Burn

Everyone, like the proverbial moth, is pulled to the flames. The licking fire is often enthralling and mysterious, but we can only enjoy its satisfying glow when it is under some form of control. As the western part of this country burns without restraint, the sometimes comforting flames are now satanic; on the move and destroying all things past and present in its path. The sound comes first, then the whirling winds, and finally the advancing ox blood coloured inferno comes into view. 

Even those some distance away in the remote towns and villages are part of this theatre of fire, wholly engulfed by smoke, black strings of soot dangling in the air and falling lazily at ones feet. Thousands of kilometres away the sunsets are tainted, the smoke having migrated across the country making the sun take on an orangish hue, the colour of our often imagined doomsday.

This is mother nature in one of its dazzling incarnations. But, this is not new. It happens regularly in this part of the world, some say with more regularity, because of climate change. The last time it moved with such all-encompassing destruction was in 2017. 

Some of those fires is the coming together of dry, parched ground being struck many times over by lightning; thunder announcing the attack, mother nature venting.

Other fires are not manifestations of nature or climate change, they are our own doing.  

Negligent humans often at the root of the resulting financial and personal devastation. Flung cigarettes from car windows, sparks from work tools sparking in dry tinder, or the insufficiently doused campfire– all are “human” causes. 

The darkest of these human possibilities and the subject of this blog is that human being who feels some internal need to start his or her own fire. The criminal arsonist who lives amongst us.

Between 2016 and 2020 according to the Congressional research service in the United States 88% of wildfires are “human” caused.

The Province of British Columbia estimates that only 40% of wildfires in this Province are “human-caused”. This is a statistical difference for which there is no explanation, but may lie in the nature of the survey. Recently there were about 300 firs burning in British Columbia, so about 120 of those fires, going by the statistics of the Provincial government are in all probability “human” caused.  

Negligent behaviour aside, a portion of that 120 will be the result of the deliberate starting of fires, an arsonist at work. We can only guess at the actual number of arsons due to the nature and style of the government reporting and often because those that investigate these fires can not confirm the root cause. 

On their web site the British Columbia government laments that investigations of those fires “often take time to complete and can be very complex”; that the investigations themselves may be carried out by “one or more agencies, including the B.C. Wildfire Service, the Compliance and Enforcement Branch, the RCMP or other law enforcement agencies, and some investigations may be cross-jurisdictional”. Without a single investigatory unit, maybe therein lies part of the problem. 

Arson should not be considered a small problem. By way of comparison, in 2019 there were 678 homicides in Canada while there were 8,190 arsons. In 2014 the national rate of arsons was 23.87 per 100,000 population. Nunavut had the lowest overall total of arsons, however, the highest rate of arson in the country, three times the national rate —at 87.47 per 100,000.  

From 2010-2014 there were 38,844 fire incidents in Canada, 19,062 structural fires while 5,071 were “outdoor fires”.

So it behooves us to ask where are the resulting arson related criminal charges? What is the status of all or any investigations? Who is conducting them? Who are these arsonists? 

Psychologist Joel Dvoskia Phd. states that “the truth is, very little is known about arsonists because so few arsons are solved”. He goes on to say that when they are solved “it is because the arsonist can’t keep his mouth shut”.  When asked to analyze the California wildfires where 600,000 hectares burned and 2,000 homes were lost, and where some of the root causes pertained to arson, the Dr. says that often the “most common reason is profit” but in that case “anger is the more likely explanation”.

In 1987 the FBI studied and tried to create a profile of the typical arsonist. What they discovered in reviewing hundreds of cases was that in terms of “behavioural IQ” the typical arsonist had a mental of IQ of between 70 and 90. Seventy of course is the top level for people who are considered mentally “challenged” or deficient. 90% of all arsonists are caucasian males (as if us white males needed any more listed deficiencies—we also have a claim on serial killers). In 2012 the FBI found that 73.8% of arsonists were male. 

Half of all the arsonists profiled were under the age of 18, and the other half were most likely to be in their 20’s. These future criminals were unsurprisingly often neglected as children and had a “history of abuse and humiliation”. 

In terms of the Criminal Code and the law in this country, arson is covered in Section 433 which defines arson— and it also gets honourable mention in the murder section 230, where arson is named as a possible lead in to the charge of murder. 

When one examines this definition of arson, one discovers one of the other possible reasons that the charges for it are minimal. It states that for a charge of arson there must be a “disregard for human life” and a charge of arson is when “any person intentionally or recklessly causes damage by fire”. The operable word in the latter explanation and the one that any defence lawyer will seize upon is “recklessly”. What is “reckless” ? Recently there was a report of a car travelling down the highway pulling a broken muffler and sparking flames enroute. Is this reckless?  If one could assume that the typical arsonist is below average intelligence, proving intent may in of itself be difficult. Undefined words such as these allows lawyers to go down the rabbit hole into that subterranean world where they work and thrive. 

It is possible to charge for an arson which has been created by a “marked departure from the standard of care”. This carries a maximum sentence of five years. Again, try and define “marked”. 

When you do see criminal charges of arson, as few and far between as they are, it is often the mental health act and the nature of the act forms part of a deeper psychological problem which is very much in evidence. Here are some examples. 

The Powerview RCMP responded to a fire on Hwy 11 on Sagkeeng First Nation where a 44 year old male, Quinton Courchene tried to burn a house down with two individuals inside. He was waiting at the scene of the fire when the police arrived. 

In July of this year in West Kelowna a 36 year old male was arrested after being located in the area for setting a series of fires. The local public became enraged when a local Judge released the male back into the Glenrosa neighbourhood shortly after his arrest.  

In Port Alberni the police arrested a female who was setting fires in the city parks. 

A woman in Bonnyville Alberta was charged with 32 counts of arson after a spree of setting fires in the area. In this case there is an abundance of mental health issues. 

In June of this year the Wetaskwin RCMP arrested three males: Linden Buffalo, Jake Green and Donovan Lightning, all were charged with murder and arson after the remains of Clifford Stauffer was found inside a structure that was burned to the ground. 

In checking the literature for the last ten years in terms of court cases and case law emanating from arson charges– none of those cited were found for the lighting and starting of wildfires. 

In consideration of all this clear arson activity, should one assume that the RCMP has a dedicated arson investigation unit? Unfortunately, like many specialized investigative demands,whether it be cyber crime or fraud, once again the RCMP seems to be playing the under-funded second fiddle, often reliant on other agencies to lead the way. 

If you needed further evidence of the haphazard approach the Mounties take to arson investigation, consider the fact that this writer was once considered one of the “arson” investigators for the Surrey RCMP. This was not a dedicated unit, it was just a few of Serious Crime officers who were to work arson cases off the side of their desk. The qualifications needed were two Arson level I and II courses; one of two weeks, the other of three weeks. No experience necessary. If you could type the word “accelerant” you likely passed the test. 

Arson investigation, even more so than homicide or other serious crimes is often  heavily reliant on “good old fashion police work”. It inevitably needs a witness. Forensic evidence is needed to prove that the fire was “started”; rags in gas, matches found at scene or some other difficult to find substance, but once that was achieved, little or no definitive evidence of who may have started the fire would be found through the use of forensic science. Fire is a magnificent eliminator of physical evidence, hence the reason that gangsters burn the car or getaway vehicle often with the weapons inside. 

One would hope and think that repetitive years of extensive wildfires would elicit further investigative resources for a serious crime such as arson. That does not seem to be the case. Granted the under resourcing of many departments is at an all time high. (You may be interested to know that currently the Hwy patrol units in the Lower Mainland do not have enough resources to attend accidents now, and are asking the local detachments to attend those on the freeways—normally their mandate.) This writer has learned from more than one source that the RCMP was quietly dreading a season of wildfires due to this drastic understaffing. Just covering the evacuation areas, let alone fire investigations, has become as one officer stated a “shit show”. 

A new wildfire started as I write this on the Osoyoos Reserve in British Columbia and is now threatening the surrounding area and leading to several evacuations. No one is reporting the cause of the fire.

Two lives were lost in Lytton, British Columbian but the authorities are saying very little about the cause other than it was “likely caused by human activity”.

If that was not enough, Catholic churches are burning around the country– in Morinville, Calgary and  Edmonton Alberta; Penticton, British Columbian and Nova Scotia. The motive seems clear. It is just as clear that there are likely numerous individuals who know of the suspects but are fearful of being outed by their own community.

This lack of investigational willpower and resources is clearly Nero fiddling while Rome burns. In the meantime, helicopters will keep buzzing the lakes, dragging their long lined buckets, seemingly making very little progress. So, just maybe it’s time to start asking a few questions, rather than year after year falling to our knees and praying for rain. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Some Rights Reserved

“Cake”

The officers of the RCMP just got handed a magnificent piece of “cake”. A surprising large slice of a pay raise, a 23% larger piece —albeit spread out in several layers to cover the period from 2017-2022. 

The Mounties have been salivating since 2017, as various municipal agencies boldly ate their cake right in front to them, licking the crumbs from their lips. Times have now changed, the involuntary Mountie patience paying off, the timing exquisite in terms of a possible Federal election. 

Now, the retroactive cheques alone, have them blowing out the candles and dancing in the aisles of Leikin Drive in Ottawa. The spending fairies now twerking in their stetson covered heads; a new boat, a new car, private schools for the kids. 

