Policing in Canada’s LaLa Land

Hitting the headlines in the past couple of weeks was the fact that the NDP led government of British Columbia released a report by the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act , dated April 2022, entitled “Transforming Policing and Community Safety in British Columbia”.

Fairly or unfairly, most times these types of reports receive little or no attention. This report by ten MPP’s seemed to garner headlines for two primary reasons; one being that both of the current political parties produced a bi-partisan report in a rare act of consensus; the implication being that this report could therefore actually result in action. Secondly, it was news because one of its eleven recommendations was that the currently contracted RCMP should be replaced as the Provincial level police force.

It is still a government report of course, so it will likely atrophy on those always burgeoning government shelves. Especially a report with especially grand recommendations. Even In the body of this ninety-six page report they state that enactment of their recommendations will take: “many years and successive parliaments to enact”. So if you are a bettor, bet the under, as the odds of retaining the political attention of successive governments are not good.

In terms of full disclosure, few of you who on occasion read this blog would be shattered to learn that there is a belief, that this once proud organization is structurally flawed and needs to be re-built. Nothing less than a tear down– if there is to be any hope of reformative change. If that is not possible, unlikely, or more accurately never undertaken, then there is little cogent argument against having the RCMP replaced in the Province of BC or any other contracted Province.

This current proposed structural re-alignment is not the first time that this has either been proposed. So no one should be shocked by a recommendation of this kind.

What is shocking is an actual reading of this report reveals some clear and deeply flawed assertions, some mis-held perspectives and is more a reflection of “woke” in-breeding than thoughtful contemplation.

What is truly appalling is the recommendations in this report which are not being talked about. Recommendations which are aimed at totally altering the policing structure in this province to the benefit of a single favoured political group. Even though they state that the goal was to work towards “modernization and sustainability”, the flaw and subjective bias in this report is revealed quickly at the very beginning of this report.

In their words there is a need to determine the “scope of systemic racism with policing agencies” and that their study must be “consistent with the United Declarations of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”. Their underlining principle therefore is formed around the “increasing widespread awareness of systemic racism in policing…(therefore) transformal change is required”. This is of course a perspective that those in policing circles, if brave enough, would categorically dispute. Unfortunately, police leadership in this country are proving themselves to be sheep not shepherds.

To be fair one can not accuse this committee of not spending a great deal of time listening (and tax dollars) in the pursuit of their truth. They list over four hundred and ten agencies and individuals who came before them over the course of eighteen months. Predictably, there were the usual organizations, those that seem to appear before every committee: Civil Liberties, social workers, Downtown Eastside Women’s centre with a group called “Red Women Rising”, numerous Indian bands throughout the Province, Pivot Legal Society, and even the University of Victoria Environmental Law Centre .

The police were also more than adequately represented: the RCMP, the Chiefs of Police, various Municipal police agencies, Vancouver City Police, the Pacific Training Centre, Depot Division of the RCMP, Nelson Police Department, and the list goes on. One has to wonder what these policing groups thought of the final report and whether it reflected their views in any semblance.

This smorgasbord of agencies and individuals led the committee to come up with eleven recommendations based on hearing “clear evidence of systemic racism in policing as well as the colonial structure of police services”. Ironically, they also heard that many of the Indigenous communities were both “over-policed and under served” –all in the same breath.

The “clear evidence” of systemic racism is a little more difficult to find in the report. There were muddled explanations of that evidence, such as the one by the Human Rights Commissioner who found there were “patterns of behaviour..that create and maintain the power of certain racial groups over others”. How one patterns the entire report on a presumption, without definitive evidence of the underlying premise, is manifestly frustrating.

The police agencies appearing before the Committee, with little doubt talked about things such as service delivery, oversight, accountability, and funding. There was talk of the mental health and addiction issues, and the recommendations coming from that part of the world are also highly predictable. More resources, more funding.

So what are the Eleven recommendations? They are listed here as they appear in order in the report. I paraphrase them here, in the interest of brevity.

Leading the recommendations, first and foremost, is not the creation of a Provincial Police force but:

  1. That the Indigenous have direct input into the structure and governance of police services. The Indigenous need to be involved in the drafting of a revised Police Act.

The Indigenous clearly have now garnered a special advisory relationship in all matters of government whether it be pipelines, the environment, climate change, or lumber and mining, and this now continues into policing. Special laws and special courts already exist, and now their wish is for their own police departments. Their claimed expertise seems limitless. On page 64 of the report, they go even further in that there was a need to “establish robust and well-funded Indigenous civilian police oversight bodies…in all jurisdictions”

2. The formation of a BC wide Provincial Police Force.

This is explained as now being needed primarily because of the “fragmentation” of services. The report authors also point to the needs of of consistent education and training and the sometimes jurisdictional boundaries which interfere with communication and that consistency.

3. That the Indigenous have direct input into their police “service structure and governance”.

What the authors imagine is that the Indigenous be allowed to have their own self-administered policing services as well as the full governance over those services.

This recommendation also includes a revision of the type of training and education that will be required for all police services. In effect extending programs such as “Circle of Understanding”. In anticipation of this being a successful venture they hypothesize that the Indigenous police services may be able to expand and offer up their services to other non-Indigenous neighbourhoods and jurisdictions who are in close proximity. Logistically just to be clear, in this Province there are 13 municipal departments, and 65 RCMP municipal agencies. There are 198 “distinct First Nations”. Does that mean a potential 198 new police departments? (One wonders how one points to an apparent problem of the fragmentation of police services in the province and then recommends further fragmentation.)

The Indigenous want to be involved in oversight to “observe and oversee in (all) cases involving Indigenous peoples”.

4. That there be some revision of the Mental Health Act which includes integrating Mental Health worker attendance into the 911 dispatch system. They also recommend that there be “increasing investment in social services”.

5. That there be “equitable access to high quality police…” …which is “informed by the community”. It is not real clear as to what this even means.

6. An equitable shared “funding Model”.

7. Police Education to be increased.

8. The need to collect and report “disaggregated race-based” demographics. This is interesting because for a number of years, questions directed as to race involvement in crime were in and of themselves discriminatory. The intention here is that if they gather this disaggregated evidence they will be able to prove that there is racial inequality in the enforcement of laws in this Province.

9. Civilian oversight. Not easily done but difficult to argue against and most police officials would counter by saying that there is already policing/civilian oversight.

10. Review of the Mental Health Act.

11. The establishment of an all-party standing committee on policing and community safety.

Of course this report is much more effusive under each of these categories, but you get the intended direction.

The National Police Federation are already out on the hustings, running countering media spin, no doubt apoplectic at the thought of their union representation taking a 4,000 member hit if in fact a Provincial Force was formed. They are reverting to their tried and true arguments, calling the recommendation a “little odd” and a “little premature”. After all they say they have done “waves and waves of independent research in policing in British Columbia, and consistently British Columbians have told us they were very satisfied with policing they receive from the RCMP”. Of course it is not independent research, but that may be nitpicking, but they too are missing the point. This is not about individual police officers being liked or doing a good job. This is about the structure of an Ottawa headed police force being inert and ineffectual in terms of its ability to police portions of this country.

The possibility of a Provincial replacement force, first surfaced in 1994 under Judge Wally Oppal. It has now surfaced a couple of decades later, and will likely re-re- surface again a couple of decades from now. There is little need to concern ourselves with this recommendation.

As to the other recommendations. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said the government would review the report and its recommendations and consult with “community groups” and “First Nation leaders”. Apparently you as the actual police, have no input here as to the recommendations.

This report is another ridiculous and over bearing attempt by the government to genuflect to the dialogue of the enlightened, to bow to a special interest group, regardless of the actual needs of policing. It would establish a fragmented policing structure, where different laws and different levels of enforcement would create two separate classes of individuals, laws and their enforcement based on race, not on equality before the law.

This report should be buried on the very last shelf in the dingy basement of the Legislature.

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Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by Stuart Butterfield – Some Rights Reserved

Oh…Lighten up!

This is an admittedly delicate subject. In fact, there are few topics in this broad wide world which engender more rancorous discourse and will inevitably lead to someone being termed “harsh” or “unfair.” This is a subject not broached in respectful company, especially in this era of hand wringing sensitivity.

I am speaking about the problem of obesity. In particular, the problem of obesity among police officers.

The fat burning question is: are there some police officers who are too “fat” for the job? It’s a question that is clearly part of a bigger question –whether police need to be in premium shape in order to fulfill their duties. If one assumes that there is a physical element to the job, and there is no convincing evidence that upper management in the RCMP concede this; this seems like an easy question to answer.

What prompted this broad question is a policy which has been instituted, in of all places, the State of Texas, the Lone Star State of big vistas and big state boundaries. The people who run the Texas Rangers, a very well-regarded police agency we should add, has now come out and dared to go where others fear to tread. They in essence have implemented a “chubby list” –for want of a better term. They are apparently now prepared to shame some of their officers into maintaining certain health and fitness standards and have drawn a line in the sand. If not met, the officers could ultimately face suspension.

