the practitioners of journalism began to pen items on how to wear a mask, the lack of yeast in the grocery stores, or the various coping skills of young and old when constrained in your individual hovels. The illogical and outright stupid began to blend with fragments of intelligent commentary but in the end it all became a stew of righteous and contradictory dialogues. The science on the virus was not clear then and it is not clear now. 

But fear sells and as such was the underlying theme running throughout the 24 hour news cycle—fear of dying— fear of others—fear of travel—fear of hugging—fear of having to wear masks which turned into fear of not wearing masks. 

The press finally tasting greater ratings after being in decline for the last number of years, fully gave over to the theory that the greater the pronouncement, the greater the fear generated, the more that people would be paying attention to those newscasts. They have always known that a multi-car crash always draws better than a two car fender bender, but this had the greatest potential—the ability to turn the daily infection numbers into a catastrophe of “never been seen before” dimensions.

Television news clearly told the banner producer on “Breaking news”, to just leave it running. Death was everywhere as if posing for the 5th Estate that pursued the glimmers of devestation .  The media became addicted. Pictures of bodies, pictures of people laying in the street, or pictures of gowned and masked fatigued hospital workers, sweat stains outlining their newly lined worried faces. 

In the early simpler days, the press always waited around for the picture or video of the body bagged victim, being rolled from the residence on a gurney. This virus was a new heaven to the throng of journalists who dutifully culled and edited videos from around the world, while sitting safely behind their laptops. Tents full of body bags or mass burial grounds were portrayed every night, over and over again, helping to keep the grim and ominous dark clouds hanging over the future. 

The media generated fear with single minded attention on a scale never seen before. The level of their deceit knew no bounds. Shallow unsubstantiated subjective reporting has now put the mainstream media in Canada in the category of grocery store tabloids. 

So as we entered the fourth month we braced for more covid stories while the death lottery numbers droned on. 

Then out of the blue, with head-snapping alacrity, that same intense media attention all swung south of the border. 

A new crisis was born and this new “crisis “contained all the elements of headline seeking editors and broadcasters; violence, crowds, tear gas, endless videos of police pushing the “innocent”, journalists being “targeted” with pepper bullets. A veritable smorgasbord of tweets, photos and videos were uploaded.  Unverified raw video, no background reporting, just a torrent of information from which to feed this new appetite for fear and consternation.  

Predictably, social media exploded, as did any pretence on the part of the Canadian media establishment of being “journalists”. Subjective, point of view, opinionated journalists have now replaced the old guard that had once prided themselves on being objective, who felt that they had a duty to report the news, not create the news. 

Damn the ethics and standards espoused for the last 100 years. Objective, fact checked and dual sourced reporting was now officially extinct. 

It has been replaced by the simple emphatic declaration stated and then presented as fact.  Black and white prognosis only, no longer room for the grey areas where most problems actually live. They have become accumulators of cellphone clips. Thirty seconds or stories of two hundred characters are now being encouraged, followed, repeated, and disseminated with alarming speed. The new short attention span generation, the selfie generation apparently needs to be satiated. 

Fear for your safety and those out of control police it has been decided now going to replace fear for your health. The death of a middle-aged black man has now been declared more dramatic than an eighty-four year old with “underlying” health’s issues. The fact that in Minneapolis that a man died at the hands of the police was the bonus, the fact that he was black was the ignitor to the combustible fuel of racism. The police were the obvious and easy targets.  

Thus, 21st century social outrage has once again been released. 

The Canadian media was not deterred in their presentations, even though it was hundreds of miles and a country away. They played the outrage at full volume and were then rewarded with Canadians now taking to the streets to protest racial inequality in the United States. Canada was pulled in by its proximity, and the internet pulled in the rest of the world. 

Videos began surfacing in Canada of various incidents throughout the country which the media now deemed as racist or intolerant. No details, no examination, just outright speculation and proclamations. 

The usual liberal fringe interest groups then began to emerge, excited by the prospect of a new fire to flame. The more vocal, outlandish, and hopefully photogenic, the more media attention they would receive. 

The Indigenous in Canada always willing to claim racism no matter the context, climb aboard the racist allegation train, a fresh spotlight pointed at them in which to air their complaints. There was no room or time for a counter narrative. Cameras immediately flashed to an Indigenous chief claiming assault at the hands of the police, which even in its subjective telling seemed dubious. A female is killed by police in Edmonston New Brunswick, which the media immediately imply is suspicious, hints of racism because she is “indigenous”.

Canadian media and much of the American media lives on the left of the political spectrum, so they spin victimization, and excoriate anyone with a counter view. They are thoroughly smitten by the  liberal democratic and “progressive” viewpoint. Everyone must comply with their viewpoint, to do otherwise is to pronounce you an “ist”…racist, chauvinist, misogynist— take your pick. 

Equally disturbing is that the new age politicians aren’t very far behind the media and what is “trending”.  They now always follow the herd. Where and when social media declares a story or video snippet to be of grave significance and it enjoys any kind of momentum, that is where you will now find the politicians. Politicos must be seen as on the leading edge, at the forefront of what is all good and righteous. As the Facebook or Instagram twirl begins to spin out of control a politician can not countenance disagreeing with the mob. Lead the mob, don’t be left behind or you court political insignificance or ostracization. 

So fully armed with a 30 second video clip as full and damning evidence they mount their pulpits; our Prime Minister and Opposition Leaders in full throat bemoaning the new “crisis”.  There is no time for debate or opposition. Trudeau is “deeply alarmed” over the incident involving the Indigenous Chief; Bill Blair comes out form behind the coat tails of Trudeau to chime in that “people across the country deserve answers” (on Twitter of course). The Indigenous Service Minister Marc Miller, on seeing only the initial report, despite any evidence “strongly condemned recent acts of violence by police against Indigenous people.” “I’m pissed, I’m outraged” said this Minister of the Crown using clearly his best Parliamentary language and putting his ignorance on full display.  