A young Constable or Corporal are about to get retroactive cheques in excess of $16,000; a Sargent in excess of $19,000;  and a S/Sgt in excess of $21,000. That is indeed mouth watering. 

According to some reports, the calculation of the settlement was based on a 1.5% annual salary increase and a “market adjustment of 1.5 to 2.5 % per year”. In average citizen terms, this market adjustment and new rate of pay was designed to move the RCMP into the top ten paid police forces in Canada. 

Mounties for years, and most recently the NPF have been lamenting their fall from the police “universe”, that comparative scale of other police agencies. They were below 100th place in the rankings, and now they are back in the top 10. A young constable by the year 2022 will now be making $106,576.83 per year. A S/Sgt  $138,463.95 per year. This will add $238 million to the annual RCMP payroll. Sick leave and benefits have not been touched. (The Mounties get unlimited sick leave currently)

All in all they have done very well in the current political climate that continues to spill over from the United States, those bleating cries for defunding and/or decreases in police funding. The negotiators for the union membership of the RCMP would have also been up against a tidal wave of bad news emanating from the Mounties. The last number of years have not been the best for the Mounties pride and reputation.  Daily allegations of assaults captured on video, cries of racism, cries of an unadaptable structure, mindless bureaucracy, ineffectiveness against white collar crime, unsolved homicides, all while burying their heads in their single-minded hunt for diversity and inclusion. The “defunders” would also be quick to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars that have been paid out of Federal taxpayer dollars for the claims of sexual harassment within this once mighty organization.  

To be fully objective, one needs to put the size of this raise in perspective. In the most expensive city in Canada, Vancouver, the average “family” income is $96,423. The average “single” income in Vancouver is $50, 271.00.  Even before the pay increase the most junior Mountie was making more than the average single individual in Vancouver. The current single salary for the RCMP Mountie, with three years experience, will be greater than the combined family income in Vancouver. This is not including benefits and a more than generous sick leave provisions. 

However, this is not a debate as to whether the raise is warranted. Police salaries and the ratcheting up of those salaries has been going on and upwards for years. That is the crux of the issue which needs to be addressed in the near future. The police bargaining logic has always been the same. They have always pointed their organizational fingers at the Municipal groups, saying if they are entitled, we are entitled. Clearly it is a logic primarily found in government circles and does not often work in private industry but it has worked for policing. 

The cost of policing in general terms has been steadily increasing for many, many years and this blogger has previously written about the levels becoming precarious in terms of government budgets and the ability to afford policing as we currently envision it.  

So what goes into the bargaining process for policing? Usually the cost of living in a particular city or area, the danger element of the job ( let’s keep in mind that the operational side of the RCMP worked throughout the pandemic, and no one was throwing them any parades of appreciation). After those considerations things get a little stickier and much harder to measure, especially in the national scope and broadly structured RCMP with its myriad levels of function and administration, where there are hundreds of officers, if not thousands, for which this criteria would not apply. While operational officers worked through Covid, there were many officers “working from home” in Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal as an example.  

Productivity measurement in the RCMP, or any police force, is a tremendously difficult measurement. Number of arrests, type of area you are policing, number of cases you are handling, what measurement tool would you put in place? Some of those would be considered basic elements of police productivity, but they would have almost no bearing at all on other parts of the country and in the roles of the RCMP. 

Like all rising waters which floats all boats there are many officers benefiting greatly from this raise, who likely are not “operational” using the strict definition. In the RCMP there are thousands of officers in the 20,000 strong force who are in no danger whatsoever —other than tripping on their laptop cord on the way to the lunchroom. And therein lies the hitch—and what makes the RCMP unique. No matter what job you are doing in the RCMP, one salary fits all. 

Cost of living calculations is also difficult when considering the RCMP. Local police forces use as part of their negotiation the cost of living in their particular area. In the RCMP you can be living in Manitoba, Vancouver, or Gander Newfoundland. An officer working in Kingston Nova Scotia is getting the same wage as the person working in Vancouver or Toronto. Mounties in small town Canada are often some of the highest paid people in the town while in the more expensive cities they struggle. 

There are many RCMP officers who work hard, work long hours and often sacrifice their families for the greater good. And, it should be pointed out that you can work just as hard in a small rural community as a big city.  It would be difficult to argue that those officers don’t deserve to be in amongst the other police agencies in terms of salaries— especially if you want to keep recruitment levels equal or provide sufficient monetary compensation for a job where everyone feels that you are an easy target, including your own bosses. Whether they should be in the top 10 or the top 20 is a mugs game.   

There are layers to this raise though that have ominous overtones, which could alter policing as practised by the RCMP in this country and change the very face of policing. 

The vast majority of operational RCMP officers are working in “contract” provinces. The various Provinces have signed contracts with the Federal RCMP to police their jurisdictions and have been providing this service for decades running on twenty or twenty-five year contracts. 

The Province in turn, then downloads to the cities or small towns either 90% of the costs or 70% of the cost, depending on the population size. So the Federal government agrees to a settlement of enormous size, and then with sleight of hand they effectively download those costs to the Provinces— through these Provincial Police Service Agreements. 

The towns and cities can only raise money through property taxes, it is their only source of revenue. When the light goes on there will be some serious pushback and an outcry from the already financially strapped communities. No one is broadcasting the fact that in many areas of the Provinces the RCMP is simply not able to fulfil even its current contracts. 

During this negotiation phase, the RCMP has been telling the various Provincial bodies and municipalities that they should be budgeting for a 2.5 % per year raise. Whether some or all have done this remains to be seen. This raise amounts to 4% per year. 

The Alberta government has already stated that this increase in policing budget will have a direct impact on the discussions underway as to forming their own Provincial force. The RCMP’s biggest detachment Surrey, is already in the process of being lost to a municipal style police force. 

The Toronto Star recently did an article on the municipality of  St. Mary’s Nova Scotia, which pays 70% of the cost. The article was mourning the thought of the recent increase in the police budget of $19,000 which they were not anticipating. The monies they allowed for policing paid for 3.5 officers with an annual budget of $513,990.  This  allowed  for one officer for the day shift and one for the night shift. 

This was before this most recent pay increase. To now absorb this just announced increase the town will likely have to forfeit policing coverage, as it is now possible that they will not have enough funds to provide a single police car for a day or night shift. 

The Union of B.C. Municipalities has been warning their members of the upcoming raise and retroactive wages. They have told them to anticipate a 30% increase in Constables pay and a 15% increase in a first class constables wage. Have the cities and towns of B.C been listening? 

In the town of Oliver, B.C. Residents have faced recurring 9%property tax increases for the last number of years, and then when the population exceeded 5,000 residents, the town then found themselves on the hook for 70% of the policing costs. The current anticipated budget to maintain six officers in Oliver is $1.1 million with their increase in population, so to cover this the chief financial officer was anticipating another 14-15% increase in property taxes. This too does not anticipate the current pay raise

The NPF will begin boasting about their hard work soon in obtaining such an increase (and nobody can deny its a very large increase). The same NPF that spent the last year campaigning against the new Surrey Police Service as the Mounties were —“cheaper”. The NPF knew from the outset that the Mounties were going to get more expensive, so their campaign was at best duplicitous.  

This agreement reeks of a settlement that was designed to keep everyone happy. The Liberals felt the need to move the Mounties up regardless of the possible outcome for those in the municipal and Provincial trenches. That price will be paid later on, when people have forgotten and the Liberals are hoping to have been re-elected to a majority government. 

The alternative for the Provinces is that the free spending Trudeau and Freeland come riding in once again to dole out additional funds to re-imburse the very hard pressed Municipalities and rural areas.   

Otherwise, this may be the pay raise which generates police lay-offs. 

Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprising, there is very little being reported in the media. The agreement has not been ratified as of yet, so it hasn’t been made “official”, but why write about the public security being threatened when instead you can report on the various ways to avoid sun exposure in a heat wave. 

Meanwhile the celebratory dance will continue in the detachment dance hall under that scraggly Buffalo head, and there is now plenty of cake to go around.  Pre-retirement aging Mounties have even found their dancing legs, and will decide to stay in for awhile, to get the old “best five” in terms of salary leading to pension. That could be good or bad.

For the most part we should be happy for those hard working Mounties, but we should not lose sight of the fact that there is always a cost to unbridled largesse. There will be fundamental policing changes in small towns and cities throughout this country. The once “cheaper” Mounties are no longer a bargain which may stir up political dreams of an independent and more accountable police force. 

The RCMP executive for the time being has gone deep, running silent, not wishing to rock the boat as the executives themselves now can enter their own negotiations for a pay raise, “ratcheting up” on the unionized contract. Commissioner Lucki did say this was a “monumental day for the RCMP”. 

But, as the taxpayers begin to pay more, for less and less policing services— this pay raise will not likely be quite as comfortable for management, or quite as defensible to the Canadian public.   

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons – Stephanie Chapman – Some Rights Reserved

Darkening Clouds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait, there is more,. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Courtesy of Flckr Commons by Groupka -Some Rights Reserved

A Difficult Story

 The “discovery” of the children’s bodies found on the property of the Tk’emlups te Secwopmc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C  has captured the attention and the hearts of Canada.

