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

Waiting for Godot…and 2021

In the two Act play, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Becket, two characters have discussions and encounters while waiting for Godot-who in the end never shows up.

In some ways we have been waiting for this new year in similar fashion, a similar tragic comedy. Unlike Godot, thankfully, 2021 should show up.

Wits and pundits have been pontificating on the year 2020 in endless narratives. The virus of course the main theme, maddeningly repetitive, to the point of being irritating. The second tried and true theme or headline maker in the year that was, Mr. Trump, will like the year also be leaving centre stage; with reluctance, but going all the same. The heads of CNN, that liberal cheerleading foghorn is already meeting to figure out how to deal with the impending drop in ratings. 

So we will try not to dwell on either of those stories. 

For instance, did you know that 2020 was declared the “International Year of Plant Health” by the United Nations and the “Year of the nurse and the Midwife” by the World Health Organization?  Me neither. 

 Did you remember that this was a leap year —which started on a Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. I didn’t know that either. 

There were other news events, contrary to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the news editors around the country. 

The Australian bushfires killed over 500 million animals; thousands of people were evacuated after a volcano in Luzon erupted; in February the stock market crashed and plunged by over a million points; 23 people were killed in Portapique Nova Scotia; in May, China reports no new cases of Covid since the pandemic began; Africa is declared free of wild polio since the eradication of smallpox in that continent some 40 years previously; the International Criminal Court accuses the Philippines of crimes against humanity in its war on drugs, while the United States formally accuses Switzerland and Vietnam of currency manipulation. 

Mary Higgins Clark an American novelist died this year; as did Kobe Bryant. As did Little Richard and just this past week, John Le Carre. Different voices, different impacts but all having tilted the earth a bit on its axis. Many others left this world, less notable maybe, some you knew, some you knew of, and some with whom you had no connection. But their impacts were no less meaningful to those within their inner circles. 

The finality of death confirms for each of us that we are but a small speck in this infinite universe and all of us are on an unpredictable time line. It should make us appreciate our own reality and the part that we play in it. It should allow us to have a perspective. Although it is often difficult to ponder a larger time line in this current social climate, bombarded as we are with the narcissistic pull of selfies, tik tok, and memes substituting for conversation.We are often snug in own self-interest, often oblivious on what really matters. 

The trial by fire for this generation is now judged by many to be this dastardly flu. A flu affecting 1% of the population, but killing in great numbers our elders. Many of those elders, those walking history lessons, have been forced to spend their last minutes on earth separated by glass partitions from the very people who really matter to them. That was and is the true single tragedy of this virus. 

The vast majority of us have been unaffected. The wealthy have been exponentially increasing their wealth, and many others have been relegated to bemoaning Netflix and iTunes for not providing enough to keep us entertained. It seems difficult at times to compare our fight to the “greatest generation” and their 20th century battles.  

During this crisis, the middle income earners, have been free to buy up all that is in the stores, bake more, build decks, and put money usually gone to vacations into a new boat or a home large screen television.  All while working at home –claiming to be at the same level of productivity— which still doesn’t seem logistically feasible. 

People in the service industry predominantly have lost their jobs, while housing prices in Vancouver are predicted to rise 4% next year, car sales are up and no hot tubs can be found in stock. 

The bottom 10-20 % who should be in revolt because of their having to bear the weight of this pandemic, have been temporarily satiated or more accurately sedated by the unlimited spending needle of the various levels of government. That will come to an end in 2021 and one can only wonder how long that cash infused stupor will last.  

The drama of the virus plays every night, every waking hour on the 24 news cycle, which has really been reduced to a fifteen minute loop.  A constant stream of fear, bolstered by constant experts with ever more dire predictions. Who would have thought that there were so many epidemiologists in this country? Many have seized on this period of time to be their Warhol fifteen minutes. I have also sadly concluded that not all of them are that smart. Emergency room and ICU doctors present themselves are now folding under the pressure of having to make constant “life and death” decisions. One would have thought that was part of the job description.

Other doctors, who have a counter narrative, are often pushed to the side, while others are elevated to super human pedestals. Dr Bonnie Henry dancing in her Fluevogs. Dr Fauci the tiny  U.S. superman called upon to defy both Trump and the virus. 

