Conviction politics

This is a policing story, or more accurately a story about how the police should police. The resulting judicial action in this story should send a chill down the spine of all officers. It may even require you to re-assess your career choice.

This story originates in that bastion of polarized viewpoints and guileless political pandering that makes up those fifty states and one District to the south of us. The theory is that if you want to predict upcoming policing developments in Canada you usually don’t need to look much further than to our brother and sister officers in the U.S. of A.

At first blush it is easy to point out that the atmosphere in the United States and in Canada over the last couple of years would not be one that has conjured up positive attitudes to the police. With Trump gone (albeit astoundingly threatening to come back) Uncle Joe has now found his new left social conscious. We are watching as he and Justin, holding hands, run to the social democratic cliff like Thelma and Louise. Their audience and intended target for their attention and genuflection, and hopefully they assume their votes, is anyone who is in a minority– take your pick.

Racism in the United States is racism in Canada. Systemic racism in the U.S. crosses the border unencumbered to every level of government policy in Canada. The need for diversity in the U.S. is quickly mirrored with cries for diversity in Canada. Tearing down Confederate statues in the U.S. is met with the Indigenous and all those that consider themselves “woke” tearing down statues in Canada. We seem to copy the U.S. collective guilt with gleeful abandon.

We mimic their police in our garb and militarization, our stance indistinguishable from our Southern neighbours, so it is natural that we also suffer the consequences of policies designed to curtail the authoritative nature of policing or when things go wrong. We copy but then express surprise at the negative consequences.

The George Floyd incident in Minnesota left those already convinced of racism at every level spitting in rage and indignation. It sparked the de-funding police movement, and it sustained the belief that all police are systemically racist and ill-intentioned. The black community demanded justice at this the latest outrage, and rioting swept through the country. When the charges were laid against Derek Chauvin, there was a palatable fear of an acquittal by the government overseers of the police. The evidence as a result became secondary– a show trial was demanded, granted, and delivered.

Did George Floyd deserve to die? He did not. Was it intentional murder was then and remains the relevant question; the question that many are afraid to voice in this climate of angered throng justice.

Despite our differing histories, the after shocks in Minnesota and Portland Oregon were borne along by the allegedly shocked media, travelling unabated and unquestioned into this country.

Defunding the police, Black Lives Matter, “systemic” racism and uncontrolled cries of victimization, now resonant and rebound off the walls of government committee rooms on Municipal, Provincial and Federal levels. All allegations no matter how outlandish are now met by nodded knowing assurances from our politicians and their constant pledges of forthcoming change. Apologies have become an art form. To do otherwise, to even countenance the merits of an argument, is met by denunciation and ridicule.

So now the George Floyd case has produced another unjust and unreasonable outcome.

I am speaking of the conviction of the three officers who were also in attendance during the George Floyd arrest.

Two of the three officers were rookies, brand new to the topsy-turvy world of policing.

They were convicted of failing to intervene and prevent officer Chauvin, the senior officer at the scene, from kneeling on the neck of George Floyd on that dark day in May 2020. In essence they were convicted of failing to save the life of George Floyd. It was the proclaimed truth that Mr Floyd was in fact being “murdered” in front of them, and they did nothing to stop it.

Even the NY Times described it as an extraordinary “rare” example of the Justice Department prosecuting officers for their “inaction”. The Times also stated in typical rarefied righteous Liberal thinking, that this was a “signal” to the police– that “juries may become more willing to convict not just officers who kill people on the job, but also those that watch them do it”.

The officers, Tou Thao, age 36, J Alexander Keung, age 28, and Thomas Lane age 38 had apparently violated Mr Floyd’s constitutional rights by not providing “medical care” when he lost a pulse–two were guilty of not intervening to stop a fellow officer from planting a knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck. Even though there was evidence at the Chauvin trial that this was a police taught restraint technique.

Keung and Lane during the incident assisted in the arrest and had wrestled with the resisting Mr. Floyd on the ground when he was being handcuffed. If you watched the video and who hasn’t, Mr Thao was the one standing some distance away –trying to keep the crowd from interfering.

The officers could be sentenced to life in prison.

If that is not enough, they are also facing other charges of aiding and abetting a murder and have another trial scheduled for later this year. If you ever wanted to see a legal dog-piling of charges; this is it.

Of course, there is a huge problem with this verdict. It is illogical. It is naive and it defies common sense and observation. It comes from an ivory tower perspective and a viewpoint one where reality never dares to come into focus.

It is entirely hinged on the belief that the officers knew, or should have known that officer Chauvin was “murdering” George Floyd. Again, if one watched the video that was played across the nation every 15 minutes on the cable news networks, there was no evidence in the officers reactions that would support this theory.

One must also remember that an ambulance had already been called to attend to Mr Floyd. If you were witnessing, condoning, and sanctioning a “murder” would you be calling an ambulance? Would you intentionally kill someone In broad daylight with several onlookers– who were willing to film it and even though someone was getting “murdered” –did not think they should intervene?

It completely defies reason– except in a court system which in recent years in the United States has become distorted and warped by the winds of political expediency. Somewhere along the line the judiciary lost the ability for judicial reasoning.