Before people start writing to this blog in protest, the least we should do is explore this policy that has been implemented.

The Department of Public Safety for the state of Texas oversees the Texas State Troopers. The “Troopers” are about 4,000 officers strong and are spread throughout the state. The Department is implementing these guidelines because they feel, and have concluded that part of a police officers job is to have a “command presence”. In other words you must look the part, as it commands respect and cooperation and therefore enables one to do their job better.

As much as we hate to admit it, one would think that most police officers would agree that this is in fact the case. Someone who is overweight, or sloppy in their appearance will seemingly not get the street respect often needed to control or coerce, rightly or wrongly; it just seems to be a fact. There have been psychological studies which in fact back up this theory and of course it is also true outside of policing in the “real” world.

So what the Department of Public Safety has dared to do was state that male officers must have a waist line of 40″ or under, and a female officer must have a stated waistline of 35″. I should say in terms of full disclosure, after 34 years in policing, the last ten years of my service meeting this standard would have been a real struggle. With middle age the downward spiral inevitably begins, or that’s what most would blame- it couldn’t possibly be the two in the morning hamburgers or muffins.

Now, we should also point out that the Department has allowed for exceptions to the rule, so it is on a bit of a sliding scale which takes into consideration; height, weight and levels of body fat. When they reviewed all their officers, 213 failed the test, a mere 5.3%. Of those 213 only two had failed the original fitness test and therein lies the rub and the argument.

Nevertheless, the officers that couldn’t meet the girth guidelines have until December 1, 2023 to slim down. Until then, they will be barred from promotion, lose any overtime opportunities, and could be re-assigned. If they is no final compliance layoffs could follow. They will all have counsellors available who will put them on less sugar diets and will encourage and teach them how to avoid fast foods. All of it geared of course, to a goal of solid physical conditioning and a healthier lifestyle. All of those involved must document their progress and be prepared to share their health records.

Of course there are protests. In 2019 the Texas Department of Public Safety Officers Association launched a lawsuit describing the terms of the policy “arbitrary” and “unfair to women”. The lawsuit was dismissed, but only because at that date and time nobody had actually lost their job over not meeting these conditions. (One would have thought that the lawyers for the Association could have pointed this out in the beginning). Arbitrary of course means random and unpredictable, which doesn’t seem to apply, the rules are pretty black and white and addressed to all, and all levels of management. I am assuming the “unfairness to women” is being argued due to the vagaries of child birth etc., which seems somewhat legitimate, but maybe not totally.

Clearly, there are holes in the policy as currently being reported, but unfortunately we do not have the full policy in front of us. As an example, a 5’2″ female with a 34″ waistline would likely be termed obese in normal measurement standards, but in this instance they would they meet the guidelines? How would that work? Again, we aren’t privy to all the vagaries of their current measurement system.

An interesting question is could we imagine a similar policy in Canada?

When this blogger was beginning his career with the Mounties in the late 1970’s and stationed in J Division (New Brunswick) there was a “fatty list”. And admittedly, some wore the designation with a tinge of pride. Those on the list were determined to be overweight and given a time line to get rid of their expanding bellies. Of course, like a lot of Mountie human resource mandates, there was no enforcement or follow thru, and the policy just died on the vine, never to be heard of again. Even back then, in those now archaic times, management did not have the fortitude to take on this subject.

Nowadays all police agencies demand that one pass a fitness test to gain entry. That is routine and standard. The “PARE” is the Mountie grind it out rite of passage, and all the other police departments seem to have similar tests to get in.

Once in the rank though one is free to take part in any smorgasbord or buffet that comes before you. Oh sure there are physicals every few years, but no one seems to be called up for being overweight. (Covid should have proven to us that obesity is a significant medical condition so one wonders how doctors overlook this, or more precisely ignore it in terms of one’s ability to do the job.)

The only real negative for being out of shape, other on a personal level, is that over time you may be forced to re-order uniforms at your expense to cover your waistline. Casual observation leads one to believe that having to buy new uniform every few years or so doesn’t seem to have been much of a deterrent.

The poor Mounties in terms of their looks are already behind the eight ball. The Mountie uniform has to be considered one of the ugliest in the policing universe, khaki on blue with a yellow stripe would only be something that could be approved by people who did not need to wear it. If you have a larger than normal circumference, then you throw on that bullet proof vest over top, with notebooks, pens, and assorted papers and you have quite a sight that is sure never to grace the pages of Vogue. We won’t even mention the hat. Changes to the uniform have been studied for decades, but everyone knows how that goes.

The municipal agencies seem to fare much better, with the usual dark blue or black shirt and matching pants, and for the most part have a much better uniform presence. And even though technically they have no weight and height standards, they benefit from many applicants for fewer jobs, and discreetly pick and choose those that may fit the uniform “presence” much better.

When I think of the now put upon Texas cops, quite honestly the figure of 5.3% seems low. I have seen many Dallas and Houston cops over the years, and let’s be frank, very few men would have a 38″ waist line. As they used to say about Texas, there are some “big ol boys” down there.

Kidding aside, one would be hard pressed to argue that any policy which encourages better health and fitness should ever be seen as a negative. The problem is drawing the line. Is the Texas line too harsh for application in Canada? Maybe. But right now, the Mounties and other agencies, once one is brought into the blue fold, don’t even have a line in the sand. One would think that there could be a compromise position.

If only the police could be like the fire men and women (those other “first responders”) who can work out while they work and get a good nights rest while on duty. They also eat very well judging by the amount of times I’ve seen the fire trucks parked in front of the grocery store. Let’s face it, it works, they usually look very fit. Jealously will get you nowhere.

In the overall list of problems facing the RCMP in 2022 it will be conceded that this may not be the biggest problem. The Mounties are struggling, the Province of British Columbia has also now announced the possible study and formation of a Provincial Police Force –albeit a long way down the road.

If there is any lesson in this, it should be accepted that policing is a physically tough job. It wears and tears at your body over the years, no matter how much you try to keep in shape. Police should welcome stringent guidelines, not for “presence” but for one’s own personal safety and well being. If implemented in Canada, however, there is little doubt that every police union would fight it– but that may not be a good thing. Food for thought.

Anyways, I am off to the gym. Until next time.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by Eric McGregor – Some Rights Reserved

The Art of Looking the other Way

Fraud has many formulations and iterations; corruption, cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, and outright theft. In this country it has become dispiritingly common place. The blatancy apparent in whichever direction we look. Is this dwindling of basic economic honesty beginning to fester, to grow, and create a doubt. Is there a sense that our democracy and our economy may be crumbling from the bottom up, slowly but methodically. Not by a directed sense of purpose, but rather by our obsessively looking the other way.

Outwardly, those in government corridors, put on a stern and concerned face when confronted with financial matters that go wrong. They give us solace and point to our economic stability, point to our formidable banking institutions, and of course our stable democratic government. But are we rotting through incompetence, disinterest and a lack of investigative desire? Are we being effected not suddenly by a heart attack of malfeasance, but instead a slow eating cancer of general ineptitude.

Fraud, even in its most basic clear cut form is continually around us. Just consider that in a recent survey by Price Waterhouse Coopers it was estimated that half of the companies in Canada report being victims of fraud. When the Covid “waves” hit, how do we ignore and countenance that during the much celebrated Liberal CERB benefit program over $500 million was paid out to persons who were multi-collecting; from CERB, the Canada Revenue Agency, or the Employment and Social Development Canada office.

In terms of just the CERB payments, a recent House Finance committee heard further discouraging testimony that the Auditor General can not even look into the fraudulent obtained payments– for another year– even though they have known about it since 2020. The CRA confirmed that they are not expecting to make a dent in the wrongful payments until 2023, probably about the same time that Federal government workers will actually have to go back to the office. Apparently, we are waiting on the Canada Revenue Agency to get their act together.

Is it a minor problem? You decide. CERB was budgeted to cost $24 billion –it came in at $81.6 billion. In July 2020 Employment and Social Development Canada knew already that $442 million was sent out to 221,320 people in the form of those double payments.

One must always “follow the money.” Where the money goes is where you will find people looking to take benefit from it and see it as an opportunity. The structure of these particular Covid programs created enticing pots of gold. Very little deception was needed.

Since Canada seems “reluctant” to undertake any kind of investigation or go after those that ripped the system, one wondered whether this was a North America wide malaise. Did this exceptional level of forgiveness for the under-handed equally permeate all of the liberal governmental establishments in the U.S. and Canada. As it turns out the American response to the potential for fraud that they too are now uncovering was in fact distinctly different.

In fact, the contrast in our two countries, even though they were running similarly intended programs is startling. If we reflect on the differences in approach and put Canada up to the mirror, our fermenting complacency boldly looks back at us.