This residential school operated from the 1890’s to the 1960’s and now in 2021 pronouncements are circling the globe claiming a “discovered” “mass grave”, where the bodies of two hundred and fifteen children have been interred. The clear and intended implication was that the bodies were  hidden purposefully to avoid criminal responsibility. The discovery with the use of ground radar, was now held up as “proof” of the “genocide” of the Indigenous perpetrated by the government of Canada, the Catholic church, and the often not-mentioned Protestant religious groups.  

It is an event or story which leaves even those some distance from the issue, affected, wordless, searching for things to say, or at least some sort of explanation. The death of any child, society’s innocents, layers us in emotion and draws up unstoppable grief. As some anonymous person said, “losing a child is like losing your breath… and never getting it back”. It is routinely described as unimaginable and easily overwhelming. It is a difficult story, but there is a problem— it is not totally accurate. 

It seems that we have reached a state of affairs in this country where one must question almost all that is being written or reported in the main stream media. It is becoming painfully apparent that almost everyone has an agenda, whether it be political, or social, and, it is permanently warping our ability to trust. Context is almost always missing. Instead, we are being fed polar views delivered by the loudest insistent voices of there being only one truth. In this case, there is the immediate gush of fury, followed by outlandish statements and demands for retribution. There is a palpable governmental and corporate fear of being on the wrong side of any issue and the  factual information is lost in the rush to judgement. 

By putting the deaths of children in “grisly” and “shocking” terms, the headlines wrote themselves. All who may have been directly or indirectly involved are immediately identified and placed on the wrong side of the  blame spectrum; accusing fingers pointing at the presumed guilty, the stain of that guilt never to be removed. History has shown us many times that this quick need to assign fault, the ignoring of rational alternative records, has not served us well, nevertheless we rarely learn. 

To ask questions, to examine the record, of that which is being portrayed in this residential school story, risks insulting the mainstream. Alternate stories are guaranteed to offend almost all who only see black and white. Be forewarned, I am about to offend those of you who only think in straight lines. That rationale that it has been said therefore it is true. Reality is that almost always the facts are found in various shades of grey. Often, a single one-sided glance can be deceptive. 

These deaths are difficult to process, but it was equally dismaying to see the commentary on the news; the reporting of the deaths as a “genocide” a “crime scene” of unequalled proportions all of which reverberated through the radio, television and print media.  Children “stolen” from their homes and culture. The media in its various forms showing no compunction in knowingly feeding the fire of outrage. The oft repeated story portrayed intrepid searchers stumbling across the evidence of heinous crimes. An unmarked grave site, where children were buried in anonymity. Predictably, politicians of every stripe, climbed on board the indignation train, innuendo solely fed by untested claims of criminality. 

Jagmeet Singh, the Federal leader of the NDP, dramatically, breathlessly, and tearfully, literally unable to speak. The Liberal Apology Party, having apologized several times before, to no avail,  are now demanding apologies from the Vatican— a political sleight of hand designed to make you look the other way. The wokes scurrying around the country trying to hide the statues of Sir John A., the now damned originator of residential schools. 

The purpose of this post is not to examine the policy of the residential schools. Was it an attempt by colonists to wipe out the Indigenous culture, or on the other hand was it an effort to assimilate and educate? The answer is likely somewhere in the middle. The current accepted view was that it was a misguided policy at the very best and it is likely equally clear that many of those involved in the early years were unconcerned at the time with preserving the “culture” of the First Nations. That is a never ending circular debate. The purpose of this post is to merely examine what the evidence actually shows up to this point in time. 

The early reports of the findings by the use of “ground radar” gave one the impression of it being an unexpected  “grisly discovery”. Grisly yes, but it was not a “discovery”. 

The National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation in examining residential schools identified the names of, or information about, more than 4100 children who died of the 150,000 children (some estimates are lower at 3200 children). That represents a fatality rate of 2.7%, or if one accepts the lower rate, 2.13%. 

In 1950, in Canada, the infant mortality rate was 2.92%. A higher death rate nationally than in the residential schools. 

That aside, that children were dying in saddening numbers in the years of the residential schools is a fact. However, the biggest killer in 1900 was pneumonia and influenza and those two illnesses alone recorded 202 deaths per 100,000 people in Canada. There were other killer diseases lurking: smallpox, typhus, cholera, yellow fever, and tuberculosis. TB by itself was widespread in children after WWI.  It was also deadlier, as it was slow to recognize, as it affected the glands, bones and joints rather than the lungs. Those children that contracted tuberculosis had a very low survival rate. So this is being reported as a “genocide” when to date, there has been no evidence of anyone being purposefully killed. 

The second question was why were they then placed in unmarked graves on the property? Was this an attempt to hide wrong doing? There is a simpler but yet unpalatable answer. The cost of returning the bodies to the families was prohibitive during those austere times. That has been documented. Secondly, record keeping in those times both on the Reserves and by the Church were spotty at best and often totally absent. Many children had only their assigned names and a guess as to their true age.

So the children were by necessity, dictated by the times, buried on the property. The fact that the children were buried on the sites of the residential schools throughout the country— some in unmarked graves, others in marked graves, has been known for a very long time. 

The Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement had already recognized that there were 139 residential schools across the country. (These are only those that received Federal support, there were others run solely by religious orders or provincial governments).  An undertaking to return the bodies to the families would be, even to this day,  a logistical nightmare.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 in releasing their report even included a section on missing children and burial grounds. They recommended 94 calls to action. One of those calls was for the the Federal government to work with churches, indigenous communities, and former students “to establish and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries, including where possible, plot maps showing the location of deceased residential school children”. 

So two years ago, in the 2019 budget the Liberal Federal government allocated $32 million to implement the burial recommendations. There is still $27 million left. Now, Mr. Trudeau says the government is leaping into action and is going to distribute the money “on an urgent basis”.  These graves were not uncovered and fully documented sooner for a simple reason—government and Indigenous bureaucratic inefficiency. We should also keep in mind that the Provincial government paid for the examination of the the Kamloops residential school site. This clearly was not a cover up. 

There is the additional claim running rampant as part of the cover up theory— that the Catholic Church and the Federal government is withholding records from the schools. 

In fact, the Federal government did indeed destroy documents related to the residential “school system between 1936 and 1944, including 200,000 Indian Affairs files”. Were the records destroyed as a result of a governmental cover-up, or were they destroyed as a matter of routine?  Government records often run on a twenty-five or fifty year timeline. One could presume that death records of any kind should never be destroyed, but that is a separate issue. 

In the early times of the residential schools, accurate record keeping was in short supply. Children were coming in from Indigenous communities where there were often no records of births or deaths, that was the custom. The schools upon receiving these children, were also seemingly sparse with their documentation when compared to standards of the  21st century. Also contrary to the current reporting, in fact, records at the Kamloops residential school have already been provided. It showed only fifty one deaths compared to the two hundred and fifteen, but is that the result of poor  and absent record keeping, or was it a conspiracy to only reveal some of them? 

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the academic director at the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia, stated that the records from the Kamloops residential school had not been provided to the Truth and Reconciliation group. However, she admits that the “churches handed over most residential school records, but in a few cases, the narratives were withheld, notably at Kamloops and St Annes (in Ontario)” So the Church records, like the children’s bodies were and are hiding in plain sight. The fact that no one has acted on them is probably the story that should be pursued.  

The final question is whether or not this is a site where there is evidence of criminal activity.  Is it as NDP MP Leah Gazan says, that all the residential schools are the sites of “active crime scenes”?

Well no, they are not crime scenes, because crime scenes need to have evidence or confirmation of wrong doing. Now some may argue that the stories told by the Indigenous “survivors”, is evidence enough of criminality. In recent years we seem to have taken the approach that allegations standing by themselves are sufficient evidence of wrong doing. As any homicide investigator will tell you, that is an untenable position.

Little is yet known as to the condition of the bodies. Ground radar (actually it works like sonar) shows very little, other than shapes in the ground. The exhumation of the bodies and subsequent pathology could possibly show evidence of assault, or lead to estimations of causes of death, but to pronounce it so, so early in the investigation is unprincipled. 

Was there wrongdoing at the schools in the form of physical abuse or sexual deviance? Lets ask the current Armed Forces or the RCMP whether its possible that their organizations have been open to abuse and sexual assaults over the last number of years? Would we think the Catholic churches any different?  It would seem impossible that the Catholic church, whose wrongdoings have been hauntingly exposed during the last several years around the world, would not be guilty of some criminal offences over such a lengthy span of time. However, the evidence in the burial site will not likely aid that level or type of investigation.  

Even if  one is to assume that this was in fact a crime scene, then it should be suggested that the RCMP do more than “offer its full support” to the First Nations who are now in attendance and overseeing the “crime scene”.  A crime scene by the way, which will now be forever tainted in the event something is discovered amongst the bodies. The RCMP, if they believe that this is a possible crime scene, should be taking charge and control of the scene if that were the case. Instead, the Minister Bill Blair says the RCMP continues to go forward with its “work towards reconciliation”

Mr. Blair also apologizes for the RCMP having performed according to the law and carried out the “clear and unavoidable role”.  He is late to that apology, probably confused, because Commissioner Zaccardelli apologized in 2004, and then Commissioner Paulson apologized in 2014. 

