A Tainted and Expensive Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Upper Moderate”- up to $100,000

“Significant Injury”- up to $150,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is all too sad. 

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

Collision Course

In a ruling this month by Justice Margeurite Church of the B.C. Supreme Court, it was decided that Coastal Gas Link, the company constructing the LNG pipeline from north eastern British Columbia to Kitimat British Columbia, had satisfied the requirements for an interlocutory injunction against the protestors of the natural gas pipeline.

Listen closely….can you hear the echo?

The year before in December 2018 the court had granted an interim injunction against these same protestors. That time the RCMP eventually moved in and 14 of the protestors were arrested and the encampment taken down. All of it much to the chagrin of a small sect of the Indigenous who were being supported and prompted by the usual wagon jumpers of the enlightened liberal left.

So here we are again, a year later, same issue, different court date. Ms. Church in this latest court verdict went a little further in her ruling saying –that there is evidence to suggest that the protestors had engaged in “deliberate and unlawful conduct” for the purpose of causing harm to the plaintiff and preventing it from constructing the pipeline.

Of added interest may be her comments reflecting on the general state of the laws pertaining to the Indigenous movement reflected in this particular case:
“There is a public interest in upholding the rule of law and in restraining illegal behaviour and protecting the right of the public, including the plaintiff, to access on Crown roads…the defendants may genuinely believe in their rights under indigenous law to prevent the plaintiff from entering into Dark Horse territory, but the law does not recognize any right to blockade and obstruct the plaintiff, to access on Crown roads.

In any event, another court decision, another group of lawyers, all kicking at the peripheral issues and avoiding the central dilemma of defining the role the Indigenous are to play in this country.

One would be hard pressed to imagine a more convoluted, ridiculous, and multi-layered predicament. Often mis- guided policy and vague initiatives have been all wrapped in endless litigation and court interpretation. The politically righteous argument of aboriginal rights, simmering away for the last forty years in a cauldron stirred by hundreds of lawyers. Apparently none able or overly concerned to define the central role of the Indigenous in this country. No one able to say whether the Indigenous are simply Canadians, just like everyone else, with the same rights and benefits, and subject to the laws of this country; or a “Nation” unto themselves, independent in spirit and governance, albeit financially dependent.

The popular view being force fed by the Liberal government Federally and a Provincial NDP government is that there is a 2nd “Nation” in this country. An ill-defined nation to be sure, no central authority, no common economic agenda or engine, old ways versus the new.

Non the less this “Nation” has indeed found a receptive audience in the current government and is grabbing for the ring of political acceptability and political empowerment, with ceaseless demands for increased financial resources and independence. It is demanding its own school system, its own policing and justice system, its own health care, its own social services, all to be run by a disparate range of communities.

A “nation” system made up of 634 different groups or “nations” speaking over than 50 different languages. Varied in language and cultural beliefs and spread throughout a massive geographic and often isolated area it is difficult to see a unified coherent and plausible plan.

As the years tick by this stew of government initiatives have been tendered, milked and prolonged by a legal and political community fuelled by the increasingly politically astute indigenous leadership.

Since 2000 there have been 21 cases involving indigenous rights and claims heard by the BC Supreme Court. There have been 9 cases since 1984 heard by the BC Court of Appeal, 14 cases heard by the Federal Court, and since 1970, 64 cases coming before the Supreme Court of Canada.

The result is layers of court systems all pronouncing their particular spin on what it all means. Supreme Court Constitutional decisions, common law precedents, treaties, Reserved land, “ceded” and “unceded” lands, Canadian law, Indigenous “laws”, hereditary chiefs, elected counsels, and Provincial declarations echoing United Nations Declarations.

The need for “reconciliation” spews forth at every turn, the beauty of the word “reconciliation” being is that it is infinite, there is no end. By very definition the issues can never be “reconciled.” The devil incarnate of course is “colonization”.

The movement has taken down statues, removed names from buildings, re-named Provincial and Federal Parks, and moved to ensure that any business done has to include a portion of the pie for them.

Some Indigenous are living in the most hideous squalid communities, living in poverty, poor education, no drinking water, and out of control birth rates. No hope of economic sustainment on one hand, while others are developing billion dollar city properties.

There are oil-rich Indigenous bands where the average income is $125,000 per year, and only 4% of the income comes from the Federal government, only because they are blessed by the good fortune of sitting on often barren lands but lands where there is black gold running under their feet. There are others that are almost 100% funded by the Federal government, defecating in buckets, no clean water, and no siding on their houses.

In this systemic chaos only the lawyers are winning. No one else.

It is all leading to darkening clouds and a possible storm of discontent on both sides of the two “Nations”. A low pressure system consisting of 96% of the population moving inexorably toward an Indigenous high pressure system made up of 4% of the population.