Big Pharma once the subject of all that is evil (where is Michael Moore now?) are now riding white steeds into the breach to save us all.  Does anyone now care what the vaccine costs?  

Does anyone believe that we are well positioned in our hospitals and emergency rooms for any natural disaster? All those emergency planning departments that have been around for years apparently did not have enough foresight to make sure there were enough medical masks for an ICU unit that may have to run at 100%. We learn throughout the country that are capacity is in the hundreds, when thousands may be needed.

But let’s not digress too deeply into that deep anxiety ridden hole. Let us pull out of this flat spin and talk about what the hopes, aspirations and predictions are for the new year. 

First the predictions. 

It seems too easy to predict that our news for the next few months will be stories of who gets to be first in line. Stories of blackmarket vaccine, why them and not me will push us to the point of a mental breakdown. 

It is just as easy to predict that the government line will continue to brag about having ordered enough vaccine to inoculate the country several times over.  (Trump’s group by the way say that they will have inoculated their 300 million by June…Canada with its 37 million by September.) All politicians are now hoping that the vaccine and its life saving qualities will paper over the sometimes ridiculous anomalies and undulating policies of the last few months. 

I will predict that the RCMP members will finally get a pay raise. A secondary prediction which flows from this—  half of them will bitch that it is not enough, while their union will brag about their skillful negotiations. 

I will predict that the new Surrey Police Department will begin to form contrary to the RCMP Union wishes. I will also predict that the to be named Deputies under the new Chief Lepinsky will be announced and identified first by their race or gender. I know, too easy. 

I predict that there will be a story about a 1950’s Armed Forces jeep breaking down on Hwy 401 in the slow lane, filled with vaccine, stopped in its delivery of the vital lifeblood on the way to Doug Ford’s house. 

I predict in the next few months that theatres and gyms will remain closed, but liquor stores will remain open. 

I predict that the Federal Liberals will call an election in 2021, feeling that the general population sees them as the only gift that keeps on giving. In that vein, I will predict until that election time, fraud in CERB claims will not be investigated. 

Trudeau will salivate at the chance to run again (how could he possibly go back to being a high school teacher) and Ms. Freeland’s rising star will start to dim as the burden of the Finance Ministry and commanding a trillion dollar economy with no background in finance will begin to wear her down.  

More people will work from home and government productivity will continue downward. They will also continue to blame Covid 19 into the years 2022 and 2023 for the delays and obfuscations. 

I will predict that the newsrooms of the world will be scouring video and online chat, to identify a possible a new Covid-2021 to replace Covid-19, in a need to re-capture the ratings of 2020 and their very survival.  (They have recently latched on to “variations” in the virus.)

I predict Trump will retire to Florida, will hole himself up in golf memorabilia filled room, eating cheeseburgers and Kentucky Fried Chichen- growing his hair to his waist, with darkened long fingernails peeking out from under his kaftan a la Howard Hughes. Forever tweeting from obscurity but never being seen in public. 

I will predict that Biden will be sworn in as U.S. President and for the next four years will do nothing, which will please everyone. Kamala will continue to be frustrated as the President reaches the ripe old age of 81. Fit as a fiddle and in good spirits despite having to try and keep his son out of jail. Hunter Biden will continue to be the hunted. 

What are our hopes for the New Year? 

I do hope that Commissioner Lucki will find the fortitude to begin a major re-building of the RCMP. That somehow she will begin to realize that she is running an operational police force, not a cultural institution. (I should point out that I do not have a good track record when it comes to projecting hope…every year I hope that a Porsche Carrera ends up in my driveway with a big red bow)

I hope that Bill Blair is replaced.  

I hope that we will return to a level of civility in this country, one where people are allowed to speak and be heard, in spite of having a different perspective. 

I hope that this virus will at the very least lead to an improvement in how we treat and handle our elders. That we re-think the warehousing model. That an extended family once again becomes “a new normal” (I also hope with all my heart that the phrase the ‘new normal’ also goes the same way as the virus). 