Is there anything wrong with this new age of media? Is there anything wrong with this semi-spontaneous “outrage”? The President of the United States is a great player of this game. Is there anything wrong with him standing in front of the White house with his bible, posing for his alt-right followers? Of course. Is there anything wrong with our Prime Minister, on the other side of the political spectrum, dressed in his current costume of long hair and a mask, kneeling amongst those protesting police brutality and systemic racism? Of course. These two individuals are very similar in their hypocrisy and deceit,  just opposite ends of the political stick. 

 It is this disturbing dumbing down of the facts that is the most concerning.  It is sapping intelligence and the need to think. It is crowd think. It is follow the herd and it is also fleeting. The need to react and deal with an issue and explore possible options to resolution is lost as quickly as it developed. The herd always moves on. 

Social media is spontaneous and therefore often leaderless. Its only mantra is that “everyone’s voice matters”, no matter how misinformed or irresolute that voice may be. Slogans and jingos are passing as possible policy. Apparently they want the disassembling of the Minneapolis police department, they just don’t know why or how to do it.

Make no mistake about it there is racism in all parts of the world, including our world. There is no denying of that fact. There are also bad cops, sometimes really bad cops. Why? Because they are human beings. There should be no tolerance for those that breach, but there must be a fair and just investigation as well. Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who kneeled on the neck of George Floyd will face a trial. The other three officers, standing idly by were also charged. All the evidence will surface at the trial. 

But, George Floyd as a symbol of systemic racism?  A former convict with several convictions; high on fentanyl, and methamphetamine, and found with a baggie of powder at the time of the arrest. His most serious conviction involved him and others doing a home invasion, where he put a gun to the belly of a pregnant woman to force compliance. Is this who should be held up as the next Reverend King? 

A black conservative commentator Candace Owens recently brought up some interesting statistics. A police officer has an 18 1/2 times more chance of being killed by a black man in the United States, than a black man has of being killed by the police. She calls these protests and the black lives matter movement as “smoke and mirrors” in that the statistics simply don’t back up claims of systemic racism by the police. You may not agree with her, but you at least need to be allowed to hear her. The burning books mentality once confined to the right are now coming from the left.

We are truly in very unsettled times. Not because of covid, or riots, but because of the perilous road chosen by the media of this country and the dissolution of debate and learned thought. The media are fomenting fear and dissent in pursuit of remaining part of a social media fabric that now rules this 21st century. The politicians now govern and are being placed in power by implementing the tools of that same social media trade. 

Trump and Trudeau despite their political differences are now holding hands as they skip down this road to that dark spot where image has replaced substance. What it looks like much more important than what it is. 

And if you happen to be a police officer in these times, do not hope for any support from these same politicians, or your superiors, who are now poised to jump on this media driven bandwagon if given any opportunity. Their continued political and managerial existence depends on burning you at the stake.

In the last 48 hours police officers are being charged with new found efficiency,  Chief Saunders, the first black Toronto PD Chief, is running for the exit, and the National Police Federation and RCMP Commissioner Ms Lucki are in hiding. 

You are now officially on your own.

The Politics of “First Responders”

In March 2017, there was a blog on this site which posed the question as to whether it was time to cut back on Fire Services, who despite a diminishing need for their services,  were in fact expanding in terms of manpower, equipment, and general presence.

The self-justifications for the fire services expansion all hinged on their incursion into medical calls, fanned by the publicity burning opioid crisis. It was the continuing perpetuation of the somewhat mythical life saver dynamic, they being the foremost and therefore indispensable “first responders” that made up the Group of Three.

What stirred this pot which highlighted the decreasing need, was the review in Ontario of the Fraser Research Report, which reviewed Fire Services in Ontario for the period of 1997-2012.  It discovered that during this time period in Ontario the number of firefighters increased by 36.3% while fires (including autos) had decreased in the same period by 41.4%.  In British Columbia in this same time period the number of firefighters had increased by 43.8%.

The hourly wages for firefighters followed suit, in Ontario, their wages went up 47.8% in this same time period, whereas price levels only increased by 34.6%.

All of this growth in both wages and infrastructure, while at the same time there has been a phenomenal decline in the need for “fire” services. There are some estimates that say as little as 5% of the fire department calls now relate to actual fires.

Clearly, this should call for most persons aware of ever dwindling municipal budgets and ever increasing tax levels, that maybe one could do away with some of the equipment, halls and personnel involved in firefighting. Although Ontario did cut back some of their services, most areas including British Columbia seem oblivious to the seemingly obvious.

So how is it that governments, municipal counsels, and the governing bodies seem to have missed this obvious decline in the need for fire services?  In searching for explanations one finds a masterful blend of self-promotion, coupled with an outright expansion of their roles outside of their intended mandate, which this blog covered previously.

Now it would seem that we need to add another component, a political component.

But we need to review how we got this new level.

With subtle flourish even the modern day lexicon has been transformed. No longer, police, fire and ambulance. Now, all are “first responders”.  Their’s is the only one group who has a vested interest as being on par with the others, both in terms of how they are viewed, how they are paid, and the significance of the role they play.

To their credit the firefighters early on figured out that they needed to expand their roles, they need to aggressively move into other mandates, areas where they were not before. In terms of mandate, of course the only place for them to go was to cross-over into the ambulance and police services.

They even made the subtle name change from Fire Department, to Fire and Rescue Services as they jumped headlong into car accidents and medical calls and they have been remarkably successful. They point out in somewhat boastful tones that they estimate 70% of their calls are now medical, as they “rescue” opioid overdoses, or respond to heart attacks. This is true, even though they do not and can not provide the same level of service as the paramedics.

Even their “rescue” capabilities, has become more specialized, now under the umbrella of “Technical rescue”.  ‘Auto extraction’, marine, or bridge rescue components are now separate tranches, in an attempt to be more expansive and all inclusive.  They have also  become, through little debate, the Hazardous Material experts.

Why? Their very employment and infrastructure survival depends on a sleight of hand, the general public needs to believe that they are the “first responders” of record. They need to convince you that they are the white hats, always there, always the first on scene. They are the life savers which we can not do without.

In B.C. there was a recent budget increase for paramedics of $31million.