Despite all these inconsistencies, the fallout damage in the reporting on the residential school  is now done. The political gains that the Indigenous movement hoped to engender have been cemented. The world is now believing that Canadian history includes the genocide of their Indigenous population. 

Now, of course, when pressed on the word “genocide” the spokespersons are falling  back to the more acceptable argument of  “cultural genocide. And, only yesterday an Indigenous spokesperson walked backed away from the “mass grave” description and now clarifies the record to say that they were actually “individual” un-marked grave sites. 

The Perry Bellegarde’s of the Indigenous movement will now proffer up the discoveries as a lever to aid in the battle to get passed– the recently introduced Liberal legislation Bill C-15— the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples Act. Who would dare to question the bill, while expressing their overwhelming guilt in the treatment of the Indigenous. There is a valid argument that this future Act could give the Indigenous possible veto power over the economic development of Canada. One would have to be incredibly naive to think for a moment that this point has been lost on the Indigenous leadership in Canada. 

In the next few months,  monies will be provided for further examination of marked and un-marked grave sites throughout the country, a process which could take years and years of painstaking “investigation”. The Mounties will no doubt dutifully continue to “standby” and “provide support”.  Commissioner Lucki will be the lead social worker.  

The Indigenous can and will be encouraged by the media to continue to narrate the verbal claims of abuse and “incarceration” at the schools. The dominant reported narrative, like the one surrounding the Indigenous Missing Women’s task force, will remain by its very origin, clearly slanted. The masses will be satiated with apologies or flowered monuments. The truth will have to surface on another day and in another time. 

Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister Mark Miller will continue to ask the Pope for an apology as there preferred policy option. It is interesting to note that Cardinal Thomas Collins of Toronto of the Catholic Church, said that he felt Trudeau’s comments were “unhelpful” and “not based on real facts”.  Amen to that. 

That truth is that children were removed from often desperate situations and sent to sparse boarding schools during a time of disease and illness— ailments from which this country could not protect them; run by religious groups who brought with them there own inherent dysfunctions. This is a difficult story, but up to this point in time, only a partial story. 

Photo Courtesy of Flickr via Creative Commons by GotoVan – Some rights Reserved

Going Gently into the Homicide Night…

On the now widely circulated dash cam footage, on a clear sunny day near the Vancouver International Airport, a black Honda Pilot flies through an intersection, a witness recording the chase excitedly exclaiming that there was a shot fired. A few seconds later, the police car slowly drifts up into the camera angle, to the same intersection, slowly coasting to a stop. A fitting metaphor to the ponderous decline of the abilities of new age policing. The gentler, kinder, softer police up against a rash of gang related homicides which are now plaguing the lower mainland of British Columbia.   

As maddening as it was to watch a police officer give up on a pursuit of these brazen suspects, who had a few seconds before, emptied a clip into Karman Grewal— no apparent inner rage on the part of the officer at having been shot at— it was even more frustrating to watch the spin of the executives of the police brass as they scramble to make the old failed attempts at gang intervention and containment look new. 

One should disregard the ridiculous often asinine media commentary of the last number of days with their simplistic pronouncements and their exclamations of how the police need to do more. The police executive are 21st century conditioned now though, to  always respond to the media inanities, no matter how futile the exercise, while at the same time only capable of trotting out the usual 20th century bromides.  

Spokesperson for the responding Integrated Homicide Team Sgt Frank Jang, in a presser at the Airport, implores those misunderstood gangsters to “Please don’t kill one another”.  In feigned disbelief he laments and states the obvious, that these incorrigibles “are putting us all in jeopardy”. 

Other police responses are equally predictable. “More visible police presence” exclaims the new CFSEU head, Assistant Commissioner Manny Mann, who explains that there are “more gangs than there were 11 years ago” . Don’t fret he says, they are going to counter with ”intelligence led policing”.  

Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, now head of Federal, Investigative Services and Organized Crime (FISOC) assures the public that the police are “working around the clock” to solve the 10 shootings since April. 

Solicitor General Mike Farnsworth had a meeting with all the LMD police executives wherein they “share their collected and unified strategies”. Assuring all that will listen, that there was an “intelligence led enforcement under way” and that they were engaged in “proactive enforcement”. This is followed by the obligatory “your safety is our number one priority”. The subsequent police press release from this meeting signed by all the Chiefs assured us that they will “not waver in our relentless pursuit to prevent, suppress and investigate”. (They should have sent that memo to the police officer in Richmond— at least the part about the relentless pursuit.) 

Over the last number of years as policing transitioned to social work, there was the singular  solution to this mess. Sociological bandages all coming from a friendlier, more understanding and diverse police departments, all playing on the theme of prevention. The need to stop these kids from entering the gangs in the first place was the stated belief. 

“Stop Now and Plan” (SNAP), “Multi-Agency School Support Team” (MAAST-Calgary), “Wraparound”, then “High Fidelity Wraparound” which was “a complex, multi-faceted intervention strategy aimed at youth crime and gang prevention”. “Youth at Risk Development” (YARD- Calgary) “Positive Attention to Youth Gangs” (PAYG), “Regina Anti-Gang Services Project” (RAGS). And in Abbotsford in 2013 the “In it Together” campaign.  

The latest academic treatise which has been making the rounds;  the Irving Spergel Comprehensive Gang Prevention Model (Dr. Spergel is from the University of Chicago). 

None of the above programs could ever be proven to be effective, so they proffer up anecdotal evidence of a young person turning the corner. It should be considered  irrelevant to the gang homicide discussion. No program ever admits defeat however, but if they do it is almost always blamed on a lack of funding or “limited police capacity”. By the way Sgt Jang is now asking parents to report on their kids which is probably not in the spirit of the afore mentioned programs. 

Other most recent solutions include the Vancouver City Police have putting out a poster with several persons they describe as being at “risk”, people you shouldn’t be around. Presumably these are aimed at people who already hang around the chain wearing Mercedes driving bad guys, directing them to run the other way and maybe call CrimeStoppers and see if you can get a reward for their efforts. One has to also wonder the criteria for selection for this recent imitation of a wild west “Wanted” poster, but you can be rest assured that the individuals chosen will see this as a medal and not a blemish on their budding Scarface careers. 

The Delta PD, for their part have recently introduced an “interdiction” team, rather than a target team. When in doubt, change the name. 

The National Police Federation in one of the silliest statements during this time, is urging the new Surrey Police Force to stop recruiting from the other departments as it is hurting in their gang fight. (This is the same NPF who has argued for the last number of months that no one is leaving the RCMP to go to this new outfit)

In 2014 CFSEU was bragging about how their hard work had led to a reduction in gang homicide. So in 2021 should we conclude that they haven’t been working as hard?  Of course not, there are a lot of hard working, albeit frustrated officers running from pillar to post, trying to patch a case together despite all the significant hurdles. 

If one wants to seriously counter some of the gang violence and I am not sure they do, then you must look at and dissect the issues that are impairing the police at this time. 

There are three parts to every homicide, gang related or not. There is the finding and arrest of the suspect;  putting the case together to get charge approval; and, finally leading it through the Courts. 

Unfortunately, while policing has been strapping on body cams to defend against all arrests being racist, these three stages have developed significant barriers to combatting gang related violence. These hurdles have been growing for a number of years in size and scope and this sorry state of affairs has been brought about by senior police managers, the Crown and the Judicial court system. 

Almost all gang related homicides are solved on two fronts. Simply put, by uniform officers working in the patrol cars— and by informants. “Intelligence led policing” would be in a very distant third place. Any significant gang arrests over the years, have been brought about by attentive policing on the street level and by gangsters turning on themselves. 

So to significantly combat the gangs, more uniform officers are needed and they need to be fully supported. They need to be engaged in pro-active checks, confident in their grounds and support of their supervisors and managers. They need to once again gain control “of the streets”  to the point where the gangsters are fearful of being checked with a gun in the car or breaching their probation and parole curfews. This has to be accompanied by a strong physical presence.The managers like to talk about “boots on the ground” however nowhere has there been a re-structuring of the organizations to insure the uniform officer contingent is the most valued, the best staffed, and where one goes to earn those promotions. 

The need for informants. This blog has written previously about the need for “rats” so there is no need to go into it deeper at this time. But the use of informants has to be both condoned and emphasized a practise which has fallen into disrepair in this social worker age. It needs to be re-instated. Funds have to be made available for agents, rewards, and re-location. Most importantly the reporting process for this has to be heavily redacted and stream lined. The RCMP is the biggest offender in this regard and have literally through bureaucratic oversight killed (pardon the pun) the use of paid informants. 

Once the culprits are arrested, you are only part way there. To state it the most simply, Crown needs to come back to the charge approval of “beyond a reasonable doubt”and away from beyond absolute doubt which they seem to have adopted in the last number of years.

This goes hand and glove with the need to address the problems of “disclosure”. In layman’s terms, disclosure is the need for full and frank exposure of all relevant investigative material to the courts and the defence. The police and the Crown have been erring on the side of caution over the last number of years interpreting relevant to mean “all” investigative material and this in combination of digital record keeping have seen files grow in size from a couple of hundred pages to averaging over five thousand pages. It has even morphed into the warrant applications where at one time they were a few pages long to now look they were written by Tolstoy. All of it is time consuming, manpower heavy, and the vast majority of the information produced of no probative value. Cases have become so heavy in terms of disclosure that they have become mired in a state of suspension, never going forward in a timely way and running headlong into the Jordan decision, which requires timely Court proceedings. 