Joe Biden has promised and is on the record as saying that he was going to be more aggressive in prosecuting civil rights violations. This Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed by Lyndon Johnson and was an act which “prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, religion, sex or national origin”.

In this case, the jury had to be convinced that the officers actions or inactions was based on racism. It was because Mr. Floyd was black, not because they were responding to a complaint about Mr. Floyd. Yet, again, there is no evidence whatsoever that was introduced at the trial which gave rise to an allegation of racism. For the record, Mr. Keung is Chinese, Mr. Thao is Vietnamese.

But Biden and the Justice Department is playing to those that elected him as the Democrats struggle to keep the votes for the upcoming Senate and House Elections. If he was going to look forceful to the black vote to which the Democrats now desperately cling, George Floyd presented the first high profile case where he could flex his political muscles. It is this same desire which made him announce ahead of time that he was going to appoint a black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court. No matter the rightful logic, announcing it ahead of time was pure politics, he couldn’t help himself.

This is not to argue that there are no circumstances where officers should not intervene. There clearly are times when officers are in the wrong.

In the Rodney King incident in Los Angelas, four officers stood by while officers beat Rodney King into submission. They were never charged although they clearly should have been. The recurring question is whether or not that incident is comparable to the George Floyd incident.

Upon hearing this latest verdict in the George Floyd matter, the press predictably turned the cameras to the more than willing Floyd family and in a clearly staged and rehearsed moment, George Floyd’s brother said that he “can finally breathe again”.

This was an unjust death, but it has now been layered over with an unjust verdict. The public believe that in this case two wrongs do make a right.

Could this happen in Canada? Of course, it could and likely will. Trudeau and the current administration see racism in every element of society and are thus determined to eradicate it. This is their truth as well. Commissioner Lucki has agreed, well at least after a gentle prodding.

In the United States Georgetown University has already enrolled 215 police departments on a course teaching how police officers should “intervene” if observing misbehaviour of other officers. It is also called “active bystander training”.

As a principle, this seems like a worthwhile course. As a practical exercise it is fraught with peril. By definition it runs head long into the paramilitary structure of policing. What no one seems to be currently considering is that this very same para-military structure is often paramount to street survival.

So on the one end of the pendulum, “snitching” on another officer is removed as an obstacle. At the other end of the action pendulum could be an officer failing to take control and command in a violent situation. The reality is that the instantaneous form of decision making which is prevalent in policing, is usually not conducive to open, long, or prolonged debate. That happens in those white towers.

When police officers get in trouble, it is normally because of an inability to control anger. The anger is often instantaneous and unpredictable. I am not so sure that this course will alter any outcomes despite the best intentions. Maybe time needs to be spent on an officers psychological make-up early in the recruitment process. Maybe trying to intervene with an angered officer, with the wrong disposition, maybe too little too late.

One can rest assured though, that if any police officer in Canada finds themselves in similar circumstances in this country, the politically enlightened will embrace the George Floyd verdicts regardless of borders or history. The staging and production of the George Floyd trial will become a touring company, soon to be coming to a theatre near you.

Photo courtesy of Renoir Geither via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

The Sledgehammer and the Peanuts…

As Justin settles into his darkened library in the night, blanket over his knees, alone with his thoughts– in a MacKenzie King moment, his father whispers to him from the darkness– haunting, possibly taunting him. Pierre Trudeau, the deceased former Prime Minister spirit shadowing his young son the high school teacher and latest Prime Minister; as his lesser equipped son try’s to find out how to remove a Peterbilt from in front of the Centre Block.

The Emergencies Act? Really son, you think that this is comparable to my day when I was facing the FLQ”

“Dad these people are “terrorists”.

“well not really son, …those Quebec bastards in October of 1970 were real terrorists..or at least that was the way they were acting. They kidnapped people and even killed a Provincial cabinet minister. They were actually plotting the secession from Canada.”

“but these guys Dad, they are not like us, they are all white supremacy extremists, you know the type, redneck roughnecks from that middle part of Canada.. they even put a ball cap on the statue of Terry Fox… and those damn horns…the noise Dad, the noise…besides the media are all over me, comparing me to you, portraying me as ineffectual and weak.”

“Yes son, I hear them, but let’s face it you are not me. You know I always hoped you would become more like me than your mother. But, if it will make you feel better, go for it. Keep in mind, you can’t let up if you want to stick to this narrative, you need to keep using those words of insurrection and occupation, that they are a threat to national security. Let’s face it, this doesn’t really meet the definition of a national emergency. Keep referring to them as Nazi’s, nobody likes a Nazi. You will be alright in the end because by the time it goes through a week in the House and the Senate, everything will be long over, and you can at least look decisive and not really have to face any of the negative consequences”.

“True… thanks Dad I feel better now”.

Other than being visited by the ghost of his political upbringing, there can be no better explanation for Mr. Trudeau Jr. to now step up. Clearly he does not know history and maybe he hasn’t even read the Emergencies Act, after all it has never been used before, so why would he. What he did know was that he was getting angry with “those people”, he was getting angry that no tow truck drivers would cooperate, he was getting angry with the media egging him on questioning his ability to govern and his toughness. He was getting especially angry that people around the world were paying attention to the dispute in Canada; how was it possible that the enlightened leader of Canada could be being called out, dispelling the Canadian utopian image.

