Advice on getting to the Top

This blog is going to attempt to use somewhat brilliant semi-objective analysis to guide you to the top echelon of the RCMP– where you will at long last be able breathe the thin air of the enlightened hierarchy. This is based on an in-depth study and analysis of those that have already reached the pinnacle of policing in the RCMP–the Commissioner and the Senior Executive Committee –the very cornerstones of this rather large organization. I did not look at mere Inspectors or lowly Superintendents. They are too commonplace now.

This advice pertains to those of  you who want to be grabbing at the highest rung, becoming the next Commissioner, or at the very least, to be part of the Senior Executive Committee of the RCMP. Why aim low after all? This is for those of you who want Putin power–not Jagmeet Singh pretend power.  

Reaching these heights would give you the ability to control your own destiny, make your own hours and prepare you for a post retirement lucrative double-dipping job, once you have passed your best due date. Those put your feet up jobs like the Chief of Oak Bay police Department, or maybe a highly favoured job with Interpol, which for years was the ultimate in luxurious semi-retirement (has anybody every figured out what Interpol does?)

The sky is the limit for those of you who plan ahead. If you play your political cards right, you could even be made a Senator

To undertake this study I have been busily examining the background and makeup of that Senior Executive Committee and the current Commissioner.  What type of service did they come from? What Division of the RCMP was a better step into those upper echelons? What type of policing forms a good grounding for the next promotion? You may or may not be surprised at my conclusions. 

In reading this please bear in mind that this writer is not a Statistician, nor do I purport to have the mathematical skills of an Alan Turing.  Nevertheless, I remain undeterred by this lack of number crunching skills and am focused in my goal of writing this primer on advancement.

If you are already one of those in the officer candidate program, you likely would have researched and may have already chartered your path to senior executive pay. If you are already leaping over the backs of your co-workers you are reminded that you will still need to maintain your outward political face of conformity and therefore should not read any further.

For those that are just thinking about future career paths and do not want to remain a Constable or a Corporal for life (the old timers out there will remember the C.F.L. club) then you need to keep reading.

Let’s start with the gender issue, for which obviously you have no control, but it is something you should at least be aware of where the competition is lurking.

So for the first newsflash-you have better chance of making it to the top if you are a female. This by the way is contrary to the historical record as this was not always so. But in this 21st century, currently 21.6% of the RCMP is made up of women. In terms of the SEC, 47% of the positions are currently filled by women. There are 9 men and 8 women. Women are therefore over-represented in terms of their numbers in the Force, but about equally reflected in terms of society as a whole.

While we are on the tenuous and sometimes dangerous topic of women in policing, there has long been reported in many places that women make up the majority of the Division heads in the RCMP. That, upon actual investigation is not true. Of the 12 Divisions only 5 are headed by females. That is still better than their current RCMP numbers would suggest. It is still 42% of the leadership. 

Which Divisions have produced the best opportunities for our future executives? This is a little more difficult to measure as some have served in different provinces throughout their championship ride. It is clear that Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are odds on better places to be coming from; while A Division, B Division, G Division, J Division and M Division are death holes. Nobody on the SEC is from any of these latter Divisions. E Division has a couple of representatives but then again, E Division is the biggest operational Division, therefore competition is greater and we are trying to avoid competition, so we do not recommend E Division.

Another factor which was discovered is that if you want to make it to the SEC, you will likely have to like the city of Ottawa and enjoy lunches with the rest of the polyester crowd on the Spark St. Mall. That is because the vast majority of the SEC group spent some and in a few cases almost all their time working in Ottawa.

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, one must remember that there are five civilian members on the SEC, mandarins from the nation’s capital and all of its sundry government departments. The lawyer in charge of Legal and the human resources head are two obvious examples of those that come to be running parts of the RCMP with no policing background. Surprised? Didn’t think so.

To be fair, it is easy to argue that a Chief Financial officer moving the monies around does not need to know anything about policing, and a lawyer is a lawyer is a lawyer. The disadvantage, is that prior to arriving at Leikin Drive, they would have been heavily involved in the bureaucratic politics of Ottawa. They would have risen in their respective Federal Departments fully understanding the need to fit in with the government agendas. Therefore it is unlikely that they would see policing as much different from any other Federal government department. Surviving for a long period in Ottawa is directly related to your ability to be invisible to political machinations. Do not expect innovation from this group.

Another operational background in this personal study which proves significant, way beyond its apparent operational value, is that a number of the SEC did a stint with International peacekeeping duties, including your Commissioner. Four or five of the members did stints in Haiti or Kosovo or some other “hot” spot.  It is not clear what the relevance of this is in terms of value to the organization but it is a clear advantage to volunteer. Go overseas where you will have lots of time to day dream of a more comfortable leather chair in which to put your likely expanding posterior –after having been nourished by all those U.N salary dollars.

Also clear is that Federal policing, in terms of background, far out weighs the advantages of coming from a Provincial criminal background. In fact, if you have some connection to Depot in Regina you are statistically almost as well off as someone on the contract side of the policing ledger. 

In terms of education, nothing surprising here, Bachelor degrees are commonplace, a few have Master degrees and one, a civilian has a PhD. Nor is it surprising that the regular Mounties of the group like to collect Silver and Golden Jubilee medals as they build up their curriculum vitae. Stay friendly to the Queen.  

Three of the SEC had connections to contract policing and of those two had connections to some form of Indigenous portfolio; three had been involved in diversity initiatives.  This too is not surprising if one has been paying any attention to the Liberal agenda. The retrenchment of the regular religions has been superseded by the supremacy of the eagle feather.

The Commissioner is a shining example having received the Order of Merit for “improving Indigenous relations”. Where the bar would be to receive that Order is difficult to guess. Brian Brennan, another member of the SEC, claims to have first introduced the eagle feather, the sweat lodge and spiritual cleansing to operational policing in H Division. 

It is a bit of the elephant in the room when talking about the Indigenous, but no one can deny that there is a clear advantage to being Indigenous right now in any level or department of the Federal government. This is unlikely to change in the near future, as the Indigenous since 2006 has seen their population increase by 42.5%, four times the growth rate of the non-aboriginal population. As the numbers increase, their ability to get to the top is going to continue to be a smoother road than most. This also explains the very large increase in those who have recently “found” themselves and are now identifying as Indigenous.

So get checking your Ancestry sites, the governments of this country have made it official– your skin colour matters, whether you are applying for a business loan or running for a seat in the BC NDP government.  

Also remember if you want a piece of that “risk bonus” that Paulson started handing out a couple of years ago to his senior executives, or, you want to move on to Interpol like former Commissioner Bill Elliott who was living in an $8000 a month condo in Manhattan, then you have to be tactical. You have to pay attention to the trends in government, the nuances, the language of the corridors of power. You must go along to get along. Promote one self but do not rock the proverbial boat.

So, skin colour aside, who would make the perfect candidate? 

Someone who likes Ottawa, has spent a great deal of time in Federal policing, is willing to go overseas, and who started out their service on the Prairies.

However, if you have a natural affinity for Ottawa and enjoy the political atmosphere of cocktail parties, conferences and thousands of meetings, you should seriously consider quitting. Seriously.

Instead, go to some other Federal department. Go to the Department of National Defence or Revenue Canada, get a good education in law or human resources, and immerse yourself in the diversity agenda. Learn both official languages of course –then just lateral across. Seems simple. 

In summation. No matter which path you choose, as you head down and manoeuvre through those corridors of power and begin your climb to greatness, remember the little people, the general duty member in Claresholm, Alberta or Flin Flon Manitoba who still blindly believe those adages of hard work. Keep telling them they are the backbone of the Force. It worked on me for some thirty years.

Please Note: For those that want and need to learn more– supplementary courses on policing “advancement” are available at any grey haired coffee klatch of grumbling retired Mounties who are arguing over who gets the bill. You just need to say something to get them started.

And by the way, you’re welcome. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Angelo Amboldi – Some Rights Reserved

Tinker, Tailor, Friend of Bob’s

Is he a spy? Is he a criminal?  Or was he just an academic who turned out to be not quite the wunderkind that the upper management of the RCMP purported him to be. 

Who is this 47 year old Cameron Ortis? Someone out of a le Carre novel? A dysfunctional nerd? Someone living quietly in the shadows, but craving adrenalin? A crass profiteer? It is likely that the eventual story will be some combination of all of the above. 

As John Le Carre said in his most famous of novels Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy “the more identities a man has, the more they express the person they conceal”.

But whoever he is, or was, or wanted to be, things didn’t turn out for him as well as he expected considering his somewhat blessed rise in the RCMP. 

Mr. Ortis joined the RCMP, in 2007, coming in from the academic cold; after having obtained a PhD in International Relations from the University of British Columbia. It may prove relevant to his eventual court case to note that Mr. Ortis spoke Mandarin and for his Phd had travelled extensively through China. As part of that thesis he interviewed many individuals in the underground world of hacking in China.

By 2016, nine years into his job, he had convinced many of his ability to lead, and was promoted to being the Director General of the National Intelligence Coordination Centre. 

This is also the unit responsible for the RCMP efforts against cybercrime.  As originally structured, the Cyber Crime Fusion Centre stood on its own but in 2014 was placed under the aegis of the National Intelligence Coordination Centre. This higher profile for the Centre resulted in greater funding and resourcing with the inclusion of that cybercrime responsibility. Mr.Ortis with his academic background in cybercrime was therefore, it would have been argued, a natural fit.

It was in November 2011 that Bob Paulson became the Commissioner of the RCMP.