Finally there is a BC Court system, a court system, which has still failed to recognize that the Hells Angels are a criminal organization. 

Lets face it, B.C. is Canada’s version of California, a society highly tolerant of criminal and predatory behaviour.  The billion dollar drug industry and all the violence that comes with it is virtually ignored in this part of the country and this is simply the payback. 

Drugs are the root of the gang wars, control of the turf paramount to their money and stature. The B.C. Government continues to  turn a blind eye, whether it be drugs, the laundering of monies or the street crime on the downtown Eastside. It’s the three pillar approach the social workers and the welfare infrastructure exclaims and points to as the solution.  If any of this is to change the Judges need to be governed by the protection of the public not the welfare of the suspect. In this new age of “defunding the police” this may be the most difficult wall to climb. 

As those inside the system know, the amount of change that is needed is indeed staggering, requiring all levels of government to come together and make real court tested changes. There is a need for strong and formidable police leadership. Advancement of one’s career in policing is now attached to the ability to appease, to talk the talk of diversity and inclusion not the usurping of criminal behaviour. The police executives seem content to absorb themselves in the spin to the public, promoted by keeping the public satisfied, even if it means lying to them. 

The BC government has no problem, in this time of Covid, of directing police resources and breaching the Charter rights, to check for people going camping. A rather laughable effort to stem virus transmission, but have shown no interest in a concerted effort against the gangsters who have been recently opening fire on outside dining spots. 

The officers of IHIT and other homicide agencies are spinning their wheels, albeit making a lot of money doing it, as overtime is driving file costs in the neighbourhood of half a million dollars per file. There are 400 officers in CFSEU, 100 plus officers in IHIT, now being out gunned by teenage hoodie wearing gangsters with under nourished intelligence. It’s frustrating to them and it’s frustrating to the general public.  Prof Gordon of Simon Fraser University, never one to dodge the cameras, when asked when the gangster war will ease said, “probably when they run out of targets”. 

Unfortunately, he’s probably right. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Mika ___ Some Rights Reserved

Rolling the Dice in a Homicide

It was May 2011 when Samandeep Singh Gill, likely with a gangster strut, got involved in a “road rage”altercation and a “fender bender” quickly turned into a cold blooded killing. Gill (allegedly of course) shot the other driver Manbir Singh Kajla several times and Kajla died at the scene. For good measure Gill also shot at Kajla’s newly wed wife, Pavan, before disappearing.

Seven long years later, after IHIT had turned the file over to the Unsolved Homicide Unit in 2016, Gill was finally charged in 2018 with 2nd degree murder and attempted murder. Since the arrest and up to the time of the trial in 2021, Gill was simmering away in jail. The Court did not feel this gun toting Mr. Gill was safe to be allowed out to await his trial.  

However, in March 2021 it all went sideways for the police and the Crown when the presiding Justice of the Supreme Court ruled that the Integrated Homicide Team had engaged in a “systemic, flagrant disregard” for the law, and were “at best wilfully blind” to  this “egregious” behaviour,“. What had been exposed he stated was a long standing policy of “deliberate non-compliance” with the law. With these words Justice David Masuhara of the  Supreme Court then turned to the accused killer and told him he could go home; a free man. 

A good day for Mr. Gill and a horrendous day for the family of Kajla. A catch and release for IHIT and the Unsolved Homicide Team after many years of investigation. Furthermore, there was also the grim prospect that this ruling would ripple through to other cases —especially those which had been brought forward between 2007 and 2014.

The allegations of the Justice, applauded by defence counsel, were indeed troubling. However, as one read the blaring headlines, there was a tenor to the pronouncement which didn’t resonate with those of us that had worked in this field of death investigation. Really, a policy to break the law? Fracturing the law was possible, but how could one be so stupid as to make policy around it.The allegation seemed illogical. 

The answer on further review turns out to be much more understandable; albeit still wrong, but worthy of an explanation. 

The knee jerk furor of the media aside and ignoring the autonomic NDP political damage control that quickly ensued, what kick-started the panic was a low profile, somewhat innocuous section of the Criminal Code –Section 490. Twenty pages of fine print in Martin’s Criminal Code which deals with the subject matter of   “Detention of Things Seized”.  

For greater clarity, the portion in specific contention is section 490(2) which says that “Nothing shall be detained under the authority of paragraph 1 (b) for a period of more than three months after the day of seizure, or any longer period that ends when an application made… unless a justice, on the making of a summary application to him after three clear days…notice thereof to the person from whom the thing is seized, is satisfied…that its further detention is  warranted”.  

In laymen’s terms, when the police seize anything as evidence, usually under warrant, the police can hang on to the items for three months but if they wish to hold it longer they need to apply to the courts to do so. Sounds simple, but it is not. This is in fact a highly burdensome section. Arguably a largely administrative procedure which involves contacting all those from whom the items were seized,  notifying them individually of the future court proceedings where the police would be arguing to extend the exhibit(s) detention.  

But, imagine a case where there are 1200 seized exhibits (the Surrey 6 file as an example) , or a drug conspiracy case with hundreds of exhibits. Imagine an investigation taking a few years, where every 3 month period requires a court application and then you begin to see the problem. To continually comply with this section over forty cases (IHIT average) in one year alone, an army of additional officers would be needed on a full time basis.  Without doubt it is the law but it is equally largely unworkable. Remember that the law never caters or entertains an argument wherein the police or the Crown say something requires further manpower or resources.  It is a police resourcing problem they would rationalize, not a law problem. 

IHIT in this case, and apparently in several others, during the years 2007 to 2014  never complied with this Section. In fact, the Justice goes further and says that IHIT  had an actual  “policy” to contravene the Criminal Code. A written policy to intentionally break the law despite their having been legally counselled on many occasions not to do so.  

The explanation of this being “policy” is also a little more textured. 

To fully understand one must travel back in time to 2007; it was what was going on in 2007 that created the problem for the 2011 case, which was discovered in the trial of 2021.   

2007 was part of the golden era for homicide investigation. It was an atmosphere of smoke filled rooms, drinking, dark humour, and inappropriate jokes on a regular basis. It was the Mad Men years. The pace was often frenetic, demanding hours at the cost of family or relationships. But, it was good, a lifestyle choice rather than a career choice. For some reason, it also worked, with a  solvency rate that brushed against 78% in those early years, while only consisting of four teams of eight investigators.

It was also a time where the officers of early IHIT were experienced and were thus comfortable working on the high wire of the law. There was no principled argument against bending or stretching the law to meet some investigative need. Bending and not breaking was in fact the learned art. 

The Criminal Code was the only policy and guide. Crown prosecutors were trusted mentors. There were no homicide pamphlets, nor did anyone turn to an “operational manual” for any kind of guidance. Just a group of head scratching cops with a tendency to not believe anyone, trust no one, and often used a strong epithet to counter a learned argument, a disgruntled grunt serving as  a yes or no. 

Court was the stage, it was part of the game. Best player wins.  It was a small, compact and familiar group— there were the cops who investigated the murders, the Crown lawyers who prosecuted and the defence counsel who represented the “pieces of shit”.  A grudging but mutual respect built up over years.  

In 2007,  Sgt Al Ross headed one of the four IHIT investigational teams.  During a routine conversation with a  Justice of the Peace, it was pointed out to him that many officers were not complying with the provisions of Section 490, and they (the police)  needed to address the matter. Sgt Ross took it upon himself to try and find a solution to this problem; all while remaining fully aware of the logistical nightmare that this could represent. 

So he sought out and went to speak with Sr. Crown Counsel John Labossiere. Labossiere gave the correct legal answer, “there is no latitude for covert police operations” that the Criminal Code was clear in that regard. There was also discussion and recognition of the issue the police were facing —in trying to comply with this arduous section. 

Sgt Ross then goes to another Sr Crown, Terry Schultes (now a Supreme court Judge) who tells Sgt Ross that they can not ignore the law in this case. Again, there is no easy out., but informally again there was recognition that they “had to make it work”, just no solution as to how that could be done.

Sgt Ross, not known as one that gave in easily, then went to the RCMP legal counsel at the time, Les Rose, seeking yet another legal opinion. Mr. Rose one of the go-to individuals inside the RCMP had a reputation for being somewhat more pliable when it came to the policing efforts. In this case, Mr. Rose told Sgt Ross that he needed to comply, but he also opined that there was a need for “balanced risk management” and that he knew of no case where there had been an “exclusion of real evidence” based on a breach of Section 490.  

Sgt Ross met with the Officer in charge of IHIT, Wayne Rideout, and also Inspector Bill Fordy the latter being one who also leaned to the explanation of the need for a “balanced risk management”.  This was followed by “a memo” coming from the Officer in Charge telling officers not to seek extensions, if they felt that by requesting the extensions they would “attract attention to the non-compliance”.  They seemed to follow that old standard RCMP policy solution –ignore the problem, and in the meantime don’t tell anyone. 