The firefighters had the audacity to actually complain that it had cut into their calls for service. They justified their complaint saying that they were often first and more capable of getting to a scene “quicker”. The argument of getting there first by the way, is a constantly repeated theme. The obvious counter argument would be if there were more paramedics on the road, people more qualified, than their ability to get there first becomes moot.

The fire departments are unflagging in their efforts. Vancouver Fire Department and “Rescue Services” prior to the municipal elections were asking for an additional 21 fire personnel. They justify this of course on the need  to respond to 6200 opioid calls.

All of the above has been obvious for quite some time but what caught one’s eye during these same elections in the Lower Mainland was a somewhat new twist. It would appear that the firefighters are now honing their political voice, enhancing their political efforts, and are now becoming an active political force, a true definition of a self-interest group.

No more was this more obvious than in the City of  Burnaby, who have now elected an independent mayor, a former firefighter, Mike Hurley in an upset victory over Derek Corrigan.

Burnaby is an interesting case study.

All 281 firefighters in Burnaby belong to the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 323.

If one visits their website, they make no mistake as to what they believe: “When it comes to Political Action, we support those that support us” – May 17, 2014.

It is equally clear from their website that the building block from which any political action will flow is the charities. Golf tournaments, city fairs, parades, and charitable balls dominate their photos and exclamations of fealty to the community.

In recent years the Burnaby firefighters came into the news on a couple of occasions, one when Burnaby firefighter Nick Elmes and a couple of others formed the Florian Knights, who met with and were sanctioned to wear their “colours” by the Hells Angels. They used to ride to work showing their “colours” before management stepped in.

Then there was Bryan Kirk, a 36 year firefighter who decided to retire after being confronted on his support of “Camp Cloud” which was the campsite put up by Indigenous protestors at the site of the Trans Mountain pipeline in Burnaby. The camp was eventually taken down, via court injunction by the Burnaby RCMP, but Kirk supported the protestors and went on record saying “I’m more inclined to put out the Olympic torch then put out a First Nation ceremonial fire”.  (Newly elected Hurley is also on record, aligning with Kirk, saying that he supports no pipeline.)

As one watched the celebrations at the Hurley election campaign, which was held at the Firefighters Public House in Burnaby, where a smiling Hurley was surrounded by Firefighters in similar styled t-shirts as they celebrated one of their own being elected. One could guess that a serious look at the monies being spent on the firefighters in a time when municipal budgets are under crises will not occur in Burnaby, at least while under the faithful guidance of Mr. Hurley.

This was not the only example.

In Langley the Langley Township Fire Department IAFF Local 4550 were out endorsing certain candidates.

In Surrey, the Surrey Firefighters endorsed Tom Gill for mayor (who lost to McCallum). Already on counsel in Surrey was the former firefighter Mike Starchuk, who was a firefighter for 32 years, and still headed up one of their Charitable foundations.

In 2014 Surrey First party raised $1.7 million in support of Linda Hepner– one of the biggest donors, if not the biggest were the Surrey Firefighters who donated $32, 564. 01.

In fairness, it should be pointed out that other “first responders” have become active in politics. Former police officers have taken roles as counsellors on various cities and townships, and one ex-RCMP member is now mayor of Pitt Meadows.

But this firefighter involvement seems different. It seems more organized, more overt, with an exposed agenda. A concerted effort to get their candidate elected.

Many will argue that they are members of the public, they too therefore have a right to get involved in the politics of the day. That is true and there are special interest groups who put forward candidates, and organize to support those candidates. But this seems somehow different.

One needs to ask, do fire, police and medical personnel hold a special role in our society? Clearly their mandates enter into our lives in different ways than other members of the general public. Are they in a position of undue influence? Do they have access to the media which is not available on a regular basis to the members of the general public?  Should or could it be perceived that there is a political component to the service provided by “first responders”? Police are held back from overt political support by a pressing need to be neutral in terms of the laws and its applications. Should medical and fire service be bound by any kind of neutrality?

It is the slippery slope of mixing politics with your role, especially one that is specifically mandated to serve the public. One should be equally alarmed at the Chiefs of Police supporting a particular party, or ambulance attendants supporting a particular pro-union politician.

One can not help but feel that the firefighter new found interest in municipal politics is also being influenced by the need to get a friendly face on the inside. One who will not question the need for greater and greater expansion, who will not look at the statistics, one who will not worry about unneeded financial expenditures. Is there a faint taint on the Burnaby election?

Maybe we need to go back to “police, fire or ambulance?” which is the first question still asked by 911 operators. Maybe the three services should be examined as separate entities, both in terms of budget and mandate, not as a single group of “first responders”. Taxpayers need to pay attention.

But hey, it’s the Xmas season, and the firefighters are busy setting up the Bright Nights Xmas Train in Stanley Park, where a portion of the proceeds goes to the BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund. The media will be fawning over the children and the sponsoring firefighters on every news channel and after all who could argue with the cause. It’s brilliant and not just because of the 3,000 lights.

It used to be beefcake calendars, it’s much more subtle now, but the impression remains the same.

Photo Courtesy of  Pete at Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Healing Lodges – just a better place to be

Tori Stafford was last seen alive on April 8, 2009, shortly after leaving school, heading home, captured on a video camera going down Fyfe avenue in small town Woodstock Ontario. She was being led by the hand by a woman, feeling be-friended,  no doubt filled with an eight year old’s optimism.

Almost three months later, on July 21, 2009 her body was found in nearby Mount Forest, naked from the waist down, her Hannah Montana t-shirt and a pair of earrings she had borrowed from her mother her last vestiges of her short time on earth. She had suffered broken ribs, a lacerated liver and had died as a result of repeated blows to the head with a claw hammer.

A slow torturous death. Unimaginable to most, perpetrated by two individuals, 28 year old Michael Rafferty and 18 year old Terry-Lynne McClintic. In a trial Rafferty was convicted of sexual assault, kidnapping and first degree murder.

Originally charged with being an accessory to the murder, McClintic eventually pled guilty to a higher charge of first degree murder.

