Fifty Shades of Red

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of Indrid_Cold at Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved

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 Pay Raise Gamble

Police officers and their managers have always had a comfy, cocoon like existence —somewhat removed from the economic up and down and cycles of the “real” world. Profit, loss and the measurement of productivity is an anathema to the world of policing.

They have often been able to “social distance” itself from the the pettiness and give and take of pesty budget concerns. “Cutbacks” during the last few decades, and especially in the RCMP has never really been in the policing lexicon.

To be sure there were years where in the “police universe” the Mounties received the short end of the stick, falling behind some of the bigger municipalities, at least for short periods of time. In the end, the Mounties were almost always dragged up the wage ladder by the other unionized forces across Canada. 

There was a time when the Federal government “froze” the wages of government workers, but that time is lost to the institutional memory of this group of officers. But for the most part, time was always on their side and the Mounties were able to live off the others. Their “universe” was a close orbit, made up of only other police agencies. When given to complain, the RCMP officers were only forced to an easy comparison. Any higher wage was justified by pointing to those other cops on the other side of the street. If they got a raise, you got a raise.

Quite naturally, there was no comparison to the economic worlds around them—those who were paying the freight. To be fair, the lack of caring or understanding of the general population mood is a characteristic of all government. Mounties policing in small towns were unfazed and unconcerned about the local budgets in terms of wages and salaries, their vision solely focused on the universal wage for police that was being determined in Ottawa. There was a constant and repetitious cry for new officers whenever a a detachment commander appeared before city counsel and never would it be couched in terms of concern for an overall budget. 

This all may be about to change.

Bankruptcy is now facing various governments on all three levels. The blame for these financial circumstances which have been thrust upon them, points directly at the “fight” against the “virus”.

Albeit, these same governments have cheered on the Federal government and their daily largesse. Every level of politician during this time had only one concern when pressed and that was to keep the electorate consoled. Only the truly brave offered up any question as to the need to be fiscally responsible.

So as the CERB cheques and business loans were shotgunned out to those in need, the deficit balloon rose to unrecognizable levels. The fiscal hammer above the political heads across the country got raised up further every day. And as gravity tells us, that hammer will eventually come down. The economic light will be shining very brightly on the unbridled spending in the next few months, and the glow from the economic fallout may be lasting for many years. 

Even before the “virus”, this blogger wrote several months ago, about the revelation that the Ontario government and various Ontario municipalities were trying to come to grips with budget shortfall issues and in particular with the growth of police budgets. The “ratcheting” of police and fire budgets was finally reaching levels where they began to get noticed. 

Defending the spending, fell to the age old axiom of the need for “public safety”. This tired and repetitious explication is now being seriously questioned for the first time in many years.

A number of police departments have three year Constable pay levels which have breached that psychological barrier of $100,000 and Police and fire services continue to grow at levels beyond the reach of the general population where salaries have stagnated for the last number of years. Police and fire budgets as a portion of municipal and provincial budgets is now the elephant in the hearing room.  

Tremors of anxiety are beginning to vibrate through the policing world as the word “cutback” is seeping in, gradually, but now discussed as an imaginable option.

This nervousness and angst finally touched down in the lotus land capital of Vancouver. This is happening in a city where government decidedly leans to the left and spends money on the services of the downtown Eastside like drunken sailors on shore leave. Although, it should not be totally surprising or unexpected when this is the same government which views whale-watching and the dispensing of cannabis edibles as suitable economic replacements for lumber or the building of gas pipelines. 

That aside, the City of Vancouver now finds itself facing a $152 million shortfall (Surrey is facing a $42 million shortfall as a comparison). The loss of jobs and shuttered businesses drying up revenues. Many argue that the full economic destruction has yet to be felt in this City of the Dispossessed.  

The other cognizant point which needs to be included in this discussion– the City of Vancouver has a legally dictated obligation to balance the budget. 

Canada’s third largest city has an overall budget of $1.6 billion. The Vancouver City Police now make up 21% of that overall budget with an annual expenditure of $340.4 million. And the greatest portion of the Vancouver city police budget is for salaries. 

To meet this $150 million shortfall the City of Vancouver has already proposed a very substantial increase of 8.2% in property taxes.

During this time they had also written to the Vancouver City police board to ask that they come up with proposals for  possible budget cuts. That was on April 14, 2020. OnApril 27th, the Police Board responded but didn’t offer any spending cuts. So City counsel imposed a 1% pay cut in the police budget, which amounted to a $3.5 million cut out of the $340 million pie for the remainder of 2020. 

They also directed, maybe more significantly, that the Vancouver Police Board in their pursuit of collective agreements with all of the three involved unions at the Police Department— that there will be  a stipulated 0% increase in 2020.  

Now, it would seem to most observers’ and probably the taxpayers of Vancouver that the proposed cuts and their proportion to the overall budget are in fact quite reasonable under these financial circumstances. But predictably, Chief Adam Palmer felt that the cuts were disastrous and went to the media with his complaint. 

What did he offer up as his major concern? 

Well “public safety” of course.

“Public safety”according to Chief Palmer was now once again in jeopardy due in part to the increase in “anti Asian racism complaints” that the Vancouver City Police were needing to now handle in the age of the virus. 

Well, it least it shows some politically correct astute thinking on behalf of the Chief, but no one is going to believe that the few cases  or a rise in commercial break-ins which have emerged have pushed this City department to the precipice. 

He also argued that City counsel did this without further conferences with him; he did not mention that he had been given opportunities to get involved in the cutbacks— but maybe being in that police cocoon may have thwarted his belief that someone would dare to cut his employees. (It should be pointed out that the Fire Department, which is always aware of its political surroundings, voluntarily made their own cutbacks.)

The Vancouver City Police union predictably also chimed in. They said that with the cutbacks and the disintegrating morale, many officers may choose to leave for the upcoming new police force in Surrey. The fact that Vancouver City could lose a number of officers to the proposed new Force is a bit of a red herring, as it is already being planned in the VPD that even outside of any budget complaints– they are going to lose a number of officers to Surrey. 

Some sources tell me that the management of the VPD are planning on the possibility that they could lose up to 200 officers to the new agency.

The ripple effect of this Surrey agency is also going to impact dramatically with the Cities of West Vancouver, Delta, and New Westminster PD’s, but that is for another blog.  

So where does this place the new union of the RCMP as they start building their case with Treasury Board for a 17% pay increase nationally. They are normally not encumbered by any sense of fiscal fallout, but along comes the damned Corona virus. The monkey wrench has now clearly been thrown into the cozy often egocentric policing world. 

It is one thing for the Federal government to feel that the Mounties need or should get a pay raise. Clearly the Liberal government is in a spending mood, so maybe Mr Trudeau will extend his daily giveaways. A 17% increase seems like a stretch at the best of times but under these depression/recession times it may be a little much to swallow all in one gulp for any government. 

But the biggest flaw in this large increase is not the willingness of the Federal government, it is that almost all of the raise would be simply pushed on to the municipalities and Provinces. At most the Feds would only have to pay 30% of that raise for those involved in contract policing. The rest, up to 90% in the case of Burnaby, or Coquitlam, has to be paid by the municipalities. As the municipal agencies are already crying to the Federal government for further financial support because of the virus burden, they would be incensed to have another huge expenditure thrust on them. 

So this leaves the Feds in a rather difficult and untenable position. Nor is it an easy one for the new leadership of the Mountie union. Now no longer needing to prostrate themselves before Treasury Board, but now facing some extraordinary budget considerations.

In terms of the policing structure in the Lower Mainland, and in the rural Provincial contracts, managers may be looking over the precipice of a significant re-structuring of the policing dynamics throughout this country. It’s possible that the virus will also be the catalyst that will re-awaken talks of Provincial forces, a Federal government RCMP/FBI, and regional police forces. 