Clearly the appointment and some level of friendship Cameron Ortis enjoyed with the new Commissioner aided in this bureaucratic re-structuring as well as his rise in status. Global News quotes four high level sources who all say that Paulson was “instrumental” in Ortis’s rapid rise in the RCMP.  It was in 2016 that Ortis was promoted to the Director of the Centre by Paulson and the Executive Committee of the RCMP. He also became the first-ever civilian director-general. 

Since the arrest of Mr. Ortis now ex-Commissioner Paulson is backing away from his relationship from Ortis; saying only that “they had a friendly relationship” and then playing with semantics said  “I never personally promoted him”…but he was “ always impressed with him”.  

The Globe and Mail reported that Paulson even attempted to convert Mr. Ortis to a cop, rather than remain a civilian member, but ran into opposition from the uniform ranks.

As the Director General Mr. Ortis would have been cleared Top Secret and he would have enjoyed access to human sources and learned covert methods of information collection; not just by Canada but by other allied agencies. He would also have had access to the Canadian top secret network often referred to as “Mandrake”. This network links twenty different Federal Departments and distills the most important and secretive information flowing between them.  

It all came to an end for Mr. Ortis in 2019 when the coy and secretive Clark Kent look a like, was officially charged with eight counts under the Security of Information Act as well as the Criminal Code for Breach of Trust and Unauthorized use of a Computer. These multiple charges concerned passing on secrets to a foreign entity in 2015 and that he was gathering information in 2018 to do the same– that he had taken “steps to access, for concealing, or surreptitiously obtaining information”.

Commissioner Lucki later described these events as “unsettling” and that she was “shaken”, but maintained that all was well in terms of the RCMP relationship to the other intelligence partners. That is probably untrue.

Canada is a member of the “Five Eyes” which is an oblique reference to the other countries to which Canada shares or receives information. The United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand are part of the group, but it should be pointed out that Canada is usually a “net consumer” of intelligence information. A bureaucratic way of saying that they are given far more information than they provide. 

There is absolutely no way that the Americans and the others would have been pleased nor happy about going into damage control. It would have by necessity caused a long audit of all operations, some with possible major ramifications. The ripple effect of this traitorous behaviour can often be far reaching in the world of the cloak and dagger. It could have endangered lives and significant covert operations around the world. Foreign intelligence cases may have had to have been pulled after being exposed by his subterfuge. 

As a former member of the Security Service, it can be said with little hesitation by this writer, that it was always  pretty well accepted that the United States had very little faith in Canada and would often vet any information given to Canada, fearful of its leaky bureaucracy. This episode is not going to help this decades long fear that others have had with the level of security in the RCMP.  It would be completely natural for all the partners to fall back and reassess all information sharing.

To better understand how Ortis rose through the ranks, one needs to look at the history of this unit .

Ottawa and the focus on Federal policing by the RCMP, was for the most part prompted by the single event of 9/11. 

The shock and exposure that this tragic event exposed was two fold; that North America could be a target, and secondly, that the RCMP in Ottawa was severely lacking in the Federal intelligence sphere. It was discomforting to know that the hijackers came through Canada for a reason. 

The Mounties had already had the Federal Security Service  taken away from them in 1984 (and transformed into CSIS) and they were scrambling to both appear and be relevant to their political bosses.  That effort continues to this day, as the Mounties continue to struggle with the Federal versus Provincial divide. The RCMP is currently a schizophrenic organization, seemingly underpowered and overwhelmed in both mandated spheres. Spread thin many argue with an overwhelming mandate for any singular agency. 

But after 9/11, in all too typical knee jerk fashion, the RCMP began to exponentially expand its Federal presence; re-assigning both manpower and monies in an attempt to grow an FBI style policing model around intelligence gathering and dissemination. This quick expansion was often administratively cumbersome, often amateurish, and often shotgun-like in its approach. 

Some would argue that the Maher Arar episode in 2006 was evidence of this unprofessionalism and due in part to this unbridled expansion.  Suffice to say there are and were some serious growing pains that continue to this day. 

As part of this expansion and the need to demonstrate its prowess the Mounties greatly expanded its analytical role and like CSIS sought out academia. It was hoped that by plumbing the ivory tower this would at the very least add a level of educational sophistication, often difficult to find in the homegrown RCMP members. Like CSIS, the pendulum swung too far.

Management fell in love with the academics, who in turn were pushing away the investigational component and thus downplaying investigational experience. All effort was in exchange for this “enlightened” approach. Mr. Ortis climb to the top was part of this trend.

What is equally interesting is how this genius level Phd, head of an intelligence agency within the National Police Force; with a speciality in cybercrime; how you may ask did he got caught. 

To answer this question there is a great deal of evidence pointing to one individual. Mr. Vincent Ramos. 

Mr. Ramos headed a company called Phantom Secure, or Phantom Security Group. It turns out that Mr. Ramos had come under scrutiny by the Americans as he was pedalling “secure” phones to criminals. These phones allowed those intent on criminality to “go dark” –technically invisible to the authorities. This consisted of removing, using Blackberry phones, the GPS and tracking hardware and install encrypted messaging capabilities. He did this by routing the encrypted data through servers in Hong Kong and Panama while also using hidden usernames. 

To obtain one of these $4,000.00 per year phones, someone, another client, had to vouch for you. By 2018 Ramos and his company had about 10,000 subscribers. Proceeds were kept in cryptocurrencies. 

The attention Mr. Ramos garnered led to a massive investigation, made up of the FBI, the Australian Federal Police and the RCMP —the company business address was in Pickering Ontario. By the end of the American led investigation, over 25 search warrants were executed, and the RCMP had targeted Ramos using an undercover operation in Las Vegas.  

The arrest of Ramos in May of 2019, in San Diego, by the U.S FBI,  then led quite incidentally to the uncovering of an as yet unidentified individual who was  trying to pedal intelligence information to Ramos and his well-connected criminal group.   

The answer to how he got caught? Apparently, our Canadian cyber security expert and head of intelligence had sent an email to the Ramos group “offering valuable information”. 

Thus was borne “Project Ace”.  (The A in the name indicates that it was run out of A Division in Ottawa) . This investigation would therefore have been headed by the SIU in Ottawa, the same investigational group that gave us the Mike Duffy case and the Mark Norman case. One can only hope this turns out a little better.

Mr. Ramos has now been sentenced in the United States, to nine years and forfeited $80 million. 

It should be mentioned that there were other people involved with Ramos; Kim Augustus Rodd  (an Australian Thai citizen), Younes Nasri, Michael Gaboa and Christopher Poquiz. All of whom remain at large. 

After the initial headlines and the “shock” expressed by the Commissioner there have now been a couple of further developments.

Apparently Mr. Ortis had some administrative problems while heading the Intelligence unit. Three former “investigational analysts” (Francisco Chaves, Michael Vladars, and Danya Young)  have launched a civil suit against Ortis and the RCMP for “strange and controlling behaviour” under his direction.

They claim Ortis “misappropriated their work and used it for personal gain”, and further claim that Ortis and therefore complicit senior managers of the RCMP had mishandled the situation to the point that over 1/2 of the analysts had left the organization. In all they are blaming a “failure of leadership”.  

The obvious implication of this civil suit is that Mr. Ortis may have come under some level of managerial investigation prior to his attempts at being a spy. This possibility seems a little weak in terms of whether a human resources complaint would have in the end exposed Mr. Ortis.

Interestingly, neither Paulson or Lucki are named in the suit, although Paulson has already had to answer media questions as to whether he was protecting his friend from the employee complaints of mismanagement.   

The case against Mr Ortis is now before the Ontario Superior Court and by no means is a fait accompli that he will be found guilty of all these charges. There is a possibility that the demands of disclosure to a proper defence, will include presumably asking for names of witnesses and this could reveal some state secrets. Rather than expose these secrets the government could be forced to withdraw certain charges. 

The initial disclosure package contained 14,000 pages, a new normal in terms of the courts. This too could delay the process. It has also been learned that Mr.Ortis apparently kept a number of encrypted computers at home. 

There has long been a long standing saying that only the dumb ones get caught. That can be argued, but if a long history of investigations has taught this writer anything it is that even the good ones make mistakes. That being said, this academic was not that smart in terms of wanting to stray into the dark world. But he was clearly good at impressing those that needed to be impressed. 

Nor does this imply that Mr. Paulson is culpable.

It has long been known that Mr. Paulson was loyal and royally rewarded his faithful followers. (One only needs to check all the promotions his friends received just prior to his departure). Equally, Mr. Paulson in demeanour and in action seemed to want to portray and hangout with the learned academic clan. With his glasses perched at the end of his nose, he seemed intent on promoting the air and idea of being an intellectual constrained in the confines of the RCMP. It is extremely likely that he would have been enthralled with Mr. Ortis.  

It’s now been a year since Ortis’ arrest. In his last court appearance on September 4th., Crown and defence were still struggling with the large disclosure packages and arguments over what will be allowed to be introduced into court, and what will be determined to be too sensitive for the public eyes.

It is expected that the case will go well into next year.

Best bet would be that the Mounties are looking for a guilty plea. Guilty pleas are apt political camouflage and the intelligence partners will be demanding that nothing be revealed. It also seems likely that the upper management of the RCMP would like to avoid putting on display how well they were duped.

Will we ever learn the truth? More likely is that the small beam of truth when and if it finally shines through will have passed through a series of intelligence agency prisms.

Such is the world when one lives in the shadows.

