Freedom and the Battle with Public Safety

As a person who once wore blue— it was often drummed into our cerebellum that civil libertarians were the devil; and if not the devil, then they were doing the devils work. 

So I am approaching this well established policing tenet with some trepidation. Somewhat shockingly, I have found myself in agreement with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (The Pivot Legal Society still remains way outside my new found conversion) This dark metamorphosis has come to me parallel with an over-riding feeling that we Canadians have become sheep.  We are following an eager and willing governmental shepherd –as we traverse the rolling hills of Covid.   

Our Liberal shepherds seemingly believe and voice in convincing fashion that they are part of the greater and principled good. Their stated goal is to insure that none of us fall into harms way, they are protecting us from ourselves. Our once personal decisions have now been taken over by an all knowing government, only they in a position to know what is right and guide us. To save us in their crusade, they are clearly willing to subjugate the many for the sake of the few. They are so convinced of their noble-mindedness that there is no apparent need for any evidence or justification.  Every question is met with a perfunctory rejoinder: “public safety”.

We, the unwashed masses, in return, have become wilfully blind to the trampling of our rights and freedoms. Seemingly ignorant as to the cost of that blindness. 

The “public safety” chorus is being used as a societal hammer to nail down those non-believers, the heretics who question any or all of the protocols. To question is to be labelled un-educated, selfish, or as one local media personality called those that dare to be contrary, the “knuckle draggers”. 

The strange symbolic flag of this righteous cause has become a cloth item that fits over the ears. Remember, it is not protecting you, it is protecting them from you. A grandiose symbol that conjures up fits of love or rage—ironically produced for a few pennies mainly in a communist China. 

The “health” ordered rules have led to police identification checks, roadblocks, warrantless searches and arrests. In the last few weeks there has been a hue and cry for increased charges and allusions to possible jail time. The ever changing restrictions, rules, regulations and creation of  anonymous tip lines are supported by the exhortation that the  government is “standing with us”. 

They deflect accountability, either financially or administratively with the axiom that they are only following the “science.” The fact every Province is gathering the science and interpreting that “science” differently seems to be lost to the many. Doctors can be found on every side of the issue, doctors signing letters to have children get back to school, other doctors insisting that they are kept away. Leaders hide behind the un-elected health officials when there is any sign of push back. 

 The right to life, liberty and security as enshrined under Section 7 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been pushed aside by medical mandates designed primarily to save an encumbered and clearly inadequate health care system. But the most mystifying element is how quickly the populace fell into acquiescence. Are we so complacent in our freedoms that the removal of them is met with a shrug of the shoulders. 

Did anyone foresee that it would be a flu virus that would lead to the subjugation of basic human rights in this country? A flu virus that would cause people to turn onto each other —willing to report often minor contraventions of a health order, yelling on Twitter for the jailing of their fellow citizens for gathering in a group of more than a totally subjective pre-determined few. 

Some of the more restrictive covenants have come out of the Maritimes. Newfoundland recently  placed an almost outright travel ban, completely contrary to the mobility rights outlined by Section 6 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The CCLA decided that this was finally enough to act and brought the matter to court. They lost that case when Justice Burrage of the Newfoundland Supreme Court felt that it had been justified in the “name of public health”. (The CCLA is appealing.)

In Prince Edward Island after the revealing of four (4) new cases began closing gyms and dining rooms. There was a total of fourteen (14) cases at that time in the entire Province, which has a population of 157,000 people. That is a percentage of 0.00891%. They argued that they were being “precautionary”; the CCLA counters that in “terms of civil liberties..proportionality should trump precautionary”. 

The irresponsible media continues to fuel a rather perverse fear that non-compliance was associated with quick death. This continual marketing of fear in search of life giving headlines has played a massive role in the public acceptance of these ever increasing freedom restrictions. 

Doom scrolling has become a thing. Children afraid to leave their house, visit their friends. Suicide rates doubling, unbridled mental health issues, the education system put on hold, elective surgeries postponed possibly for years, unemployment the highest since the depression, and businesses collapsing. 