 It could also mean– dare it be said,  “cutbacks”. 

For the younger RCMP officers, just like their Vancouver counterparts, their future may be the new Surrey PD, the same group recently lampooned by the Mountie union.

The next 12 months will be telling. The Mounties will build their case, no doubt continually underlining their current standing in the police universe and equally predictable, will be arguing “public safety”; striving for that instant 17% increase.

But, if you were gambling on the bet of a substantial RCMP raise, an odds maker may be telling you to now to “take the under”.

Photo Courtesy of Eric Flexyourhead via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

In need of a Churchill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not this country’s finest hour.

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

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

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

“Follow the Money”

I have a clear mental picture of on more than one occasion, sitting around a conference room table, a new homicide case fresh in hand, and debating the merits of one course of action over another. Discussions would eventually come around to one of the items that needed proving; namely, motive.

When the motive was not clear, a reliable side-kick would invariably jump up and holler: “Follow the money!” We would all laugh both because of the manner of the exclamation which had been said with such ferocity, but also because of the obvious nature of what was being proclaimed.

If you want to find crime in this country, this Province, or in your towns and cities, truer words were never spoken. You only need to “follow the money”. This would seem patently obvious to almost everyone who is paying attention. What is less obvious maybe, is whether or not in this country, we actually care. And by “we” I mean Canadians in general, and the police in particular.

Having never seen polling with regard to the views of the general population in terms of their level of concern it is hard to make some definitive statement about the views held by the country as a whole. So this is more of a question than an answer.

However, when it comes to the police the preponderance of the evidence suggests that in fact the police don’t care, or if one was more generous, have chosen to make commercial crime the lowest rung on the ladder of operational policing.

From the police officer trying to avoid the call for a “fraud cheque” or the misuse of a credit card, to the upper management of the municipal, Provincial, and Federal forces who demonstrate an innate ability to ignore the economic crime swirling around them. Their internal view seems to be that since the public is not complaining, why worry, after all it doesn’t “trend” and paper cuts do not make as good a television snippet as assaults and car crashes.

To be sure, the problem of economic crime is complicated. White collar crime in Canada like other countries includes a broad range of offences which can and do include: fraud, bribery, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, embezzlement, cyber-crime, money-laundering, identity theft and forgery.

White collar crime is itinerant, moving easily across boundaries, from city to city, Province to Province, so it becomes necessary to co-ordinate multiple agencies and their variety of investigative groups. The investigations themselves become entangled in this web of jurisdictions and interests. Each agency have different levels of priority, different levels of expertise, different Crown counsels, and different levels of financial support. Stymied in most cases by their own current policing structures.

There are many levels to this blanketing economic cloud– ranging from large national in scope cases, such as SNC-Lavalin or the Bre-X mining scandal of 1997; to the more common such as identity theft and forgery. In between are layers of administrative, political, and government fraud in the millions of dollars.

If one just considers the world of the “scam“, the number of ways the public is being fleeced is only limited to one’s imagination: on-line purchase scams, wire fraud, romance scams, employment scams, crypto-currency scams, shady contractors, and fake invoices. And if you think that these are small problems, they estimate that $19 million was taken in, just in romance scams.

The RCMP and the Financial Crime Unit according to their own web site tells us that we should rest assured as the RCMP is mandated and “contributes to the security of the Canadian economy and seeks to protect Canadians”( take note of the terminology in that they are only “seek”ing and “contributing”). 

The RCMP themselves are also quick to point out that the primary responsibility for things such as fraud, rest with other jurisdictions and they in effect often become an “assistance” agency.

The RCMP have three parts in their weak arsenal aimed at combatting this “growing” problem; the Commercial Crime Branch, the Proceeds of Crime Branch, and the aggressive sounding Financial Action Task Force.

This latter Task Force is actually a policy-making group, Canada being one of a total of 37 other countries. They are there “to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory, and operational measures…”. They are apparently geared to “generating the necessary political will to bring about national legislative and regulatory reforms..”. One of the areas often referred to is the need to disrupt money laundering around the world. Suffice to say that in that world, they are not doing a great job in Canada at the moment.

So while this Task Force is circling the globe attending meetings, that leaves us with the Commercial Crime Branch, and the Proceeds of Crime Branch.

Commercial Crime again according to the RCMP web site maintain 27 offices throughout the country. In terms of the work being generated it seems to often mention the need to build “awareness” and develop “strategic partnerships”. This is government language code found throughout the bureaucracies for not doing much at all. They boast of their “many successful public awareness and enforcement initiatives. ” They claim to have 450 officers in those various offices and their site features a photo of a business suited offender wearing handcuffs. But, trying to find actual examples of their “enforcement initiatives” is more difficult.

In 2019 a business and accounting firm, MNP LLP released a “Fraud Aware” study where they reviewed some 200 criminal fraud cases throughout all of Canada, in Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia. BC had the highest loss levels with a total of $14.3 million. What is noteworthy in this figure, and keep in mind that we are only looking at fraud charges, is not the amount of loss, but how little that their efforts amounted to. In the recent study into money-laundering in B.C alone, regulators are now estimating that $1.7 billion went through B.C. Lottery Corporation accounts with large amounts funded by loan sharks and criminal bank drafts.

Fifteen Ponzi schemes in this country amounted to losses of $549 million. Two cases of stock manipulation by themselves amounted to $87 million in losses.

The scarier figure is that they estimate that less than 5% of the fraud was reported in this country. They also indicated that civil procedures were “often timelier and routinely more effective” than reporting the matter as a a criminal offence. This is combined with lenient sentencing in Canada, unlike China where there is a possible death penalty, or even the United States where in 2002 they passed Sarbanes-Oxley act, and punishments were increased in light of the Enron scandal.

In the above studied cases, it should be added, 70 percent of the convictions asked for restitution, but the recovery rate was a mere 29%.

Many financial and legal experts that have for decades been outraged by the lack of effort in this country to combat “white collar crime”.

Spencer Lanthier, in receiving an award as a Corporate Director of some note, said in his remarks, “this city, this Province (referring to Toronto, Ontario) this country has a reputation of being the best location to carry out white collar crime, corporate fraud in the industrialized world”.

In a report on investment fraud in 2014, the Canadian Foundation for the Advancement of Investor rights reached some damning conclusions. They alleged that little data is kept on either fraudsters or their victims, enforcement agencies were not talking to each other, and that the public’s reporting rate was “extremely low”.

The police are now often seen as leaning towards giving up and spend more time trying to get out of these cumbersome, lengthy, and tedious investigations. Some argue the laws are insufficient and the burden of proof too steep. (In Ontario, the police were reportedly telling business people who had been victimized by fraud that they should investigate it themselves and that they were not interested in any event unless the fraud was over a $1million)

You need only to scratch the surface in this country to find the seedlings of suspicion.

If there is any activity involving millions of dollars, or even billions, that is where you will find the criminal and corrupt lurking. Let’s take a few of the bigger possibilities; the marihuana industry, the construction industry, or in large pipeline and hydro projects. Let’s also glance into the government funding behind large infrastructure projects, the millions being given to the indigenous, or lotteries and gaming. It seems that if there is a pot of money there will also be those willing to stick their hands in regardless of entitlement.

And in speaking of gaming, in British Columbia, we may finally be given a chance to look into gaming in this Province and the subsequent laundering of monies. It has been a long time coming, but great hope is being put into the upcoming inquiry by Justice Cullen. This writer is hopeful, but not entirely optimistic.