Photo courtesy of Phillip Sidek via Flickr Commons – Some rights Reserved

Correction: This was recently pointed out, quite rightly, by an astute reader:

 “I enjoy your blog posts, and in general consider myself a kindred spirit. I must point out an error in your latest, however–the canard, rolled out again and again by U.S. conspiracy theorists, that “It was discomforting to know that the [9/11] hijackers came through Canada for a reason. ” 
This is incorrect. True, the LAX bomber was intercepted coming through from BC. But none of the 9/11 hijackers had circumvented US immigration controls by coming through Canada. The closest mention one can find of a Canadian connection to this atrocity is in the following article:https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/23/magazine/9-11-saudi-arabia-fbi.html

If the 9/11 commission had identified such a Canadian loophole, it would have said so. 
Canada doesn’t have a perfect record in the intelligence and security field (with the Air India bombing being the most egregious failure on our part to date) but we’ve made some progress. With, as you point out, some backsliding.
My only suggested correction to an otherwise sharp and perceptive blog post.”

Systemic Corruption

Insidiously, it seeps just below the surface,  swirling in and around every level of the Canadian mosaic. Currents of malfeasance, some large, some small, quietly percolating. Lapping endless waves of cronyism, nepotism, parochialism, patronage, influence peddling, graft, and embezzlement. 

In some countries it is prevalent to the point of being part of a daily existence; places where all daily activities take into account the need to pay forward the corruption.  In the other more “privileged” or affluent countries, like Canada, we smugly point at those living in that third world of undeveloped and often corrupted governments as we shake our heads in disbelief at the levels of criminality. 

The problem with corruption, besides the obvious, is that the slow trickle of misconduct eventually begins to erode societal morals and principles. It begins to gnaw at the very bonds of society.  We, as a society, need to believe in the stability and honesty of a government and those that have been appointed to lead.  We hope that there is an inferred sense of fairness in the vital portions of our society. 

Without it, discontent with one’s position in that society begins to fester. Discontent is followed by disbelief—  one begins to question the “system”.  If doubt in the system gains a foothold, this further undermines the structural pins of decency and respect. 

There are some that contend that systemic corruption combined with the gradual extinction of the middle class is the biggest problem currently facing the democracies of the West. There are some that believe that if not addressed it could indeed prove fatal to our current system of government. 

After all the power of corruption is absolute. One only needs to watch the now besieged authoritarian government in Belarus. This corrupt government which has been led for 26 years by the authoritarian Alexander Lukashenko is now in retreat—the streets now teeming with violent protest. 

Lukashenko pronounced an election victory— one that was clearly rigged in his favour —proved to be a final and ultimate straw for the citizens of that country.  His government’s corrupt practises over the years has now launched daily protests of 200,000 people. As many as 7000 have been arrested and detained as he clings to power and calls on his ally Putin to come to his aid.  Europe’s “last dictatorship” is now in rightful peril. 

Clearly there are levels of corruption around the world. 

Tradingeconomics.com actually compiles a “corruption index” of countries. Belarus, surprisingly considering its problems, is only 66 on the list of 180, 1 being the best, and 180 being the worst. (Somalia has the distinction of being the worst and Denmark is listed as being the least corrupt country in the world)  

Canada is number 12 on the list. (We were 9th in 2016) but due to its slight deterioration Canada is now considered a country “to watch” alongside Saudi Arabia and Angola.

On the surface this seems like a good number, but how do we measure corruption in this country? Let’s consider some recent Canadian examples. 

The underground economy in Canada is estimated by Statistics Canada to be about $45 billion— $16 billion in Ontario alone. Current estimates suggest that this “irregular” economy may account from 10-25% of reported Gross Domestic Product, and that this illicit part of the economy is actually now growing faster rate than the GDP. 

In a poll a couple of years ago, a group of Canadian executives found that twenty per cent of these business leaders believed bribery and corruption were “widespread in this country”.

Recently, in British Columbia the Money laundering Inquiry is for the first time officially looking into what most people have known in this Province for a long time; that illicit funds have for many years been continually funnelled into real estate and high end vehicles; millions of dollars using the casinos as an easy conduit.  

Criminologist Stephen Schneider said that “while criminal organizations have traditionally laundered the proceeds of crime as part of their broader operations, separate money service businesses are now facilitating them”. He goes on to describe the Vancouver “model” which centres around “professional money laundering”. He flatly states that British Columbia is simply “an attractive place to do that”.

When describing financial crimes like securities fraud or stock market manipulation Schneider said that Canada “has never been very good at addressing them”. In summing up an overall picture he describes the obvious “low-hanging fruit” which is the street level drug trade;  but the real danger occurs “within commercial crimes that may be committed by corporations and private businesses that appear legitimate”.

Another recent example which is slowly falling from public view is the SNC Lavalin affair. We should remember that this large Canadian once reputable organization pled guilty to fraud for work in Libya and has now agreed to the paying of a $280 million fine. They were caught having paid $127 million in bribes and laundered millions to win contracts in Libya. A large chunk of that money, some $47 million was paid to Saadi Gadhafi, son of the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi.  Suffice to say that this Canadian company was playing with the upper echelon of the world criminal sphere. 

The RCMP in Canada has over many years systematically dropped the proverbial ball in terms of pursuing these “white collar” types. But this lack of effort can not be totally blamed on the police. The prosecution services, the financial regulators and the corporate world are at the very least guilty of astounding willful blindness. 

As an example, in 2008 and in 2014, the Financial Action Task Force, a relatively unknown but influential international standards setting body called out Canada for a “significant set of deficiencies” specifically regarding our ability to determine the “true owners of private corporations”. This is referred to by accountants as “beneficial ownership transparency” and is the key factor in tracking down financial criminal activity and corruption. Our collective blindness once again at fault.

Finding corruption is in fact quite easy. Just follow the money. Pots of money will always draw the flies, those perpetrators and opportunists along with the ethically challenged corporate insiders. 

The criminal hawks are continually circling. Let’s consider the recent CERB cheques in Canada.  They have gone out to 7.8 million individuals. Statistics Canada then quietly noted, that even though 7.8 million people benefitted “only 5 million Canadians -employees and self-employed people–either lost their jobs or began working less than half their normal hours”.  Even with limited mathematical skills one can easily calculate that this  leaves one with a potential of 40% of the claims being fraudulent. With the announcement of no due diligence required, the fraudsters had to be salivating. Sadly, it has become equally clear that many Canadians have no problem in trying to “rip” the system. 

This leads us to the reverberations out of the WE scandal in Ottawa.  This drew in our own Prime Minister, the Minister of Finance and the Chief of staff of the Prime Minister. 

The Finance Minister, whose daughter was working for WE, and the Prime Minister whose wife, mother and brother had all been paid by the WE brothers in some form— apparently didn’t even know enough about business practises to understand the concept of recusing themselves.  Their sense of entitlement blinded them in their own deceit.  

It was also revealed recently that the WE executives referred to Mr. Morneau as a “bestie” in some back and forth emails. This same Minister quickly remembered, while walking to the very Committee hearing, that he “forgot” to pay back $40,000 in expenses for two rather dubious trips. 

At the time of this blog, Mr. Morneau has now been pushed to the curb, but undeterred is applying for the job of the head of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. One has to wonder how that that job application will skirt around a couple of sticky ethics investigations, but pay no mind, because the Prime Minister is going to vouch for him. 

Mr. Trudeau, for his part, in the style of a tin pot dictator has now “prorogued” the Canadian Parliament, stopping all the activities of Parliament until September 21st. An apt parallel would be if you imagined Trump shutting down the Mueller inquiry. 

It effectively shuts down the various Committee investigations that were going on involving WE and the Liberals. 

But what may be the most disturbing to this writer is the lacklustre enthusiasm for pursuing the offenders in this country. What is it about the citizens of this country where there is no outcry against the white collar criminals?  No outrage or demand for accountability. 

This is a country that applauds the Hells Angels on their toy run, turning our heads from viewing their daily practise of extortions, and torture.  Beatings and killings of the innocent and the promulgation of the sex worker industry or the drug trade is ignored, as long as there is a stuffed bear attached to their handle bars. 

There was a massive outcry in the United States, cameras traipsing behind mediocre actress Lori Loughlin who was convicted in a nation wide college entrance exam cheating scandal for her involvement in getting her  “gifted” kids into University. The U.S. and Canadian media coverage was endless. 

While in this country, businessman, philanthropist, BC Sports Hall of Fame and former CFL’r David Sidoo was found guilty in this same scandal of cheating to get his two sons into college in Boston. He paid $200,000  to have a professional test writer use false credentials to impersonate his two sons to write their SAT’s. He even flew the fraud artist in to write one of the high school exams for one of his sons. Has there been massive shaming, has there been any calls for his removal from the Hall of Fame? Crickets. 

Commissioner Lucki, meanwhile remains in seeming isolation,  effectively distancing herself from the Coronavirus and any investigation involving the Liberals.  One should not expect anything to come out of the Ottawa RCMP corridors in terms of any investigations of wrong doing while under her oversight.

Remember when Ms. Lucki was asked about the investigation of obstruction involving the Prime Minister and the SNC Lavalin controversy? She replied that the RCMP “takes all investigations seriously, and investigate to the fullest”. That was in September 2019.  

Ms. Lucki is proving herself to be a plodding one trick pony. Diversity is clearly her one and only issue. It will also likely prove to be her swan song.

So what does the future hold. Well, the only thing for sure is that Canada on the afore mentioned corruption index is likely to slip further down the ratings. 

Canadians are now becoming a bit closer to Belarus than to Denmark. 

Photo courtesy of Christopher Dombres via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Dangerous thoughts

We seemed to have reached a critical juncture in this country.  No this is not a reference to the pandemic, nor the staggering debt that is being incurred as a result of the favoured government approach to the virus, nor the damage done, to those in the low income groups in terms of future employment. 

This is not about the fact that the two most powerful political leaders in this country Mr. Morneau and Mr. Trudeau are ethically bereft; unable to understand life outside the gilded cages they inherited. Even though it is getting a little compelling that this is their second trip across that ethical and moral divide. 