This is not to say that there was indeed a segment of the population, the elderly and the enfeebled, who with often numerous frailties would clearly be put in a struggle to survive if exposed to this particular flu variant. A drastic curtailing of those that were allowed to be near or intermingle with the vulnerable, seems more plausible and therefore more justifiable in these instances. 

For the others in society the presented justifications require a real stretching of the imagination. It is also become increasingly apparent that the battle against Covid is being waged by only 20% of the population. A large segment of the population remain unaffected. They didn’t see their income decrease, they did not lose their jobs, they were not forced to work in possible contamination. The responsibility for this fight against the virus has fallen directly on the most vulnerable and the financial underclass in Canada. The immigrant factory worker in the meat processing plant must get the product undisturbed to those of us trying out some new recipes at home. 

The mandarins making up the fight and speaking from the pulpit have not been touched by the virus in general terms. They speak to us from on high, above the tidal waters, above the possibility of drowning. The governor of California out with a group at the “French Laundry” restaurant, the Ontario finance Minister vacationing out of the country, the Kingston public servant raising a glass of cheer on her boat during the summer, another day off thanks to virus. School in, school out. Tickets to six persons playing poker, or to people not of the same residence having dinner together. 

In the news today, the clinics for the vaccine closed for the weekend in Ontario. Its a crisis for some, not for a lot of the others. It is easy to tell other people to conform, it is easy to be in the right, if the impinging on those rights does not have a palatable and economic effect on your personal circumstances. 

So with all these vagaries of cause and effect can we justify the breaching of our constitutional rights? Can we forego Section 2 which declares our fundamental freedoms of belief, expression, peaceful assembly and freedom of association? Can we forego Section 6 which encapsulates our mobility rights, the right to enter, remain and leave Canada, and the ability to move and take up residence in any Province? It is a fundamental question as to whether we should be trusting the government to make those decisions for us. Ask the people in Hong Kong.

As the years have gone by I have found myself moving from the left side of the political spectrum to the centre right; more libertarian, now wavering in my belief that the government had to play a significant role in our lives. My outlook is less philosophical and more practical, based almost exclusively on decades of observation rather then on some natural political bend in philosophy. 

Government just doesn’t do things well in many instances. This isn’t conspiratorial, this isn’t for lack of effort by sometimes well meaning government employees, but more a matter of structural logistics. (The RCMP in its current form is clear cut proof of a too big, often illogical and structurally inert governmental institution; able to see the problem, but just not capable of doing anything about it. ) The current rollout of the vaccine seems to be hell bent on proving this to be true. 

There are some instances when public safety could or may invoke restrictions on the right to life and liberty. But, at the same time, there needs to be justification with compelling and testable evidence of any governmental action. Any constriction of fundamental human rights needs to be seriously examined. It can not be based solely on possibilities. Most importantly it has to be proportional to the cause. (The latest stats: 1.625% of the population of Canada has contracted Covid—85 % of those have recovered; so 1.3% of the 1.6% have recovered. Currently there are 0.24% of the population with active Covid)

Where does this leave the police? It needs to be learned that discretion in law enforcement is always a fundamental determinant of policing.  The larger the discretionary factor in terms of law applicability, the more the difficult and subjective the job for the police. When you put in place ever-changing and questionable rules and regulations, enforcement becomes dangerous territory. The value of a police force is measured in its level of credibility and its demonstrated integrity. Moral and ethical reputation is crucial to the policing life-blood.

The arbitrary or discretionary use of force and rule applications has to be seen as consistent, practical, and effective. Otherwise, you are open to ridicule and cynicism, neither of which will be helpful when it comes to enforcing the laws. The inconsistencies in the health orders and proclamations are too numerous to mention. Should you be able to outlaw dining outside in a public space, or to attend church services, or to go to another Province, while at the same time allowing NHL hockey teams to gather in their local hockey rink, or wave the need for Blue Jays officials to quarantine or deeming liquor and cannabis stores as essential. 