Even Grandpa Joe called from the U.S. to say, hey get on with it, those cars need their parts.

To understand the Emergencies Act, one must first understand its predecessor, the War Measures Act.

The War Measures Act which gave broad powers to the Federal government was to be instituted as a “declaration of war, invasion or insurrection”. Which would explain the Liberals deftly referring to an “insurrection” all the time now. The need for WMA and its imposition came about only three times. During WWI, WWII, and during the 1970 “October Crisis”.

During WWI, between 1914 and 1920 it was enacted to intern Ukranians and some other Europeans, who were declared “enemy aliens”. It also allowed them to disallow any person who had membership in a “socialist or communist organization”. We have since apologized for our behaviour.

It was used during WWII to intern the Japanese. We have since apologized about our behaviour then too.

And it was used in October 1970 to thwart the Front du Liberation de Quebec, who kidnapped James Cross and Pierre Laporte. Laporte was later found murdered. The FLQ were making demands and pushing the Province secession from Canada. The Army invaded the streets of Montreal and by the end of it 465 people were arrested without charges and eventually released. The law effectively removed the need for habeas corpus.

The War Measures Act in 1970 was not without dissenters. The NDP leader Tommy Douglas said the that Pierre Trudeau was using a “sledgehammer to crack a peanut”, and the separatists argued that they were criminalizing the separatist movement. To this day, the decision to enact at that time was dividing. This may explain why Yves Blanchett last year asked for apologies for the enactment of the War Measures Act for his fellow Quebecers. (This would also explain why the Premier of Quebec is now saying that he wants assurances that the Emergencies Act will not be employed in Quebec.)

Ironically, when it was discovered that the RCMP may have exceeded their authorities during this time of the War Measures Act implementation, they ordered a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Certain Activities of the RCMP; known as the McDonald Commission. After a lengthy inquiry the McDonald Commission recommended a curtailing of the War Measures Act, which led to the production of the now in the news Emergencies Act.

The new now apparently gentler Emergencies Act, which has taken its place and is front and centre in the news of today, lays out four criteria for its implementation.

  1. a public welfare emergency
  2. a public order emergency
  3. an international emergency
  4. a war emergency.

In the regulations you will also find that in order for conditions to be met for the implementation of this Emergencies Act, it has to be pre-determined that “the existing laws of Canada are not effective in addressing the situation”

If any of the above criteria are met, and that is a big if. this Act would allow the government to “ban gatherings” around such things as national monuments and the legislatures” , and to make there be “protected places” such as Justin’s house. It would “prohibit public assembly… other than lawful advocacy or protest or dissent”. It would allow the government and the banks to determine who was providing funds through platforms such as GoFundMe and the like, and it would allow the government to freeze the bank accounts of those that contributed.

So as we examine the criteria, does this constitute a public welfare emergency? Across this nation is the welfare of the public in danger. Well, if not that then, is this a public order emergency? Is there a need for public order across this country? Do you now feel threatened sitting in Vancouver, in Calgary, in Halifax right now? Maybe in Ottawa off Bank Street, but now this protest into its third week and slowly being dismantled has been determined as a public order emergency? Is this a threat to all Canadians or just to the shrill folks of the Ottawa Police Board?

In terms of the criteria in points 3 and 4. Neither of the latter are applicable.

So how do we explain this ongoing lunacy?

Is the infringement of human rights a legitimate concern? If the answer is yes, why is it that the Prime Minister refuses to meet with them? He clearly went down the political path of labelling them, speaking down to them, and could not personally relate to them. He orchestrated this dialogue and thus put himself nicely in a diplomatic box. His stubborn attitude and ego is keeping him there.

To explain this lack of dialogue, he had to turn up the heat to prove that these people were illegitimate. The convoy raised a great deal of money during their trek to Ottawa, so they even went after the GoFundMe page, and the page folded to that political pressure.

They went after the fringe players that are always drawn to any type of anti-government protest. Lets face it, all protests draw the lunatic fringe. When the indigenous were protesting did they go after the flags they were showing, the tearing down of statutes they were orchestrating, or the multiple torching of churches? Did they examine those involved in the Indigenous protest and seek out the radical few on Twitter or Instagram? Did they stop any funding to the Indigenous?

Do you think Black Lives Matter has a few radical elements? Do they think the environmental protestors had not radicals. Of course, they all do. So what makes this different?

The police in all this are in the usual difficult position of trying to smoothe out a litany of missteps by our illustrious politicians. The “progressive” Ottawa Police chief resigned. The Ottawa police board has now fallen apart as the politicos are throwing around recriminations and in-fighting. The Federal Liberals have been trying to direct the investigation of the convoy from the outset, even trying to direct where the trucks should be parked but most importantly effectively orchestrating the us versus them dialogue with inflammatory language and accusations. (Yesterday in Parliament Trudeau accused a Jewish Conservative member of being in favour of the Nazis—in the category of you can’t make this up)

Are the existing laws of Canada not sufficient to quell this “uprising”?