 This is a reference to something more opaque and potentially more lethal to this country.  

This is a reference to the fact that we have become a nation of people where freedom of thought is now being challenged, tossed to the side, squandered away in the interest of correctness, in the interest of a far left liberal agenda.

We have become a country whose influencers are trumpeting a cause in which they clearly believe; but to be sustained they believe that there is no room for dissent or discussion. Follow and agree, or be expunged. Any contrarian voice will be drowned out by their myopic shouts— emphatic in their belief that they and only they, have seen the light. Only they can understand right from wrong. Only they possess the right to determine what and who goes forward. 

This is not a conspiratorial theory.  Valid conspiracies require orchestrated goals and some form of structure.  Rather, what we are allowed to hear or read is being controlled through some twisted form of protest osmosis, driven by a manic adherence to correctness, and a hysterical group of government leaders playing to an audience of progressives. And, it is being done with a level of arrogance not often seen in this country. 

The frenetic dialogue demanding acceptance of the progressive theories is often bizarre and unhinged from a factual foundation. The riots, the violence and the destruction which flows behind the placards is accompanied by an underlying discourse which in itself is intolerant of alternate views. 

We have developed a bad habit in this country of wanting to mimic the United States. True to form this call to action and form of censorship has been seeded and watered in the U.S. The issues of the United States are being portrayed as one and the same in Canada.  The history of racism, slavery and segregation to the south of us, is according to the fanatical few in this country, is one and the same as the plight of blacks or the indigenous in this country. This is patently untrue, but if repeated incessantly then it must be legitimate.  

There is a long list of censorship stories being told in the United States and in Canada. 

In the U.S. Steven Pinker, a best-selling author and Harvard professor who has often appeared on PBS and Joe Rogan where he deals with what one would call the more “difficult” subjects has been one of the recent victims.  His last book is entitled “Enlightenment Now: the Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress”. Bill Gates has called it his favourite book of all time. If Mr. Pinker has a theme to his writings, it is one of reason and science. 

This same Mr. Pinker has now been accused of racial insensitivity. In fact five hundred and fifty academics signed a letter seeking to remove him from the list of “distinguished fellows” of the Linguistic Society of America. Their charge is that Professor Pinker “minimizes racial injustices and drowns out the voices of those who suffer sexist and racist indignities.“ 

Professor Pinker’s real offence may be the fact that he has denounced what he sees as the close mindedness of the heavily liberal American universities and he has written about innate differences between the sexes and the different ethnic and racial groups. He is not playing along to their truth, therefore, he is now a high level target for those demanding his censorship. 

In contrast, in Canada, one of the “go to” experts on the CBC for Indigenous issues is Ryerson University Chair in Indigenous Governance Pamela Palmater. A person farther from Mr. Pinker in demeanour and speech could not be found. She, has seemingly unrestricted ability to spout her theories of colonialism, or to accuse police of “murder” in any cases involving the Indigenous. She took the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday to describe it as a “celebration of indigenous genocide”.   

Ms Palmater, a lawyer, we need to remember is also a professor.  Yet, she is allowed to foist her beliefs and innuendo without regard to any objectivity and is never forced to point to the evidence. She is a fermenter of radicalism disguised as an academic. Apparently being indigenous allows her the freedom to launch disdain and invective on the police or others who may or may not agree with her concepts.

There are too many examples of this blinkered political narrative to list here, however this drive to censoring by the progressives is not going totally without notice. 

This month, 153 intellectuals and writers, signed a letter to Harper’s magazine on July 7, 2020 that criticized the current intellectual climate as “constricted” and “intolerant”. The signatories included Mr. Pinker, but also people such as J.K. Rowling, Margaret Atwood and Noam Chomsky. It criticized the present state of “illiberalism”. 

They called Trump “a real threat to democracy”, which no one should debate, but also hinted that the “cancel culture” on the left was as much as a threat.  The signatories included academics from Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia University.  

Michael Ignatieff was also a signatory, the former head of the Liberal Party of Canada. It is hard not to notice this paradox. 

Of course there was pushback to this letter too, and reflexively the left accused the signatories of representing “large platforms” at the expense of “marginalized groups”.  They said these writers who penned the letters were elitist and hypocritical. The “letter” has now become a rallying point for the left and they are now openly targeting those that dared signed. 

Michelle Goldberg an opinion columnist for the NY Times describes the climate of the newspaper as being “punitive heretic-hunting”. She describes illiberalism having set in, and now being enforced, in some cases, through workplace discipline, “including firings”. She believes that the “involvement of human resources departments in compelling adherence with rapidly changing new norms of speech and debate” is “frightening.” 

At this same newspaper, an Op-Ed piece was penned by right wing Senator Tom Cotton calling for a military response to civic unrest in American cities during the protests. It was an opinion, voiced in the opinion column.

This prompted more than a 1000 staff members of the NY Times to sign a petition demanding that the editorial page editor resign for allowing this opinion. He was forced to quit a few days later. The power brokers at NY Times, the paper that advertises itself as printing all the news that is fit to print, said that the opinion piece should not have been allowed as it “fell short of our standards”. Apparently free speech is not one of the “standards” of the newspaper. 

In a similar but lesser vein a B.C. RCMP officer , Dustin Dahlman was “suspended” and then resigned following a single person’s complaint that alleged that he re-posted “racially insensitive, rage-fuelled and anti-government” material on Facebook. 

He had posted about “too soft” police responses but the big offence was a re-posting a video where a man says: “If Black Lives mattered so much to you Blacks, then you wouldn’t be burning down our country like a bunch of offing heathens”. 

Let’s be clear that Dahlman didn’t say it, he re-posted it, thus implying being in agreement.  

My guess there is many in this country and especially in the United States who are not happy with the burning and looting which has followed many of the protests. Is  Mr. Dahlman’s comment  an inappropriate comment from a police officer? Yes. Should someone be fired for saying what hundreds of thousands of others are saying?  Admittedly, it is hard to defend in this case what seems illogical or even stupid, but if you believe in free speech then defend it you must.

There was a recent ridiculous story which came out of the San Francisco Police Department last week where the Chief has decided to not issue “mug shots” because according to the black Chief of Police William Scott, “This policy emerges from compelling research suggesting that he widespread publication of police booking photos in the news and on social media creates an illusory correlation for viewers that fosters racial bias and vastly overstates the propensity of Black and brown men engage in criminal behaviour”.

There is no mention where the “compelling research “ can be found, nor does he explain how it “overstates” the involvement in crime behaviour. 

In Vancouver the current City counsel has proposed that the Vancouver City Police eliminate street checks. The underlying fact that has stimulated this move is the apparent statement and belief of the progressives that there is racial targeting in these “street checks”. Again, they offer the total number of checks and the theory of “over representation”, but nothing further is explored in terms of a possible explanation.  It is a ridiculous policy based on specious research.

The CBC always ready to jump with both feet in the progressive cause, recently unveiled an in-house “investigation” that said that police shootings are up and that indigenous and persons of colour are disproportionately targeted. It is being broadcast as fact, irrefutable. A mild mention is given to the vast majority of the “over represented” victims having underlying mental health issues and substance abuse problems, but no mention of geographic locations or the high-crime areas in which they occur. 

In their story they make a great deal of the fact that in Winnipeg that Indigenous people represent 2/3rds of the victims but only 10% of the population. There is no mention that the most serious violent gang groups in Winnipeg are the Indigenous gangs.  

 Of the 461 police fatal encounters they “investigated” in the years 2000-2017 (which amounts to an an average of 27 a year across the Nation), only 18 resulted in charges against the police; nudge nudge wink wink . Despite the innuendo and heavy hanging “facts” hey do not present any evidence of a cover up. 

Some may suggest that this is just part of the intellectual pendulum in this country?  Maybe. But history suggest that it could go on for decades. 

There were times when the right tried to harness the ideas of the left, but one needs to go back to the 1960’s. The Woodstock generation was the harbinger of the exploration of liberal and leftist ideas. The protests against the “man” in those times fomented the seeds for the violence of the Black Panthers; the comedy of Lenny Bruce who went after the institutions like the Catholic Church; and the leftist separatist movement in Quebec which led to the formation of the FLQ in this country. The history tells us that attempts to ban and curtail the thoughts and ideas of the left by the right failed dismally.  

 The grand children of that leftist 1960’s viewpoint have now taken up the “new”cause.  The Panthers have morphed into the radical fringe of Black Lives Matter.  But likely, they will also find that censoring or banning the thoughts of the middle and the right, as part of their agenda, will also end in failure. 

Banning a second viewpoint, ostracizing those that hesitate to join their righteous movement will only serve to fertilize the neo-right. That is a separate and real danger which is now brewing in many parts of Europe and South America.  

It seems that this generation of protest has learned nothing from history and the mistakes of those that try to suffocate reasoned thought.

Instead of tearing down statues— study them, learn  what they represent. Change is possible, but it resonates only when it is founded on reason and respect. 

Photo Courtesy of Chris McBrien via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved http://www.flickr.com/photos/cmcbrien/4188306468

Bowing to Ignorance

It was hard not to feel sorry, or a better word may be uncomfortable for the beleaguered Commissioner Lucki, or maybe even the befuddled Deputy Commissioner Zablocki. These two individuals have risen to the upper echelon of the Mounties and have been drinking in that rarefied air, playing to a political agenda in relative peace and harmony. But here they were, in the last few days, cornered and out-gunned by the more politically correct, the masters of appeasement. Even they could not have imagined this looking glass world of righteous indignation which was being thrust upon them with increasing ferocity.  