 It is getting harder and harder to understand and believe in this all being a rational exercise. The din of apoplectic  doctors wanting more and more infringements of your rights in an effort to save their Intensive care units seems endless. Those same ICU units, which according to the authorities have been on the “brink” of collapse, every day, day in and day out for the last six months. 

We need to take some time, to pause and consider the obvious stomping on the Canadian Constitution which is now underway. For some it is their economic livelihood and ability to care for their families which is at stake, for others it is their mental and physical health and ability to carry on. For all of us it is our personal freedom. No one should like the direction this country is going in terms of human rights and the arbitrary and the often counter-intuitive enforcement of its laws. 

Somewhat apropos Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety”. Or if you would like something a little closer to our Canadian home, Pierre Trudeau said “I remember thinking that walking on the beach as a free man is pretty desirable”. 

Photo Courtesy of Edna Witni via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Waiting for Godot…and 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First the predictions. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are our hopes for the New Year? 

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

I hope that Bill Blair is replaced.  

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

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

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

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

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

I hope that you coppers out there stay safe. 

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

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

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

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

Merry Xmas.

Photo courtesy of SilverTD via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved

A Tainted and Expensive Report

Hard to imagine, but it may be time to starting to feel sorry for Commissioner Lucki. The bombardment of the RCMP image continues unabated– the latest being the internally commissioned “Final report” by the team headed by Mr. Michel Bastarache. It is sometimes referred to as the Merlo-Davidson settlement on harassment and gender based discrimination.

Bastarache,  a former Supreme Court of Canada judge, has since October 2016 been assigned to oversee the sexual and gender harassment claims process as part of the settlement. As a parting note Bastarache issued this Final Report and in doing so unabashedly took centre fire aim at Commissioner Lucki and the RCMP. 

Titled, “Broken Dreams, Broken Lives” the cover sets the tone found in the pages of the report –featuring a stark image of a clearly distraught woman, hands over face, over a dark background also reflecting a grim and fractured reality.    

The dramatic title and the subsequent press conference were also designed to inflame and garner those action demanding headlines. It served as a justification and delineation of this groups efforts over the last four years and naturally leading to their recommendations. The overriding theme –everything is wrong in the Mounties and it is time for outside direction.

The problem is that Bastarache has jumped from specific privacy protected examples to broad open-ended generalizations. He describes the atmosphere within the Mounties as “toxic”. That the RCMP “tolerates misogynistic and homophobic” behaviour and that what the women told the assessors was so outrageous that it “shocked them to the core”. 

This type of language and allegation demands some level of examination. Journalists as is their practise repeated the allegations to the applause of Ms Merlo and Davidson on the nightly news. A reading and look at the contents of this report suggest that at best this is a highly subjective document and it may even be deeply flawed. 

One needs to understand the process, the people involved and the evidence that was presented. The eventual conclusions that this group arrived at, given the structure of the process and the makeup of the individuals who participated, was both predictable and suspiciously may have been pre-ordained. Cynically, it could even be interpreted as a platform for the eventual transformation of the RCMP as now envisioned by this Liberal government with their current 21st century sensibilities.

This is not to deny or downplay sexual harassment and serious sexual assault as having occurred within the RCMP.  That would be ridiculous. 

The question that needs to be asked is did the results and determinations made in this report, by this group, justify the language and national condemnation of the RCMP?  Does the RCMP deserve to be depicted as an organization locked in a vacuum of unbridled misbehaviour —far beyond what could be imagined or found in other parts of society or other organizations? 

Michel Bastarache  sat on the highest court in this land from 1997 to 2008 and then joined a group of other Supreme Court judges who went into legal practise after retirement. (Beverly McLachlin and Thomas Cromwell are a couple of the others) This judicial “double dipping” is something of a new and somewhat controversial phenomena. It has been discouraged in the past because of some clear conflicts in perception and possible undue influence. 