Of course, the money amounts in the U.S. are staggering due to the size of their population versus Canada. The PPP as it was called in the U.S. was almost a carbon copy to that of CERB in Canada. (PPP was the Paycheck Protection Plan) The Canadians and the Americans also had more than one plan in effect. For instance, the U.S. also had the Covid disaster relief fund, and the unemployment relief fund.

Before one looks at the numbers, remember that the overall justification in Canada was at the onset of Covid, also echoed by the U.S. government. In Canada sacrificing “security for speed”, getting out the cheques to the populace was more important than the “security” of the system and the quick dispensation of the monies. The U.S. authorities also admit that most of the money was and is, “unrecoverable”.

Unlike Canadians, the Americans are a little more harsh in their language. They have no hesitancy in saying the program was: ” an invitation to fraudsters”, and the “largest fraud in U.S history”. That according to the official who was overseeing the payouts.

The Americans estimate that 10% of the monies paid out under their PPP was fraudulent. (We have seen estimates in this country under CERB of up to 30%). The Americans paid out $800 billion, therefore they estimate that $80 billion was paid out to fraudsters.

In addition, they estimate that $90 billion at a minimum and up to a maximum of $400 billion was taken from the secondary unemployment relief fund. Another $80 billion from a third program, the Covid disaster relief fund. Interestingly, they estimate that at least 1/2 of the stolen funds from the unemployment relief fund were stolen by “international fraudsters”.

Unlike Canadians, the Americans seem upset. They have set up the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee which is headed by General Mike Horowitz. This group has been given a mandate of 10 years to pursue the fraudsters.

Their results so far are in their words “minimal”, with only 178 people “convicted” so far. One wonders if in this country in the last thirty years if we have charged that many with significant fraud. What the investigators have uncovered is that the size and scope of the fraud may be overwhelming, continually expressing surprise on”how blatant it was”.

Using AI programming they are now scanning over 150 million records to identify patterns of fraud, such as the gas station in Houston whose phone number was used for over 150 applications for PPP. The perpetrators are appearing and being charged in increasing numbers; David Hines in Miami took them for $3.9 million; another person $7.2 million, some spending their financial gains on Lamborghini vehicles and mansions. A California couple stole $18 million and eventually pled guilty– the husband getting 17 years in prison, while his wife got 6 years. Yes, in the U.S. they also go to jail.

They have found that the service provider BlueVine, who was contracted to help the government dole out the funds and gave out $4.5 billion bragged about processing applications in less than 5 minutes. They estimate that a stolen identity or a fraudulent single identity could translate into a possible $30,000 in possible claims and benefits. The perpetrators would steal legitimate company names from the internet, inflate the number of employees or create the employees and then apply for the business loans.

One of the more blatant fraudsters was Danielle Miller out of Boston. Taking names from the state website and applying for Covid relief loans allowed her in 40 minutes make $100,000.

There is another myth that is also now also being dispelled. In speaking with experts in the fraud industry and in talking with private businesses they are quickly finding that “trade offs between speed and security” is simply not true. As one person pointed out, if this were true, why wouldn’t large private industries with a consumer facing business and who featured rapid response; why are they not going bankrupt? They describe it as categorically “false” narrative that speed necessitates neglect and oversight.

Of course, maybe none of this could happen in Canada, maybe we are much too honest here.

Auditor General Karen Hogan released a report which included the fact that the Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) “focused on delivering the benefit quickly…both organizations understood the rules…” and they “relied on applicants good faith”.

Let’s remember that the Canadian CERB program allowed anyone over the age of 15, who made a minimum of $5,000 in 2019, could apply for $2,000 for a period of 28 weeks; following an extension of the program in August 2020. If that was not enough, once the CERB ended for these folks, the government then directed them to a revamped Employment Insurance Program.

The Auditor General admitted that a “pre-payment screening structure could have been put in place” and that telling the government agencies to “ignore warnings or red flags” of fraud may not have been a good thing. The CRA did open a “snitch line”. The thinking must have been, if they couldn’t find the fraud, maybe the public could lead them to it.

The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by the end of January 2021 had 8500 cases of CERB related identity theft.

In a 2020 FINTRAC Report made public in November 2021, that the CERB program was “knowingly and actively defrauded ” by scammers, organized crime, and that payments were made to people engaged in illegal or suspicious financial activity”.

Have we learned anything? In 1991 in Vancouver, Murray Pezim was investigated for fraud, the classic pump and dump strategy in mining stocks. In 2022 the U.S. Securities firm (not the Canadian authorities) charged David Siddoo for employing the same system. In 2021 the Cullen Commission exposed billions of dollars in money laundering. Really, nothing has changed.

In this country we are structurally not set up to look for fraud, or any variation of fraud. And if we aren’t looking we are sure to never find anything. The RCMP were recently investigating Trudeau and the Aga Khan who were allegedly influence peddling through elaborate vacations– and lo and behold they found that there are no rules that really apply.

The RCMP which should be the first stop in large scale fraud investigations in this country, as an organization has proven itself time and time again as incapable in the field of economic crime. Investigations in this country are talked about in years, not days, weeks or months. The solution is either that this type of crime is pulled from their organizational mandate, or they need to be dismantled and re-built and resourced to 2021 standards.

Maybe, the general public is willing to let their rage to continue to bubble away just below the surface. The Liberals and the NDP are counting on it. Is it that we are so complacent, so ensconced in our own sphere of security and relative prosperity that we just shrug it off, politically helpless, morally and ethically spent.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons by Ryan Steele – Some Rights Reserved

Good-bye to Commissioner Lucki?

It has been widely rumoured, keep in mind, one knows what an Ottawa rumour is worth, that RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is headed to retirement in June 2022. Let’s say from the outset, I do not know Ms. Lucki personally, have never even seen her in a public forum, so on a personal level one can only wish her a the best in her retirement after a lengthy period of service.

As an interested observer from afar however, or as simply a member of the general public, the time seems appropriate to evaluate her time on the Mountie throne.

In terms of our ability to measure her time and effectiveness, she did not leave us much to go on.

Ms. Lucki was “the leader the Mounties needed” according to Justin Trudeau in 2018; who he judged to be the “absolutely best person for the job, who just happens to be a woman”. The fact that he needed to add “happens to be a woman” is clearly a glimpse in to what Mr. Trudeau saw a pre-requisite for this job.

She was heralded as the 1st “permanent” woman to head the RCMP, her predecessor Bev Busson only being around for a short time in her “temporary” position. (Long enough clearly though to score sufficient points for an eventual Senate seat.)

In 2018 the decade of women advancement in policing was in full bloom much like in all the other government departments across the country. Women were reaching new heights in terms of leadership roles across the organization and at an unprecedented speed. They were in effect being “over-represented” in order for an organization to progress and just as importantly to at the very least be deemed progressive.

In her acceptance of the post as the 24th Commissioner, Lucki outlined her primary plans for “bolstering diversity”and “reconciliation with indigenous persons”. She pointed to her previous successes with the First Nations of northern Manitoba. The speech could have and may have been written by Gerald Butts. No real mention of the brewing problems of contract policing or the upcoming possible unionization of the membership. She, unlike most of her predecessors was a one dimensional candidate, with a singular approach to what ailed the Mounties. Diversity and inclusion would be from the beginning to the end her single mantra.

Her background reflected an insular policing career–in the Peace keeping program in Ottawa, as the head of Depot training centre in Regina, as part of the United Nations protection force in Yugoslavia. None of these positions pointed to a larger understanding of Federal or Provincial policing, the true fundamental core of the RCMP.

The problem of course, like many Federal employees is that Lucki was a liberal in speech only, in knowing the right things to say and where to say them as opposed to knowing the machinations that would be needed to carry out any re-conditioning. She was playing the game of “representation” and “diversity”, without really knowing how she was going to accomplish this, or fully appreciating that the Force that extended past Ottawa didn’t share the same level of concern. Secondly, decades of processes and ingrained cultural history were simply not going to be won over from the confines of a committee room in Ottawa.

In essence she was pulled up by the language of the Woke, then got entangled in the spider-web language of the Woke. Her credence and her dilemma began to unravel once she came under the Liberal magnifying glass of the truly Woke of Ottawa. She aptly demonstrated her conundrum a mere two years later when she flip-flopped on the term “systemic racism”.

She also quickly learned that the Indigenous leadership in this country will turn on you very quickly– should you dare to question their “truth”. Her award for building relationships in Manitoba was as flimsy as the paper on which it was written when confronted by the dialogue of the Indigenous victim. She was caught between knowing that in fact, in the policing world, there is little evidence if any of “systemic racism” by its true definition and on the other side was what she needed to say to appease. She floundered. She knew that if she stated her truth she would have been in full conflict with the people who put her there.