Cullen has a good reputation, but one must remember that he was formerly a Regional Crown and Assistant Deputy Attorney General when the NDP was in power from 1991 to 2001 before being named Judge.

He is a friend of the NDP, so count on them going after former Liberals, but not so sure the NDP themselves or their friendly compatriots will come under any pressure. Cullen, was a prosecutor for 20 years so we will have to wait and see if he thinks there is criticism needed from the effort or lack of effort put in by the police. Nevertheless, it is one of the few inquiries in recent memory where the “white collars” may be on the run.

Peter German in an interview described money laundering as the “back office for organized crime”. Will they go there? How far will Justice Cullen dig? Only time will tell.

Another group, Transparency International reported on how financial disclosures rules in this country allow “opaque corporate and land registries”. They reviewed ownership of the top 100 residences in Vancouver with an asset value of close to a billion dollars and found that over half had “murky ownership”. Their report was titled “No Reason to Hide” and concluded that Canada has become “a destination of choice for white collar criminals”.

It is bit of an understatement to say that the enormity of the problem in Canada is staggering. We point out countries like Mexico or the Congo as countries of extreme corruption. One wonders if the only difference is that we are just a little better at keeping it under cover.

The citizens of this country seem to see “white collar” criminal acts as less than other crimes. Sociologist Edwin Sutherland, in 1939, defined “white collar crime”as a crime “committed by a person of respectability and of high social status in the course of his occupation”. Maybe our complacency comes from the fact that we see it as partially victimless and partly as smart people “outsmarting the system”. After all we still applaud the person who avoids paying their fair share of their income taxes.

In a recent report, the Conservative MP Peter Kent launched a public complaint against the RCMP for their clear lack of effort in pursuing the fact that Liberal PM Justin Trudeau had been the beneficiary of three private family trips to visit the Aga Khan, the billionaire philanthropist. Trudeau had already been found in breach of four sections of the Conflict of Interest Act, yet this was not enough to prompt a criminal inquiry apparently.

Commissioner Lucki reached new heights in obfuscation when she stated that the RCMP could not “productively pursue an investigation” (my italics).

The Aga Khan Foundation Canada by the way has received over $330 million over the years of Federal support.

Economic crime is insidious and slowly eating out the inner core of this country. The levels of distrust and the growing narrative is that every public and private entity may be corrupted, and it is causing everyone to question some of the fundamental precepts of a functioning democracy.

The U.S. is already beginning to crumble. Trump is proving to be a threat to the very foundations of the U.S. constitution, not because of what he says or what policies he enacts, but because of the the level of corruption which he is fomenting. The stink of corruption is leaking into the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and has led to misuse of Congressional funds and the firing of bureaucrats who refused to be corrupted. (In another aside, there is really no Whistleblower protection in this country)

Canada may be even in a worse position with its lack of interest. A massive wake up call is needed and enormous monies and resources are needed to be spent to correct the decades long complacency in this country.

So far, there does not appear to be any political appetite from any party to begin to address this growing pandemic which is built on a belief that we are somewhat immune, somewhat removed from corruption. We follow the plane returning Canadians from China like the press helicopter following the Bronco driven by O.J. but show little interest is what is going on right in front of us.

As this blogger writes the Ottawa Citizen is reporting on former Commissioner Bob Paulson and some questionable billing for his services. It seems that Mr. Paulson’s firm, the lofty sounding Independent Investigation and Review Services billed $116,286.95 for three months work; roughly $1933.00 per day, for him and two others to “review material”, to “develop an interview plan”, conduct interviews, and of course “parking” and “mileage.”

Was this a major significant inquiry, well no, it was to do with a City counsellor for Ottawa and his inappropriate behaviour to some employees. Normally that would type of investigation would fall to a person in the Human Resources Department.

As was said earlier, scratch the surface, and just “follow the money”.

Photo courtesy of 401(K)2012 via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved

The Ridiculous notion of “Closure”

Every once in awhile this blogger has to be reminded of the new cultural order; to be reminded that this is the new age, the age where everyone is a victim and where there is any evidence of trauma it is followed by the need for counselling. Anxiety is the new lifeblood; life counsellors, death counsellors, trauma counsellors, all part of a growth industry. Counsellors of all shapes and sizes now held up as the new absolutely necessary guides to carry us through this selfie driven world. Unable to deal with a situation? No worries, there is a help line for you.

We go even further now, now imbuing whole communities with human characteristics: “the town” is “in shock”, the community is “grieving”, the city is “living in fear”.

To counter these ailments, the pundits, the journalists and the psychologists advise there is the ever increasing need for “closure”.

“This should bring closure to the community”….

“This should bring closure to the families”…

“this should bring closure ____” ( fill in the blank with a person or a place)

Closure, closure, closure. It has now joined the annals of the most repeated and misplaced with those other words like “diversity” or “reconciliation”.

It has been uttered and repeated thousands of times and the most recent trigger has been the discovery of the two individuals responsible for the three killings in B.C.

The social order has to be restored, there is the need for healing, as two desperate and disturbed youth, Kam Macleod and Bryer Schmegelsky have been found and identified. They were rotting in the bush, in a remote part of Manitoba, a long way from Port Alberni.

The orchestra of grief on hearing the news, warms up, and within a few hours is in full throttle. The message needed to change, no longer was this a hunt for fugitives, now we had entered into the phase where everyone needed “closure”.

In the last few few weeks all had become enraptured by the homicide of three innocents in northern B.C. The search and the theories grew with each passing day as journalists burned up Whats App and Facetime with reputed experts, all of whom knew nothing and added nothing to the conversation. Even ‘Mantracker’ offered up the opinion– that they were in the woods, escaped from the woods, or were dead. Pretty safe bet, but apparently riveting journalism.

The public and whatever retired detectives could be found fuelled the speculation with more speculation.

Therefore the ending, because of this massive buildup was unsatisfactory –at least to the rapt arm chair Sherlocks and viewers of the 6 oclock news.

Not great for the future ratings.

The pair apparently were not willing to face a rather limited and dark future, not wanting to return to a society that somehow never worked for them, so they took the easy way out. It was a pretty common ending to this kind of case, but how dare they.

What sustained this possibly sociopathic relationship seems to have been some sort of twisted bond shared over coffee breaks working at Wal Mart. All hard to understand at an initial glance, but there is little doubt that the dysfunction ran deep and may come out as time goes on.

As evidence of that, the father wrote a book apparently while his son was running with blood on his hands, running for his life, and as it turns out his eventual death. It was now that Dad apparently took the time and had the ability to sit at a desk and type out his life story explaining how the world had made him a victim too.

A type written selfie, his 15 minutes of fame now extended.

Yes, the dysfunction is there, it usually is, likely to be strip-mined by anyone willing to undertake the process.

But everything has now changed in the public forums.

With no shoot out, or video capture, to entice the viewing internet the narrative had to change course. It was now about the need for healing. Everyone after all needs “closure”.

The mayor of Gillam Dwayne Forman said, “If you see someone that is holding it in, just make sure you let them know that help is available, and bring them to the help, or bring the help to them. One way or another we have to heal as a community”.

Grand Chief Garrison Settee speaking for the nearby Cree community where the two were found said, “for the indigenous culture, the land is our way of healing ourselves, now they can go back to the land and they can go back to that and that will bring the healing for their minds and spirits. “

As one who by choice and by circumstance was surrounded for many years with victims of violence –suspects who had committed violence, and all those secondary individuals who had somehow been touched by the violence; here is my take.

There is no such thing as “closure”.

It is the one characteristic particular to murder; there is no finality. Murder is a fascination to those of us that worked in this environment, partly because murder can never be fully understood.