In fact, Mr. Bastarache did get caught up in one such incident in 2018 —he appeared as a counsel of record for a client— for a case in which he had sat while on the SCC.  In fact, he wrote the majority opinion for the SCC. (Dunsmuir case 2008SC9). He got caught out appearing on behalf of a client but managed to skirt allegations of impropriety as the Law Society rules only state that he could not “personally” appear before the Supreme Court judges. He was allowed to go ahead with the written submissions on behalf of his client. 

Despite this apparent ethical contretemps, Mr. Bastarache enjoys a very lengthy and commendable career coming out of his New Brunswick roots. His legal background for the most part notable for his writings and championing of human rights. That being said, it would be difficult to mistake him as anything but a left-leaning card carrying Liberal. It is also unlikely in this current political climate that the Liberals would appoint anyone who did not at least fit the expected dialogue. 

The Liberal government hires and assigns Bastarache to this four year odyssey. In turn he brings in some like-minded lawyers; some from his previous firms such as Power Law, but all of similar legal backgrounds. The other two official “assessors” were Lynn Smith (named as a “Trudeau mentor” in 2017) and like the second assessor, Marion Allen, were both former Supreme Court of B.C. Judges. Another lawyer on staff was Emily McCarthy —who at one time was the Director of Legal Operations at the Privy Counsel Office in Ottawa. 

Again, there is nothing objectively wrong with their legal background or their capabilities, but one would have to conclude that the predilection of these individuals would be to a very socially left and broad interpretation of the individual cases.  

The group reviewed a total of 3086 claims. This was out of a potential 33,513 female officers, public servants and civilian members who had worked for the RCMP between Sept 1974 and May 30th 2017. (It should be noted that the public servant members of the RCMP have a current class action pending in their own right – represented coincidently by the very same law firms) 

So out of a potential client base —9.2% of all the female employees over the last forty years claimed some form of sexual harassment. 

Of the 3086 female applicants, only 2304 were then forwarded for processing and for consideration of some level of compensation. Therefore, roughly 25% of the initial claims were considered invalid. They explain “a significant number of claims were not compensated because a claimant did not demonstrate sufficient connection to her gender or sexual orientation”. The fact that 25% of those that were applying had insufficient evidence supporting their claims seems worthy of comment. It is not polite to ask, but one has to wonder what the incentive that money brings to these claims; it is a legitimate concern that goes to motive.   

For those that were approved, there were six levels of degree of severity. 

“Minimal”-  possible payment of up to $10,000

“Mild”- possible payment of up to $35,000

“Low Moderate Injury”- possible payment of up to $70,000

“Upper Moderate”- up to $100,000

“Significant Injury”- up to $150,000

And finally “Severe Injury”- with up to $220,000

For their purposes, the Bastarache group interviewed only those they assessed as being in Level 3 or above. 

Under the first two levels, claimants were only required to describe a “sexualized environment” —which could be portrayed as “frequent use of swear words”, “sexual jokes and innuendo”. The definition of harassment included “objectionable art, comment, or display that demean, belittle or cause personal humiliation or embarrassment”. Patterns of egregious conduct included “working conditions”, “disparaging women in general”, and “treating claimants unfairly with respect to training opportunities”.

Even if a claimant had one or two individual incidents and did not meet the threshold for compensation —the group decided that there was a need to consider that the harassment “was systemic” and therefore may still warrant compensation. 

There was a total of 644 individuals who they determined to be Category 3 or higher. This represented 20.86% of the 3086 claimants. If you consider the ratio of the overall female members that went through during those 43 years, this number gets down to a much smaller 1.9%.  

The number which was emphasized in the news was that 130 of the claimants disclosed “penetrative sexual assaults”. This is a number which is initially staggering but this too demands some further dissection. 

The examination of the “evidence” behind these 644 claimants were considered under a set of guidelines and rules, which were stringently and purposefully one dimensional.

a) First and foremost was that the “assessors” were not “required to investigate claims”. The assessment of those claims would be “based almost exclusively on the information provided by the claimant”. 

b) The assessor role was further limited by the fact that there was “no cross examination of the claimants” and that evidence

c) “of the persons whose conduct was culpable was also not available”.

d) The interviews were directed to be conducted in a “non-adversarial” way so as to limit “re-victimization”.

e) Allowances were also to be made for “difficulty remembering key details and specifics” because of the passage of time.

