Policing issues and the stories that surround it seem to be growing exponentially, always accompanied by surrounding commentary and self-proclaimed expertise flowing from every social platform. Instagram, Reddit, Facebook and Twitter abound with the examination of the police and a professed expertise. The armchair investigators of Netflix are in full voice. In trying to understand why, I have learned that In the last few years the earths rotation has in fact been speeding up (on a normal day the earth travels at the speed of 1000 miles per hour as measured at the equator). So as I find my eyes ricocheting from headline to commission to judicial decision, blaming the earth’s rotation as being responsible is as likely an answer as any other.
In the past week to ten days we have had the start up of the Public Order Emergency Commission in Ottawa; we have learned that 469 foreign criminals are “missing” according to the CBSA; two officers were killed in answering a domestic dispute in Ontario, ambushed by a male with an AK-47; and an Ontario court Judge has ruled that if you are an Indigenous offender you are not allowed to be cross-examined as to any previous offences. So now not only do you have the Gladue decision, you know have it dictated that the Indigenous are not to be subjected to the same trial process.
Closer to home, in the Surrey civic election the old dodger with the sore foot, McCallum, has been replaced by an equally woefully inadequate Brenda Locke. In the first 48 hours, she has already painted herself into a corner, by saying she is giving the Mounties back their job in Surrey, regardless of reality and cost.
So having to choose one story over another is difficult this week. That being said, as much as I would rather ignore it, I guess we will have to go with the Public Order Emergency Commission as the lead story, which is being headed by the Honourable Judge Paul Rouleau. This Commission (we have sure had our share of them lately) has been tasked with understanding “the Government’s decision to declare a public emergency, the circumstances that led to that declaration, and the effectiveness of the measures selected by the Government to deal with the then-existing situation”. As in all Commissions of Inquiry, one needs to be reminded that none of this is to determine criminal fault or civil liability. This is all to determine the “effectiveness” of the implementation of this draconian piece of legislation.
And like all good government Commissions, this too is filled with lawyers of every stripe and denomination: there are two co-lead counsel, five senior counsel, three regional counsel, twelve just “counsel”, three senior policy advisors, seven research counsel, and two “staff”. So including the Judge, there are thirty-two counsel and that is just on the government side of the ledger. The audience at these hearings will be for the most part other lawyers and the media. With this many lawyers there is diminishing hope that the truth behind the declaration of the emergencies act will not be watered down through all these filtering lawyers.
Judge Rouleau is a native of the Ottawa area, went to the University of Ottawa and then went on to be associated with several central Canadian legal firms such as Heenan Blaikie and Cassels Brock and Blackwell. He has been a Judge since 2002 and a strong advocate for French language rights, and would have probably been a better candidate for the Supreme Court than the new Justice O’Bansawin–but let’s put that aside for now.
The good Judge will be overseeing the evidence of sixty five potential witnesses, however do not despair and give up on your regular life schedule, as it is likely that you only need to begin to pay serious attention to the last twenty or so witnesses– which include the politicians such as Trudeau and Freeland. After all, the police have already established that they did not ask for the Emergencies Act, it has also been established that there was no real intelligence indicating that there was a foreign inspired threat in the makeup of the convoy group, nor conspiracies to commit violence, which should leave the Commission with some rather obvious starting points. There is going to be a lot of dancing to be sure. Commissioner Lucki has already done the two step in public committee hearings, where she was forced to admit to not having asked for the implementation of the Emergencies Act. As a devotee to Blair and company, she needed to backtrack, and she did this by saying what a great thing it was, once they had been given these extra powers. Justin Trudeau who spoke publicly about “foreign money” was clearly lying as the intelligence community today said there was no such evidence.
One should also remember that the government is not holding this hearing because they wish to be frank and forthright to the Canadian public, it is because the law states that they have to have an inquiry within 60 days after the enactment of the Emergencies Act. This particular group of Liberals are not fans of focused scrutiny, whether it is in the House of Commons question period or in front of a Commission. They have released some Cabinet documents but have raised “confidence” issues on them; so the general public may never be shown them.
In checking out a Commission it is always helpful to find out who has been given “standing” and “funding” in terms of appearing before the Commission, which simply put, is based on who has a direct and vital interest in the proceedings. So in this case, groups such as the Criminal Lawyers Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Ottawa Coalition of Residents and Businesses line up for standing, and of course for the government to pay for it. These three groups were in fact granted both permission and funding.