It seems that when pushed the police are charging people and arresting people and towing away some vehicles. So the laws are there, but the willingness to enforce, and the resources to enforce are in short supply–lets face it they underestimated the support this convoy would generate.

Do you think it is coincidence that this convoy has been compared to the January 6th uprising in the United States, which the Democrats in that country are working hard to try and prove that Trump was trying to overthrow the duly elected government. Similar claims of right wing Aryan nation types abound in that dialogue too. Proof of it is far less compelling.

Now the government is pointing to four individuals who have been arrested and charged with “plotting to murder RCMP officers” and nine charges of mischief and weapons offences against nine others. The police press release says that they launched into an “immediate and complex investigation to determine the threat and criminal organization”. The group of four conspirators, all of whom work for a lighting group in Calgary, had “three trailers” associated to them and a warrant was duly executed. In it they found 13 long guns, a handgun, body armour and a machete along with ammunition.

This could require some thoughtful dissecting. It was acknowledged that the conspiracy to commit murder of the RCMP officers stems from, in the police wording, that this group had a “willingness to use force if any attempts were made to disrupt the blockade”.

Not for a moment do I think that these are unwarranted charges. If they were planning to bring out the guns if the police moved in, they should be prosecuted and the police applauded for cutting off potential violence.

My only question is the portrayal of the investigation as a discovered attempt for insurrection and a “conspiracy to commit murder”, planned resistance being far different legally and morally, then planning to go out to kill police officers.

Looking at the background of those charged and the various ages of those involved, one also wonders whether this would constitute a normal person’s version of a no named “criminal organization.”

It all just makes you wonder where all this ends up when it goes through the inevitable court siphon.

But Trudeau, Freeland, and Mendocino know one thing.

The majority of Canadians according to the latest poll want the convoy to end, and they don’t mind if some people get hurt.

68% of Canadians felt that they wanted the military and the police to do so by force.

Just 26% of Canadians thought that they wanted a negotiated settlement.

Paradoxically 54% a slight majority are not impressed with the politicians.

Maybe the people of this country who have been willing to set aside their civil rights in the fight against a virus, comprised of a generation of individuals who have never faced a real crisis such as war, are now more willing to take it out on others. The media portrayal has indeed worked while to be fair, even some of the journalists were thwarted when asking for the evidence. The overall effect however has been an us versus them, good versus evil. The always right against the perpetually wrong.

It is time they say, and clearly believe, to unleash the power of the government on the people who disagree and dare to voice those concerns.

In this writer’s opinion, this is a sad and dark day for Canada. Not for the actions of the police but for the actions of the politicians carried out by the police.

If things go badly in the next few days, and people get hurt, including the police, my guess is that years from now, we will be apologizing once again. The police are now facing an intransigent group, a cornered dog that has had rocks thrown at it for three weeks, and now is facing clubs being swung at its head. Some may bar their teeth and snap back even though a leader in the convoy said that if approached they will take a knee.

My hope though is that in a few years this will not be remembered, the overtime cheques will have been duly paid, and we are left with this having been a tempest in the teapot. One albeit, that was totally avoidable. All we needed to do was listen.

Then all the restrictions will be off– something the convoy wanted from the beginning.

Photo courtesy of Hailey Sani of Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Breaker, Breaker…got your ears on Justin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The police reaction to all of this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let us compare this to other protests.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada’s Truly Undefended Border…

The length and breadth of Canada’s border with the U.S. is in many ways awe inspiring.

Intimidating however, to anyone asked to defend it. Nine thousand kilometres crossing sheared rock, moss covered tundra and sparse vistas of prairie dust. On the edge of Canada’s biggest cities, sometimes within arm’s reach of small towns and villages consisting only of a single Co-op store and post office, but mostly it is a vast expanse of trees, rivers and open fields.

With modern forms of transportation available, and people being people, there is always someone willing to take advantage of this unfenced and uncluttered border to bring in or export across. Parcels of money, drugs, and guns. Sometimes the packages to be delivered are just people.

It is often bragged as Canada’s “undefended” border. In fact– that is exactly what it is. It is another Federal area, where the RCMP has failed the citizens of this country because of political expediency and simple outright neglect.

Our ability to grow and thrive as an independent sovereign nation thwarted and stymied by our total dependence upon our American neighbours, anytime there is a need to defend. Our affinity for the Americans is not a constant, it undulates, from harbouring draft dodgers during Vietnam to love in announcements of bi-lateral trade agreements. This love-you love-you-not relationship has remained for the most part, non-violent; tamed by unswerving mutual democratic principles, and the fact that our personalities are similar.

One could argue the logic of this arrangement –in terms of our independence and the need for an autonomous nation, but we seemed destined and content to be the mouse to the elephant.

The RCMP who are charged with this large task of defending this border from incursion have relied on this overwhelming kinship for decades. The Federal government and in particular the RCMP have treated the border mandate with a continuing blissful ignorance and denigrated the border capabilities over the many years. Successive Liberal governments, our politicians and the un-demanding police continue to underfund and under resource the safe-guarding of this border.

Canada still has the audacity to pose as the more stable and welcoming nation, all the while nudging and winking at the Americans, and grudgingly acknowledging them for actually doing the lions share of the work.

It is particularly evident thru the vast Prairie Provinces.

Over this hard grasslands illegal immigrants come and go in both directions, always believing a better life in greener pastures is at the other end, no matter what direction they are heading. These often desperate men, women and children press shoulder to shoulder, together in the back of a ramshackle van– sharing bottled water and 7-11 snacks to sustain journeys of often several days.

It played out once again in Emerson Manitoba this past week.

They were discovered, their simple plan exposed, on this occasion, because of an unrelenting -35 degree winter night. The blizzard led to disorientation a loss of their sense of direction and ultimately after 11 hours of wandering led to four deaths. A baby and a teenager, a man and woman, bodies frozen in ignominy.

Seven others made it across– only to then be quickly apprehended by the waiting Americans who were probably electronically alerted to their crossing. One wonders whether they were crest fallen at not reaching their American destinations or just happy to be alive?

Dropped off on one side, outfitted with winter boots and winter coats, told to walk the remaining distance where they would be picked up by another vehicle. Their pickup driver also battling the snow, driving through drifts, aimlessly and pointlessly trying to see his arriving and promised packages.

Our Federal RCMP Integrated Border Enforcement Team likely ignorant of any of it until once again alerted by the American authorities.

The U.S. border patrol responding stopped a 15 passenger van, a few hundred metres south of the border, driven by a former bankrupt 47 year old Uber driver from Florida. Steve Shand was arrested as were two other Indian nationals who had managed to get to the receiving rental van. It would seem that Shand and the others were driving around trying to locate the others when they were stopped.

Five others were located by the border patrol as they were walking towards the van. The seven were apprehended, but in discovering that one of the individuals was carrying a children’s knapsack, and with further questioning, it must have become obvious to the officers that there were others out there, and that they could still be on the Canadian side.

So at 9:30 that morning, the U.S officers notified the RCMP in Emerson, who in turn had to call for further officers from Morris Manitoba, 42 kms from Emerson, to assist in a search of the area using ATV’s and snowmobiles. Four hours later, at 1:30 pm they located frozen to death, a man, a woman, and a baby. A short distance further on was a teenager, also dead. All likely died from exposure. All died 10 kms east of Emerson.

Shand has been charged with “transporting or attempting to transport” but has since been released on his own recognizance.

It has now also been learned, through a comparison of boot prints in the snow, that there were likely two previous crossings on December 12 and December 22 when two groups of four individuals crossed into the United States.

Clearly the Canadian authorities knew nothing of this smuggling operation. And just as clearly, they are now totally dependant on the Americans to hand them a case to try and identify the Canadian portion of the operation.

So what was the RCMP response?

The Officer in Charge of Manitoba is Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy, who bears a striking physical resemblance to Commissioner Lucki, was appointed by Lucki in 2019 and heralded as the first woman in charge of Manitoba, after being the Director of Parliamentary Security in Ottawa. She clearly must spout the well rehearsed “Lucki like” aphorisms; she knows no other world.

If one was hoping for some insight into the event, or a call to arms to rout out the Canadian side of this criminal ring you are not going to get it from this leader.

Instead, this police leader said about the incident that it was “…just tragic, really sad” and lamented that her officers were “dealing with really rough situations”. She echoed this world of never ending stress and the government lines of needing to focus on the fact that everyone is a victim– even the police. She did offer the obvious — “organized crime has been involved previously”.

Her stated priority will be the next of kin notifications and working with the Indian consular officials.

She then warped into a public service announcement about the dangers of trying to cross the bald prairie in the winter.

Is it wrong to expect more? Is it wrong in this day and age to expect more from the police than talks about their stress levels? Where is the investigative rage?

Clearly all smuggling will never be stopped, but just once it would be nice to hear about the RCMP being the original investigators, not just promising to “work jointly with our domestic and international partners to create and maintain air, water and land domain awareness to detect, disrupt, and investigate threats to Canadians”. Land domain awareness?

In their latest public pronouncement on their mandate, IBET is wanting to “expand its layered approach to border security”. They boast of an “integrated approach” and spend some time “sharing our experience”. Their programs include “community outreach” a “Border Awareness” initiative, the “IBET Inn Touch” and the “Coastal/ Airport Watch Program”.

This is not to say that there aren’t officers in IBET trying to do the job. There are. But they are outmatched by an unforgiving landscape and gross underfunding, outmanned, and out resourced by all.

The Federal RCMP units historically have always been largely unaccountable; able to hide behind a curtain of privacy and national security concerns, and thus never allowing the public a glimpse into their efficacy. Their empty statements of “protecting Canadians” is bordering on insulting.

When one searches for successes from IBET, one comes up in 2017, when two persons, a husband and wife team from Regina, were charged with smuggling in Nigerian nationals. Again, this stemmed from arrests made south of the Canadian border in North Dakota. Project F-ADDUCE produced an arrest of 41 year old Victor Omoregi and his wife Michelle.

Like money laundering, human smuggling is likely rampant in this country with persons going back and forth across the 49th parallel. That is a problem, but the bigger problem is that the RCMP does not care at least to the point of funding and resourcing it. They are solely focused on higher goals, as they point out on their web site. The “greatest threats to our border…” as “national security crimes”.

Have there been successes there? Not that they can tell you about anyways.

Like all Federal sections there is no shortage of governmental oversight and bureaucratic pyramids flowing outwards from Ottawa in a constant stream. It is no different for the border. Headed by the International Joint Management Team, –made up of the RCMP, the Canadian Border Services Agency, the U.S. Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and the U.S. Border Patrol.

Even in the “Canadian” oversight group there are three American agencies and two Canadian agencies.

The loss of life on the border was tragic, likely soon to be forgotten, and like many Federal RCMP responsibilities predictable in its failure.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Bonnie Moreland – Some Rights Reserved

Life in the Obituaries

One of my favourite sections of the newspaper, is the Obituaries.

I can hear the guffaws now, the one-liners aimed in my direction, “what are you looking to make sure you are not in them?”.

Putting that all aside, I am not a necrologist, the idea of death doesn’t fascinate me. Considering my previous line of work, many would feel that would be an allowable and understandable character flaw.

Of course, obituaries are not about death, they are about a life lived. They are historic records of times, peoples, and places, lives which have been now forever lost. Of course there is emotion woven into the narrative in the reading of any obituary; especially if that person has become known to you personally. It tweaks the soul and makes us pause. The sensation is underlined by the fact that all of us will, one day, be the subject of an obituary.

A few of the police newsgroups cover the deaths of police officers in particular. Those that served in policing in some capacity through this broad land. Some of those deaths are after long spates of illness or a sudden tragedy, but most are the result of many years lived.

Those that from some twist of fate had shortened lives or were torn from us by some unpredictable illness forces us to be observers –voyeurs of a family’s most heart wrenching moments. It is a glimpse of a family or a family member which allows us to imagine their grief; cathartic for some, tearful for others. The prose, style and the stories in these cases are often overwhelmed by the sadness of it all, both for the individual and the families left behind.

All however, tell a story of birth, life enjoyed and lived, friends made, partnerships formed and children produced. The cause of the death is seemingly less important, it was just “time”.

Our media of course focuses on the celebrity, the politician of some renown, the entertainer who entertained us in some fashion, valuable to society in varying degrees. Some, for personal reasons, touch us deeply, as they were part of our life in a memorable and distinct time. They conjure up memories of the way we were, the songs which were part of our high school dances, the fond moments of getting ice cream at a parlour advertising the three flavours, when we were growing up, those formative years.

In a previous blog I mentioned the assassination of Kennedy when I was a mere 9 years old having some ill definable impact on my life. I was moved by simply knowing that something very important had just happened. The world and my world had changed.

Each of us move to a different beat, a different perspective, a different level of understanding which dictates how we react to some lives taken from us. Each generation defined by its own distinct times. An older generation reaches back decades in their memories and are now moved by the passing of Desmond Tutu or maybe even Betty White. The obituary paints the picture and thus allows us to go back in time, to picture those distant moments often in graphic detail albeit once forgotten.

Geography and profession can dictate what catches a readers attention, taking note of a particular life passing. A soviet ballet dancer who was part of the Bolshoi, more likely to have influenced a young girl living in Moscow or the 10 year old girl in Canada forced to into the requisite dance class.

When I read about RCMP police officers having left us, I read because I understand, recognize the circumstances they found themselves in, can relate to the emotional touch points. One can picture the young recruit from the 1950’s arriving in a remote Saskatchewan town, or in an outport of Newfoundland. Wide eyed, knowing nothing, being introduced to the old veterans in the detachment, finding your way around the small village, all eyes on you as you drive or walk by.

Many of those now passed officers knew little of the place they landed but would form lasting friendships, enduring relationships, and some would even decide that this is where they wished to spend the rest of their lives. Children would be produced and a new generation would become part of the newly adopted town fabric. A city slicker could become a gentleman farmer, a farm boy or girl could live their lives immersed in apartment towers and traffic jams. For everyone, no matter what the choice, in times of reflection, this is almost guaranteed to become the “good old days”.

Fate plays a distinct role in these life stories. We don’t live life in a straight line. Our life arc is continually buffeted by circumstances, by other individuals, by changes and decisions made. The doors you walk through and those that close behind you are turning points and are often not pre-meditated. It is only in looking back that you understand the significance.

There is a fascinating documentary simply entitled, “Obit”, which is highly recommended to you my fellow necrologists. It features the day to day life of Obituary writers for the NY Times, their perspectives on life and death, their choices of who “deserves” an obituary in the NY Times and those that do not. They are good writers first and foremost, able to set the tone of the times and the significance of the life on which they are assigned to write. Even those that died may have not been newsworthy during the time they lived but their death is now news.

The Times keeps a “mortuary” card and photo index of all newsworthy lives dating back to the early 1900’s ensconced in a ramshackle basement archive. They write about those that lived a usually long life, lived a creative life, a distinct life, a life worth mentioning. Not all of them fit the criteria, in fact the more interesting ones tend to be about those we didn’t know–the death of a man who rowed across the Atlantic and then the Pacific ocean because it was there, or the 16 year old female aviator who barnstormed the country in the 1930’s while still in high school and lived to the ripe old age of 98. Many of the upper crust of American society are disappointed if their beloved family member does not become a few column inches in the NY Times.

Does reading an obit cause you to think of your own mortality? Of course, we all end up there after all, but it makes you ponder whether you could be doing more, spending more time with others, doing things that promote your potential and well-being, all the while realizing that the finality of life is often not under your control.

In the last couple of days in the Mountie world, chosen randomly, there was Steven Neill Brown who passed at the age of 72 but spent 42 years of that life with the RCMP. Tom Edwards who joined the RCMP in 1956, who in his spare time liked dancing, and even taught dancing. Ken Davis, who liked to draw and after the RCMP had a second life working for the Cities of Kamloops and Nanaimo.

Three lives who in just the last few days are now gone, each with their own unique story, distinct personalities, their children now following in their wake. As a police officer the profession by definition means that they would have touched others, sometimes profoundly sometimes only for a few seconds.

So you see the obits have almost nothing to do death but everything to do with the life. We must remember that lives lived well are always interesting. Reading of a fulfilled life offers up inspiration and challenges you.

Socrates said that “death may be the greatest of all human blessings”.

Jim Morrison more to the point said “no one here gets out alive”.

Clearly death is inevitable and it is said that no one can talk about death for more than a minute without having to change the topic. So, even though I enjoy reading about other peoples lives, I will admit that am not real keen on being the subject of one.

For those that have gone, may their souls find a good resting place.

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons via Flickr–Some Rights Reserved

Real or Imagined

Fear is an interesting, yet often devastating emotion. It can both incapacitate and thrill. The physical and psychological reaction to fear has been studied at almost every level by the psychiatric and medical community, yet it remains somewhat mysterious. It is an emotion that we as a group often run from, but it is individual. Some are transfixed by fear, some are more fearful than others, while some relish it and often seek it out.

I have believed for quite some time now, that police officers, especially those heavily seasoned with a few years and have a hardened crust, are a different combination of DNA, either by original design or having been molded by cultural and social circumstances. Their uniqueness has often been colourfully defined as the “thin blue line” and all those other rather overdone generalizations.

The general public has pre-loaded images of male and female officers, often a cross between a Norman Rockwell print and some variation of a super hero. There is no end to the books and films that try and capture this mystique.

Fear and how police officers face that fear is fundamental to understanding the differences.

There are other characteristics of course which seem more prominent in the policing world.

There is clearly a call to the power dynamic. It is an occupation that makes the person feel powerful, and that pleasure can be received from the ability to control others, whether we will make that admission or not.

We also seem to have a greater share of the “Type A’s” –often defined as outgoing, ambitious, rigidly organized, impatient, anxious, pro-active, and concerned with time management. I will personally, but reluctantly, admit to several of these “qualities”.

Police officers will also develop an addiction to adrenaline, also known as epinephrine, the physical reaction produced by the adrenal glands, which increases the blood flow to the heart and to the muscles, causes the pupils to dilate, and it is fundamental to the “fight or flight response”. Every police officer who has toggled the lights and siren has felt that rush. This “drug” needs to be acknowledged in greater depth– as it is also where many officers trip over the line and get in trouble.

However, I believe that the fear emotion as it relates to police officers is one of the under reported side effects. How police officers over time seemingly become numb to fear –and it’s two relatable cousins–anxiety and stress. It’s not that the fear doesn’t exist, but it becomes dulled and is usually accompanied by a general loss of sensitivity. Like the adrenaline shove, facing it becomes part of the officers routine.

During the last year or two, I have found myself inexplicably angry at the news in general. And when talking and sharing information with other cops, it seems to be a common theme. Not because the news has shown us a lack of journalistic ethics and a dwindling relevance to actual news; because that is both depressing and real. My complaint and the complaint of others is the abject marketing of fear– a clear purposeful manipulation of the senses aimed at the general public.

Of course, Covid and its implications have become the single biggest instrument which governments and the 5th Estate are now hammering at the citizens of this country. The fear of death and destruction is clearly being marketed.

This is not a conspiracy. It has not been conjured up in an effort for power, but instead because it is the nature of our current democracy. The media is trying to survive, to fit in to the ever rising tide of alternative voices, to be once again relevant, and they are willing to suborn the ethics of journalism in order to be preserved in some format.

The Paul Revere’s of the the Covid news, the Federal government spin doctors, the Provincial and City mouth pieces are constantly spewing forth headlines and video grabs filled with the constant over-simplification of science and the needless demonization of those that dare to question.

The photos of individuals on life-support, the constant testaments by those that did not get vaccinated and now are on deaths door. All are being generated, not to convey news, but to reach into the usually un-touched territory of fear and reaction. The fact that it is polarizing the country, creating good and evil camps, is a secondary result of little concern to the perpetrators.