So twenty-four hours later desperate to be on the side of the righteous left, she became a convert, and admitted to “systemic racism”. Unfortunately, she was then asked for examples to prove her conversion and once again, she became the proverbial fish out of water. The example she felt that bolstered her new claim of “systemic racism” was the “height” requirements for Mounties. When someone pointed out that this was more likely “discrimination” rather than “racism” she bumbled once again. The next day, Bill Blair had to come to her rescue and do damage control.

So a mere two years after her start, Perry Bellegarde the Assembly of First Nations Chiefs called for her “resignation”. Apparently her “strong focus on advancing Indigenous reconciliation” had failed– the Indigenous now not wanting to “reconcile” with the Commissioner.

She kept trying though. When asked during an interview as a leader of the RCMP what was the toughest decision she faced, she confusingly answered that it was listening to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry testimony. Her need to appease clearly had overwhelmed her ability to even understand the concept of what constitutes a “decision”.

It may have became clear early on to the Liberals, that it may be best if she remained silent and in the background.

Suffice to say that for the last couple of years, we have never had a quieter Commissioner. We went from the somewhat bombastic Paulson to the uncomfortable introvert.

Even when the Force was chastised or lambasted for its lack of leadership, she remained quiet, seemingly unable or incapable to defend. Recently the Information Commissioner of Canada said that “the RCMP is failing in terms of its obligation to ensure Canadians have access to information about its operation and decision making…” that this “lack of action on the part of the RCMP leadership” had been going on for too long.

When a human rights watchdog agency had its requests ignored about the “spying on Indigenous and climate activists” it led to “inexcusable delays” and they accused Lucki of simply ignoring the matter. So the Commissioner who had promised to a program of “listening and learning” wasn’t listening and had not learned that one needs to get ahead of issues. The ongoing examination of the incident in Portapique, is looking like another embarrassment of riches in terms of failures to get things done, at least on a broader level.

Under Lucki, the organization has continued to be inert, unable to act or react, weighed down by a suffocating bureaucracy.

This would have been a difficult time for any Commissioner, it would have taken an extremely strong leader to counter the accepted narrative. Commissioner Lucki clearly did not have that capability. One would have had to at times embarrass the Liberals, stand up to ridiculous assertions, outline the resourcing and staffing difficulties, and point to the failings as well as the successes. She did not or could not do that.

We should also remember that Ms. Lucki was picked by a large panel of seven individuals headed by former Premier of New Brunswick Frank McKenna. How is it that this crew could have felt in those tentative times, that Ms. Lucki was the best choice from across Canada?

One wonders that if there was a Walk of Fame for former Commissioners built outside Leikin Drive –who would get a star or a set of spurs in concrete. Maybe Paulson, if infamy is important, for his crocodile tears on settling the sexual harassment suit and paying out millions of dollars. It was at the very least a memorable media moment.

Elliott who ran into the wall of Mountie intransigence and was apparently given to throwing papers around. Not likely. But then again his intemperance may have been earned.

Zaccardelli who was forced to resign by Harper over the Maher Arar incident for not quite telling the full truth about the RCMP involvement. Again, not likely.

Busson will probably get one after all, she was the first ‘woman” to accept the post, at least temporarily.

One wonders for the next round of Commissioner applications if we are we still in the age of firsts– first woman, first black, first Indigenous, first LGBTQ member? One can only hope that in the next selection for Commissioner we have run out of “first” as being a qualification.

So who will that next Commissioner be? There is another rumour that it may be the current Acting Executive Director of Strategic Policy and Planning Directorate, Alison Whelan. Apparently she is good friends of Lucki, but I am not so sure that Lucki’s pick will carry much weight.

Ms. Whelan is a policy wonk and a long term civilian civil servant in the RCMP. She joined the Federal government as a policy analyst in 2003, then into the RCMP in 2013 to “manage policy development” and to provide “analysis on national security, serious and organized crime.” In 2018 she moved over to National Security and Protective policy. She has a Masters in Political Science from Memorial University in Newfoundland and is co-chair of a task force to create National Hate Crimes Policy Standards as well as an executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. Policy, is clearly her noteworthy strength, policy is central to her being, but is the policy bureaucracy of Ottawa the place where we should be looking for change, understanding, and leadership? Would a “civilian” leader be the right choice at this time?

(On the off chance you want to learn more of Ms Whelan– she will participate in a “fireside chat” on May 4th, 2022 at the Law of Policing Conference.)

There have been a long list of Commissioners over they years, none of who’s names usually spring quickly to mind.

Remember Malcolm Lindsay in 1969, after all we named a boat after him.

There was William Higgitt in 1973– we also named a boat after him. He was followed by Nadon in 1977, and yes we named a boat after him as well. Simmonds and Inkster soon followed and we named boats after them. You would have thought we were building a navy.

Nevertheless, as we say bon voyage to Ms. Lucki maybe a new boat is in order or, at least maybe a small raft as she sails into retirement. Maybe, if we built a big raft, we could put the real root of the problem, Mr Trudeau, on the raft with her.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons via Benito Condemi de Flice – Some Rights Reserved

Regina vs. MaCallum

Even with the slapping of Chris Rock by the ridiculous Will Smith, the clap heard around the world, I find it difficult to shift my comedy seeking focus away from the Cirque de Surrey. I last wrote about the antics going on in this city in November of 2021, but I have been drawn back.

Now under the Big Tent is Mayor Doug MaCallum, ably representing the white geriatric set of South Surrey balancing as usual on the high wire of political intrigue. Below trying to dislodge the safety net are some other old white men and women from South Surrey–the Keep the Police in Surrey group. Admission to this circus is being put up by the taxpayers of this often troubled Metropolis.

Mr. MaCallum and this other group have been cajoling and sniping for sometime now over a separate police force for the citizens of Surrey.

The last altercation between the wearing thin placard carriers and the soon to be heading out of office Mayor took place, appropriately enough, in that rough and tumble South Point Save On Foods parking lot. Also known as “the hood” for retirees. These Jets and Sharks forming up for battle on 16th Avenue thankfully didn’t involve guns, knives, or broken bottles; the weapon of choice this time were Michelin radials.

It all started when Mr. MaCallum was shuffling into the grocery store and was then confronted by a car driven by a woman who is one of the spearheads of the Surrey Police Vote/Keep the Police in Surrey group. They were already at the grocery story collecting signatures for their petition, and no doubt saw the leader of the Safe Surrey Coalition fortuitously heading their way. She stopped the car and began a verbal argument with the crusty mayor who was none too pleased to see the group at his grocery story where he likes to buy his hamburger trying to get signatures to stop his crusade for a separate police force.

At some point the car turned and drove away, leaving MaCallum hollering that he had just been run over, or more specifically, claiming that she had hurriedly turned away and in so doing glanced her car’s bumper off his leg and then ran over his foot. In a t.v. interview he claims he went to the hospital and was checked out. On this video news coverage he also demonstrated for the camera, the now obvious limp in his walk. When the police officers attended they asked Mr. MaCallum if he wished to press charges and exhibiting his usual stubborn disposition said that he would, after all, he was a “victim” of a heinous crime.

Of course, this is where the file, or the investigation of this complaint, should have come to a grinding halt. The attending officers should have seen that the physical damage to the Mayor, if any, was minor if at all. They should have spoken with both parties, explained to the mayor that furthering this investigation was a waste of time, a waste of police resources, and a culmination of two childish acting individuals trying to further their cause. Nothing was to be gained by going further.

That of course didn’t happen, apparently common sense was not too common that day, either because of the insistence of the Mayor, or the intrepid police officers were bored and in order to get rid of it, escalated this “political file” to the plainclothes unit. In a city where there is rampant drug and gang problems, why not spend time and resources and go after the perpetrators of this parking lot mayhem.

So the usual process of investigation begins. The General Duty (uniform) members who attended wasted no time in ridding themselves of this “major” crime and duly took their Prime reports and put them in the pneumatic vacuum tubes directly into the office of Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards the head of Surrey Detachment. Further brain storming meetings undoubtedly ensued as little is done in the RCMP now with out a committee meeting.

Edwards of course has had his differences with Mr. McCallum and has spoken out previously against McCallum’s party, the Safe Coalition group. For those that have been ignoring the Surrey news, the new Surrey Police Services group is over two hundred officers now and the process of replacing the haggard Mounties is well underway. The Mounties are keeping a brave face and pretending that everything is normal.

So along comes Mr McCallum’s complaint. Clearly McCallum was exaggerating his victimhood, clearly this was a very childish matter on the part of both parties. Mr. Edwards must have recognized that this could be an opportunity to embarrass his civic enemy. But he was astute enough to also realize that because of his past history, there was a clear “conflict of interest” in having the soon to be exiting Mounties investigating the fellow who is opening the door for them.

So to whom did Edwards give the investigation?

“To ensure there was no potential for real or perceived conflict of interest or improper influence” Mr. Edwards announced he was turning it over to another RCMP group, the RCMP Major Crime Section, Special Projects Unit, based out of E Division HQ.