Senseless death is incomprehensible to the casual observer, but unfathomable to those in that family circle or close to the situation. Everything in the lives that have been in direct contact with this case, from this point forward, will be viewed through the prism of death.

They will be forever haunted by the nature of the death, and the unsatisfying outcome.

There will not be a day, a couple of hours maybe, where they do not think of those that died. Families will break apart, couples will divorce, brothers and sisters will develop latent psychological issues –all because of a single act of violence.

The condolences will flow in, neighbours will deliver dinners to ease the family daily existence, but slowly that will stop. There will be funerals, eulogies, women in black dresses and veils, pews filled with incomprehending children. But that too will end.

The affected will then be left alone with their gruesome nightmares, trying to cope with daily existence –a going through the motions life– one where even inanimate objects reminds them of someone gone.

The religious buoyed by their leaders, will attempt to ease their suffering by pretending in their belief that there is a place where the victims can look down and be with them, comforting them in their disquiet.

Trying to cope will be never ending, a chapter turned maybe, but the book itself will never end.

For the alleged killers, their families will suffer as well. Forever tainted, forever in ignominy.

They will never escape the “look” by other townspeople.

School or work mates will be seen as having wrongly befriended the two. It will be a point of reference, a point of infamy, of having known either of the boys.

The parents of the two will be seen as having birthed and raised two children; two children who as semi-adults were capable of cold blooded murder. Nurture versus nature. People will point, snicker, but always turn away. People will drive by their houses, as if part of a Hollywood tour group, identifying the now forever damned houses as places where a satanic mind must have been hatched.

The parents of the suspects will be identified just like the Salem witches, but they will not be offered a trial to prove their innocence, to prove their inability to stop what happened. They will live forever behind closed doors.

Both sets of parents on polar ends of the spectrum, victim and suspect families will point at each other, often accusing, replaying a mistake that was made, an error in judgement, which in some sort of obscure tangential way, may have added to this outcome.

For the police the file will not end even though they do have an outcome. Behind closed doors, they will breathe a sigh of somewhat twisted relief having avoided going to trial to and proving their case in full scrutiny of the courts. God forbid there would be an acquittal. The justice system itself has averted some costly litigation, but the file will not end.

There will be exhibits, continued tips that need to be followed up on, further secondary and maybe pointless inquiries still to be done. When that is complete, the file will stick around for annual reviews and possible updates. Some officers who were left holding the case will spend months just sorting and filing the information.

For the rest of us, life goes on pretty much how it was before. We will try and ease those odd pangs of regret and the social media will be filled with expressions of sympathy, round faced emojis with streaming tears, hearts and flowers exuding empathy. All will opine that now, finally, there will be “closure”. Some may even start up a ‘go fund’ me site, which seems to be the latest panacea and repository for misplaced guilt.

The only closure is for the media as it needs a bow to be tied around the present that this story was for them.

These practised and knee-jerk anxieties seem somehow disingenuous. They may even be insulting to those truly hurting; to those who wake up every night in a cold sweat, replaying their child’s moment of gruesome death. For them there is no end in sight, no counsellor, no spirits, that will relieve their torment.

Life amongst the living is not always easy and death is never easy.

Violent death is obscure, secretive, and often profound and the grief is unrelenting.

Photo courtesy of Robert Dill via Flickr Commons – the 9/11 Memorial some Rights Reserved

Defending the only slightly Indefensible…

In the last few days, politicians, political pundits and radio and television personalities have been sending themselves into a tizzy, into another anti-police feeding frenzy. The water has been chummed this time by a videotape resurrected from a 2012 criminal case which captured an interview between a police officer and a 17 year old female held in an interview room in the West Kelowna RCMP detachment.

It was not dug up by intrepid reporting, Global News had the videotape sent to them. Now, the edited version has been virally shared, with Global News direly warning for those softened listeners, that it is “hard to listen to”; no doubt in an attempt to draw in more viewers as it is like saying “look away there is a car accident”.

It took hold and it has now been called “abhorrent” by our illustrious Ralph Goodale, the Minister of Public Safety, whose opinion blows in the political wind incessantly, shifting with any voter high pressure system.

My favourite Judge, Marion Buller said that the interview put on display “racist stereotypes of Indigenous women” and it rose out of the “historical tension” due to residential schools. Keep in mind that Buller finds all that ails Canada and the indigenous can be summed up in the residential schools.

Jenna Forbes of the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Services Society was “outraged” and asked whether this type of questioning was “part of policy”.

On Simi Sara’s talk show on CKNW, which is affiliated with Global News –in her best holier than thou voice proclaimed that this was “unacceptable” and questioned whether the officer involved had been “fired” for such an atrocious breech of the public standards. Of course she was echoing and re-enforcing the prevailing wisdom spewing forth from the usual go-to for comment “experts”. Thirty second encapsulations bounced around the internet and across Canada, each indignant voice louder than the first, all calling for the head of the officer involved.

The new E Division Commanding Officer finally feeling the pressure weighed in on the video; announcing a “fulsome review”; and throwing a little pre-judgement in for good measure, “on the surface this case doesn’t appear to align with public expectations or the current standards and practises in place”.

Clearly she was making an attempt to say that was the way then, way back in 2012, but now, things are better.

In this more aware year of 2019, the RCMP , according to the Commanding Officer was now “supporting victims”, and members were being exposed to a “course recently updated”. The strategic spin doctors of the RCMP went further commenting that they were advancing “cultural competency training…trauma informed investigations and an advanced course for sexual assault investigation”.

The cultural reference was because all commentators noted in their reporting that the female victim was “indigenous”, intentionally putting a match to spark the gas line of indigenous reconciliation outrage.

Experts ran to the flame, braying about another example of the police being incapable of understanding their culture, just another example of the ill effects of colonialism.

The officer involved no doubt could not have felt more alone.

In viewing the video, nothing will get around the fact that the officer asked inappropriate questions. That is apparent and should never have happened, the questioning of whether she was “turned on by it at all” showed a glaring lack of knowledge of the nature of sexual assault.

However, if you examine the circumstances, it may be in-appropriate and completely unfair to rush to such a harsh judgement. The commentary on this subject comes from those that have never been in that interview room, let alone investigated any sexual assaults.

Some of the questions and the perceptions that arise from this videotape need to be looked at through an investigators lens.

First, this videotape did not surface as a result of a complaint coming forward from the female, or some representative of her about the investigation or the lack of charges. One should always be somewhat suspect about the release of information which may aid someone in their particular cause or pursuit.

It is the result of a civil suit, totally unrelated to the crime of sexual assault.

It is part of the evidence that surfaced as a result of an investigation into a social worker in 2012, Robert Riley Saunders. It was alleged that Saunders stole monies from some teens, including the female in the video; monies that were forwarded to them through the Ministry over a four year period totalling $40,000.00. Basically he was taking monies from vulnerable clients and putting it in his own bank account.

The female youth victim, one of a dozen, was forced, according to the civil claim, to living on the streets and into a life of drug addiction using meth, crack, cocaine, and MDMA.

On March 4, 2012 the female youth then made allegations of a sexual assault. The two defendants in the civil case, (as by now another female social worker was named as a defendant), countered, along with the girl’s foster parents, saying that the female victim was “falsifying the allegations for an excuse for using drugs”.

We also learn that this same female victim alleges that she was sexually assaulted by her grandfather earlier in life. She makes reference to it during the videotape. She says on the tape, “nobody believed me then and nobody believes me now”.

The officer responded, “I have reason to believe what happened in your past, but I do have a lot of concerns about your story here”. Earlier the officer, had said that he wants to probe “inconsistencies in her story”. No doubt some of that concern centred around the fact that the victim said she “didn’t not say no” to the alleged assailant throughout the assault. It should also be pointed out that she was making this allegation against an “acquaintance”.