I hope that we begin to read and understand history. Believe it or not, most if not all the problems of the future have been part of the past. To pay attention to that past will show us the way, or at the very least lead to some greater depth of understanding. 

I hope people will find the fortitude to give an honest assessment of all this Covid fighting and the ominous repercussions which have yet to be measured. I sincerely hope that human rights is once again is part of that measurement. 

I hope that journalism finds its way. It is completely lost.

I hope that you coppers out there stay safe. 

But most of all, I hope that all of you enjoy Xmas and have someone near and dear (Zoom near of course) I hope that all of you find something under the tree ( shares in Zoom? )

I am a lucky person, with both friends and family, and I wish all of you the same luck.

 I will continue to pompously lecture from this blog site, safe and forever comfortable in always being right and very wise. 

Happy Holidays everyone…. thank you all for reading and your support.  

Merry Xmas.

Photo courtesy of SilverTD 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

To Heidi….

Once again, circumstances of the last number of days overwhelm our senses.  One struggles to piece together some rational thought when given such an illogical set of circumstances like those that occurred in rural Nova Scotia.

It is now clear that a single domestic abuse moment sparked in the mind of a seemingly, innocuous middle class denturist. It then ignited, and unleashed a firestorm of uncontrollable deep-seated rage. In an apparent need to destroy as well as wipe out the physical memories of his life, this disturbed male  needed to kill and burn. He needed to satiate this hunger on a byzantine trail of mayhem, a night of twisted terror, inhumane death, and hellish flames. Twenty-two people in six different communities stood in his way. 

The killing and the psychological need for destruction is not unusual, but the level of ferocity, the cold bloodedness and the instantaneous blossoming of the inner rage has rarely been seen before, at least in Canada. 

Even writing about these events it still somehow seems un-savoury and maybe premature, so it is with some reluctance that we even make some comment.

I am not going to join the chorus of former cops or “experts” who have apparently been seduced by the media to comment, seduced by the possibility of 15 seconds of fame. The audacity to think that they can offer some insight into a set of events without any knowledge of the circumstances continues to both amaze and distress me. 

Nor am I going to comment on the topic of the lack of an “Amber alert.” Each check of a residence turned up another body, another burned house, people lying in the street deformed by gun violence, their positions in death miming their last moments on earth. The officers personal survival, their minds struggling to make sense of the visual overload, would cause them to focus on the immediacy of it all. Their peripheral vision challenged.

An alert, at least initially, was likely far from the top of their minds.

To learn that it was later the next day when management, who needed to authorize such an alert, had to be prompted by the government and then that same management spent some time on the “wording”, is sadly unsurprising in this new age. Would it have saved lives, one will never know. Possibly, but it seems un- likely. 

My personal thoughts under these circumstances instead wander to how many random intersecting lives and circumstances all had to come together, and that they did so with such devastation.  A gathering of unrelated groups and their personal timelines; cops, civilians driving or walking down the street, a girlfriend tied to a chair, others huddled in their houses. A retired firefighter, two correction officers, a teacher, a 17 year old violin player and her mom and dad all united and forced into a human drama –by a cop loving or hating middle aged male who made a living by making dentures. 

 I safely sit thousands of kilometres away, on the other side of the country, in a peaceful spot on a lake, but drawn to an affinity to people I do not know and will likely never meet. The difficulty is that I can picture Constable Heidi Stevenson as if she was standing beside me; I can hear her voice, see her laugh. All cops know a Heidi.

I started my career in rural New Brunswick, in the Miramichi. It was much like rural Maritime Nova Scotia, my Portapique could have been the small fishing village of Baie Ste. Anne; Loggieville New Brunswick, your Wentworth Nova Scotia. Our night patrols like theirs covered a large swath of small often disparate villages, wrapped in endless forests or farmers fields. Often at night, we would be policing with two or three vehicles covering a vast geographic area of responsibility.

Rural policing is not the same as city or municipal policing. They are distinct entities that offer different perspectives and experience. Of course, there is crime everywhere, but in rural Canada it comes at a different pace, it is in a different rhythm. Domestic violence, impaired driving calls, and traffic accidents dominate in these often  placid and bucolic villages. Crime when it happens still is talked about, pedestrians still stop and watch as an ambulance or fire truck goes by–crime is still largely an abnormality.