How Mr. Edwards could not see this as still a conflict of interest is indeed baffling. Did he think that the fact that they were working out of E Division HQ, in a different building, that no one would notice that they are also RCMP? However, this fact did not seem to draw much media attention, so the investigation went forward.

Lo and behold, a mere three weeks later, the RCMP Major Crimes unit served a Production Order (a type of warrant) on the offices of CTV News. The warrant sought the unedited footage of the interview with McCallum and the reporter Catherine Urqhuart. The investigation according to the warrant was under Section 140(1)(a) entitled Public Mischief. The Mounties had clearly and quickly switched from this being an occasion of “assault” where McCallum was victim, to one where the victim was now the suspect.

The CTV news group, in dramatic fashion announced the raid on their offices, and immediately intoned that the maximum sentence for such an offence was five years. The veiled and intentional implication was that McCallum was indeed headed to the slammer.

This seemingly horrendous crime of assault, lack of assault, or public mischief, now deserved only the best legal minds one can buy. A “Special Prosecutor” was demanded by these apparently complicated legal circumstances.

So Richard Fowler was appointed. Mr. Fowler QC has had a fairly long and established career and according to his firms biography specializes in “large, complex cases”. He had previously worked with his former mentor David Gibbons on the defence of one of those accused in the Air India case. He even defended Glen Clark, the former Premier of the Province on charges of breach of trust and fraud. Therefore, he was with little doubt suitable for this more than serious undertaking. At significant cost of course.

Mr. McCallum, not to be outdone, hired legal gun slinger Richard Peck QC . Mr. Peck has been in the news recently as the defender of Meng Wanzhou . The extremely able, high profile, and also costly Mr. Peck is usually facing the challenges of defending murderers, sex offenders, and other sundry violators. His defence in this high profile case may come down to being able to read tire impressions.

Mr.McCallum was charged with public mischief on December 10th, 2021, an offence whereby “everyone commits public mischief who, with intent to mislead, causes a police officer to enter or continue an investigation…”. His defence counsel said that Mr. McCallum would not enter a plea at this time as they were awaiting “outstanding information”. Four months had gone by since the execution of the production order. Quick with the warrant, not so quick with the full disclosure package.

So on March 8th 2022, the case was put over to the Friday March 11, 2022 just to set a date for a “pre-trial conference”. The pre-trial conference has now been set for April 11th, 2022.

The lawyers have indicated that if the matter goes by trial, they will require five court days for the trial. The date of that trial will be determined, if needed, after April 11th. So four months have gone by since the charges and the court case has yet to begin. In comparison, if one is interested in measuring legal speed, in the high profile highly-charged and very complicated George Floyd incident in the U.S., Derek Chauvin was charged with murder. Four months later the legal proceedings began.

So what is going to come of all this time, money and resources. Mr. Fowler has already stated in the case of Mr. McCallum that they will be proceeding “summarily”. This means that they are treating this as a “less than serious offence” and are therefore opening the resolution to a lesser punishment. Fines less than $5,000 with a maximum jail time of “two years less a day”.

So as we await Mr McCallum’s fate and find out whether it in fact goes to a five day trial, one can only hope that in the pre-trial conference saner heads will prevail. The way things go in Surrey, this may in fact turn into a long running three ring circus.

All over a file call that two officers just out of recruit field training should have ended in ten minutes– including the paperwork.

Photo courtesy of Waferboard at Flickr Commons — Some Rights Reserved

The “Casualty Commission”

The Mass Casualty Commission has finally begun public hearings in Nova Scotia. Two long years since the tragedy of Portapique, a night of infamy when twenty-two people were killed over an agonizingly long thirteen hour period; the perpetrator driving the back gravel roads– his victims pre-determined, his justification firmly contained in his own mind. His thoughts and twisted goals now locked forever by his glory seeking death in an innocuous Irving gas station parking lot.

Two years in our lives would seem more than enough time one to conduct and complete any serious criminal investigation. After all, the one and only suspect was dead, albeit with numerous crime scenes but all conclusively tied to him forensically. However this is government, so we are just now at the stage of public witnesses and the tendering of what this 38 person Commission has found to date. Barbara McLean who is the Director of Investigations, even went so far as to say that the investigation is “ongoing” despite having collected thousands of documents and taken numerous statements numerous times from all involved.

These particular public hearings are to go for a further several months with the final report not due to be completed until November 2022. Some observers allege that the length and breadth of this investigation is in itself, by design, structured to mute the outrage. Time, or the buying of time, being the best governmental tool to dilute an upset public.

It began on February 22nd and the public record of it goes up to March 9th as this is being written.

Former Supreme Court Justice Michael MacDonald began the hearings with the usual thanks to the Indigenous for allowing it to take place on their “un-ceded territory”, which if nothing else signals to all that we are indeed involved in a governmental hearing. This is followed by a daily tribute to the victims with a listing of all of their names. Day after day this tribute will be repeated and over time runs the danger of becoming more political governmental theatre than substance.

The majority of the first day was an orientation, which then evolved into a panel discussion on the psychological impacts of the events on Nova Scotians and on the rest of Canada. This panel, which consisted of a therapist, a psychology professor, and the President and CEO of the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. There were a few others, but suffice to say they were there to continue and extend that mantra of all of us having been victimized by the events in Portapique. The Commission felt that part of their mandate is a need to help us “normalize and validate emotions people have felt or have been feeling”.

This somewhat incongruous start continues into the next day which begins with another panel discussion this time designed to “introduce the communities”. This second panel consisted of Chief Sidney Peters who spoke about the Indigenous causes(Chief Peters specializes in Agricultural and Housing Programs); an Anglican Rector Nicole Uzans; Alana Hurtle, the head of the Rotary Cares Committee; and Mary Teed, a social worker.

The rather bizarre use and questionable need for these panels was summed up by a Global News reporter who asked during a question and answer session what these opening remarks and panels had to do with the questions uppermost in the minds of the families. He asked pointedly: “Do you feel that you have lost the families?” While another reporter asked the more obvious: “Whats the point of the panels?” A Halifax Chronicle reporter, clearly miffed at two already long days listening to pointless and mostly irrelevant commentary, asked whether if it was “necessary” to hear what it was like to be living in “rural” Nova Scotia.

It was suffice to say a rocky start.

One would be remiss at this time to not outline the nature and make up of the Commission. If one ever wanted to see a liberalized government structure in full bloom, this is your opportunity. One must also keep in mind that the Commission was formed after some reluctance by the Attorney-General for Nova Scotia and only after pressure arose from the victims families.

The Commission themes play consistently like bad Muzak. There is obsessive talk of victims, the constant strum of words like “working together”, “safer”, “stronger”, “shared understanding”, and a “shared purpose”. In his opening statement head Commissioner Michael MacDonald says with grandeur that one of the goals of the Commission is to make “sure that it never happens again”.

The other two primary Commissioners are Leanne Fitch, the retired seven year Police Chief of the Fredricton police department; who in her opening statement talks of her work in community policing, dealing with what she deemed the “most vulnerable”. The third Commissioner, Dr. Kim Stanton, a lawyer and academic speaks to making the world “safer”, and the commission leading to a “shared understanding” and a “shared purpose”.

Then there is the rest that make up the Commission. There are the Commission Directors: eight of them. Then there is the Commission Team which consists of a further 27 individuals; nine of whom are lawyers. One thing that sticks out, in fact it is rather striking, is the number of women on the Commission staff. Twenty-seven of the thirty-eight are women, thereby making up 72% of the Commission (22% of the RCMP in Nova Scotia are women). I honestly don’t know what that means or whether it will have any bearing on the outcome– one can only hope. The assigned seven “investigators” are all men.

Did I mention there were a few lawyers? The ones mentioned above just work for the Commission; then there are the lawyers for the victim families, the Federal Justice Department, and lawyers for the National Police Federation to name just a few. Those logging 8 hour billable days may be the only group which will survive this lengthy process.

So with all these lawyers one can make a few predictions. It’s going to go longer than necessary. Secondly, the gut wrenching truth, the bare truth, will be softened and weakened by a layer of protection over the various interests that may feel, or imagine, they have some exposure.

Running in the background and outside of the Commission are a couple of civil cases the lawyers for whom are present, and would more than relish some damning information to come out of these hearings. One is being brought by the victims families, and the other by Lisa Banfield who is suing over the suspect Gabriel Wortman’s $1.2 million estate.

Maybe, this is being too harsh or cynical, after all this is not a criminal proceeding. This is, in the words of the Commission mandate “…is not designed nor intending to determine guilt or assign blame”. They are there to work “in a restorative way”. They are there to “restore a sense of safety”, to insure that there is “public safety in our communities”.

To outline the investigational narrative this Commission is using what is termed “Foundational documents”. Although Roger Burrill, the Commission counsel, states that they are “foundational” and not “determinative”. The use of these “Foundational documents” is not common.