In January 2008, Sgt Ross writes to Supt Wayne Rideout “warning of the circumstances” brought about by non-compliance however he does throw in that  “I anticipate the possibility of real evidence being excluded in a homicide is low”. He recommended that IHIT  try and obtain some further resources and manpower, absolutely needed he argued, if they were going to get some sort of ability to comply with the section.  

Fast forward now to 2011. 

S/Sgt Gorgichuk, who was then a Constable with the 2nd generation of IHIT investigators, was the file co-ordinator for the Gill attempted murder case. She appeared at the trial in 2021. Her testimony and explanation of Section 490 did not go well. 

In this case, search warrants were executed on the Gill residence. They seized nine cellphones because “they didn’t know which one was the accused”. They also seized a home security videotape (which was not included on the warrant), after getting access to the residence. Amongst the phones seized was a 60 second audio clip, captured apparently because of a “pocket dial” during the time of the shooting; which implicated Mr. Gill in the killing and therefore a central piece of evidence for the Crown. 

Unfortunately the Crown and their police witnesses ran into a very able and formidable criminal defence attorney Matt Nathanson. One could question Nathanson’s choice of high paying clients, but one could not question his experience and intelligence.  

Nathanson challenged the seizure of the video on the grounds that the home security camera was not on the warrant.  He also challenged the seizure of the phones on two primary grounds. The “over reach” of the warrant and the criminal “policy” of IHIT of not complying with Section 490 of the Criminal Code as testified to by S/Sgt Gorgichuk. Nathanson no doubt with his most theatrical voice pronounced that he had “never seen anything like this before”, this wanton disregard for the law.

Justice Masuhara agreed. The over reach or what the Justice calls “over-seizure”on the cellphone seizure and the fact that it was an unlawful search of the security camera system was what warranted exclusion of the evidence flowing from it. 

What pushed the Justice over the line seemingly was the “policy” which S/Sgt Gorgichuk “acknowledged her awareness” of —that  “direction” in 2007  not to comply with Section 490.  

Far be it for this outsider to question S/Sgt Gorgichuk, but it is difficult to believe that she did not comply with Section 490 in the Gill case— because of a remembrance of this “direction” that was issued in 2007. Gorgichuk was a Constable in 2011.

 The Justice wasn’t enamoured with her when describing her evidence: “I determined that S/Sgt Gorgichuk was not a credible witness and that she engaged in advocacy, though I did not find she intentionally misled the court…  As I have stated, I did not find S/Sgt Gorgichuk to be a credible or reliable witness …she refused to acknowledge errors in her testimony even when confronted with clear evidence..her testimony was nonetheless misleading, combative, and at times contradictory” 

S/Sgt Dwayne MacDonald (now the Officer in Charge of Federal Investigation Services and Organized Crime) was the Team Commander for the Gill case. The Justice speaks to his testimony and of his apparent cancelling of the “directive” in 2014 (worthy of noting that the Justices’ language went from calling it policy to a directive)when he says:  

“On XXXX 2011, S/Sgt Dwayne McDonald was a Team Commander at IHIT, responsible for the investigation of the murder of XXXX Kajla. Since 2007, the senior management at IHIT had provided direction with respect to applications for the extension of 5.2 Detention Orders. Specifically, that no extension of the 5.2 Extension Order would be sought upon the expiry after 3 months (I believe that the two XXXX references by A/Comm Dwayne McDonald in this email were a direct result of him not remembering the exact information);” In other words, he was guessing a bit. 

From a police perspective, is some of this understandable and even arguable? Maybe. 

This writer believes that non-compliance with this Section is rampant in every part of this country, in every police agency in the land. It is largely an unworkable Section of the Criminal Code that needs re-vamping, especially in times of limited resources and “defunding” of the police. 

It is obvious though that IHIT rolled the criminal trial game dice, and they lost, they busted.  In doing so have blemished the already burnished reputation of IHIT.  Only Mad Men would have taken the chance. 

For the record, this writer does not believe there was any “policy” of non-compliance. In fact the Acting Officer in charge Michelle Tansey of IHT recently said “this was not policy”.

David Eby the Attorney General for the Province of B.C. is “studying the viability of an appeal” even though the BC Prosecution Service has already stated that an appeal would “not likely” be successful.

To measure his chance at a successful appeal, Mr. Eby may want to go down the hall in Victoria and speak with his new hire—the Director of Police Services for the Province— Wayne Rideout– and ask him whether in fact he authored a  direct “policy” of non-compliance. Seems simple enough.

Or the NDP and the RCMP can just roll the dice again …and hope no one else goes free.

(Full disclosure: this writer was one of members of Integrated Homicide Investigation Team from its inception in 2003 to 2008. All the parties in this blog were not only known by me, but I worked and consulted with the cops and the lawyers mentioned in this blog on a relatively regular basis. In addition, as a team leader of one of the investigative teams would also have been privy to any policies within IHIT )

Photo Courtesy via Flickr Commons by PositiveCandie_N –Some Rights Reserved

Pandering

Under the cloak of COVID, while monies are raining down from on high, the Canadian government has decided that this is an opportune time to pander to the select groups who hold the Federal Liberals dear to their socially active and political hearts. Their slobbering self interest doesn’t seem to know any bounds and it is certainly not constrained by any concern for budget. 

Is it all aimed at a near future election call by the Liberals? Most likely. Is it cynical, opportunistic and ethically questionable? Yes it is. Do their actions have any merit? Possibly, but it would be difficult to measure. However, their motivations are obvious. 

On February 19th of this year, in a single day, the Prime Minister announced three items with that somber voice designed to instil righteousness and clearly aimed at those of us with Grade 8 education levels.  

The first, which is economically debatable but politically obvious, was the extension of the CERB benefits for an additional 12 weeks. Sick benefits were extended as was Employment Insurance for a cumulative total of 54 weeks. The pros and cons of doing this is one for the economists to debate. Clearly though, the handing out of funds never seems to engender any liberal or social antipathy and Mr. Trudeau seems to relish the daily ritual coverage of the doling out of monies, as he guides us to health and prosperity and implores us to save lives.

The second announcement was the re-tooling of the Official Languages Act, which Mr. Trudeau described as legislation to further enhance that “beautiful french language”. In this “modernization” of the Languages Act  as presented by Ms.Joly (a rumoured “favourite” of Mr. Trudeau) should raise some concern and debate; although admittedly no one seems to be paying close attention to an Act to do with languages. It seems like strange timing in terms of priority, until you read what the changes entail. The Bloc Quebecois and the NDP who are currently supporting the minority Liberals must be aware that Mr. Trudeau is preparing to try and pull the rug out from under them— by usurping their claim as being a better representative of the people of Quebec. 

The first amendment is to Section 83 —which states that “nothing in the Act abrogates or derogates from the rights of other languages, by explicitly mentioning Indigenous languages”.  This is lawyer inspired convoluted language but the intended results are that Nunavut and the North West Territories will officially recognize English, French and “indigenous languages as official languages”.  Surprisingly, little fanfare to announce that Canada has another “official” language? It may also seem trite but compliance to this could have profound effect on the courts and the providing of government services.

Also in this Languages Act the government is proposing to “encourage” further funding for french immersion across the country– including the hiring of more french immersion teachers, and even stream lining a “Francophone immigration corridor”. All this to aid them in their search for French speaking teachers outside of Quebec. 

No matter how meritorious this promotion of the french culture and language it is coming at a time when French as a language and culture is dwindling. Using their own statistics, the francophone population outside of Quebec in 1971 was 6.6%. It was 3.9% in 2011 and is anticipated to be at 3.0% by 2036.  One has to question whether an “immersed” Canada outside of Quebec is a relevant and achievable goal. The Liberals clearly think so, but they are likely more concerned in how it will “play” in Quebec. 

Finally, since 2016 the Government of Canada has been “committed” to appointing “only functioning bilingual judges to the Supreme Court of Canada”. However, there was an exception clause in the act under Section 16(1) which was purposefully placed there in consideration of the need for geographic representation on the courts and a possible lack of bilingual judges in the unilingual West. The Liberals are now going to remove this exemption, so that all will have to be fluently bilingual to serve on the highest court in the land. This could have a direct impact on the makeup of this highest court, more francophone than representative.

As an oblique aside, the Government says that “it will be necessary to keep in mind the importance of representativeness of Indigenous peoples in the highest institutions of our country….”. They then direct the Government to “actively envision the appointment of Indigenous judges to the Supreme Court of Canada”.  One has to admire the “actively envision” language as camouflage for a direct order.

Which brings us to the the third announcement of this busy day.

It pertained to Bill C-22, which is to deal with the “Mandatory Minimal Penalties (MMP) as outlined in the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.  They are announcing changes to the fourteen offences in the Criminal Code and six in the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Why? If you follow this Liberal government you probably have already guessed. Because, minimum sentences “targets black, indigenous and racialized communities”. 

Their blatantly stated goal is to bring down the numbers of the Federally incarcerated who are there due to “systemic discrimination and racism” and a system which they believe punishes “black and indigenous people”.   Mr. Lametti seems to want us to believe that this “over representation” was some form of pointed racist selection process, not the result of persons having committed the crimes.

The statistics are bold and clear.