This of course is possible as she said she was “scared” but some further layering of the explanation was needed.

All this is to say is that regardless of who is telling the truth in this case, what had been raised was a possible alternate story, a possibility that there was some fabrication on the part of the victim. To an investigator tasked with getting to the truth, you are now in a position where one must consider a couple of different narratives. Therefore that has to form part of your questioning of the victim. As a truth seeker any investigator can not have a tunnel version of the truth, one needs to walk the middle road, consider all possibilities.

There are some in this current political environment who believe that there is no such thing as a made up sexual allegation. This blogger is not one of them and has been involved in a number of investigations where some allegations were clearly false and were eventually proven to be in fact pure fiction. This goes counter to the #metoo movement and the left leaning liberals which constantly assert that no woman is capable of lying under these circumstances. That is just factually incorrect, regardless of how acceptable that dogma has become.

So this particular investigator, under these circumstances, has to consider that this particular female, who was living a street level existence and addicted to drugs, could possibly have an alternate reason for coming forward with this story.

One should also note that this female, in the days or months following this interview, wrote a letter of apology to the accused and the RCMP for making this sexual assault investigation.

Of course, it is now being claimed that she was “allegedly forced by her social worker to write letters of apology to the accused man and the RCMP for wasting their time”.

The female victim, now no doubt re-enforced with a lawyer and a civil claim now says that she has been “re-traumatized after watching the video”.

Again, this too could be true, but there is a great deal of evidence which this investigator could not ignore in terms of the line of questioning.

Secondly. The interview and the way it was conducted had absolutely nothing to do with this female victim being indigenous. Listen to the videotape and if anyone can find anything suggesting that this interviewer was being racist, or that some line of questioning would lead one to this conclusion, they need to step forward and point to it.

What critiques are doing is implying that the line of questioning is the result of her being indigenous, not understanding that this line of questioning would occur, and should occur if an investigator is divining the truth no matter who the witness may be. The wording of some of his questions can be criticized, the intent of his questioning should not be characterized as racist.

If a victim or witness or suspect has raised a different set of facts than that has to be explored. An investigator or an interviewer should be criticized for not exploring these and all venues, but the exploring or questioning easily leads to criticism in the techniques used by the arm chair quarterbacks.

Hopefully the police have not reached a stage in this country during an investigation when they can be told that there must be wholesale acceptance of everything being put forward. Remember, it has been said, “it is a basic truth of the human condition that everybody lies. The only variable is about what.”

There are also some questions that need to be explored about the time leading up to the conduct of this interview and of the logistics surrounding the taking of this statement.

For instance, was there someone monitoring this interview as is the usual protocol?

Was this investigator ever given instruction on interviewing techniques?

How many interviews of this ilk had he ever done? What level of supervision was given with regard to the conduct of the interview?

The RCMP management can talk about sexual assault investigator courses. But was this particular officer ever on one? Quite often those types of courses go to the specialized units, and the general duty cop is the last on the list for such specialization.

There has been a lot of questioning of why there was no female present acting on behalf or as support? One must remember that this person is a witness, a victim witness, she is not a suspect. Her story could be suspect, but she is not being treated as a victim in these circumstances, therefore there is no legal need for someone to be present.

Police also try to avoid having more than one person in a room for a witness interview, for fear of interference, or coaching. If she wanted someone there and had asked for it, it is likely that she would have had that choice if it would help her in feeling secure. But this would not be likely at the age of 17. If she had been under investigation for possible charges, then the rules would be entirely different.

So should the officer have worded his questions differently? Of course, the questions showed a lack of knowledge, not evil intent.

The ability to talk to people, to interview, is an art, learned over time and through repetition. You need to go “into the room” to get proficient. It takes years to be both a listener and a talker– especially when that person may be trying to deceive. Some say the skill is being lost in the millennial generation, dominated by the land of laptops, a growing perception that interviewing is a specialized skill that warrants specialists and special training. That is not the case, it requires a willingness to enter the interview room and run the risk of being fooled, maybe hundreds of times, and those that do should not be chastised by the 20/20 hindsights of the courts and the academics. Some would argue that it is the greatest skill needed by a police officer.

No doubt this officer will get some sort of discipline letter, but if that is the case, let’s give one to his Supervisor and on up the line.

To debase and libel this investigator as being racist is completely unfair and one would hope that it would be actionable.

And while you’re at it let’s give the likes of Marion Buller, and Jenna Forbes a ride in a police car for a couple of shifts, and let them do some interviews.

And as they enter that drab room at 2 o’clock in the morning, tired, and having to perform on camera for later court scrutiny– give them a hint…. not everybody tells the truth to the police.

Photo Courtesy of James Cridland via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Dear Jennifer…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I do wish you the best….

Signed:

A once faithful servant

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

Jumping Ship….

If you have been keeping track you may have noted that some significant officers of the Executive rank of the RCMP have decided that now is a good time to get out of Dodge. Maybe most noteworthy is Kevin Brosseau the Deputy Commissioner, who was in the running for the Commissioners job; and a couple of months ago another Deputy Commissioner, Joanne Crampton, announced her retirement. She too had been in the running for the job of Commissioner. So both have announced their departure after they were jumped over in terms of rank, by the eventual winner of the Commissioner sweepstakes by Goodale friend Ms. Lucki. In Ottawa, where the Peter Principle seems to run freely and where nepotism is of second nature, one would have to assume that both saw the writing on the wall, that the ultimate brass ring was now officially out of reach.

Meanwhile, out on the West Coast, another darling of the political identity movement, Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr has also announced her retirement as head of E Divsion. She too was rumoured to be in the running for the Commissioners job and according to some reports was in effect the front runner. Many speculated that the person who was once trumpeted by the Vancouver Sun as a “trail-blazing First Nations leader” saw the grass growing greener on the other side of the political fence, time to put the resume to monetary use.

It is not unusual of course for people to depart, especially when most have a furtive eye on lucrative second jobs, and ex Mounties seem to have a knack for not wanting to retire, and often have ambitions of joining Canada’s 10% economic elite.

To accomplish this they seem to have developed the ability, like “Bumblebee”, to morph into jobs where their lack of expertise does not hinder their aspirations. There are many examples, such as Bill Blair who mysteriously found a new calling in the marihuana industry as a preamble to launching a political career with the Liberals; Julian Fantino, former Chief of the Toronto Police Service who once called the legalizing of marihuana equivalent to the legalizing of murder; and a former West Vancouver Police Chief, the illustrious Kash Heed, who never saw a camera he didn’t like, or a podium he didn’t want to stand on, has also been advising the marihuana industry for years.

Ms. Butterworth-Carr not letting any grass grow under her feet, has joined the ranks of the disaffected and announced her new 2nd job as the incoming Deputy Minister and Director of Police Services for the Province in Victoria; replacing Clayton Pecknold. Needless to say, she has raised a few eyebrows, and concerns about this possible conflict of interest.

Ms Butterworth-Carr was not in her current role as the titular head of the RCMP in British Columbia very long, only have taken the job with great fanfare in March 2017. So she has been in her current top post for two years, maybe long enough to get a cup of coffee at the in-house Green Timbers Tim Hortons, but clearly not enough time to undertake any initiatives of significance.

Her CV is replete with First Nations references and the requisite buzz phrases: “strategic planning” “coaching” “mentoring” and the always suspect assignments of community policing, employee safety and crime prevention. It is therefore fair to question her qualifications for the job as deputy minister where she will be “superintending” policing in the Province, “establishing Provincial Policy standards” and “inspecting and reporting on the quality of police services”, amongst and including the municipal police agencies.