It was a case that in the view of the general public demanded retribution, they needed to pay for their crimes. We have become inured to a lot of public deaths, not this one, it was one of those that went to a level that causes a visceral reaction, you taste the bile in your throat.

She was sent to the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario, a normal conclusion in our Canadian judicial world to a heinous crime. Justice, or some form of justice meted out.

But then she entered our correctional system. And that is where the story re-ignited.

There is a couple of truisms that usually play out by those prisoners doing “Fed time”. First and foremost they quickly develop the need to survive; they need to find the easiest route through the system, the best jobs, the placement of video cameras, where you sit at dinner, who you befriend, who you don’t. A child killer has a path fraught with even greater peril, their heads becomes a swivel, their own deaths anticipated.  If you are capable, you learn the game and then you learn how to play the game.

A second truism is that those that are incarcerated find religion on a regular basis. It would be fair to say that not many murderers or child killers are religious when they enter the institution. But imprisonment, like imminent death, seems to assist in finding that religious part of your soul and lo and behold a child of God is often re-awakened.

Federal institutions are not fun places and one suspects that McClintic somehow learned of a better place to be during her first years in prison. Somehow she became aware of “healing lodges” which had been created primarily for indigenous women prisoners.  Apartment style living, a kitchen, visitors, no guards, versus 8 x 10 cell living, constantly staring at your requisite Orange is the new Black poster. Who could deny the appeal?

One can imagine the semblance of the conversation, where she was told that you had to be Indigenous to get in (which isn’t true), so she asked how do they test for that? They don’t, she was told. You can just say you are.

It is only a short step to then apply, declaring oneself indigenous and probably throwing in for a little positive aggrandizement, that she was very spiritual in nature.

It took eight years, but at last she got her wish, making it to the Okimaw Healing Lodge.  She had just begun enjoying the comforts of something like a home when all hell broke loose; her case came back into the public eye, and finally the Liberals broke down and made sure she got sent back, the public backlash too much for the sensitive Liberals. Sensitive to public outcry, not the plight of the victims family.

One should not resent Ms McClintic, she was just working the system and it almost worked. It may be that her fellow women prisoners are having a good laugh about the whole thing, McClintic now a heroine for gaming “the man”.

But one must hold the “system” accountable. How the decision was made reeks of a bureaucrat not doing a proper job, but should we not be questioning the very existence of the healing lodges themselves.

According to Correctional Services Canada, a healing lodge is a place where “we use aboriginal values, traditions and beliefs to design services and programs for offenders. The approach is “holistic and spiritual”. A religious treatment of the whole being.

Non-indigenous can also live at a healing lodge however they must follow “aboriginal programming and spirituality”. You must be the same religion, in line with indigenous spirituality. One would think that a person fitting this category would be a rare phenomena.

Spirituality is “the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul”. But by no means is indigenous spirituality monolithic, there is no religious uniformity across the country, in fact of the 1.7 million indigenous, two out of three identify as being Christian. So it is sometimes difficult to understand what is being sought or would be practised.

Healing Lodges are funded either by Correctional Services Canada (CSC) and staffed by CSC, or funded by CSC and managed by “community partner organizations”.

There are a total of 9 lodges in Canada, 4 run by CSC and 5 by “community partners.”

How they came about is an example of the Ottawa world and the rarefied air they breathe. A constant whirling mix of academia, politicians intent on re-election, and business leaders trying to get in on the gravy; all feeding off each other, absorbing the latest en vogue thoughts and processes, all circling and feeding. A bureaucracy, acting autonomously, guided by the political flavour of the day, then developed and constructed without scrutiny. Nobody allowed to question or look within, and the process itself hidden behind multiple meetings in multiple layers, conducted in their own governmental language.

This force moves and adapts very slowly, moving in concentric circles, through steering committees, Senate and Parliamentary committees, inquiries, task forces, and fact-finding missions. They are unaware and uncaring of the public looking in, common sense often in short supply. To question is to be tossed out of the circle cut off from the government teat. Costs are not often part of the equation. It is from this process that came the belief that a healing lodge made perfect sense.

In 1990 there were calls and plans being made for five new regional correctional facilities.

A task force, as is often the case, was lurking in the background. The Task Force for Federally Sentenced Women, who in their report “Creating Choices” recommended that one of these facilities be specifically designed and run for indigenous women.

The Native Women’s Association, a Federally funded advocacy group, one of the groups in this Ottawa circle of life, proposed the concept of a healing lodge.

There was also a group at the time of  “former Federal aboriginal offenders who were advising the CSC”.  This would normally make one scratch their collective heads, however it is true. They of course agreed wholeheartedly and supported the Native Womens’ Association in the need for and development of a healing lodge.

So what is the logic behind this clearly subjective policy proposal. According  to the CSC there were two main reasons:

“Mainstream programs don’t work for Aboriginal offenders.”  This seems to have been presented as a statement of fact, but it is difficult finding any verifiable research this pronouncement is based upon.

Secondly, they stated that there is a dramatic “over-representation” of Indigenous people in Federal facilities. (Apparently persons convicted of crimes were now “representatives” and not convicts) They were not wrong.

In 2017 Indigenous individuals made up only 5% of the Canadian population; yet 25% of the males and 36% of the females behind bars were Indigenous. This number is expected to continue to grow, mainly due to the ever expanding birth rates and the continuing problems experienced by the Indigenous.

If one accepts the concept of needing a special place, a place where they would be treated differently from all other inmates, then the obvious next question is do they work?

A review of the digital brochures for each of these facilities talks about a holistic and spiritual approach, training and maintenance skills promoted as in other facilities, but all given the opportunity to “heal”, “grow spiritually”and re-connect with Aboriginal culture”.

Again, little to no evidence of its effectiveness, but they continually issue the statement that  “culturally-appropriate environments can contribute to the healing process of offenders”. That participants develop a “stronger familiarity with Indigenous history and traditional languages”. Not exactly an insurmountable goal, and it would be unfair to expect any kind of reduction of criminal activity, as this is after the fact after all. Heinous crimes have already been committed.