In a criminal proceeding one would tell the narrative with the presentation of evidence and witnesses usually in some form of investigational order. In this instance, they are only using witnesses in their words to “fill in the gaps” left by the Foundational documents. They are also vetting out crime photographs and you will not hear all of the 911 calls in their entirety. This they explain is so that they don’t victimize the victims once again; even though this policy clearly flies in the face of a fulsome disclosure. Our sensitivity as a Nation according to this Commission precludes us from knowing all the details, as gruesome as they may be and as uncomfortable as that may make us.

So far, three foundational documents have been shown– twenty-seven more are coming.

There are twenty-seven proposed witnesses up to this point in time and those witnesses will eventually include Commissioner Lucki, A/Commissioner (retired) Lee Bergerman and C/Supt Chris Leather. That will happen when they get around to the foundational document entitled “Command Decisions”. That testimony should prove slightly more interesting than a panel on whats it like to live in rural Nova Scotia but that may show my personal bias.

The first two foundational documents now on record pertain to the events in Portapique on April 18th and April 19th 2020. These are the base events from which all else will follow. The first officers responding, the calling of ERT, the trapped kids in the residence on Orchard Beach Drive. Even abbreviated, the circumstances facing the officers who arrived thirty minutes after the initial call and their subsequent ninety minutes spent together in the dark, not knowing where the suspect was, or even the extent of his damage will awaken the senses of every police officer listening.

Csts. Patton, Beselt and Merchant, were the only police in this man-made Hades. The house fires lit their way as they stumbled across bodies lying bloodied and unmoving in a yard or gravel driveway. Their senses over-loaded and in the end even though reacting as an “active shooter” procedure, can do nothing but “hunker down”. They deserve all our credit.

The original caller, Jamie Blair, calls 911 at 10:01 pm on that fateful night, witnessed her husband Greg being gunned down on the porch. She will die a short time later as Wortman comes after her and kills her in cold blood. The phone call ending.

The heroes will likely be the four children who huddled together in the basement of 135 Orchard Beach Drive, two of which, ages 9 and 11, had witnessed their parents being murdered. The two escaped to the McCauley residence.

Earlier Lisa McCauley an Elementary school teacher, had guarded the bedroom door, her children trembling behind her. She was shot through that door. When Wortman enters the bedroom, unaware of the children behind her, he shoots her once again.

The horror of those thirteen hours and the single mindedness of someone capable of such extraordinary violence is numbing to even listen to.

It is indeed unfortunate that this Commission is off to a less than auspicious start. Their desire to project empathy and understanding seems to overwhelm them, and thus may overwhelm the ability to get to any meaningful dialogue or expose what may have gone wrong. Legalistic and bureaucratic niceties seem destined to dull the edge of this inquiry. Future months of interminable testimony could prove more banal than enlightening.

There will be the predictable complaints of manpower, broken communication, and the odd moment of embarrassment. It seems likely that the lack of police investigation in the early days of Wortman, those days preceding his violent crusade, his domestic abuse, and his gathering of offensive weapons and building replica police cars will likely prove more damning than a lack of a Provincial wide Alert. The evidence of Lisa Banfield will undoubtedly give us a glimpse into a crazed man. Maybe it was all predictable, but these psychological breakdowns usually defy our current ability to understand.

This Commission is not designed to assign blame so blame they will not find.

In the end, Government Recommendations will flow with abandon from an over wordy eventual report, and they will all likely be dealt the fate of most government recommendations.

Making the families endure another eight months of this may in fact be the real re-victimizing– the families despair likely to be replaced with ever mounting frustration.

The rest of us may all be just another “casualty”… but stay tuned.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by mrbanjo1138–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

Heroin, guns and a bullet proof vest –but not “morally blameworthy”

There are many cases that come before the courts, almost all receiving little attention or public mention, but once in awhile there are some that make you take note. From Provincial courts to Supreme Courts to Appeals courts one can almost always find a case or two that will make you scratch your head, or possibly get a little agitated.

The case that recently had me perk up and get a higher blood pressure reading is the case of Robert Mero.

He is a 34 year old male, whose father was Metis and his mother was non-indigenous; making him one fourth of Indigenous heritage. Why are we mentioning this, because it was this 25% of his heritage which was enough to keep Mr. Mero from going to jail.

In the eyes of the learned Justice Len Marchand of the BC Court of Appeal, his “moral blameworthiness” necessitated that the 40 month sentence to which he was originally sentenced (by the Supreme Court of Vancouver Judge Joel Groves )–be reduced, more accurately eliminated. Mr. Mero should not go to jail in the view of the Appeals Court as he should not be held accountable due to his Metis heritage. The sentencing was wrong according to Justice Marchand because “neither the Crown or Judge addressed his Indigenous background”.

The unwieldy terminology of “moral blameworthiness”, clearly something only lawyers could come up with, stems from the Supreme Court of Canada and what is now referenced as the Gladue decision.

Regina vs Gladue was a decision by the Supreme Court specifically dealt with sentencing principles that had been layed out in Section 718.2 (e) of the Criminal Code of Canada and had been enacted by Parliament in 1995. This section directed that the courts need to consider “all available sanctions, other than imprisonment” for all offenders. However, it needed to pay “particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders”. (It should also be noted that these provisions were put into the Criminal Code under Prime Minister Jean Chretien and the Liberals who ironically have been recently criticized for not understanding the problems in the residential schools.)

Gladue was the first case where the Supreme Court considered these provisions and set out to try and define what factors should be taken into consideration under this newly defined law. In the Gladue case, a young Indigenous woman had appealed her manslaughter sentence of three years for stabbing her boyfriend to death (life was cheap even back then). The pitiful sentence of three years was upheld despite the appeal, but the Supreme court ruled that they should have at least considered her Indigenous background.

The changes to the Code were orchestrated and passed because of the “over representation” of the Indigenous in the Canadian judicial system. The term “over representation” is a bit of a misnomer, they were not going to jail in disproportionate numbers because they were being picked to “represent”, they were going to jail due to the massive criminal problems existing in the Indigenous populations.

This was an attempt by the Liberals of that time to solve the abnormally high criminal activity amongst the Indigenous– from the top down. Too many in jail, simple solution, just don’t send them to jail.

No need to address the actual criminal activity at its origin, which is a much more complicated set of social ills. The overall affect of course was the diminishment of personal responsibility, and broadly, it also had the affect of creating different laws or at least very different treatment before those laws according to race.

In the years since this has morphed into Judges now automatically asking for a pre-sentence report which formalize these considerations for Indigenous offenders. This sociological based report is termed a Gladue report. This report, or lack of a report was a central factor which played out in the case of Mr. Mero.

Mr. Mero’s crime in this case was not a minor crime and he would be unlikely to have received any nominations for citizen of the year in Prince George, where this matter began. A search warrant was conducted of Mr Mero’s residence by the police in Prince George in 2016. It led to the seizure of a .38 calibre pistol, ammunition, 23 grams of heroin, and a bullet proof vest. Clearly, Mr. Mero was exhibiting all the characteristics of a drug dealer.

Mr. Mero had previously served two other jail times, in 2005 and 2006. It was what the Appeals Court called a “dated criminal record”.

Mr. Mero and his defence council (he went through two defence counsels) went through all the motions that are tried in this day and age. A motion of too long to get to trial (Jordan decision) was first tried. The Judge ruled that the delays were due to defence counsel scheduling and the fact that his 1st defence lawyer had gotten suddenly sick. The court chastised the defence counsel: “Mr. Mero’s trial counsel has shown, effectively, since the beginning of the trial, an ability to delay matters on behalf of his client”.

Then the defence argued that Mr Mero who suffers from a lung disease should not go to jail because of the high rate of Covid in the jails which could prove to be detrimental to his health. Worth a try, considering the panic which has pervaded Canadian society over Covid, but this too didn’t work.

The defence counsel then argued that no Gladue report had been prepared. It turns out that they had six months to produce a pre-sentence report but failed to get one before the courts in time. So the sentencing went ahead without a Gladue report.

Justice Marchand of the BC Appeals Court felt that this was a massive oversight.

As a result he imposed a “conditional sentence” of 2 years less a day– the 1st year to be served under house arrest, to be followed by a curfew. He was placed under probation for the drug offences. This decision by Marchand was concurred with and signed off by two other Justices; Mary Saunders and Bruce Butler.

So what would have been in a Gladue report that could alter an outcome to such a degree? Usually, there is general information about the Metis “nation”, the intergenerational aspects of “colonialism” and “displacement”, racism and systemic discrimination, forced attendance at Residential schools and the “over representation” of the Indigenous in the jails of this country.

This is not to deny that Mr. Mero clearly had a troubled life. Most criminals can point to historic family issues. In his defence argument he pointed to the fact that he was “unable to complete school”, his “childhood was traumatic”, his “life was marred with addictions” and that he had “come into conflict with the law”. Mr. Mero’s father was not believed to have been at fault but he was often “away at work” and this left him with a mother who had significant mental health issues. He had runaway from home at 12 years old and got caught up in the street level drug trade, an all too common story.