Between her anticipated pension and her new salary, an educated guess will put her pension and salary income over $300,000.00. Clearly she will be joining the select few with a combined salary as much as the Chief of Vancouver City Police and far in excess of any other police chief in the Lower Mainland.

But qualifications and exorbitant compensation aside, what is more curious is both the timing and obvious conflict of interest in this appointment.

During her brief tenure, she saw the City of Surrey vote to pronounce that they are going to go to a Municipal force, a major move which must have sent some shock waves even to the often seemingly disconnected Ottawa RCMP establishment.

As Professor Rob Gordon of Simon Fraser University has said this move by Butterworth-Carr has left him “astounded by the bravado with which they have gone ahead and done this”. What he is referencing is that the City of Surrey must submit a plan to the Province to leave the RCMP, which will need the approval of Mike Farnworth the current Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. An advisor to this application will be none other than Butterworth-Carr in her new role, the former RCMP spokesperson and defender of the Surrey RCMP.

To be fair, Butterworth-Carr has never said she disagreed with the people of Surrey a possible indication that she is at least politically savvy enough to avoid the obvious pitfalls. However, since the election in Surrey, she has clearly been directed or taken her own initiative to show and demonstrate how the RCMP, in her opinion is doing an exemplary job in Surrey.

There was evidence of this public defence during a bizarre interview with Global news.  She along with Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs and Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett presented themselves saying they wanted to speak to the Forces “successes and challenges”. So on December 17, 2018 the three sat, looking uncomfortable, to clearly try and curtail the buzz over the election in Surrey and all the negative news which has been circling the RCMP over the last several months.

They clearly were not prepared despite this interview being by their request. When asked what were the big successes in 2018 Ms. Butterworth-Carr pointed to the “technological advancement” of the RCMP; that they were “piloting digital evidence” and “advancing interactions with Crown”.

If that wasn’t head scratching enough, they promised they were going to be more “tenacious with the social media environment” and they were going to “get out in front of news stories”. They said that the RCMP needs a “progressive culture” and that they were working at improving the “workplace culture”.

Of course the Global news anchor recognizes government nonsense patter when she hears it, so she then asked about the Lemaitre inquiry. Ms. Butterworth-Carr said that she was not in “a position to respond to that”. There was no follow up question, so it was never asked why the head of the RCMP for the entire Province would not be in a position to respond to this issue. The RCMP have been perfecting for many years the old dodge and hide but this defied normal logic.

When asked about the Surrey election and the move to go to a municipal police force she said that it would be up to her Federal and Political masters (she of course did not mention that she was heading over to be one of the politicos -a fact that at the time of the interview must have been known to her)

She did say that the RCMP is “delivering an exceptional service”, which she also had mirrored in an internal memo to her RCMP brothers and sisters saying that there had been “great work done by the RCMP”.

Near the end of the interview, as if he had been jabbed under the table, Mr. Hackett then jumped in to this fragmented interview, with the observation that in travelling the Province with Mr. Stubbs they had noted that there was a lot of “positivity out there”.

So there you have it, the three top Mounties in the Province and their take on the current political and criminal climate in British Columbia. Is there any wonder this group is in trouble or that Ms. Butterworth-Carr is bailing out? With their promises to meet with Crown more often and maybe sending their files in PDF rather than on discs, the RCMP officers watching this display must have felt positively giddy about the future.

It was a glaring example of the total lack of leadership in the RCMP. From top to bottom there is a shortage of principled, dynamic, and informed leadership. Maintaining the status quo, doing the same thing over and over again and but expecting different results and expecting the general membership to fall in line, is in fact the sign of insanity,

The system is such that the commissioned officers of the RCMP need to comply with and be part of an accepted creed of conformity to government and political needs, and they literally spend hundreds of hours playing the system, learning the new terminologies, and gaming the new political identities.

But just once, you would hope that someone arrives at a higher level, with some vision of the future, with some solutions to the pressing problems, and with some ability to communicate that vision. Just once, you would like to see some of them stay around long enough to enact that commitment. Just once, you would like to see someone turn down the rolls of money being wafted tantalizingly under their noses because of their inflated sometimes conjured resumes, and instead hang around long enough to have some success.

This group needs to spend less time on LinkedIn, more time on honesty and integrity, and less time echoing their political masters. In the wise words of Sir Winston Churchill, “kites rise highest against the wind, not with it”.

Leaders become leaders when they step forward and only when they are accepted by their followers. The RCMP is in desperate need of a leader unencumbered or enamoured by trappings or future benefits.

In terms of Ms. Butterworth-Carr and the announcement of her new job, the management of the RCMP and the NDP lead government will likely put on their blinders once again ignoring the obvious conflict and maybe a little jealous of her financial windfall. The police rank and file will resignedly shrug their shoulders, give a ‘told you so’ smirk, and carry on, as there is no other choice.

Potter Stewart, a former associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court said, that “ethics is the difference between what you have the right to do, and what is right to do”. Sadly, there seems to be no one in the upper echelons of the RCMP or in the current B.C. government that seems to understand that distinction.

Photo Courtesy of DVIDSHUB via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Want to be a Terrorist? Call the RCMP help line..

In the last couple of months, the RCMP and its multiple investigative arms have been dealt several kicks to its institutional gut. They have had three major cases stayed in the last couple of months; one involved money laundering, another drug smuggling, and the third was a case of domestic terrorism. They say time heals and thanks to our speedy court system, all of these cases have had some years pass, making us forget the RCMP management bouquets of self-congratulations and the blowing of trumpets at the time of the original arrests. All three of these cases deserve scrutiny and demand some explanations, however the novelty of the terrorist case may be the most interesting and the most concerning.

The RCMP foray into the case of domestic terrorism involved the two now infamous “targets”; John Nuttall and Amanda Korody. A startled public expressed shock and consternation, as for some reason most Canadians still believe they are immune to this kind of thing, while the media tried to outdo each other with terrorism hyperbole.

A trial and the appeal courts five years later however found something quite different. After the initial trial the presiding judge basically overruled the jury, and announced that the two had been entrapped and entered a stay of proceedings on all charges. A couple of more years later, the Appeals court agreed with Judge Catherine Bruce, that this was a “clear case of police manufactured crime…”. That the police “did not disrupt an ongoing criminal plan” as had been advertised, in fact the police conduct of this file was a “travesty of justice”. Harsh words, even for a court system which is never reluctant to put the police on trial.

It is too easy to just say that the police “screwed up” in this incidence. One needs to dig down, sift through some layers of bureaucracy and investigational mandates, to begin to understand where this case went wrong and to begin to understand who should be accountable.

One has to start with the “targets”. Who were these terrorists, Nuttall and Korody? Well, their most notable feature may be the fact that they were two heroine addicts on the methadone program; they did not have their own residence living with Nuttall’s grandmother in a basement suite. They were on financial assistance, spent hours watching endless videos, and, rarely left the house. But somewhere in this sad, desperate, and often mindless existence, Mr Nuttall and Ms Korody decided to convert to Islam. Why? That will be left to the psychiatrists, but in hindsight their religion choice was probably the most significant factor. They likely would have gone unnoticed if they had turned to a different God.

It was 2013, the year of the Boston Marathon bombing by the Tsarnaev brothers. Islamic terrorism around the world was front and centre, both in the news and in the minds of the Ottawa Federal authorities. It would be a year later when a lone gunmen known in B.C. circles as “Muslim Mike” would attack the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. The political climate and the police were on edge. And it was the beginning of this mis-guided investigation.

There was a political environment fermenting in Ottawa, bubbling over with a need to thwart any budding terrorism. A need for the RCMP to prove itself to the world of our contribution to the righteous fight against terrorism. Instead, this investigation would turn out to be a shining example of institutional investigational “tunnel vision”, susceptible to over reaction and seeing ghosts where none existed.

It is also a story of how once the police machine is grinding along it is very difficult to reverse or stop the process, often rolling over any contrary narrative, or any human rights in the process. It is a difficult to explain, a mindset of how everything undertaken must be a success, there was no other option.

Compounding this clouded vision was a lack of supervision, a lack of understanding of the law, and two factions in the RCMP who were at odds with each other on how to proceed.

Clearly he was a violent person, but there are many of them that come across the police blotter, so what made him different than the others. How did this common criminal step over the threshold into terrorism?

In July 2012, the first mention of Nuttall showing some signs of his new prescription for life occurred when a female accidentally overheard a conversation on the street. Mr. Nuttall was on a cellphone, talking or yelling, about “blowing up” Islamic countries and making references to the “afterlife”. The female contacted the police, who attended and spoke with her to verify what she heard. When they spoke with her they noted that she was intoxicated.

A few months later another individual, who the courts call M.C. met Mr. Nuttall at a mosque. The recently converted Nuttall spoke of having killed a Jewish woman (which was later determined to be false); and he wanted help travelling to Afghanistan to take part in a violent jihad. Mr Nuttall was banned from several mosques because of his aberrant behaviour and the individual M.C. expressed concern for Nuttall’s mental health.

There should be no doubt that Nuttall was violent: convictions for robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and at least two incidents of domestic violence against his girlfriend/spouse Amanda Korody. All the files referred to his mental instability and behavioural issues.

In normal times, under normal circumstances, Mr Nuttall would have continued to be a proverbial flag in police computers a notation on his police file should he pop up in terms of any investigation or complaint. He seemed more of a subject for the Mental Health Act, seeming to always exhibit behaviour consistent with mental instability. In this case, if he was indeed a wannabe terrorist, he had no problem announcing to the world or anyone that would listen, that he was one, or at least wanted to become one.

An overheard phone call by itself does not warrant too much further action, but then along comes the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), who sends a letter to the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) stating that Nuttall was a “potential threat to national security”. It was a “tip”, there was no source of the information given, and there were no actionable details.

A couple of months after this, CSIS sends another letter, updating their information to INSET; upping the ante as it were, now declaring that Nuttall had tried to purchase or had bought potassium nitrate. A chemical that can be used in the creation of explosives. This report too was unconfirmed at the time and in the end never corroborated.

So armed with this rather limited and unbacked information, INSET launches into an investigation. They conduct surveillance on Nuttall and Korody, and quickly learn that they are quite boring, never leave the house, and appear to have no life outside the walls of their house.

Yet, despite the negative findings, and despite it being uncorroborated information, this investigative group decides somewhat surprisingly that they will enter into an expensive undercover investigation, a technique usually used when in possession of much harder information. No terrorist activities had been uncovered, they had little more than one individual, Mr Nuttall, who may have been qualified for examination under the mental health act to justify this next step.

There was no evidence that Mr Nuttall was involved with a terrorist group, but to give the benefit of doubt, the police in this instance presumably must have felt there was enough there to warrant some form of “infiltration”.

There were three investigational groups that became directly involved. The respective mandates and the nuanced differences was where this file left them susceptible to mistakes.

CSIS is an intelligence agency that deals only in intelligence, it does not go to court, its investigations do not face scrutiny or examination in any public forum. It does not want to be exposed to any public light, out of necessity they argue.

CSIS was formed in the early 1980’s when the MacDonald Commission took Security Service away from the RCMP and formed this alternate agency (the primary reason, ironically considering this case, being that the Commission felt that the RCMP lacked the political sophistication to investigate groups such as the FLQ at the time).

The effectiveness of CSIS and its contributions to our national security, are up for conjecture and debate, as no one is fully versed on what they are doing; short of the cabinet committee on security and intelligence. Therefore, the public will likely remain in the dark, now and into the future. It can be argued that there is an investigational necessity to secrecy in the world of intelligence, but the fact that there never will be a shining light on their operational effectiveness, also makes for a convenient and easy hiding place, and is fully reliant on the public trust of Ottawa and its politicians.

With this mandate and with this structure at CSIS, when they receive or are exposed to information which is of a criminal nature, they are mandate bound to turn it over to the police for further investigation, which in this case is INSET. When CSIS makes the decision to turn over this or any criminal information, in some ways their interest in the case fades, as does their willingness and ability to cooperate.

INSET is the Federally directed group within the RCMP, with sections in the various Provinces including British Columbia. For a number of years it has been an innocuous group, hardly heard from, with a reputation of a good place to spend your retirement years, a sleepy hollow, an arm who often liked to hide behind the nomenclature of “national security” if ever questioned. As a result INSET is rarely heard or seen in the public eye.

However, over the last few years it has enjoyed a renewal, brought on by greater Ottawa Federal interest, a large increase in their manpower resources and budget, and this section began to catch the eye of Major Crime investigators who wanted a little quieter lifestyle. As an example, two of the three INSET investigators who formed the investigative group in this Nuttall case came from Major Crime backgrounds. One other thing should be noted and may be a key to understanding what went wrong, is that these major crime investigators brought with them some major crime investigative techniques; which often included undercover operations. That was their experience, it was part of their toolbox.

The third group of significance who may have played the most significant role in this investigation was the “Undercover Shop”. A relatively small section, which developed about 30 years ago. It was a group specifically designed to get close to the criminal element by being one of them, becoming entrusted by them, with the ultimate goal of obtaining confessions or uncovering criminal ties. It enjoys a somewhat misplaced allure not often found in other investigational teams.

As the years have moved on they have become more exposed through the courts, the techniques often on full display, the methods studied in criminology courses. They even talk about it on their own public website. If you were listening to talk radio today you would have heard their techniques being the subject of talk radio. Any technique that is exposed to such a great degree, is less effective and possibly dangerous.

Over they years the Undercover Unit developed tried and true “scenarios”; staged one act plays with police officers pretending to be part of the criminal element, designed to further their credibility with the target; all hopefully leading to a point where the target fills the need to inform “Mr. Big” about his previous criminality. Ultimately the target wants to please, to gain approval of the actor playing Mr. Big and the acceptance and protection of the fake criminal group. In some cases, these scenarios drag on, and there can be over over fifty such “scenarios” or more, but in this Nuttall case, there were only twenty-eight, which may also be a flag of either wanting the file to end, or one borne of a hurried desperation to reach the goal.

In the late 1990’s the U.C. unit became heavily involved with Major Crime teams and began to deal almost exclusively with homicide cases. since 2008 they have been involved in some 350 cases in which 95% have resulted in conviction.) These were cases where murders had been committed, the suspect had been identified by major crime investigators, and the goal of the undercover operation was to get a “confession” to the crime, often to corroborate and verify the circumstantial evidence in the case. It was an important role to play, but it was not up to this group to conduct the investigation.

The Undercover Unit’s exposure in the courts over the last ten years has led many investigators, lawyers, and academics to question whether their techniques are becoming fragile; that these techniques only work on the feeble minded, the un-connected, the neophytes of the criminal world. The unit was becoming less successful with more exposure, and several times have been called out by their “targets” as being the police. They do not talk about the cases that went wrong, nor should you ever hear about them, at least in theory.

So these two factions came together, INSET and the U.C. group, no doubt with the approval of upper management in both B.C. and in Ottawa and a decision was made that an undercover operation would be undertaken. Even though there had been no offence committed, by Nuttall or Korody, and maybe just as notable even though there was no confession being sought. This was by its very design somewhat of a fishing trip, characteristic in some ways of any “infiltration”.