By offering beyond the usual training and teaching found in any correctional facility, does the offering of “weekly sweat lodges”, “pipe ceremonies”, “smudging”,”medicine wheel teaching”, “carving”, “beading” and “sun and rain dances” lead to a lesser recidivism rate among indigenous? Is it any better training than what is offered already to the rest of the prison population. Or is it serving as just an easier place to do your time.

In a 2013 government backgrounder, the government said that the recidivism rate was 6%, when the national average was 11%.

However, in an earlier government analysis in 2002, it measured the recidivism rate as being 19%, compared to 13% for indigenous released from minimum security facilities. A dismal failure.

In 2016 the National Post reported that 18 inmates had escaped from healing lodges over the previous five years. Not unexpectedly, as there are only security guards watching video monitors, instructed only to call the police if someone walks away.

There is even a lack of acceptance by the Indigenous Reserves where the healing lodges have been proposed. In 2012, a Review by the government found that there was a problem with community acceptance as not every aboriginal community wanted or was willing to have the lodges in their communities.

So where does leave us. Everyone knows that the ‘real’ problems for the indigenous: substance abuse, inter-generational abuse, residential schools, low levels of education, low employment and income, sub-standard housing, sub-standard health, isolation, violence, greater inclination to gang violence, and mental health issues are the reasons the Indigenous and their youth incarcerations rates are at stratospheric levels.

In March 2018 the government released a report entitled ‘Updated Costs of Incarceration’. A male offender in a minimum security institution costs $47,370 per person or $130 per day. A female offender in a minimum security institution costs $83, 861 or $230 per day. An inmate at a healing lodge is the most expensive, costing $122,796 or $336.00 per day.

The Salvation Army gives out a bowl of soup and a prayer on the skids of Vancouver each and every day, before providing food and lodging, combining their spiritual beliefs of salvation with a social cause. But they are dealing and providing at the source. There is a measurable impact.

The Federal government has released records indicating that since 2011 over 20 child killers have been sent to healing lodges. The Liberal defence in the McClintic case is that the Conservatives did it too.

These lodges are better for the inmates, providing a nicer place to be, but as a tool in the Corrections toolbox, they have been a costly and failed experiment.

Is it not time to close down this experiment?  Besides, we don’t want McClintic to have a nicer place to stay.

It isn’t fair to Tori.

Photo Courtesy of Carlos Ebert via Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crime and Punishment on the Prairies…

 

Like a prairie thunderstorm, building on the horizon and starting to move quickly, the normally placid bucolic life of the small towns of Saskatchewan now lay in the path of this building storm. The W.O. Mitchell’s “Who has Seen the Wind” version of the Prairie lifestyle, is being enveloped and blown aside in a dark wind of violence, racism, fear, and desperation.

This barometric change was entirely predictable. It has been developing over many years, all the while complacent government bureaucracies and police agencies stood idly by; consumed by “modern” issues, seemingly ignorant of the core basic need in government, that of public safety.

It is the most pronounced in the small unique and sparsely populated Province of Saskatchewan, where its main street small towns have become involved in a war of attrition. One side engaged in the fight of maintaining a largely rural lifestyle, the other side fighting for radical change and reimbursement, with an ill-defined final goal. As Ottawa fiddles, rural Saskatchewan is now burning.

This is in reference to the tenuous, often violent,  see-saw balance between the mostly white agricultural community and the Indigenous.  It has been in play for over a hundred years in Saskatchewan.

Reconciliation is the new cry. The Indigenous demand further rights, demand more monies, fresh water, oil rights, the right to hunt, the right to fish, the right to deal marihuana and their cut of the economic pie. These demands and expectations fuelling a seemingly endless amount of court cases.

Whether one sees these demands as fair or intemperate, underlying all of it is a group of Indigenous leaders that has lost control of its own constituents. Many reserves in this country have become crime infested, and a culture of crime is emanating from them in ever increasing concentric circles. Rampant poverty driven crime spilling out into the towns and countryside.  Those waves are now crashing into an armed and increasingly vigilant population not willing to be overrun, not willing to succumb to the apparent effort to subsume them.

The statistics back up the claim that the crime is becoming out of control. The most dangerous cities in this relatively peaceful country of Canada, the ones having the most violent crime statistics are in order:

a) North Battleford,  Saskatchewan

b) Thompson, Manitoba

c) Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan remains the most crime plagued Province. A dubious distinction for sure but they hold and have been holding it for many years.

The Prairies is where the Indigenous world meets the other world. It is where radical aboriginal rights meets head on with a stubborn and resistive farm community. It is where it is more eye for an eye, unburdened and unconerned by the latest socio-economic impact study.  It is for the most part, caucasian versus aboriginal, as much as we are not supposed to point that out. It is where racism abounds, on both sides.  The racism has become accepted, part of the dialogue, part of the new way of life.

North Battleford, the most violent city is the epicentre. It is of course near the Red Pheasant reserve, the home of the recent Colten Boushie/Gerald Stanley case. The one where the white Gerald Stanley was acquitted in defence of his property and his family. This was contrary to what the Indigenous wanted, contrary apparently to the outcome wished for by the Liberal government.

The Indigenous, the Boushie family and the Federal Liberals all held it out as a gleaming example of racism in this country. It became a National liberal cause, Canada’s version of the Confederate South and the Yankee North.

Actual details of the trial took a back seat to flashier banner headlines, stoked by a CBC media group which seemed intent on inciting the racist tone to the case.  The whites were forced into hiding, supportive comment for Stanley was pushed underground.

This factional divide did not start in the last few years in this part of Saskatchewan.  It has been building for decades, going back to as early as 1885,  during the North West Rebellion, where eight Indigenous were hung in the Battleford area.

There are two versions of this event. One, according to the whites, was that the suspects were hung for “ransacking”, for stealing from the residents of  Fort Battleford. The Indigenous version on the other hand, said they had only come to “plead” for supplies and were simply massacred. Which side you believe, which is your truth, depends on which side of the divide you fall.

The city of North Battleford is located two hours away west from Saskatoon. It has placed highest in the Crime Severity index since 2009 when they began compiling this information, and still carries this title into the 2017 records. This index and North Battleford’s ranking is heavily weighted by intoxication, theft, and a mass of mischief offences.