 From 2007-2017 they argue “black and indigenous were more likely to be admitted to federal custody for an offence punishable by a MMP”.  Although only 5% of the population is indigenous, they make up 30% of the Federal inmate population; blacks represent 3 % of the population but represent 7.2% of the incarcerated. The answer, according to the social progressives, is not to try and stem the crime by fighting the obvious crime instigators like poverty and unemployment in these communities. Their solution, if parties are caught in a criminal offence, is to promote “judicial discretion”. They are directing Judges that they “must take into consideration the individual and their experience with systemic racism”. 

They will even be funding $28 million to “social contracts training” for  Judges in case they are missing the message. 

Is there evidence that mandatory sentencing doesn’t work? Yes, but there is also evidence that it does work, so this reformation is not necessarily based on the evidence— what it is based on is playing to a certain minority.  

In 2008 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that minimum sentencing was constitutional but maybe not an “appropriate response” to Section 12 of the Charter which deals with cruel and unusual punishment. 

The pros of minimum sentencing point out that it eliminates disparity, provides consistency, and avoids Judge shopping. If one holds that the law should reflect the peoples wishes, in 2005 —74% of Canadians felt that sentencing was too lenient. It should be remembered that the minimum sentencing was brought into effect under the dreaded Stephen Harper Conservative government in response to Canadians and their complaints about the lack of justice. 

But none of this seems to have been the motivating factor for Justice Minister Lametti. What may be more relevant is that the multi-party “black caucus” issued a call to action  and “demanded the elimination of mandatory minimums”. Mr. Lametti a signatory to this document.  

There is little doubt that Mr. Lametti has been emboldened and given comfort by the courts, which are allowing him to play to the minority audience. 

In 2016 in R vs Lloyd, when dealing with some drug offences, the court thought that the drug offences and sentencing for them did not take into account “indigenous heritage and the impact of colonialism”.  In R vs Gladue the Judges said that a different “analysis and approach is required by Judges when sentencing aboriginal offenders and that “imprisonment is a less appropriate or less useful sanction”.  

Far be it for this writer to be in disagreement with the learned judges of the Supreme Court of Canada. They are a distinguished group of scholars, but their voting records seem to have a very natural lean to the left. Mr. Lametti and the Liberals are also playing in the Biden band and trumpeting whatever is currently playing in the North American media. The riotous Trump entourage is now thankfully gone but we now have the Trudeau and Biden love-in which could prove equally destructive and divisive with its approach to social issues, or rather its dogmatic adherence to Twitter driven policies.

Having lived most of my life in the criminal world, the positions of this Liberal government when it comes to crime and minority rights, seems at times completely ludicrous. We have been traveling down this left branch of the victim road for an interminable many years now. One has to wonder and ask that with each further step— are we getting any closer to some ill-defined justice utopia ? By creating different classes of criminals with different levels of personal and cultural responsibility are we moving towards justice and fair and equal treatment, or away from it? 

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the definition of justice is a concept on ethics and law “that means people behave in a way that is fair, equal and balanced for everyone”. Minimum sentencing seems to fit that definition whereas the policy of Mr. Lametti feels that the principal of proportionality applies and one should allow for “the role of the social context”, which seems counter-intuitive.

The symbolic scales held by the Roman Lady of Justitia symbolizes giving fair and objective consideration to all evidence, without showing bias one way or the other. Mr. Lametti and his Liberal colleagues are unhesitatingly standing on those scales and even trying to influence who hold those scales. They are brazen in their efforts, choosing a time when debate and accountability have been Zoomed out.

The fifth estate have been completely coopted by the the social agenda, content to just count the number of COVID cases and their variants. To them, application of justice, or the breach of charter and constitutional rights are far less interesting than Oprah, Harry, and Meaghan. The pablum of celebrity successfully diverting us from worthy debate on issues of importance; and, that is what the Liberals are counting on.

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey via Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Let them Eat Cake

As you or may not be aware, there are three classes or categories of employees within the RCMP according to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act.  The first are those that have representation; those officers now being represented by the novice union, the National Police Federation (NPF), and the officers are now dutifully paying union dues. The second category are those who are managerial, but are excluded from representation, civilian members for the most part. The third and final category are the officers of the RCMP who have no representation. This final category are the upper managerial ranks —Inspector and above, purposely distinguished from the rank and file by their “white shirts” and their brass laden uniforms. 

No doubt you are wondering how these “white shirts” are faring in this day and age when the RCMP is being pummelled from all sides. They have had no pay increases either since 2017— despite this loftier status.

To be sure many of those in the elevated ranks have already gathered up their challenge coins and headed for the exits, driven out by old age or a sense of foreboding. Some are clearly worried about their perceived paltry pensions and are seeking salvation and further riches on the civilian horizon; bound for guarding the pipeline, the Independent Investigations Office or dare one mention the new Surrey City Police.  

But for those that remain behind and for all those that aspire to become one of the knighted, there is still some hope. 

The general public may be a little amazed to to learn that these officers, who have gone from one disaster to another in the last number of years, feel that they need a pay raise and an increase in benefits, usually the reward for a job well done.

However, in the policing world, pay raises are the result of a constant ratcheting effect, a keeping up with the Jones’ kind of rational. 

That aside, the difference this year is that for the most part, their pay and benefits are going to be paradoxically tied to the unionized rank and file and the capabilities of the union negotiators of the National Police Federation.  

Recently, I listened in to a recorded zoom style meeting, billed as a “Town hall” meeting which was open to all of the white shirts of the RCMP.  Admittedly, it was a bit like crashing a get together at a Masonic Hall, as one could not help but feel that by listening in, without an invitation, was somehow illicit. 

The meeting was chaired by C/Supt Leslie Ohare and Supt. Bert Ferreira who have been overseeing the “Officer Consultative Committee”. This committee is designed to be an intermediary or representative body for the officers with the Treasury Board Secretariat. The TBS will end up making the final determinations as to the white shirted officers in terms of pay and benefits and is the same Treasury Board Secretariat that is currently negotiating with the NPF. 

So things have now changed with the coming of age of this union movement. The white shirts are for the first time facing Treasury Board, cap in hand as usual, but this time dependent on the NPF settlement. The reason is that Treasury Board must know the end results of those negotiations, before they can make a determination as to the rates of pay for the senior executive. 

There were two terms heard when listening in on this meeting with reference to the demands of the executive and that is what they call the “pay line” and the need for there to be “no inversion”.  In simple terms, they just mean that depending on what a Staff Sargent gets will by necessity determine what an Inspector gets. The accepted labour relations argument being that there is a need for pay separation and also satisfying the need to incentivize these higher positions. They don’t want some lower position getting greater pay and benefits than the white shirted, which would be an “inversion” of the salaries. It is a caste system after all, so one could not bear the thought that some operational lower rank could surpass an administrative manager, no matter what their respective roles and responsibilities. 

So, now the white shirts are cheering on the NPF. Ironic to say the least considering that for decades these same managers argued and fought the battle against unionization.

In terms of the current ongoing NPF negotiations, Treasury Board confirmed during this meeting that the negotiations are currently scheduled into June 2021. They are meeting monthly (the next meeting is scheduled for March 2-4, 2021) and all  are hoping to have a deal done by the summer –which would require ratification by the rank and file and a possible pay raise by the Fall of 2021. 

Should no agreement be reached and arbitration needed, it was also learned that this would delay any settlement for at least another year. One would think that this would not be a very sellable position for the NPF.  

Originally, the NPF was arguing publicly for a 17% pay request, but lately in their news releases or interviews they seem to be avoiding those bald numbers in terms of what they are asking, likely thinking that it is better to slightly dampen expectations. One would have to think, that inflation alone for the last few years would probably guarantee an 8% increase. That in itself would bring the 131st rated RCMP constable from $86,110 to $92,998. This is still a long way from the Delta Police who are currently ranked number one at $107,840. Even third ranked Edmonton is at $106,262, still leaving a discrepancy of $13,264 per year. 

Of course no one knows what the free spending Liberals are thinking. The Treasury Board makes recommendations to the Cabinet and they base their recommendations on three major factors; the size of the total compensation package, the internal relativity to other similar agencies, and the “state of the economy”. One of the negotiators with Treasury Board described the negotiations with the NPF as “the mood being receptive” but added that there were still “many issues outstanding”. 

During this “town hall” the officers asked why they couldn’t get their pay raise immediately, but were given the standard answer of needing to wait for the NPF.  These same officers are  also now demanding (or asking for) : – unlimited sick leave, an increase in their pay to make up for the fact that they do not get overtime, and forty more hours of annual leave. They were also seeking greater benefits. On their list were increases in the dental service allowance; an increase in the PSHCP dependent coverage and an increase in life insurance from $160,000 to $500,000 with the employer paying all premiums. 

These demands would or should not be considered out of line in terms of executive compensation. However, it will be difficult for the general public to rationalize demands for pay raises with the demonstrated fallibility of the RCMP senior ranks. The RCMP has hit a new low in terms of recruitment, morale, pay, and the implementation of the diversity and inclusion agendas. 