Through their careers they have been promoted and extolled for their adherence to the themes of diversity and inclusion, and in many cases had to abandon ethics and principle. They were required to chant in unison the mantra of the enlightened progressives. Go along to get along would have been their placard as they eyed and encircled that executive corner office. In this and that environment there was absolutely no tolerance for dissension or counter-point. Similar minds were recruited and pulled up the ladder by the other similarly minded. 

Say nothing offensive, say nothing for which you could later be held accountable. Job experience or the position that was held was a distant second to conforming to “the system”. Pandering to those favoured interest groups and following the progressive line has been “systemic” for a number of years. 

But in the last number of weeks, we reached a point of significant accounting, a “crisis” if you prefer the new word for news. Of course I am referring to this newly professed outrage of police brutality and rampant racism in the RCMP, all of which had been ingrained by some sort of conspiratorial process.

The force of the cable news pushed Ms. Lucki out of hiding. Most of all the throngs were demanding acquiescence. Like the Papal blessing from the Vatican, they wanted the head of the RCMP to publicly acclaim their beliefs and proclamations of “systemic racism”.

So, she consented to do an interview with that bastion of special interest bias, the CBC, to be conducted by the“Senior Political correspondent” Rosemary Barton. Ms. Barton, who no doubt feels that she is the epitome of the probing journalist, is well connected to Justin Trudeau and the inner Liberal sanctum. Ms. Lucki must have believed or may have been comforted in the fact that she was in normally friendly territory. 

Throughout this interview, it was clear that Ms. Lucki was referring to her notes when she was being pressed on the terminology of “systemic racism”. Finally, Ms Barton pushed, so “you you didn’t answer the question, do you believe there is systemic racism in policing organizations, including yours in the country?” 

What followed was an inept stumbling meandering response to that “interesting question”.  Clearly, Ms. Lucki knew it was coming, clearly it was the thematic background for the entire interview. It was also equally clear that  the CBC was pressing to have Lucki admit on camera to “systemic” racism. The masses demanded it. Ms. Lucki was not ready. 

Ms. Lucki chose to respond by saying that she was confused by the many definitions of “systemic racism”.  One had a mental picture of Ms. Lucki surrounded by Funk and Wagnals, Oxford English, or Miriam-Webster dictionaries desperately thumbing the pages trying to gain some insight. But, it was all to no avail apparently, frustrating she said, as there were so many “versions” of it. 

It should be noted that the interview with Ms. Lucki was a day or so after the interview given by Mr. Zablocki— who in after an apparent dose of sodium amytal stated that there was no “systemic” racism in the RCMP. Unfortunately, the dosage wore off a few hours later. 

Still struggling, Lucki looked down at her notes to say “if you mean unconscious bias” —then she would admit that the RCMP was guilty as charged. 

The interview painfully continued and Ms. Barton opined at one point that in this country “people feel scared calling the police”.  Even this outrageous comment did not force the docile, pliant Commissioner to react in defence. She trotted out her tested and true response: “We need to get better”…”my expectations are high”. She went on to agree to review the carotid hold which was still in use, to bring better accountability through possible use of body cams, as that was part of her “digital policing strategy”. After all “we need to get better”.

The interview concluded with the Commissioner inappropriately telling Ms. Barton “thanks for your respectful questions”. She was clearly relieved; but this too would be short lived. 

A day or so later, Trudeau threw them all under the bus. 

Of course, there is systemic racism in the RCMP according to Trudeau. It was everywhere. 

No one missed the irony that this was coming from the three times “black face” Prime Minister, the white privileged Prime Minister. 

Shortly thereafter, predictably, Ms. Lucki turtled, fell into the prone position, hands over her head and ears, instinctively warding off the blows of the persistent masses. Through the safety of a press release said:

“…I did not say definitively that systemic racism exists in the RCMP…I should have”. 

So given this state of confusion, this intrepid blogger feels obligated to help these poor confused mandarins of the RCMP.  

“System”, from which the word systemic originates, is referred to as the “structure, organization, order, complex, administration” etc. If one stretches the definition and refers to “the system” in the modern vernacular, one could be referring to “the ruling class, the regime, bureaucracy”.

So follow along you poor, confused, Mountie managers, if one is claiming “systemic racism” one is claiming that the bureaucracy, the administration, the laws of this country, the structure of the RCMP, is in fact racist. Systemic racism to exist and meet the definition, must be built into the rules and the structure of the organization. Miriam Webster says that “systemic” means that it is “fundamental to a predominant social, economic or political practise”

Does anybody inside the RCMP believe that to be the case? 

Of course, you are allowed to have that opinion but, there is a convincing argument to be made that in the last twenty or thirty years that the administration and the bureaucracy, and the management of the RCMP organization has in fact been the exact opposite. 

Affirmative action hiring, recruiting, promotion, transfer policies, have in fact been tailored to meet the demands of the growing multi-racial society of Canada. Community policing, school liaison programs, Youth Intervention, and the like have all been tailored to meet the growing demand of diversity and inclusion. (How successful they have been is quite another matter. )

Nevertheless the Commissioner of the RCMP (and there have been no dissenting voices among the other RCMP managers) has now implied that everyone and everything in the Mounties is racist. The entire system. 

This charge is absolute nonsense. But, no one is daring to step in front of the stampeding herd. The herd has declared it to be, therefore it is. Celebrities and sports figures joined in.

It should be noted that when we go to these protestors, or their talking heads and seek specific examples of this systemic racism none are proffered.

Chief Allan Aden of the Athabascan Chipewyan First Nation in Alberta stated “If a white man is denying systemic racism, that is systemic racism”.  This is the level of intelligent debate in this country.  If I deny I am a sexual predator, I am therefore a sexual predator. 

This very same logic was used by the minority leaders of the Opposition NDP who has never missed a cause or a bandwagon on which to jump. So he was poised for this latest cause. He proposed a “unanimous consent” bill, for all parties to agree, that the RCMP was systemically racist and that RCMP officers were killing the Indigenous and blacks in this country. It was clearly an act of grand-standing, and after making his support speech, he pompously sat in his seat, assuming all would agree.

All political parties voted for it, a disturbing lack of support for the police to say the least, but one single member of Parliament, Alain Therrien for the Bloc PQ, said no.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, jumped up, clearly upset. He then called the Member of Parliament a “racist” for not going along with the bill.

He was a racist according to Mr. Singh because he didn’t agree with Mr. Singh. The same logic as the Chief.

Justin Trudeau, went further and refused to criticize Mr. Singh, despite Mr. Singh having been removed from the Commons for the day for his “un-Parliamentary” comments. His justification was that Mr. Singh was a “racialized” leader and therefore it was forgivable.  

These last few days, the seemingly endless accusations continue to be stoked by the irresponsible of this country. It is discouraging and is tearing at the very fabric of this country. The lack of informed narrative, and the often ridiculous proposals to counter this ill-defined problem have left many parts of this country speechless. The pundits and media commentators in this progressive world have gone from being expert on the coronavirus to experts on policing with often comedic speed. A quote from Oscar Wilde resonates, “by giving us opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community”.

Where will it all end? When will reasonable dialogue return? It is difficult to say. This blogger never imagined a time when political dialogue in this country was so blatantly biased and absent of substance. The level of this demand for conformity rivals any historical third world despot.

The tearing down of statues and the rewriting of history, the calls for defunding the police, and the chants for a revamping of the RCMP will one day run into the wall of reality. These protests and cries for reformation are not based on any intimate knowledge of policing, they are based on slogans. The day when the social worker arrives at the domestic dispute or to deal with the mental health patient instead of the police, is a very long way off. 

When someone can actually point to systemic racism with an objective rationale, then we can begin to address it. The danger now is knee-jerk policy to appease the masses and Trudeau is already floating trial balloons. Most will end up meaningless, a let them eat cake moment and of no intrinsic value. 

As for the Commissioner and the rest of the Executive of the RCMP. Maybe they should consider that now is the time to fade into the night. Their time to show leadership arrived and they shrivelled before your very eyes. They should be bowing their heads in shame.

Some one should also wake up the National Police Federation from their slumber. Although willing to speak out about the formation of a Surrey Municipal Force, they have now conveniently lost their voice, when their officers are being slandered, ridiculed, and even endangered in the heat of these protests.

Maybe, it’s time for the police of this country to march on Ottawa. Maybe it’s time that the ground level police nationally form a strong and singular political voice. It may be time for their protest. And if I was planning the parade route, it would definitely go by Mr. Trudeau’s “cottage”, and end by occupying Mr. Singh’s office.

I wonder who they would call to remove these 68,000 blue uniformed protestors? Maybe a social worker.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons and Yannick Gingras – Some Rights Reserved

The Pay Raise Gamble

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

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

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

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

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

This all may be about to change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What did he offer up as his major concern? 

Well “public safety” of course.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The NPF- Plunging into Surrey politics

Now that we all have been satiated, assured by Toyota, Ikea, and the Muffler shop, and of course the beloved Bonny Henry, that they are all here for us during these trying times, maybe it is time to talk about something else as we head or get driven to a utopian “new normal”.  

Recently, Brian Sauve the President and leader of the newly formed National Police Federation, which represents those in the red scarlet, managed to divert the news briefly and our attention with his pro-active coming out stance in arguing for the retention of the RCMP in Surrey.

In the last number of days in fact Mr. Sauve has been doing the full rock and roll circuit; visiting the CBC, the Province newspaper, CTV news, and running three full page ads in Surrey’s local newspaper extolling both the virtues of the RCMP and stating as the gospel truth –that the citizens of Surrey want to retain the RCMP. 

So naturally interest was piqued. Puzzling somewhat, that at this late juncture, Mr. Sauve who barely has his feet wet in his new role has apparently decided, one would assume along with his senior managers to jump with both feet into the Surrey and Provincial political arena.