However, it would be difficult for Mero to argue that these issues were directly related to his Indigenous upbringing. One need not worry because the courts have ruled that “it is not necessary to establish a direct causal link between systemic and background factors and the offence at issue”, as it may be “impossible to establish” a link. In other words you don’t have to prove a causal relationship.

The other aspect of this case which gave me pause was that this was a verdict by Justice Marchand. There are 26 Justices in the Appeals court, but in this instance Mr. Marchand was assigned the case.

Mr. Marchand is the son of Len Marchand Sr, the first Indigenous cabinet minister who once served under Pierre Trudeau. Len Marchand Jr. is a member of the Okanagan Indian Band having grown up in Kamloops, B.C. He articled and practised law in Kamloops with Fulton and Company. While there he spent a substantial part of his career working on “reconciliation for Indigenous people”, was pursuing historic civil claims of child abuse and represented residential school “survivors” and also served on the selection committee for the Truth and Reconciliation Committee.

There is no evidence here that Mr. Marchand had a clear bias in favour of Indigenous claims of “systemic racism”. Also, this is not to claim that all Indigenous cases need to be assigned based on their cultural background. But in this instance the appeal revolved around a Gladue application, central to which is the belief that there should be judicial favourable considerations granted to the Indigenous that are not available to others. That the application of the laws should be different because of their culture and background.

It is difficult to determine whether justice was served in Mr. Mero’s case, but I suspect he was merely a player of the system.Whether justice was served in this case we can leave to others, but does justice also need to be seen as having been done?

Should this case have been handled by someone who had spent the majority of his working life on Indigenous causes or is there a definite taint to this case.

Gladue is just one of the many pronouncements coming from the benches of the Supreme Court of Canada, the BC Supreme Court and in this case the Appeals Courts. They are germinated from the left leaning political dominance in British Columbia. It leads to favourable judicial appointments. Maybe well intentioned, but clearly with very pronounced political leanings. A left propensity to believe that government must protect all and everyone from the evils that society put upon us. Personal responsibility replaced by societal responsibility.

Maybe it is time for a return to the centre, where the vast majority of Canadians actually live. Not necessarily to the right or the left, but where common sense is the prevailing ethos.

The laws of this country are being diminished, watered down, leaving a large class of people now feeling disenfranchised. Many would not be o.k with rules and laws being applied differently depending on your cultural background. It is a difficult issue, but the current judicial climate seems destined to lead to trouble.

Photo Courtesy of Paul Sableman via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

A personal note

I apologize for the delay in the publication of this blog.

I have recently moved– swimming against the prevailing current and have moved back to the heart of the City of Vancouver leaving the quiet countryside. I have been surrounded by cardboard and the joys of re-connecting with life in the supposedly faster lane.

Thanks for your patience and your continuing support.

Pete

Welcome to 1984

There is often a longing for the good old days when even the conspiracy theories seemed simpler–those never ending cover up theories such as the capture of aliens and Roswell UFO’s, or the Kennedy assassination from the grassy knoll. All throwbacks to a simpler age. Some were tenable, but running counter to them was this belief that somehow the government wouldn’t lie to you or be able to cover up any of the outrageous allegations. Now, in this age of instant communication, plotted and sinister theories relentlessly bounce off our brains, coming at us from both the right and the left in the world wide broadband. Outrage and accusations quickly follow, oozing out of the dark holes of Instagram and Facebook, twitching the nerves of the unsuspecting and unquestioning.

The problem with all conspiracy theories of course is that they almost always have at their foundation in the obvious need for several people, if not hundreds of people, to be willing to share and thus be complicit in the conspiracy. One needed hundreds of people all sworn to never reveal the innermost secrets that are central to any alleged plot. And that, is where virtually all conspiracy theories fall apart. Humans, being human, can not effectively keep secrets.

Covid has proved fertile ground for conspiracy theories mainly emanating from those opposed to the double shot in the arm. The root of opposition is a distrust, an exponentially growing distrust of government in any form or political inclination. Objectively, one should at least be able to understand this wariness in the government being able to govern, let alone dictate where you can go, what you can do, and as they are now doing, to take command of your personal physical health. We may come to regret the Charter of Rights being ignored with abandon, but that is another topic for another time.

The anti-vaxxers are being described as the seeds of satan–selfish, ignorant, unwashed, and endangering the rest of us who are on the righteous end of the argument. The media and government messaging has been constant, but mixed, at times even contradictory. All of which gives further rise to the non-believers. But, for the most part the majority of Canadians simply dismiss this fringe group of the discontented as not worthy of consideration, beneath our contempt. Up to now, there has been whole hearted support for the governments of the day who are with grim faced determination are setting out to conquer those damnable anti-vaccine fiends. The un-questioning media gladly plays to the fears of the vast majority of Canadians, continually searching for the anti-vaxxer now providing dying declarations from a hospital bed.

However, a recent story, uncovered by the Ottawa Citizen newspaper; through Freedom of information sources, and authored by David Pugliese should give everyone pause. It would seem that those who saw the vaccine as some form of government conspiracy aimed at controlling both the message and its use may have just gained an extraordinary admission from the government.

This story should make everyone shudder and view any and all messaging from the government with a heavily jaundiced eye. It turns out that the year 1984, the year enshrined by George Orwell in describing his dystopian universe is now upon us –thanks to an unchecked, unguided, and unglued Canadian Armed Forces.

We have now learned that there was a group in the high levels of the military, our very own Canadian Armed Forces, who thought that the Covid scare would be a “unique opportunity to test out propaganda techniques on an unsuspecting public”. The Canadian public to whom they are sworn to serve were to be targeted by the Canadian military, in particular, their “Information Operations” group. This Orwellian titled group is part of the Canadian Joint Operations Command –headed by Lt. General Mike Rouleau.

These information “techniques” apparently were “similar to those employed during the war in Afghanistan”. In essence the Canadian public would be targeted like they had the Taliban.

The senior military leaders astonishingly did not feel any twinge of guilt once outed, that the targeting of Canadians was out of the norm and furthermore they “didn’t believe they needed to get approval for this operation”. The specific goal was to “head off civil disobedience by Canadians during the coronavirus pandemic” and to “bolster government messages about the pandemic”. The pandemic to these intelligence strategists, was a “unique opportunity to test out such techniques on Canadians”.

Rear Admiral Brian Santarpia, Chief of Staff for the CJOC, echoed the beliefs of this group and felt that this was a good “learning opportunity and a chance to start getting information operations into our routine”.

These tactics were going to be done in support of “Operation Laser”. Operation Laser was where members of the Armed Forces were helping out at “long term care homes” and were directing the “distribution of vaccine” to the northern communities. Not even a military operation in the classic sense.

This Orwellian plan only lasted about a month because thankfully some saner heads inside the Department of Defence began questioning both the ethics and legality of this operation. They managed to catch the ear of Staff General Jon Vance who promptly shut it down, clearly recognizing the political minefield he was being handed.

Vance then directed Major General Daniel Gosselin to look into the matter and it is Gosselin’s eventual report which was the source of this news story.

It doesn’t stop there. The report also uncovered a second separate initiative, which was not linked to the CJOC but was overseen by Canadian Forces “intelligence officers”. As part of this separate initiative they began to gather “culled information from public social media accounts in Ontario and were gathering information on the Black Lives Matter gatherings and on their leaders.” Targeting the BLM group has since made many in that group legitimately wonder what could be the possible connection to the distribution of vaccine.

According to Gosselin’s report “support for the use of such information operations was clearly a mindset that permeated the thinking at many levels of CJOC”. He went further saying that some inside the Department of National Defence “want to expand the scope of such methods in Canada and allow them to better control and shape government information that the public receives.”

There were other DND attempts.

In September 2020 military operations “forged a letter from the Nova Scotia government warning about wolves on the loose in a particular area of the Province”. But, the ineptness of the military shone through. The letter leaked out to the general public, causing alarm in parts of the Province. In apportioning blame the Armed Forces said it was done by some “reservists” who “lacked formal training and policies governing the use of propaganda techniques”.

Also in 2020 a plan was launched to allow “military public affairs officers” to use “propaganda” to “change attitudes and behaviours of Canadians” and to “collect and analyze public social media accounts to move to a more aggressive strategy” of using information “warfare” and “influence tactics on Canadians”.

How were they to do this? One of their techniques was to use “friendly defence analysts and retired generals” to push military public relations and to “criticize on social media those who raised questions about military spending and accountability”.

The DND also has spent $1million to train public relations officers on “behaviour modification techniques” –similar to those used by Cambridge Analytica. This was shut down when the Ottawa Citizen revealed details of this plan in November 2020.