Fourteen (14%) percent of the population of Saskatchewan is Indigenous,  but in 2016/17 a staggering seventy-six (76%) of admissions to jails were indigenous peoples. This was the highest of all the Provinces.

The liberal left call it the result of rampant systemic racism, and decry that the system is not working. In response to the high incarceration rates, the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations vice-Chief Heather Bear is quoted as saying “we are working with a broken system….its about lock the Indian up”.  On the conservative right they say the system is working exactly at it should; it is catching those that are committing the crime.

Two worlds colliding. Colonists initially enticed to settle this vast and often barren landscape with promises of 160 acre tracts of land. The ability to own their own piece of the land, made them set sail from faraway shores, leaving impoverished and desperate conditions to fight for a piece of land, a better life. Their new life was not always as advertised, it was often harsh and unforgiving whether fighting drought or bitingly cold winters.

The Plains Cree, hunters and traders meanwhile patrolled this same vast landscape, but they were a culture that did not share the same conceptual framework of property and ownership.

The settlers settled while the Cree continued to roam these vast, and for the most part, unpopulated regions. It was unlikely that anyone believed then that the country was not big enough for everyone.

Colonialism continued, evolved, and developed. Rules and laws were established. Responsibility was based on the concept of the individual. Being agrarians, the land which they struggled with from season to season was their reason for being.  This land was their very existence and thus needed to be defended to the death.

The Cree life began to stagnate, their economic system was beginning to falter. Two very different economic and political systems were destined to clash. One system continued to thrive, the other fell into the abyss. The Cree old way of life is now for the most part unrecognizable.  Successive governments of the settlers tried to reach agreements or impose agreements on sharing, and the treaty system and residential schools were all geared to some form of assimilation.

The 21st century Cree now believe that the historical wrongs need to be righted. Having stagnated for years on the Reserves, they now want their share of the economic pie. They now want what those first settlers wanted. A new life, free of recriminations along with financial wealth and independence. And if the government doesn’t want to give it to them, they will take it.

And therein lies the rub. If the government is going to give the Cree property or transfer wealth then someone else must lose it. The First Nations have tied their demands to the belief that because they roamed the lands, worshipped the lands, it is their land. It is all their land, because they never “ceded” the land.

This very concept is incomprehensible to a group like the Prairie settlers who believe that being here first is not a right to claim all of the land, that their rights should be considered as much as anyone’s, that there is no singular entity beyond the law, no one that is special, no one should have a priority over everyone else.

They describe a Federal government which is continually siding with the Indigenous, afraid to call out the violence, afraid to hurt their constituency.

They describe a cowering police force, sometimes miles away offering little support or even attendance.  The RCMP masters are this same Liberal government and therefore they dare not talk or point the finger at this obvious politically protected group.

So the unpleasantness grows, a liberal social media fuels the invective and the polarized arguments. The farmers in the small towns, arm themselves, preparing for a fight. The farmers demand that individual responsibility and adherence to the laws are a must, something not negotiable.

The result. Fort Battleford which went on to become North Battleford, is now the “most crime plagued city in Canada”. A town of 13,000 surrounded by seven First Nations groups with a total population of around 14,000, are still fighting and the battles may soon turn in to all out war.

The farmer, and the Plains Cree, who once worked together over the last hundred years has inexorably been pushed closer to the gaping chasm where extremists on both sides get the audience and the attention. Can it all be blamed on “colonialism”, or on the perpetration of “residential schools”? Does the 60’s scoop explain alcoholism, abnormally high pregnancy rates, malnutrition, and illiteracy. Not absolutely, it is much too simple an explanation.

The First Nation and Indigenous leaders, who trumpet the need for “reconciliation”, who are quick to cry systemic racism see the only remedy as money and more money.  Separate education, separate justice, separate police, endless health care workers, boundless hospitals and  health systems.

Another truism that never seems to let us down, is that people who have little, see people who have a lot, and they want it too. Two percent (2%)of people in Saskatchewan are on income assistance, while forty-four (44%) per cent of the Indigenous in Saskatchewan are on Federal income assistance. It has created an environment and an addiction to government funds on the part of the Indigenous, while helping fuel a belief that the other side is lazy, not willing to work, not wanting to be part of the larger society.

The Indigenous leaders are quick to jump into any fray, smelling fear in government circles of being branded racist, salivating at settlements way beyond the pale or understanding of the ordinary citizen. But at the same time blindly ignoring the obvious.

Colten Boushie grew up surrounded by alcohol and drugs, not atypical to many reserves.  He talks on Facebook about Red Power interspersed with bragging up the effects of marihuana, all while lamenting the raw deal given to his race.

Colten Boushie died because Colten Boushie grew up surrounded by violence; his banter  more in keeping with the Bloods and the Crips from a land far away.  He had a misguided bravery,  fuelled no doubt by a ridiculous video game level of understanding of that violence and its outcomes. To his group violence was heroic, copied from mediums which were far removed from their personal situations. Spewing toughness, “Fuckn punk d lee duck you talk shit back it up nigga I’m always on my tos come on niggah”, (Facebook – April 24, 2016) when none may have existed.

Colten Boushie’s uncle, his mother’s brother Colin Leonard Baptiste was found guilty of a home invasion in 1994 looking for gas and money. They put two people, Gordon Tetarenko and Bryan Kipp, in separate rooms, and then he and his co-accused Ron Coldwell individually shot them dead with a rifle. Colin was only 23 and served only two years for his murder conviction.

Stewart Baptiste was the Chief of the Red Pheasant Reserve and in 2012 was re-elected finding out from his jail cell where he had been put for breach of probation, and driving while disqualified.

Colten Boushie through no choice of his own grew up surrounded by violence and poverty. He did not have a chance.

The government talks about the “over representation of Aboriginal peoples in correctional services” as if it was a vote. Let us be clear, Saskatchewan aboriginal incarceration rates are reflective of who is doing the crime, who are committing the offences. They are not all innocent, they are not victims, they are hard core criminals, no different than any gang banger or a Hells Angel.