It should be said that Police unions have the right to be political, but this particular set of circumstances in Surrey seems curious on a few levels. Police enjoy discretionary powers in this country and are formally required to be non-political, so a union representing those police are in a rather unique position requiring balance and forethought.

Clearly the NPF and its 20,000 strong membership are concerned about losing Canada’s biggest RCMP detachment to another union. Nobody wants to lose 850 members (about 4% of their union) before they even get started. But, according to the NPF web site there is a deeper reason for their stance: “This is about your national labour relations agency standing up for the exceptional work of all our members across Canada and internationally.”

Does the RCMP and the NPF feel chastened? Is it possible that they have missed the broader issues or more accurately the issues which have been raised by Surrey and have chosen to ignore the specifics, and just feel insulted?

Mr. Sauve seems to be conflating a local political issue with the reputation of the entire RCMP throughout Canada. He does not seem to understand that this a big city issue where the RCMP is being questioned and has been for a number of years, on its effectiveness vis a vis another more locally controlled city department. This should not be viewed as a personal affront to the membership of the RCMP.  Surrey is primarily seeking a change in structure, to no longer report to the three headed monster of Ottawa; to convert to an agency which may be more fitting to a municipal sized police force.

Mr. Sauve, more than most, should be aware of the issues within the RCMP which have been plaguing them for the last number of years, yet he feels the need to argue that they are the best solution under these circumstances? His argument if stretched out is that a unionized RCMP would be better than an independent municipal, also unionized force. 

Three of the four main players of the NPF: President Sauve, Vice-President Dennis Miller and VP Michelle Boutin all were part of the SRR program. There they would have argued for and defended members against the arbitrary and pernicious management of the RCMP.  

The fourth VP, Pete Merrifield evven stands out a bit from the others. If there was anyone who may be a little jaundiced with the RCMP and maybe even hold a tinge of bitterness towards them it should be Merrifield. Pete Merrifield during a 7 year stint, sued the Force for harassment after he had become involved with the Conservative Party of Ontario. 

In February 2017 a Superior Court ruled in Mr. Merrifield’s favour awarding him $141,000 for the “unrelenting harassment” he suffered and an additional $825,000 to cover his legal expenses. This was no small victory, but unfortunately for him it was short lived. 

The Appellate Court rejected the lower court. In fact they went even further stating that Merrifield had not been “completely truthful” with his superiors and had given them reason to “mistrust” him. 

Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear Mr. Merrifield’s appeal to the highest court. 

All four of these individuals in the last number of years, clearly reached a point in their beliefs that the massive problems within the RCMP and its system could not be corrected without independent representation. A union was desperately needed they would have argued. 

Is it not fanciful that this same group of individuals is now arguing that this same flawed RCMP management is now better than another agency regardless of its makeup?

Is it possible that after a lifelong career in the RCMP these individuals who were “members” of the RCMP can not separate their apparent comfort and loyalty to the RCMP from their new roles as advocates for their membership.

However, my biggest concern in that this new union group has gone a step further than a policy decision to defend the RCMP in Surrey; but in order to defend it vigorously they went and paid for a slanted “survey” –to argue and prove their point and have been holding it up as their evidence throughout their media campaign.  

The survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights .

If one was conducting a survey to determine the wishes of the general population with regard to police force of choice, wouldn’t the obvious and clear question that should be posited would be: Do you prefer retaining the RCMP over forming a new police agency?

But clearly the NPF requisitioned this survey because they wanted to make sure it backed up their political argument. A straightforward and clear question may have resulted in statistics that may have not fit in as easily with the political argument that they wished to launch.

So they made sure that the question was couched in terms that would prove more favourable.  

The survey asked whether in these times of the virus and municipal funds taking a beating, whether the taxpayers of Surrey should be spending additional monies on a separate police agency.  The weighted survey question, which was randomly sent out to 803 people asked: 

“With the CoVid virus causing a major disruption” is now the time to “replace the Mounties?” 

This was after the city of Surrey revealed that due to the virus and the shutdown, Surrey counsel would be running a $42million budget shortfall.

This style and question format linked the budget deficit and the fear of the coronavirus to convince the polled that this was not the “time” for a change. They then took the favourable responses, translated, and interpreted these results to say that 77% support keeping the RCMP and 82% support a referendum. 

The clearly planted headline in the Surrey Now-Leader said:  “New Poll Indicates 83 per cent of Surreyites say now not the time to replace the RCMP.”  And they argued that 90% of the respondents agree that it is time to take a “step back and evaluate its spending plans to ensure that they are focused on the most urgent priorities”.  

This is spin, and spin which has been done in such a fashion as to be disingenuous if not duplitcious.  

So what should we take from all this? The NPF in its infancy as a union —elections only recently conducted for detachment representatives this month —has decided to enter the political arena, to fight the duly elected and mandated government. This despite that the political  mandate of the Mayor in Surrey was very clear during the last election and was totally tied the wanting of a new police force. 

Sauve is now publicly saying that the Mayor should have another new referendum on the same issue and vigorously points to the “new survey” as evidence of the wishes of the Surrey residents, bought and paid for by the RCMP union membership. 

The illustrious Surrey councillor Linda Annis has been coaxing the NPF in promoting both the survey and the need for a referendum.  Annis is that Surrey counsellor who has long been in a political fight with MacCallum and who has been pushed from her corridor of power since the last election. 

Annis, despite being always commenting or extolling the virtues of the RCMP in her fight with MacCallum has this blogger’s vote as probably the most ill-informed politician in this debate. Her arguments for the retention of the RCMP border on ludicrous in her effort to get back to power. For example, when asked why it wasn’t possible that some members of the Surrey RCMP may choose to go to the new agency, she felt that was not possible— because when they became police officers —they choose the RCMP.  Who could argue with that logic? Apparently she had never heard of officers changing agencies.

On a recent talk show on CKNW, emboldened by the interviewer Sauve argued that the Mounties were doing “a great job”, “despite the fact that Surrey has under-funded the RCMP for years”.  He repeated a few times that the RCMP was doing a “wonderful job” in Surrey and pointed to the  evidence that the crime rate has been falling in Surrey for the last fourteen years. This is a trend throughout Canada and not just Surrey but why quibble with details.

He was asked about the need for more officers on the street to fight the gang violence. He pointed to the amazing job the RCMP Youth group was doing in fighting the gang problem.

He grasped further by saying that if the community wanted more cops on the street, then maybe they should be discussing increasing funding to the RCMP. So Mr Sauve, had up to this time, structured his argument to retain the RCMP with the need to save money.  But if the voters were not satisfied then one of his solutions was to spend more money on the RCMP if they wanted more officers on the street.

This back and forth countering logic is a little disconcerting and shows a very shallow understanding of the issues in Surrey. 

So we end up back at the question. Is the NPF loyalty to the RCMP pushing this drive? Is their argument that no one is better than the Mounties in any circumstance? This despite having been dealing with the vagaries of the RCMP management for years; sexual harassment, claims in the hundreds of millions of dollars, still this group feels that their unionized environment within the RCMP will be better then the unionized environment in a new fresh Municipal Force. 

As their primary function is to represent their membership, do they realize that a lot of Mounties currently in Surrey may switch to a new agency and it may be in their best interest to do so.  

Maybe this is an overreaction. Maybe some officers feel better that the NPF is defending them as the Force has been going through many years of criticism. But they are late to the game, since its possible that the newly approved Surrey Police Force could be in effect as early as April 2021, less than a year away. 

As a new union, the early days are crucial, as they try to build a credible and strong representative group.  They have many diverse issues in front of them, all of which will demand their utmost attention. Their membership will become increasingly more demanding as the union begins to form and get involved in the various facets of police personnel administration. This will be nothing like the SRR program. They will need to exude the utmost professionalism because now there will be exposure and accountability. 

This is not the time to get into a fight with a duly elected and mandated government and now is not the time to demand something which is outside their purview or control. Now, was not the time to put up a slanted survey, or to gather behind the likes of Linda Annis. 

In the future, any political arguments will need to become a little more sophisticated. The NPF will need to be smarter. This is new world for everyone. The new RCMP membership is now paying for you —and they are watching.

Photo courtesy of Ewe Neon via Flickr Commons — Some rights reserved

To Heidi….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You were a cop.

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

Through the Looking Glass

The title of this blog reflects the feeling that one has when one delves into any government report, an apt metaphorical expression to describe when looking into that strange side, that strange parallel world which is the National RCMP. 

Only the policy nerds seem to flourish in this world, fed and sustained by a never-ending stream of political social narratives; while those looking in from the outside wonder what it all means, or whether it means anything at all.  For those that are paying attention (admittedly, that may not be many) the latest government aphorism, is a rehearsed and vetted document outlining the future for the RCMP.  It will both confound and mystify the average reader, but in equal measure it will please their political masters.  

This is a reference to the newly released benignly named: Royal Canadian Mounted Police 2020-2021 Departmental Plan.

This document is not an exception to the usual government production, as it should come with a warning label, a warning that its contents are chock full of numbing bureaucratize. The reader sometimes needs a skill set similar to Alan Turing  to break the code of government speak and terminology. It is recommended that it should only be read in small doses.  

It is also clearly designed to be somewhat obtuse, as specifics are often an anathema to any government agency. What we do get is 35 pages of clouded statements on the future intentions of the RCMP as outlined by its leadership. It includes for the novice reader, an appendix of “definitions”— in case you are wondering what is  “gender-based analysis +”. 