When all these rules were followed then the case would be judged on— a “balance of probabilities”.  No criminal proof needed to satisfy the “substantial likelihood of conviction” or even “beyond a reasonable doubt” was needed in these cases. A “sworn statement” from the victim therefore could constitute almost the sum total of the evidence.

As explanation and in a rather telling bias Bastarache stated that  “I have tried to give the claimants a voice”.  

A total of $125,266,500 was paid to claimants. 

Two legal firms, Klein lawyers and Kim Spencer McPhee received $30,789,975 in fees. (Bastarache does not outline his costs and that of his team over this four year period)

Some of the recommendations based on this uncontested testimony; with no investigation undertaken, or room for a counter narrative were then detailed.

a) Training will include “screening” for “misogynistic, homophobic or racist tendencies in the past”.

b) In the future to get into the training academy you should have “two years of post secondary education”.

c) Those applying from “diverse” groups should have programs in place to “assist them in the meeting the entry requirements”. 

d) Training will need to find a different “esprit de corps”; as the “para-military” nature of the current environment must change. The current climate they say does “not extend to women”.

e) Recruit field training should be changed, so that female officers are no longer exposed to “trainers”, but instead are assigned “mentors”. 

f) There should be a “counselling program” for all the recruits who are part of the current LGBTQ2S+ community. 

g) Postings to remote locations are “detrimental to women”. They believe that for a female to be assigned to one does not offer a sufficient  “social support network”. At those isolated locations they were being forced to “share common housing” and “forced”  to be “reliant on colleagues”. 

Once you are firmly ensconced in the Mounties, according to Bastarache, one must remember that “staffing members” are biased, and that “promotions are fundamentally flawed and unfair”.  

There are many other recommendations, but there is no need to go further. Some of these recommendations should actually offend some female officers.

Do some of the recommendations have merit? Possibly, but if one doubts the accuracy of the findings in terms of the numbers and if incontestable content is the foundation of the eventual recommendations should we assign them any weight?

If the behaviour found in the RCMP,  was applied with the same strictures to other employment groups would the numbers be different? If  for instance one examined the legal community and the Law Societies for the last forty years, would that bastion of male dominance not end up with similar figures to the RCMP? The medical profession? Any profession which for the last number of decades has had a glass ceiling. 

Pick any “Mad Men” era communities and then introduce women to the Type A male component — would they not all have examples of bad behaviour? It doesn’t make it right, but is there no need for context or historical parameters? It was not 21st century appropriate, but were the Mounties any different from any other segment of society?

Unfortunately, Commissioner Lucki has never demonstrated any willingness to question and as a result her executive group have trotted out the classic pathetic –governance by more government solution.

The RCMP will be introducing: “Gender Based Analysis”, they will be establishing an ” Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution”, and instituting a“RCMP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy” to of course, “articulate a firm stance against racism and discrimination”. 

They will be “re-vamping our recruitment process” and the “training model at RCMP academy is under review. They are going to develop; a “Character Leadership Approach”. The evolution of changing bias and gradual acceptance takes time, but time is not a dimension considered in this age of quick fix and tidy political announcements. 

Do I believe that almost all females that have gone through the decades have experienced and could argue for being in Categories 1 and 2?  Yes. Completely. 

Do I believe that the recommendations of this group— based on their interviews of Categories 3 to 6 should be seriously considered? No. This was a complete ivory tower biased exercise. He produced and did what he was paid to do: advocate, not judge.

As I have opined before. If there were serious sexual assaults there should have been criminal charges. Those officers should have been fired as a matter of course and as a first step. This settlement agreement and the  compensatory process allowed a papering over of some serious wrong-doings. A great number of Mounties, some very high placed Mounties, have been allowed to skate with their pensions intact, when they should have never been allowed to wear the uniform. Some are still wearing those uniforms. 

It is all too sad. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons and Cal Injury Lawyer – Some Rights Reserved

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