The government of see no evil will not go there. They say things like, the need for an “equitable justice” system. They want policies that address the “representation” of Aboriginal people in the justice system. They make it sound like a misunderstanding that they need to correct.

The Reserves like the ghettos of Jamestown in Toronto, the downtown eastside of Vancouver, are festering pits of violence, fueled by alcohol and drugs and mental illness. This is where criminal activity is bred. There are parts of Winnipeg in the north section which have greater crime rates than the Compton area of Los Angelas.

With over 600 Nations, speaking 60 different languages, they are not a united front, nor one where each nation is equal. Some reserves are heavily involved in the 21st century, building apartment complexes, developing their own pipelines, their own businesses. The others are living in poverty where the dialogue is representative of ghetto rap. They are often being governed by corrupt management and over paid chiefs and “development officers”. Some drive Mercedes while others have no covered windows in their residence.

Some Indigenous are using their political connections to a huge advantage, gaining air miles continually being summoned to Ottawa for their viewpoint. The others are smuggling cigarettes, have no running water, are drinking copier fluid, and breaking into cars in the city for spare change.

Which all leads to what is believed to be a pretty obvious certainty. If there is a chance to stem this growing civil unrest than there needs to be a meeting half-way. Personal responsibility by Indigenous leaders and by their followers must enter the equation.

In this country which is often referred to as a cultural and social mosaic, there is no room for one group having greater rights than others. Each in their own sphere allowed to grow and cultivate their culture and language, but not to the detriment of others. A single set of laws acting as a binder, property rights recognized, but holding to central tenets of decency and honesty.  A respect for others must be re-gained. Assimilation not domination. There is no room for a separate state in Canada.

The Indigenous leadership needs to be held responsible for their people and the actions of their people. The radical statements and cultivating a culture of being owed, of everything being blamed on racism must end.  They need to address issues on these reserves. They need to gain control of their youth, the monies they are receiving need to be distributed down and put to the people directly. The government needs to monitor and audit that spending giving it a chance to be accountable and visible to all.

And it is then and only then that the other side will get out from under a siege  mentality. Once there is a recognition of an attempt to be accountable, only then will it be possible for a reconciliation. Calm measured voices from both sides need to meet in the middle.

In the meantime the farmers will continue to arm themselves and the Indigenous youth will continue to mimic their gangster kin, still destined statistically for a Regina jail.

Colten Boushie and his family, living in squalid conditions, no sense of a future, no  reason for participating, surrounded by a family who seemed to be hinging their future on “reconciliation” and what they believed the government owed them.

Glimpsing Colten’s facebook is in many ways similar to what one would expect from any immature early 20’s male. Random often non-sensical thoughts, but with repetitive themes of boredom, the beauty of marihuana, and the lack of money. But interspersed with comments no doubt particular to Indigenous youth; Red Power, the wanna be affiliation with gangster style and music. Their “bros” are their lifeblood. One friend brags about his friend “doing 25 to life in the Federal pen”

Always newsworthy when the cops are on “the rez”… “a good morning to all back in the saddle again middle finger up to the law” (Colten Boushie on Facebook July 27, 2016) ” and often brave talk of dying or the willingness to live on the edge.

“Its a good day to ride or die” (Colten Boushie on Facebook July 28, 2016)

“Back in the saddle again throw my middle finger up to the law, ain’t gotta rob nobody tonight but I do it just because I’m a nut i get bored did some pills but I want more fuck this world fuck this town” – (Colten Boushie on Facebook April 29, 2016.)

Until the Indigenous leadership recognizes and takes some responsibility for the problems on the Reserves and only when everyone can openly talk about the criminal element which saturates the Reserves and blinds people to real solutions, only then will there be hope.

The current Federal government doesn’t see the storm, only appeasing one part of the equation. This is a Federal Justice Minister who was an advocate for the Indigenous in her previous life and it is obvious to all that she is compromised. She is clearly an advocate of a separate state, a separate set of laws. She has no credibility with one half of the two sides that need to come together. The Poles, Ukranians, Estonians and others who also and equally “settled” this country need to be recognized and have a voice. They are after all the majority.

To do otherwise is a recipe for disaster. Blood is being and will continue to be spilled. The extremists on both sides need to be ignored and reasonable arbiters need to come forward.

Sylvia McAdam from the Big River First Nation in Saskatchewan and a co-founder of the IdleNoMore Movement was typical in her statements, saying after the Colten Boushie verdict that “There’s something very rotten to the core about what’s happening in Saskatchewan”. She’s right, but she is part of the problem, not the solution.

The truth and the road to understanding is in the facts buried just beneath the rhetoric.  Only an honest assessment by honest leaders will pull both sides out of this ever downward spiral.

As Henry David Thoreau said “It takes two to speak the truth..one to speak and the other to hear”.

Photo Courtesy of Mark Goebel via Creative Commons Flickr. Some Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collusion, tampering, obstruction…only in the U.S you say?

The Donald is struggling, twisting and turning in the winds of feral politics– his family, and financial skeletons exposed and being rattled as a bright light is being shone on all things Trump. We marvel and tune in every night to be updated on the latest insanity.

Trump has been battling hard, in this “post-truth era”, where ridiculous statements are blended and bent into truths, where any factual examination is pushed aside in favour of  the strident comment. Where objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

He has fired many, threatened to fire others, and has been tampering and belittling the Justice Department, the FBI and the Intelligence agencies in torrential bursts on Twitter.  He has fired the head of the FBI for not showing “loyalty” to him and continues to pursue Special counsel Mueller and the Deputy head of the Department of Justice Rosenstein.

Yet, for all his shenanigans, he has not prevailed, the hounds are still at the gates. The Mueller investigation carries on, in secrecy, seemingly oblivious to the rants of their President. The resulting outcome has yet to be revealed, but it seems unlikely that Trump will come out unscathed. We can only hope that someone continues to keep him away from the nuclear codes.