After all these revelations, one would think that there would be some government blowback. The DND Deputy Minister admitted that “various propaganda initiatives had gotten out of control”. Not that they were wrong, but just that they got a little “out of control”. Acting Chief of Defence Staff said that “insular mindsets at various echelons” had gone outside of the lines, not that this was wrong, but that they had done it “without explicit” Deputy Minister “direction or authority”.

This is perplexing and alarming on a couple of levels.

The defence department has been in a flat spin for the last 30 years. (There are remarkable parallels to the current state of the RCMP) They have under-resourced and under manned this group charged with the defence of this country to the point that the navy, air force and army are only shadows of their former selves. They have reached an embarassing level of capability in the eyes of the world, all while our Prime Minister was vying for a seat at the big boys table at the U.N. Security council.

The members of the Armed Forces have been relegated to sand bagging in times of a flood, or caring for the elderly in the nursing homes. The distribution of vaccine was the latest excursion into the domestic world, far from anything considered “military.

To trust this group with a nuanced intelligence initiative seems at best ill thought out and foolhardy.

In the last few months we have been witnessing a string of leaders in the DND being named– and then their candidate choices quickly being withdrawn over another allegation of sexual impropriety. This intelligence group is apparently not capable of basic security checks.

This very fragile group of military executives, military game players, decided that they needed to use Canadians as a training exercise. This level of stupidity is hard to fathom yet no one has lost their job.

On another level, the mainstream media for the most part is staying away and staying silent about this story. A Federal government department charged with safeguarding Canadians is instead targeting Canadians and trying to manipulate and control information to the public.

The media silence is deafening, but that is probably just another unfounded conspiracy theory.

“the further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it” -George Orwell.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons and PhotographyMontreal- Some Rights Reserved

Character building

You must all be breathing a magnificent collective sigh of relief and be filled with profound gratitude over Ottawa RCMP’s latest policy change.

The RCMP Mounties in Ottawa have announced— wait for it— that they will be conducting “character” checks on “staff”! My heart is racing as must be yours at the prospect of finding some individuals with suitable characteristics to fill the senior ranks of the RCMP. 

Although not wholly familiar or conversant with the Human Resource world of the RCMP, or at least what poses as a Human Resources department; this writer was under the distinct impression that Mounties before you were hired would take a little time to research your character. Remember those spots on the application form where you had to put “character references”. Silly us thinking  they were actually going to check on people before they hired them. Apparently not, well at least not in sensitive senior positions in HQ.

Our long held beliefs on the efficacy of our staffing and recruiting units are now being dispelled by a small unit in the corridors of Ottawa called the National Intelligence Co-ordination Centre or NICC —who toiled in ignominy until their boss became the  now infamous Cameron Ortis. Character values and how he treated fellow workers has now  become a headline and a topic of conversation largely because Mr. Ortis is now going to trial. 

To refresh your memory. Ortis began work at the Centre in 2016 and then, unceremoniously was arrested in 2019, a short three years later.  Ortis has now been charged with several counts of revealing secrets to an “unnamed recipient” and planning to give “additional classified information to an unspecified foreign entity or terrorist group”.  Most of the charges are breaches of the Security of Information Act, a single  criminal breach of trust, and thrown in for good measure, a “computer-related offence”. 

The trial and the subsequent revelations that are sure to come are worrying enough, but in addition this upcoming trial has forced senior management to pay attention to allegations made by employees during Mr. Ortis time at the helm of this unit that “coordinates” intelligence. A review of the complaints was in fact ordered at the time that the complaints surfaced, a usually tried and true stall and deferral plan used by politicos of all stripes. However, now there are even some people drawing a straight line from the complaints not being investigated at the time to the possibility that if they had, black hat Ortis, would have been discovered earlier. That seems like a bit of a stretch but it is a theory that will not hurt the litigants and their legal representatives in this case.

The fact that Mr. Ortis may have been spying and ruined the already tattered reputation of Canada with the Five Eyes is not the only pressing issue now facing the Mountie leaders, who are always firmly encased in that cocoon of inclusivity and sensitivity. The subsequent lawsuit that the employees have now launched has shifted the focus of  Commissioner Lucki and her countless advisors. In their civil action they are alleging that Mr Ortis “belittled, humiliated and demeaned” them in their “workplace environment”. 

The three employees, Francisco Chaves, Michael Vladars, and Dayna Young are now seeking $1.9 million in damages as a result of their “abuse” at the hands of Mr. Ortis and they have filed their claim at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. 

They also allege that Mr. Ortis was “stealing and selling their work” with the overall goal of “sabotaging the unit”. They insist that Mr. Ortis “systematically targeted them”. All of this in an apparent effort to replace them with persons Mr. Ortis would find more simpatico.

A cynic might point out that the more distance the employees put between themselves and Mr. Ortis is at the very least self-serving. They were persons who were in the same unit as Mr. Ortis, and the intelligence damage, whether real or implied, could drift over their way on the winds of suspicion which will be blowing hard from the Five Eyes group.  

Nevertheless, the employees have now been backed up in their lawsuit  by that previously mentioned internal review that was ordered at the time.

The review backfired a bit at least from the Liberal political standpoint.  It was conducted by former RCMP executive, now retired and double dipping with alacrity— former Assistant Commissioner Alphonse McNeil. ( Mr. McNeil had previously been hired to investigate the RCMP handling of the 2014 Moncton police shootings where three officers were killed.) 

Alphonse’s apparently formidable assignment in this case was to  to review the “culture within the intelligence co-ordination unit”.  Sixty interviews later and after having reviewed “policies and procedures” he came to a startling conclusion that there was a failure in “leadership at all levels of senior management”. That the Mountie executive “sought to avoid the situation rather than act”. Who could have guessed that senior executives would rather dodge the bullet than bite the bullet?

McNeil’s apparently profound conclusion said that there was a “failure in leadership and a workplace culture that left employees feeling “broken”. All of this surfaced after the media, through an access to information request receieved a copy of the redacted report.

He writes, “the failure of leadership in this case was noted at many levels and it reveals a need for the RCMP to consider how leaders are selected”. (Would it be crass for me to point out that he could have read this blog or talked to any of the rank and file during the last couple of years he would have saved the taxpayers a bit of money with this recommendation?)

The treatment received by these employees, half of whom have departed for other secret government corridors, created a “feeling of insecurity” and allowed a “lack of confidence” to seep into their workplace. Apparently there is nothing worse than an analyst with no confidence. 

So the lawsuit will continue and it would seem likely that Commissioner Lucki will be recommending that Mr. Trudeau pull out his wallet and commit to another sleight of hand to make the issue disappear. 

It should also be added that the case against Mr. Ortis is going to cause some serious problems for the prosecution which will no doubt result in further headlines and political punditry.  This case is far from proven or won. The need to protect Five Eyes information for example, could prove an insurmountable hurdle in terms of proving this case beyond a reasonable doubt. 

So now four months after Mr. McNeil issued his internal report, the Ottawa Mounties are leaping into action. They have been suitably chagrined by their former coffee break buddy and the leaking of the lawsuit into the public eye has forced them into doing or at least appearing to be doing something. They have now decided that they need to begin looking for a “balance of character” in their hiring practises. They have instituted a “management action plan”.  These “changes” include what it calls a “character leadership approach to the human resources processes”.  

“This approach ensures that employees, regardless of rank or level, have the competencies, commitment, and balance of character to make good decisions across a broad range of challenges and contexts”. In case you were not paying attention, they point out that they had already started this practise over the winter months. 

The media spinner, in this case, Sgt Duval  said, “these new tools allow for the assessment and ongoing development of an individuals character, with a focus on judgement, inclusiveness and self -awareness”.  

This is a lot to absorb, but they have also now established a “centre for harassment resolution” in June 2021 as “a sign of progress” and affirmation of their whole hearted commitment. As they say, “Concerted efforts are being made to create a culture focused on prevention through a healthy and supportive workplace”.  

Meanwhile, the possible real damage done by Cameron Ortis is hidden from public view. His bosses at the time; Assistant Commissioner Todd Shean has now left to join the JD Irving oil group in private industry; Mike Cabana, the former Deputy Commissioner to whom Shean reported has now retired; Commissioner Bob Paulson  to whom Cabana reported who was a strong advocate of Ortis has also gone to retirement. The chance for accountability is indeed slim.

It would be hard to argue that searching for persons of distinguished character is not a good thing. There are a couple of obvious traits seemingly in short supply, such as honesty and integrity which come quickly to mind. This drivel that is being put out as some enlightened policy is not only governmental double-speak it is specifically designed to obfuscate. It is at its core dishonest. 

Those familiar with the Ottawa and Federal system will quickly point out that with the RCMP being willingly politically partisan, that this organization has crossed the line where honesty in policy becomes often blurred in favour of political expedience.

That is indeed unfortunate. Bill Shakespeare is the one that said that “honesty is the best policy. If  I lose honour, I lose myself”. There are a few lost souls in Ottawa right now.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Kieran Lamb – Some Rights Reserved