As one begins to read, it should be noted that this is the first time that the RCMP has an assigned Management Advisory Board in its midst, now part of the influential upper management. You may remember that Brenda Lucki in announcing this Board stated that the RCMP “thrives on diversity of knowledge and ideas” (actually the RCMP has been called out many times for being a closed system so this seems a little precious) and was looking to the Board to help build a “modern, effective, healthy and inclusive organization”. (Keep the word inclusive in mind, as it will re-surface). 

In reading this document one does get a sense of the political goals having become more intertwined with the policing goals, but there is nothing attributed to the input of this new Board otherwise.

It is also the first time the RCMP is reporting under the banner of the illustrious Bill Blair, who has gone through the “transition”, from the tough former cop to the  wholly pliable 100% Liberal politico. 

The report is broken up into its four respective groups: Federal Policing, National Police Services, Contract and Indigenous Policing, and Internal Services. It is quickly evident by the majority of the narrative that the majority of the emphasis in this particular document is under the Federal Policing banner. 

The officers in this Federal group are mandated with the ominous sounding and numerous portfolios of: terrorism, foreign interference, money laundering, organized crime, proceeds of crime, border integrity, transnational serious and organized crime, cyber-enabled criminal activities, and foreign influenced cyber crime. Out of this litany, the ultimate priorities are noted as being; national security, transnational crime, and cybercrime. Some may argue that these particular priorities are some of the already very weak areas in terms of operational performance.  Few of those that work there would argue with the fact that improvement is needed.  

The report then goes on to examine the  “Departmental results” –those of the past, alongside the new and projected targets. An examination of this area, is a little more specific and therefore a little more telling. 

They list the “Percentage of National Security Serious and Organized Crime investigations” and “Financial Crime investigations” that have been “opened and cleared” within the fiscal year(s). In Financial Crime, their future target is 30.5% of the files. Keep in mind “cleared” is open to interpretation. 

In 2016 the actual results were 7%, in 2017- 19% and in 2018 -0%. 

Thats right, 0% of files in 2018 and 2019 were opened and cleared in that year under the banner of Financial Crime. 

In the area of National Security there future goal is 11.5% opened and cleared files. In 2016 they achieved 6%, 2017-8% and last year 2019-10%.  You get the picture. 

The budget for these high level investigations on the Federal side is estimated at $870,180,294. However, over the projected next three years into 2022-2023, the monies actually drop to $862,409,515. So despite the emphasis at the beginning of their report on anticipated greater focus on cyber crime investigations and transnational serious and organized crime, no more money is currently planned nor are they anticipating any increases.    

The writers concede there are some “risks” in reaching these projected targets. They explain that “without new funding”, they “will be unable to deliver on its already narrowed and focused scope” and they will also need to “re-direct” resources to the Federal side.

Further down the list of importance comes Contract and Indigenous Policing.  Again, one needs to decipher the phraseology. In this portion of the document there are multiple references to such things as “developing relationships”, “guiding investigations”, and “supporting other agencies”.  What they mean is that in the future, it will continue to be hard to measure any impacts when they are working in an assistance capacity. It is difficult to measure success or failure, or attribute positive or negative results when one points to others. If there is a failure they will point at the others, but at themselves when it is a success.

Under the roof of Contract Policing also comes “developing” a Gender Based Violence program; a Sexual Assault Review team to “guide” others;  and to “support” other agencies dealing with Cannabis and Cannabis related enforcement issues. Contract operational policing, of which most of the readers of this blog belong, garners four lines of narrative while talking about something called “Gender Based Analysis Plus”.  There is little or no reference to day to day operational policing on the contract level. 

There is a portion of greater specifics, in the Departmental result indicator list for Contract policing, where they outline the “weighted clearance rate” across contract policing jurisdictions.

Their target is 64.5 % by March 31, 2021.

So what did they achieve in 2016–37.80%; in 2017–36.91 % and in 2018–36.6%. So in the next several months the RCMP is planning to almost double their current clearance rate. To say that is a stretch would be an understatement and one has to wonder who came up with a target number so out of reach.

What do they see as the key risks in contract policing? There is no mention of their largest detachment possibly becoming a separate municipal department. The single risk they speak about is the “lack of an effective dispute resolution process”. At least that is true, when you open up to the unionized environment, the current lack of any workable process is exposed. Things such as “binding arbitration” have never been dealt with before. Why are they worried about this risk?  Because it poses “significant financial liability”. 

Now in case you think the Ottawa types have let you down and they are not moved by the salary issues, or the bottom of the pit morale issues. You would be mistaken, because they announced—wait for it— “Vision 150”.  This is a five year plan built upon the “Four Pillars” of : “Our people”, “Our Culture”, “Our Stewardship” and “Our Policing Services”.  

Under “Our people” you will find the usual promises and problems  of recruitment, mental health, diversity and harassment. Under “Our Culture” there will be “ethical standards modeled and enforced” and they will be “fostering diversity”. 

All of you must be breathing a collective sigh of relief.  

As a carrot after the proverbial stick they did mention that they are going to be expending time on developing “apps” to allow an officer to access RCMP systems from anywhere— they will be increasing their “mobile presence”. The government which gave us the Phoenix pay system is heading down the road to greater App development.

So what is the projected budget for all of this? What is the overall cost of the Mounties? 

In 2019-2020 the forecast results are $6,175,703,214. 

The projected expenses for 2020-2021 are: $5,561,803,617. A drop of $613 million. 

Are they not expecting a pay raise for 2020-2021? To be fair though, in the footnotes they do allow for “technical adjustments later in the fiscal year”. 

All of this leaves me with a couple of impressions. The first is that the latest buzz word in Ottawa is “perimeter less”. Meaning no barriers or boundaries between the various departments one assumes. But this term bounces around throughout the pages of this document. As a career tip, most Mounties should try and include this term in any written administrative correspondence for the next year or so.  

But aside from the latest government speak, the more over-riding impression in this document is its disconnectedness. The problems of the Surrey or Burnaby member is not the problem of Federal Policing. This lack of relevance to the core mandate is striking. And that core mandate seems to be changing, slowly but inexorably.  Federal policing is clearly the popular flavour in those Ottawa committee meetings, at least in terms of projected operational priorities. 

However, at the same time, the structure for change appears deeply flawed.

Surrey detachment seems to be a microcosm of the larger problems. As this blogger has watched the progression of debate in Surrey, one can not help but be dumbfounded that the argument for keeping the Mounties centres around a belief that the opposition just want a change in personnel.

It is not a question of the personnel. It is the structure. The pyramid there is upside down and it needs to be dynamically and unapologetically flattened. Too many supervisors, too much management, too many specialized members; not enough officers doing core policing. It is that simple. But this simply defined problem is not an easily solved problem as it runs head-on into the current rank and promotion structure. 

The  broader question for Canada may be whether or not the Mounties on a national basis need to be re-structured.

The jack of all trades, master of none attitude of management is central to this debate. They seem to be still harbouring the illusion that all members are interchangeable—pluck them from general duty, give them a couple of courses at that Institute of higher learning in Chilliwack or Regina and now they are experts in their new field. 

It simply doesn’t work. Maybe, as an example, cyber crime with its multiple facets demands changes in its personnel and computational infrastructure. It seems to scream a pressing need which may demand a separate and distinct agency.

Maybe, just maybe, it is time for the RCMP to get out of the city policing areas like Burnaby or Richmond altogether. Their ability to make policy and structure for the officer in Moose Jaw do not fit the problems in Surrey, or Gander and is totally un-relatable to the Ottawa Mountie working in “national security”. But they seem resolved to try and drive square pegs into round holes.

The RCMP is being propped up by the “too big to fail” phenomena. It continues to be a monolithic organization, grinding slowly and inexorably to some ill-defined or irrelevant goal. It is without a singular vision, and that vision is blurred by its very own organizational structure, with all its complex layers and forms nullifying the ability to see clearly.

The entire current structure of the RCMP may have outlived its due date.

Alas, there is no solution or even hope in this Departmental report. This latest “report” is nothing more than bureaucratic pablum. The good news is that probably nobody is going to read it or pay it any heed. After all, why would you?

Photo courtesy of Fickr Commons by sammydavisdog- Some Rights Reserved.

Is the Cullen Commission about to steamroll the Mounties?

In a previous blog your faithful and diligent blogger had opined about the state of white collar crime in this country and the obvious and pressing need to “follow the money”. Naturally, there seemed to be an obligation to follow the formal start of the Cullen Commission on Money Laundering in British Columbia. It will be one of the few government proceedings, where in essence, following the money will be the primary and necessary investigative step of the inquiry.

So for two and a half days this blogger watched the live streaming of the Commission, which began on February 24th, 2020, held in the bland and austere government appointed room at 701 West Georgia St. in Vancouver.

The pursuit of winding trails of money is almost always fascinating, although admittedly it is often easy to drown in the details. Understanding has to start with the basic but safe assumption that in our current society, that if there is money to be gained, and if you follow that money to the end, someone will have found either a legal or illegal advantage. Many, will be found to have tried walking that often moving line between fraud and simply taking advantage of ill-written policies, regulations, and lacklustre enforcement.

This commission is about to go down some roads built by political entities who were lured by the pursuit of unencumbered government revenues emanating from the vices generated by greed. The road will wind through the corridors of power once enjoyed by the Provincial Liberals, but likely will veer past the current governing New Democratic Party. The out-stretched political hands of British Columbia in recent years are to be sure a little dirty, stained possibly by a willingness to look the other way.

There is an old maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. This is rarely heeded by the variety of Commissions, Inquiries or government projects and this Commission will not be the exception. Headed by Judge Austin Cullen it is mandated to prepare a preliminary report in 18 months and a final report in two years. By the time this commission releases its preliminary report we may be in the middle of the next election in 2021. A report that has the real possibility of pointing a finger at the former Christy Clark Liberals will be just in time for the next election. Coincidence or good planning depends on your level of cynicism.