Police officers on the other hand spend their lifetimes suppressing fear, downplaying dangerous and futile circumstances, denying and skirting the edges of death. They try to calm, not engender fear, on a continuous and ongoing basis, it is part of their daily lives. They are forever trying to diffuse, not light the situational detonating cord.

In a routine shift one could approach the door of a house in answer to a reported domestic; a man can be heard yelling, a woman crying, a child incoherently screaming. You knock on the door and it is eventually opened by the distraught male, the dishevelled female, or the dirty child. The fear you’re feeling is of the unknown, the unpredictable, the over-reaction of any of the parties, the possibility of serious danger, to one or the other. It subsides after an arrest, a long conversation, an assessment of all that went on. You return to your car either with an individual in tow, or a bunch of paper work trying to justify why no one went to jail. But the fear gradually ebbs, washed down with the remnants of a now cold coffee.

Off to the next call, a report of someone acting strangely in an alley or in a residential neighbourhood. You drive up to someone matching the description, the person starts yelling with no apparent purpose, hands in their ill-fitting sweatshirt, face blurred by a hoodie. It’s cold and wet, the person may be just in a miserable situation, maybe under some serious mental pressures known only to them– or just out for a walk. You feel that creeping fear as you approach and stand in their way, all to ask a few questions. It could go either way.

You book in a prisoner, Hep A, Hep B, and Hep C abound. The guard or attendant disinfects the counter in a practised way. You pull needles from the belongings. The prisoner coughs up phlegm, turning his head away only partially while begging for a cigarette before he goes into his or her new six by eight home. These “clients” reek of the streets, the Macdonalds cheese burger having been the only meal about twelve hours ago; constant diarrhea, constant aches and open sores. You handle them with cheap plastic gloves, sometimes having to bodily carry them, sometimes having to wrestle them, sometimes wearing a mask but not always. Dispatch is calling, asking you to quickly clear and move on to the next. No time to monitor or complain of stress.

This goes on call after call, dispatch ticket after dispatch ticket– twelve calls a day, four days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. The element of fear becomes part of your being. Quelling the over reaction given any set of sometimes bizarre circumstances is what makes you reliable, able to handle the situation, to calm the fears of others, to subsume your own fears. You learn that fear doesn’t shut you down it makes you wake up.

Some officers grow to love this life, this way of living, so different from those sitting in their homes watching the latest covid statistics with apprehension, wondering if they should go or be allowed to go to the company party or take that southern vacation. The inability to get to that spin class seems stressful and depressing, like the stock prices of Peloton, the affluents answer to work outs at home.

The world is now enveloped with a fear of Covid. It is a real fear. It is a fear greater than one would assume should have come from a flu virus. The general public are unaccustomed to constant fear, so the amplification of it and studying it has become all consuming; often causing people to react unreasonably and uncontrollably. The hoarding of toilet paper, the washing of groceries, the closing of the borders and forcing out those that dare to try and enter into your personal bubble sphere of safety.

The often disappointing attitude of Canadians to the mantra of “I’m ok to hell with the rest of you” is based on fear. It is not just on a personal level, it is on the Federal, Provincial and municipal government level. While we the developed countries were hoarding our vaccines, the Omnicron variant comes out of a continent which has only been able to inoculate 7% of its population. Our selfishness, dictated by this fear has now backfired.

As that famous old Jedi master Yoda said : “Fear is the path to the Dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering”.

Government’s fear of being politically exposed leads them to overreact, quick and un-thought out policy decisions are the obvious result. Optics is their only guiding principle. Our inability to plan for future disasters is being buried under a constant message of standing with you at the barricades, to save us from ourselves.

The war headlines of yesteryears have always been the biggest headlines in both font and attention. If there is no physical war, the war on Covid takes its place nicely. The governments play to the theme. They bring in the Armed Forces, declare Emergency Acts, and spend monies greater than that spent during World War II. Daily briefings attempt to mold Churchills out of Trudeaus. Fourth and fifth “waves” conjure up images of the beaches of Normandy and Dieppe. Over extended Emergency wards are being described akin to battlefield triage, one disaster leading to another comparable disaster.

There is a great deal being written now on whether our democracy can survive in these times of polarized fear. China and Russia, undoubtedly believe that North American culture is in a downward spiral fed by a society of pampered, over fed, and egocentric lifestyles. Our schools and our children’s education is in disarray, our hospitals and health care systems are displaying their inadequacies for all to see, our economies are fully reliant on others outside our control, and our infrastructure is in need of long term economic and social planning.

This is just to say that climate change and diversity may not in fact be our biggest future problems.

We need our next leaders to come from a group less fearful. Less inclined to over react. And we need the leadership of this country to run towards the fire, not away from it. Lead us to the battle, not to an encircling of the wagons where we crouch in fear, smugly safe in our homes and not letting anyone in. Our democracy and its fundamental principles may be at stake.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons — some Rights Reserved.

Casting a Blue Ballot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darkening Clouds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait, there is more,. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of Flckr Commons by Groupka -Some Rights Reserved

So, how is that “Defunding” going?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Their answer: “Defund the Police”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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