The last few years has also watched them pay out hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation from the harassment suits, has seen report after report demanding changes of the RCMP. Shortages in manpower have been termed a “crisis” and over 3,000 complaints were filed against the RCMP in 2017 alone. The use of force during this era of Freddie Gray has risen 10% in the last three years. It has overseen operational and investigational disasters such as Mark Norman and are now waiting for the fallout from Port au Pique, and Cameron Ortis. An internal audit in 2020 said that the Mounties were accepting applicants who were poorly qualified and some even with criminal records. That the emphasis was now on “the quantity of applicants with less focus on the quality”. The solution to these recurring pitfalls is not either obvious or on the horizon.

The senior ranks throughout history have promoted their distinct and honourable position in the RCMP. They are to be saluted when passing, paying deference to their wisdom, experience and at having reached the upper echelons of a world class police department. All of these perceived notions can now be effectively argued and challenged. Promotion to this group has become diluted by policy, dwindling experience and best intentions. The red serge is becoming threadbare, exposed threads being pulled on a daily basis.

This fraying of this once proud organization has been overseen by this same group who are demanding, in fact assuming, they are to be rewarded nevertheless.

Like Marie Antoinette telling the throngs to eat cake in lieu of enough bread to eat, they seem to have “a frivolous disregard for the starving peasants and a poor understanding of their plight.”

Their personal financial goals on the other hand are seemingly quite clear. The senior ranks of the RCMP will continue to demand their cake.

Photo courtesy of Irina via Flickr Commons – some Rights Reserved

Commissioner Lucki and Her New (but Old)”Strategy”

This headline and announcement came on January 26, 2021, relayed to all members of the RCMP in the form of a Commissioners Broadcast. One would have thought on first glimpse that finally there was finally some addressing of the multiple concerns now facing this organization. Had the Chief Executive of your National Police Force finally awoken from her semi-slumber to finally deal with some of the many issues plaguing the boys and girls in red? 

Well you would be both right and wrong. You would be right in assuming that there is in fact a new announced strategy. You would be wrong in thinking this was a strategy that was new in terms of goals and or objectives. You could also be right if you paid it little heed and put it in the category of the never ending pablum which continues to spill forth from Ottawa.

There will be a very select few within this vast organization who will be nodding their heads in affirmation of this new “strategy” but we would be equally safe in saying that those that would applaud this new development are not the same people that are working the night shifts in Coquitlam or Burnaby tonight.  So what is it?

 Is it a strategy to deal with recent gun violence?  No.

 Is it a strategy to deal with the lack of ability to recruit new members? No. 

Is it a strategy to deal with the current salary structure of the RCMP? No. 

Rather “today is an important day for the RCMP” because on this date, the RCMP has launched (with the fanfare of an Elon Musk Space X rocket) the “Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy”.  If this was not enough excitement, she also announced that this strategy would also be part of the “Vision 150 Agenda”.  Most of you will have to admit that you have no idea what Vision 150 is, but apparently this is a good thing so nod your head approvingly.  

Not only is this a “new” strategy; but it is a “LIVE” strategy.  (Someone will have to explain to me how a strategy takes on the qualities of a human being—but remember that this is coming out of Ottawa –the generator of all acronyms and inanities).

We should also note, that neither the RCMP in general or Ms. Lucki in particular came up with this strategy on their or her own. This is not an original thought. No, they admit, this strategy came from “consultation” with the National Council for Diversity and Inclusion; other Federal employee “networks”; and “policy centers with direct impacts on EDI”.  One could cynically translate this to mean that this policy was being pushed down to the Mounties– causing them to now on bended knee genuflect before those very busy gods of correctness.

According to the announcement, “this robust and comprehensive strategy introduces fundamental changes to the RCMP’s systems that will allow us to promote an inclusive organization that values diversity and serves employees and communities with dignity and respect”.

“It also focuses on identifying and reducing workplace and service delivery barriers for Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (believe it or not, even this has an acronym BiPoC) women, persons with disabilities and members of LGBTQ2+ communities”.

It goes on. “The EDI strategy identifies clear, concrete and transparent actions under four “pillars” that will embed equity, diversity and inclusion into the way we think about, and perform all aspects of our mandate.” What are those four pillars you ask:

-Provide Leadership and Governance

-Be Clear, Accountable and Transparent

-Enhance Awareness and Education

-Change Culture and Transform. 

You will be forgiven if none of these general life statements mean anything to you. It is the language of LinkedIn resumes, supervisor assessments, or senior RCMP executive speeches. Does anyone remember Mission Statements? This is a similar exercise. It says a lot, but its beauty in its crafting is that it says nothing. 

 They are going to “review workplace policies and practises through an “EDI, GBA+ and anti-Black racism lens to combat systemic racism”. (Remember when Ms Lucki didn’t’ think there was systemic racism and then within 48 hours recanted—she clearly has now been fully indoctrinated into the cult of goodness)

Even more specifically, there will be more “representation on selection boards” and they will be establishing “talent development plans for occupational groups with low diversity”. They will be “linking EDI goals to Performance, Promotion and Compensation”. 

As said before, this will all be aligned with “Vision 150”, a description of which you can find on the government website, that is if you have endless mindless hours and a propensity to like watching paint dry. If you dare to dive down on this government site you will find a Vision 150 “tracker”, which is divided into the four “pillars” once again. Deeper still, you will find a “tracker” for each program that is being initiated. 

It is here where you will see most of the proposed programs such as; the increase in body cams, further training in cultural understanding and diversity, a number of programs which involve consultation with the Indigenous and Indigenous women, promotions to advisory boards of various minority representative groups, and oversight programs in the major crime areas. There is even a program designed to hire civilian investigators in the area of financial crimes. 

There is an uncomfortable dystopian feel to all this. A new type of Republic of Gilead. The RCMP has even created the ominous sounding position of “Special Designated Officer for Diversity and Inclusion” and named Nadine Huggins as its first leader. Ms. Huggins of course, is “looking forward….to bring a results oriented approach to establishing an inclusive workforce and workplace.”  

One could make an educated guess as to the eventual goals of Ms. Huggins with a quick check of her resume. Her masters thesis was entitled: “Canadian Nationhood and the Identity Discourse: Incorporating Minority and other Groups”. In this thesis she refers to the French and English as the “Charter groups”  and all others make up the “marginalized”. Her Twitter universe is filled almost entirely with all the requisite black lives matter tweets or tweets on reconciliation and inclusion. The Federal government has always been her home, and all her jobs have a heavy emphasis on Indigenous representation and working at such things as the Taskforce on Diversity and Inclusion. Ms. Huggins fits the woke stereotype and her solutions will be patently obvious and predictable.

None of this is news. These policies of inclusion have been around for decades, although the terminology has changed. Affirmative action to inclusion and diversity, the French and English in this country are no longer the founding nations, now according to Ms. Huggins they are the “Charter groups”. The RCMP have been flying gay pride flags over detachments, holding diversity and inclusion detachment strategy sessions for quite some time. The RCMP in other words have been “awoke” for some time.

Forty years ago, discussions in RCMP management circles were concerned about how physical requirements for admission often precluded those coming from the Asian community. To address this problem height and weight requirements were altered and a point system was developed. The pendulum then swung towards the need to recruit females in the late 1970’s and 1980’s and the physical training was changed to accommodate. 

The solutions then were the same as now, greater inclusion and representation which almost always translates to more hiring and promotion. The only difference in this strategy from those of thirty years ago is that the target beneficiary for greater inclusion keeps moving and that marginalized pendulum has now reached its full arc.  

One can not argue that the idea of greater representation of the Canadian mosaic in policing is a wrong-headed idea. It is not. The flaw is in the belief that the barriers are “systemic” within the current system. They are not, that is only an easy and convenient simplification. The barriers are much more complicated and broader in scope. Culture, language, education, and economic well being are much greater contributors to a lack of entry and inclusion. 

The other blemish in these simplistic academic theories is the fundamental assumption that policing– meaning in its simplest form, the investigation of crime and the enforcement of laws can be bent by a cultural, colour or gender bias.

The conduct of investigations are based on simple concepts and on answering the five w’s. Techniques can change, but ultimately, all investigations follow a practised format based on experience which form a type of checklist. Straying from the orthodoxy would be rare. The checklist is largely unaffected by cultural or ethnic influence.

The creation and passage of laws is done by the duly elected in the various legislatures and the Federal Parliament. They laws are based on a perceived or pre-determined need by those elected representing the citizens at large. It is highly subjective.

However, enforcement of those same laws is objective and should be by its very nature, immune from influence by outside factors.

If these future strategies are aimed at infusing cultural or gender differences into the course of an investigation or imply choices in enforcement of those laws –we are going to find ourselves in a very dangerous neighbourhood. 

As this next chapter begins, one must realize that this strategy is a pure, made-in Ottawa “strategy”, and as such it will have little to no impact on the general population of the RCMP involved in day to day operational policing. What it is doing is enshrining for the future years a gender and culture check-list for promotion and advancement.  That is already in full swing, so this “strategy” is only serving to codify and legitimize advancement based on factors other than competency. 

This is a long bumpy road but is largely an academic exercise being played out by mandarins in the hushed halls and padded conference rooms of the Ottawa cognoscenti. The topic is in the wheelhouse of Commissioner Lucki, fitting nicely into her comfort zone and is likely part of her bid to retain her job. However, it is unlikely to be part of the conversation at one in the morning when uniformed officers are hunched over their 7-11 coffee.

Photo Courtesy of Serge Saint via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

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