The President of the United States has been stymied by both an independent and highly resistant judicial and investigative arms, and a highly mobilized 5th Estate.  Freedom of the press is highly guarded in the U.S., supported and backed on many occasions by their most Supreme Court. Justices Black, Marshall, and Douglas wrote, in an infamous test in the courts concerning freedom of the press –” the courts lack the power to suppress any press publication no matter how grave a threat to security”

As much as we often dislike the Americans for their gung-ho bravado, their rights to bear arms, and their often fierce patriotism, one must have some admiration for their ability to pursue, once finally convinced of a wrong doing.  No one is above the law, even the President himself. And this is not the first time, we don’t have to go back very far to Clinton and Nixon, both of whom went down for their indiscretions exposed by a media and subsequent judicial examination.

Which leads us to wonder what about Canada? We are a bland nation in comparison, which maybe good depending on one’s point of view.  This is a nation which is complacent, its peoples often accused of feverishly pursuing the government pension rather than displaying an entrepreneurial spirit.  We are slow to demand answers, more wanting to believe rather than disbelieve our leaders. The political fire and brimstone, often seen to the south of us, seems dramatically lacking in this country.

We never seem comfortable rocking the boat, we thrive in offering support, counselling, “moving forward” and “working together”.  We are populated by the polyester crowd, both in dress and thought.  Does this make us immune to bad and dangerous politicians like Trump? Do we have a swamp to drain, or are we in nirvana?

If our politicians were corrupt ; if our Prime Minister or some of his cohorts were doing something illegal;  if our Prime Minister was trying to alter the Justice system in his or her political favour; would they be exposed?  Would our 5th Estate be there, would they be asking the tough questions even under threat of being ostracized by their political leaders. Would our police and judicial arms swing into action?

There does not seem to be any reason for confidence.

Lets refresh our memories.

When the verdict was reached in the Colten Boushie case in Saskatchewan, both the Prime Minister and the Solicitor General of Canada were implicitly critical of the jury; as they sided with the indigenous voices of the day crying racism. They incorrectly scapegoated the pre-emptory juror challenges. Despite legal criticisms, they were undeterred in their wanting to assuage their indigenous constituency–so in the last month or so, the same  Solicitor General has now put forward proposals  to do away with those pre-emptory challenges. The Boushie family, when asked to comment, approved.

It seems clear that our elected leaders are not hesitant to interfere with the judicial system in order to further their political goals.

In a recent foreign affairs fiasco to India, Justin Trudeau ended up at the same party as Jaspal Atwal, a Canadian convicted of attempted murder in a terrorist style act, and was sidling up for the requisite selfies with both Justin and Sophie.

To explain away this breach of security, the PM put forward a senior government official, Daniel Jean, who not only explained some security measures, but went further and put out a conspiracy theory involving the Indian government. The conspiracy was vehemently denied by the Indian government and now does not seem to stand up to any kind of scrutiny.

The significant part in all of this was that this government official felt the need to assist in taking off the pressure off the  Prime Minister. Was he put up to it?

Is it possible the Security and Intelligence group were trying to aid the PM?  In the worst case scenario the PM office may have directed that this government official to put some spin on this story, throw out a little smoke screen.

Have we forgotten Senator Duffy , paid by the PM Harpers Executive assistant Nigel Wright, who used his own private funds to pay Duffy for what were believed to be fraudulent claims. Duffy was paid $90,000 to cover all the expenses he said he had claimed, and which he could now pay back, along with a promise to go easy on him.

Michael Cohen, paid off Stormy Danials with $130,000, on behalf of Trump. Is the Canadian version of Stormy Daniels Senator Mike Duffy? In typical Canadian fashion Duffy is now back in the Senate readying himself for collecting a government pension.

A two year inquiry into former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his connections to a German-Canadian arms lobbyist Karl Heinz-Schreiber found Mulroney accepted $225,000 in cash to hide the transactions.  The inquiry summarized the wrong-doing by saying,  in a typical Canadian spin,  “these dealings do not reflect the highest standards of conduct”.

Mr. Mulroney’s daughter recently ran for the leadership of the Conservative party of Ontario.

The point of this historic review, is that the potential for wrong-doing in this country is a reality.  This country is not immune. But we are not looking.

Our 5th Estate has been deeply wounded, the National Post, the Globe and Mail, CTV, and the smaller papers are burdened by decreasing budgets and are in a deathspin struggle to remain relevant and financially viable.

The CBC clearly has become an arm of the Liberal party, and have been rewarded by increases in their annual budgets. If you are not a believer, the extra money even comes with strings attached; that the CBC develop a 5 year “accountability plan”, with no details given or outlined what this involves.

So that leaves us with the police and the Department of Justice.

In a recent Globe and Mail article, the article notes that Commissioner Lucki has not given any media conferences since her appointment, but was busying herself with finding a home in Ottawa.

However, what was striking was one paragraph, where the author discovers that the government “has been preparing a mandate letter listing the goals she needs to meet in coming years”. It goes on to say that this is unusual, something usually done for the Minister of a particular portfolio, but in this instance “the Federal government wants to lay out exactly what Canadians can expect of their new top cop”.

The days of an independent and viable national police force seem to be rapidly disappearing.  The Liberals have taken the step over the line, the line separating the state from the police.

The mandate of the RCMP is pretty obvious, enforce the laws as constituted.

The Commissioner represents the rank and file of the RCMP and the width and breadth of the investigational and operational policing across this country. In this time of proposed civilian oversight, these could prove to be dangerous times, given the nature of the current crop of politicians who seem to want to wrest control over the direction and scope of the National police force.

Ms. Lucki seems to have been chosen for her amenability to accept direction from the Liberals, one does not get the impression of her pounding the table to defend the rank and file, or standing up to possible governmental interference. Operational policing once again seems to be being pushed into the back seat.

Principals and scruples seem less apparent with our current Prime Minister as he frolics on the beach with Aga Khan. The Solicitor General seems unaware that it is ethically wrong to change the laws to cater to her core political base, a group for whom she once worked.

But no where in sight is anyone who seems concerned.

 

“What people fail to appreciate is that the currency of corruption in elective office is not money, but votes” – William F. Buckley. 

 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by DonkeyHotey – Some Rights Reserved