The U.C. group was about to undertake an operation with no goal other than the infiltration of these two abhorrent but sad individuals, but began using a technique that was geared to obtaining specific results, a confession, a “Mr. Big”. The nature of the scenarios were a combination of a need to infiltrate, but they also began using techniques aimed at ending at a Mr. Big. This seems somewhat counter-intuitive from any investigators standpoint and could lead to confusion in the goals if nothing else. How does one aim for a confession if there is no crime? The very setup and the road they were going down was pre-destined to lead to claims of entrapment. They needed to create the crime and push the two targets toward it, the building blocks to an argument of being entrapped.

One should also point out that these types of operations can easily get into the millions of dollars in terms of cost, but there was no municipal or provincial budget oversight–INSET and the U.C. group were playing with Federal monies. (It is interesting to note that with this new found interest in terrorist files in Ottawa, INSET’s budget went from $717,000 in 2003 and in 2013, the year of this case, it was at $22.9 million.)

So the Undercover Operation began. The “hook” or “bump” into Nuttall by the undercover operators was tried and true, the old “would you help me look for my sister” line to act as a public introduction. Nuttall fell hook line and sinker, which in some ways should also have been a red flag, a warning signal as to Nuttall’s mental capacity and competence. He eventually became so enamoured with the operator that he even declared his love for him.

Without going into all the scenarios that were employed, suffice to say that Nuttall throughout: talked of extravagant plans, made ridiculous demands, was unable to focus, could not carry out the simplest of tasks. He went from wanting to kill civilians, to wanting to kill soldiers, from wanting to blow up a nuclear submarine, to blowing up a passenger ferry but not wanting to kill children or innocents. He wanted to blow up the “train” to Victoria, so was quite disappointed to find there was no train that went to Victoria.

He went from wanting to build rockets, and getting access to sniper rifles, to eventually settling for the building of pressure cooker bombs just like the Boston bombers. This more controllable goal was pushed at the suggestion and direction of the Undercover group.

The U.C. “shop” continued to focus on getting Nuttall to write down his plans, no doubt believing that it would be corroboration of his intent and capabilities. Nuttall claimed to have those plans on his laptop, then discovered to not having plans, to being asked to write down plans, and then not being able to physically complete them.

His goals went from freeing Omar Khadr, to forcing the American army out of Afghanistan, to having all the prisoners released from Guantanamo. He was “in training” when he was playing “paintball”. His goals, dreams, needs and plans changed daily. He could not carry out a common grocery list even when directed by the UC operator.

So it was borne out of necessity that the Undercover group began to direct him. (It should be noted that the primary undercover operator despite all of the above, testified that he did not believe that Nuttall was “incapable”).

Once the police begin to direct, all the police personnel involved should have been aware that they were no longer toying with “entrapment” they were now within its grasp. And as early as May 2013 some opinion inside the U.C. shop began to talk about the fact that they were exerting too much influence through the primary undercover operator. One of the investigative team Sargents argued that Nuttall and Korody did not represent a “risk”. Sources say that this Sargent ended up leaving the investigative team, turning over the running of the file to someone with more intensity to push this file.

So it carried on, with Nuttall carrying on his delusional path. At one point he even breaks down crying because he can not write out a plan as he had been directed. He fears the wrath of the undercover operator because he couldn’t do what he was told, even on one occaisson bringing a “marble gun” for protection. After finally settling with a plan, albeit unwritten, to blow up the Parliament buildings in Victoria.

Nuttall insists on videotaping a “recce” to check out the target area discreetly. He is promptly seen talking to police, tourist guides, and using his own name, clearly not having learned the lesson that he should be somewhat covert.

Nuttall emerges from this mayhem, with an agreement with the undercover team to build pressure cooker bombs, just like the Boston brothers. The undercover team manages to control this process, to the point that they were able to make them inert and give them back to Nuttall, so they could be buried in the bushes outside the Victoria Legislature buildings. (They also forget to get the appropriate warrant to give the “bombs” back to Nuttall with a minute trace of C4 and the courts pointed out that the RCMP had in fact broken the law)

Nuttall gets cold feet as the moment nears, to the point of asking for a “spiritual advisor”, and refers to dying like a “martyr”. Graciously, he says he would bequeath his paint gun to the undercover operator for future training purposes.

In the end of this farcical operation, they are allowed to bury the bombs in the “bushes”, and then went and sat in a hotel room waiting for the news to report their feat. Of course, they were bitterly disappointed when the news did not erupt.

With little trouble they were then arrested.

Equally surprising in this tale of misdeeds is that at the end of it all, the police managed to convince the Crown to lay charges.

And then, after the stay of proceedings placed by the trial Judge, The Crown had the audacity to appeal it, spending more tax dollars on clearly a fruitless mission. The Crown, argued in its appeal, that the two suspects were “completely responsible for crafting and carrying out the plan…and the RCMP operation was not manipulative”. It must have been hard keeping a straight face in their applications. There may have been mistakes made by the trial Judge in terms of some of the more legal issues, but no one could possibly argue that this was not entrapment.

The trial judge, Justice Catherine Bruce rightly said that the undercover operator “actually propelled Nuttall to a more extreme view”. She said the RCMP “instigated and skillfully engineered the very terrorist act committed by the defendants”. The RCMP “induced the commission of an offence..without reasonable suspicion or while acting mala fides”. One can forgive the odd Mountie from not understanding “entrapment”, but how do a group of lawyers not understand it.

So where does this leave us. After millions of dollars spent in lawyers and police operations and the errors in judgement will there be repercussions? Obviously not, this is government, this is the infallible RCMP, after all they are not holding anyone responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sexual harassment claims.

It should raise questions, not just confined to the individual officers, but to the upper echelons, the supervisors who read and approved of these actions. We have a multi-layered and dysfunctional RCMP in terms of investigational mandates and recognition as to what constitutes a security threat. Sources are telling me that there is another three year long operation, which has also fallen under the same spell as Nuttall. That is trying to find suspects where none exist.

All of this is amplified by an Ottawa which has a severe disconnect with those officers on the ground who are conducting the investigations.

Miscommunication and understanding was compounded by a dogmatic and unbendable and unimaginative Undercover group who continue to use outdated techniques, not being able to recognize that the circumstances should not have been addressed by another “Mr Big”.

It was hurt by an intransigent investigative team, who seemed incapable of understanding entrapment, who just let the machine grind forward. One does not believe for a minute that the officers involved were ill-intentioned. They were struggling inside some vague criminal laws, were lacking sound guidance from Crown along the way and needed a fuller appreciation of the level of sophistication needed to prove an act of terrorism.

There is a monumental lack of understanding that a terrorist act is a political act. There is a 120 year old saying that “One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”. Nuttall and Korody were neither.

Was Mr. Nuttall and Ms Korody dangerous individuals? To be sure. There are lots of dangerous people out there, just read Twitter.

There is a layered dysfunction in the RCMP. It is an organization consumed by gender and identity politics while a tornado of police needs and demands circle. Always trying to be the one fits all agency, all things to everyone. Doing everything, but not anything well. Whether it be white collar crime, child or internet crime, it never admits its failure, nor do they admit that they have been pulled in every direction while the government ignores or exacerbates chronic manpower and resource issues. They have grown or have been stretched too far, now too big to succeed. Only strong leadership and an honest appraisal of the capabilities and needs of this organization will pull it out of this flat spin.

*All the quotes in this story can be found from the judgement itself listed here:  2018 BCCA 479.

**Also, in terms of full disclosure, the author has had experience in major crime cases, and specifically in major crime cases, where an undercover operation which used the Mr. Big was employed. Some were successful, some were not. The author also was a member of Security Service which then became CSIS.

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