The latest example is now being played out near Houston, British Columbia. The Unist’ot’en and Wet’suwet’sen “nations” and their “hereditary chiefs” versus the rest. This latest collision to be where there is the proposed site of a natural gas pipeline to be built for a $6.6 billion by Coastal Gas Link. (The pipeline is to link to a $40 billion LNG export plant that is to be built in Kitimat, B.C.)

The NDP government of British Columbia with a straight face, state that they are both anti-pipeline and pro- pipeline. Hereditary chiefs disagree with elected counsels. Some bands are pro development seeing it as a financial windfall and the only hope out of abject poverty; others are just against it.

Last week a BC Supreme Court issued an injunction ordering that all obstacles to construction be removed. Pretty simple right?

The problem is that it was one Nation, going through their legal system, that obtained the injunction. The other Nation doesn’t recognize those laws.

Grand Chief Stewart Philip says that it is a very “complicated issue”. It’s complicated mainly because it is difficult for him to argue both for and against.

On the hereditary chief side you have reported comments like;

“It’s our territory. It’s not Canadian land. It is not the Queen’s. It’s not the RCMP’s. Its Wet’ suwet’sen land. “

The builders are “settlers on stolen land”, this is “environmental racism” all part of the “Canadian legacy of colonization”.

Immediately the BC Civil Liberties Association and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs jumped on the practised narrative, led by Grand Chief Stewart Philip who issued a statement saying: “A police exclusion zone smacks of outright racism and the colonial – era pass system sanctioned by the so-called rule of law, which our people survived for far too long”.

And in between these two nations is the politically correct RCMP. Their political masters want them to be gentle, do not offend at any cost. Their legal bosses are telling them to enforce the order and in the past, there was no hesitancy around a court ordered injunction. The Mounties traditionally and constitutionally were there to enforce the laws, not to interpret them.

But this is a different world now. This is the world of appeasement and the Mounties are going to find that they have no friends on either side.

The Mounties, god bless their souls are trying none the less, to be friends to those who can not countenance any meeting of the ways. They have asked the Indigenous protestors to meet and negotiate with the very same company that went to get the court order, the Coastal Gas Link group, who must think that they are is some sort of Twilight zone.

In the meantime the protestors have been cutting down trees and setting up their camp, while the Hereditary chiefs continue to say that the pipeline violates “Indigenous law and does not have consent”.

This is a fundamental collision. This is not going to go away.

It circles around aboriginal title which has been a decades long argument. What “title” or the “duty to confer” or “honour of the Crown” all means, with all its varied interpretations also includes such arguments as to whether treaty’s extinguished those title claims. Some even argue whether Indigenous groups in signing some of these treaties even understood them.

The countless cases which have been brought forward, have all circled around Section 35 of the Constitution Act of 1982 which proscribes to the protection of indigenous and treaty rights. Unfortunately, it didn’t define those rights, but none the less in 1995 the government began to adopt a policy of an “inherent right to self-government”, and the Penner Report to the House of Commons in 1983 spoke of this inherent right.

Adding to the legal and political confusion is the fact that the rights being claimed by the Indigenous do not come from an “external source”–they claim it is a result of Aboriginal people’s own occupation and relationship with their home territories as well as their own ongoing social structures and legal systems.

This would mean that in their view, they control and define aboriginal title.

Today, no political party, Provincial government or Federal government wants to be seen as decisive in terms of defining what these rights will be or how they would integrate with the rest of Canada in terms of self government.

The lawyers drone on in every level of courtroom. They are seemingly content in this ongoing lucrative dark hole of litigation.

The silent majority sit back and wonder where this is all leading. Is Canada prepared to have a separate entity operating within its borders, with its own laws and government, while at the same time supporting them through tax dollars. Are they prepared to let 4% determine what flows through economically to the other 96%. It seems unlikely, but there is no current political party asking that this central issue gets addressed definitively.

At some point the police are going to have to act in Houston. Every police officer involved will be left standing out in the field and roadway and it will an open hunting season for cries of violence and racism the minute they come within a few feet of the protestors.

The journalists stand by at the ready, camera rolling, salivating at the potential for filmed violence. ( the Canadian association of Journalists even jumped into the recent fray— arguing in court the fact that they were worried that the police could use the exclusion zone to prevent media from covering the RCMP enforcement of the injunction.) Maybe this is a sad conclusion but in this age of “breaking news” it is hard to dispute their intent.

None of this is new in terms of the RCMP being the potential fall guy. There have been many times in the past where the enforcement of an injunction has been violent and they have been pilloried for their abuse of power, rightly or wrongly.

The concern is that there is not a lot of confidence or recent evidence in the current RCMP management being behind their operational officers. Will they be supportive of the laws of Canada and the enforcement of those laws, or will they succumb to the un-written laws of a frenzied very vocal political “Nation”. After all it is a management group which has been genuflecting in front of the Indigenous cause in deference and in parallel with their political masters for the last several years.

We will see shortly. Time is running out in their “negotiations”.

A note to those uniform officers. Make sure those body cams are charged up and the audible is working. It may be the only friend you have in this instance.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Commons by Tony Webster