If you are a police officer in these rural areas in a relatively short time, you are able to identify the problems; the individuals who are always driving drunk, the ones who are always abusing their spouses. People lose lives in hunting accidents and traffic accidents, not normally in drive-by shootings. In the rural areas you believe you know where the problem is, in the city you have no idea where danger could lurk. There are too many people, too many nameless faces. In the city you are more on edge.   

In rural Maritimes the calls are often intermittent, unlike the scroll of complaints in the city—often endless hours go by without a call. Mindless hours are common, often spent driving down seemingly endless roads, street lighting spare and halting. Continual meetings with fellow officers in the wee hours, sitting car to car, stifling yawns and talking about other things. 

Of course At 10:26 pm that changed for these H Division officers. The intersecting life lines, the fate of circumstances were about to take on a pathological tenor. Could they have predicted it? No. Could they have prevented it? No. Could they have reacted differently? Maybe, but also not likely. 

There will be questions and arm chair quarterbacks second guessing for weeks and months to come.

The Commissioner of the RCMP will implore all to seek mental help and consolation, sending out reams of material of being “there” for the members to support them in their grief and any future fears.

There will be some voices imploring for better training, for better gun laws, for a re-jigging of authorizations for Amber alerts. Psychologists and sociologists will examine the women hating characteristic which is being found as a commonality in similar situations. A group of feminists are already arguing for a full inquiry to demonstrate that misoginy was central to the eruption of violence.  

The RCMP investigation will concentrate on the weapons and how he obtained them, how he got a police uniform, or how he managed to deck out the Ford Taurus. They will promise to “review” what they could have done better. 

The SIRT group will examine the police exchanges with the suspect. They will find the shooting justified. How could they not? The SIRT group will also examine the rather bizarre shooting at the Onslow Fire Department which seems to be headed to an embarrassing finding.  

Were there any parallels to the Moncton police shooting? The only similarity may be the unpredictability of the event followed by the chaos.  

It’s possible that all this future introspection and pontificating will lead to some good. My guess is that none of it will really change anything. 

Why? Because these are events that defy definition and solution. You will always have limited resources in the small towns, you will always revert to being human in times of unbridled stress. You always react viscerally in these types of confrontations.

Some training would have kicked in, some muscle memory may be in evidence, but these are bare and raw human experiences which but for the grace of some possible higher authority few people will ever have to confront. Everyone reacts differently, their ingrained tools are what comes to the fore. 

The ability to react, the ability to see through the swamped senses, to keep your head when confronted with the unexpected is what separates policing from other first responders. A firefighter or a paramedic drive towards the known, any hint of danger allows them to fall back. No one believes them to be the enemy.

In policing, one is always driving into the unknown. In policing there is the consistent chance that you are being hunted, that you are the ultimate enemy.

I have no idea how these officers reacted or individually dealt with the unfathomable, but I am certain that they dealt with it as  best they could and individually did what was humanly possible. 

In the meantime, the aftermath to these events is predictable.

Empathy and prayers will inundate the Stevenson family, from around the country and the world. Locally, meals will be delivered, neighbours will share a bond of unmentionable grief; flowers will spray intersections and fence lines for all of those who lost their lives over those many kilometres of sadness. 

The media will take every opportunity to intone “community” grief and constantly push the rhetoric over the lack of an Amber alert. They will push and cajole all of those that they connect with to come on and broadcast their feelings of grief to a national audience. If you can cry on camera the better the footage.

I am just as certain that Gabriel Wortman deserved to die. No matter his eventual diagnosed torment and the uncontrollable demons that devoured him.

I disagree with the Prime Minister and the CBC— everyone should know his name–at least every police officer should remember his name.

But, what will last for me, what will stay with me indefinitely is that on that day– Constable Heidi Stevenson ran towards the fire.  

She did not know she was heading into a pit of madness, she did not know that she would be making the ultimate and unthinkable sacrifice. 

Your brothers and sisters now stand in solemn silence and salute you.

You were a cop.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Jan Kalab…Some Rights Reserved