However, there was some rather unusual decisions in this regard. Take the case of Mr. Eros who applied for “standing”. Mr. Eros is a CPA and dealt with financing and accounting matters related to the Convoy Group. He was also intricately involved in the administration of the crowd-funding campaign with this same Convoy group. He was however denied standing, as the Judge ruled that he was merely a “witness”. This may be fair.
However, incredibly, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs was granted “standing” and “funding” to participate in this matter. They argued that they had a substantial and “direct interest in the commission” based on its “role as an umbrella organization representing Indigenous governments” and that it plays a “critical role in governance in Canada in terms of its ensuring that other governments are held accountable for their actions”. Some of you may be surprised at their being Indigenous “governments” in Canada. However, to think that they are there to hold the other “governments” accountable is audacious to say the least, even under the current Federal Liberal love-in regime. So we now have a group who has supported its share of protests, such as the damaging of pipelines and the burning of rail lines which is now going to sit in judgement of the governments reaction to the Ottawa convoy.
The witness testimony has started and began with the bubble wrapped represented citizens of Ottawa talking about the nights of continuous air horns, the disruption of their businesses and the “occupation” of Ottawa. Terms are being bandied about such as a “siege” and a “horrific experience”. The lead plaintiff in the civil suit Zexi Li, is a data analyst, and the second witness. She was working for the government from home and her testimony was how it completely disrupted her life, a story which under cross-examination was by no means dramatic. Most of the city of Ottawa were at this time working from home.
In the last few days the Commission has now started to examine some of the government and police response, before, during and after this clearly “unprecedented” upheaval. What would you expect to find when you have three levels of government; the city, the Province of Ontario, and the Federal Government all weighing in on strategy and tactics with three different police forces, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Ottawa City Police, and the RCMP? Now consider the Ottawa mayor who liked to have confidential discussions with Trudeau, Blair, and Mendocino, but not share those discussions with the Ottawa Police Services Board who supposedly were the designated oversight to the operations. There were Provincial and Federal concerns with the OPSB itself. Then throw in the new Ottawa Police Chief who with the other police managers from the other jurisdictions could not even agree on a “command structure” for several days. Throw in a request for 1800 Ontario Provincial officers, while at the same time consider the initial lacklustre involvement of the RCMP, and then consider an inability to even develop a policing “operational plan” for over 10 days.
Needless to say it was all bureaucracy, miscalculation and the very definition of too many cooks in the kitchen. Bill Blair was suggesting to the Ottawa Chief that he consider more bylaw enforcement, even though by that time 2000 bylaw tickets had been issued. I am sure he thanked Mr. Blair profusely. Justin Trudeau was busting on Doug Ford not doing enough, while at the same time, the OPP seemed to be the best at getting extra officers to the scene. Chief Slolys then resigned. With little doubt he was about to become the scape goat in this massive cockup.
The enacting of the act seems quite clearly to have been a reaction to a discombobulated police management action brought created by a lack of foresight and intelligence gathering, combined with meddling by the usual political group which surfaces in any calamity. It was done for the singular purpose of gaining a political upper hand in the media, to show that they were doing something, and it was concocted by the Federal government and the Liberal ruling party.
The core or the fuel for this action seems to been an inherent inability on the part of the liberal left to relate to the protestors driving these big trucks. They were seen as the working class, the blue collars. This was more than a paper exercise to the protestors. They had lost jobs and the ability to feed their families, and now they were being ignored and pushed to the sidelines. They were at times crude and in your face, willing to physically push back, but their cause was the centre of their existence. This was not a philosophical theory dealing with “systemic” complaints, theirs was a cause that affected their mortgage and their ability to make a living. They were not bubble-wrapped, did not speak in plural pronouns, and did not understand or adhere to the niceties of government levels and protocols. They were not from Ottawa, they did not look like they belonged there, they were not Liberal constituents, and most troubling of all– they drove very big immovable trucks.
So when they got to Ottawa, no one would talk to them, no one even liked them, and they needed to go, at any cost. It was hurting the images of the politicians in power. And the media were willing to report it without question or due diligence.
The protestors prevailed as long as they did because they were met with an unprepared and ill-equipped police force, governed by layers and layers of Ottawa political mandarins concerned only with optics. The politicians found themselves facing, according to the Ottawa mayor’s chief of staff, a “crescendo of collapsing confidence”.
They were also scared. They did not understand and could not relate to the visceral outpourings of the protestors. Their problems were not their problems. So this “local emergency” demanded in their view, the full force of government, the suspension of their inherent rights, and the seizure of their personal financial assets– and now they will be lying to justify it.
Photo courtesy of Ross Dunn via Flickr Creative Commons – Some Rights Reserved