In their defence the terms of reference for this Commission are very broad; everything from gaming, horse racing, real estate, financial institutions, money services, luxury goods, and the legal and accounting communities will be examined.

Clearly, three days in, it is far too early to come to any conclusion on the possible findings by this Commission. But, what did become clearer, even at this early stage, was where the guns were soon to be pointing. Listening to the early proceedings was like being able to look through the sights of a long rifle, the targets evident, but somewhat blurry in the distance.

It was equally clear that those wearing the dark target circles on their chests know who they are. They have been preparing their defences and strategies for some time, having already hired their own hired guns. These are the ones that have applied and received “standing”.

You couldn’t swing a three ring binder in the somewhat austere courtroom without hitting a lawyer. The Cullen Commission itself has a total of nine lawyers, and there are twenty-four lawyers representing the eighteen parties who have been granted that “ standing “. Thirty-three lawyers and we are just getting started. The Commission is expected to incur costs of $15 million, with little doubt that the majority of the funds will be going to lawyer fees, as there is not much chance of anyone doing pro bono work here.

Charles Dickens said that “if there were no bad people there would no good lawyers”.

The British Columbia Lottery Corporation has already paid (up to March 2019), a total of $1.637 million to one of the Vancouver downtown firms: Hunter Litigation Chambers Law Corporation. This is for the services of high profile lawyer William Smart QC and Shannon P. Ramsay.

The fired, or let-go (depending on which version of the story you want to hear) former BCLC Vice- President Robert Kroeker has hired the high profile lawyer Marie Henein—who has been written about before by this blogger and her representation of Jian Gomeshi and Admiral Norman .

The current CEO of BCLC, James Lightbody, felt the need to hire his own personal lawyer; not satisfied with just the lawyers hired for his employer and instead has obtained Robin McFee QC and Jessie Meikle-Kahs of Sudden, McFee and Roes LLP. Mr. Lightbody is apparently currently away on medical leave.

These initial three days consisted of the respective lawyers for those with standing, making and reading scripted presentations. All, as expected, were self-serving documents defending of their own personal predicaments. The reading into the record, with an occasional question by Cullen was at times slow, tedious, and nuanced. But, there were some interesting takes and tidbits of truth buried under mounds of legalese and acronyms.

James Lightbody, ably represented by Robert McFee, began by outlining all the myriad duties and responsibilities his job entailed, and pointed out that he was always guided by the Board of Directors in terms of strategy and annual plans. He proclaimed that he was a stalwart defender of the “vision, mission and values” of the organization and that he had worked diligently to help fulfill “social responsibility”. That he shares the public concern and always recognized the threat brought on by money laundering.

It will be remembered that previously unnamed sources have alleged that senior management at BCLC had turned a blind eye to what was going on. Lightbody argued that the evidence will show otherwise, that he made “active efforts” and that he brought in greater co-ordination with law enforcement.

The lawyer was also quick to point out that the role of BCLC was one of “Detecting, reporting and supporting” the enforcement and regulatory government branches and added that he had been pressing for more resources since 2011. He said that through him BCLC had initiated a sharing agreement with RCMP in 2014 and that JIGET (Joint Intelligence Gaming Enforcement Team) was supported and partially funded by BCLC.

Then there was the statement of Robert Kroeker, who was represented by Christine Mainville of the firm headed by Heinen. Kroeker was the former head of Security and Compliance for almost four years, but left suddenly in July 2019. He was the fourth high level executive to suddenly leave the Corporation within a year. The others being Bohm, Delinski, and Hobson. All four were earning over $240,000 per year. There was no confirmation of their having been fired, but all this occurred after Peter German’s report in 2018. Kroeker was replaced by the Vice-President of Casinos Brad Desmarais.

As an aside. If these names seem familiar; Kroeker was a former RCMP officer and was the head of Security for Great Canadian Gaming Corporation which includes the highly profiled River Rock casino, before joining BCLC. Prior to that he was a former director of BC Civil Forfeiture office. Brad Desmarais was also a former RCMP and Vancouver City Police officer and and had overseen the bungled rollout of the anti-money laundering software in 2013. Kroeker had also been appointed to a chair at the Justice Institute from which he eventually resigned under pressure after the German report.

Former Mounties have their fingerprints everywhere. Kevin deBruyckere, also a former Mountie, who at one time headed up Commercial Crime and then went to HSBC, is now the the Director of Anti-Money Laundering and Investigations at BCLC.

It seems that BCLC became a second lucrative home to many of the executives of the RCMP. Even potential witnesses Fred Pinnock and Joe Schalk are former Mounties. Peter German of course is a former Mountie. And it is rumoured that former Liberal Cabinet member Rich Coleman is going to end up being the focus from the former Liberals. He too is a former Mountie. It all seems rather incestuous.

In any event, Kroeker his lawyer said, looks forward to testifying and also defending the various “false” assertions against him. Mainville indicated rather forcefully that her client will testify under oath.

She went on to outline how Kroecker was in charge of regulatory affairs from 2006-2012 and had worked “extensively” with police and that during his time the Director of Civil Forfeiture had recovered $30 million.

He claims to have called for a tracking and monitoring of STRs (suspicious transactions reports) and it was also his understanding that after the review by FINTRAC that all activities had been cleared of wrong doing. He pointed out more than once that all information was passed on to the “authorities.”

Kroecker said that he “tried” to get the police and the regulator to investigate through 2013 and onward. That he “urged” investigations and was told by “Senior RCMP management” that all things inside BCLC and the Casinos were fine —that they were doing their part in the battle of money laundering.

In June 2014 Kroecker said that under his direction an information sharing agreement with the police was constructed. That BCLC had been led to believe that the police would investigate and that they continually raised alarms. But that subsequently there was no evidence of police investigation, nor were any investigative steps being taken. Officers with police powers were needed, he underlined, to get involved— and they weren’t. Calls for investigation were repeatedly “ignored” according to Kroecker.

In one interesting side-bar, Kroecker indicated that he tried to implement a “chip replacement” program to counter the constant holding and misuse of casino chips. It needed to be done with some stealth but that the program was delayed by GPEB (Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch) thus allowing some of the nefarious actors to get rid of the suspect chips.

Anon and malicious claims that he allowed “dirty money” to flow into casinos were patently wrong he said and that he has been cleared of this false allegation by GPEB. GPEB determined them to be “unfounded” and the “matter was now closed”. He expressed frustration that he had not been interviewed for the German report, which at first glance does appear to be a rather curious. An administrative fine against BCLC in 2010 was explained away as resulting from “technical deficiencies between FINTRAC and BCLC. He pointed out that the fine was eventually set aside.

There were other presenters.

Members of the Notaries Public appeared, clearly worried as to the allegations of impropriety in real estate transactions that have been alleged. Predictably they too claimed that they have been doing due diligence all along. They went further in saying that currently legal investigations and regulatory bodies are fundamentally “broken”. That through no fault of their own, money laundering convictions are rare. They said that the sharing of information with them was rare and would have gone a long way to make a dent in what was going on.

They mentioned being part of Project Athena, but this project got side-tracked when it took 11 months for the RCMP to get information from FINTRAC. They even implied that maybe the Stinchcombe decision on disclosure was hurting investigations.

The notaries expressed surprise that the Financial institutions were absent from the Commission. They opined that they needed and should be present and agreed with the Kroeker lawyer that money that was being laundered may be being done through banking institutions. They lamented that the financial sector have almost been ignored and may in fact be needed to help explain the problem of money laundering.

BMW was also granted standing and made a presentation that spoke about the “grey market” in high end luxury cars and the use of “straw buyers”. Money launderers were buying vehicles for shipping out of the country and then went on to describe a loophole allowing the funnelling of monies through these purchases and their subsequent applications for Provincial tax refunds. They stated that they too had passed on information to the authorities.

The Great Canadian Casino Corporation counsel also appeared. Part of its conglomerate is the River Rock Casino. They described a highly regulated industry that was at times audited by FINTRAC. They too spoke of the fact that they were not investigators, they had a duty to report, which they insisted they did profusely.

Of course the Provincial Government and the Federal Government were also present. Their presentations were guarded and as one listened you were left to wonder if there ever was a problem. All, according to these two presenters were functioning as designed and GPEB and FINTRAC were guarding our interests with diligence and concern. Acronyms and current bureaucratic buzzwords bounced off the walls with abandon, “best practises”, “working with stake holders”, and the “regime” of regulation and investigation. Of course there are the Committees, the many Committees, all designed to “educate” and involved in “intelligence gathering” and “sharing”.

The Feds did outline the vagaries of FINTRAC and outlined how a mind warping 2400 agencies and service providers reported to them. But then they reminded the Commission that they are about regulations and oversight and all criminal activities would be pointed to the Police and Crown.

At the end of the three days, where does all this predictable posturing leave the taxpaying public?

You are left with the impression that there are three spinning tops— three divided layers, none of whom seem to be interacting in anything approaching cohesion. The Federal government spins in their isolation, the Province is eager to point at the previous administration; and at the ground level are the Casinos, the racetracks, the car dealerships and the housing industry. Most will clearly point at the Police, FINTRAC and any one else charged with enforcement.

What is curious is that the RCMP did not ask for standing with the Commission.

This could either be explained by: their hope to hide behind the camouflage and obfuscation of the Federal bureaucracy, a common default position, or, that they are in denial of this Commission doing them any harm. Unfortunately, they may find there is little defence for dereliction of duty. Hopefully, they are now at least paying attention.

Photo courtesy of Images Money via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved