Dear Jennifer…

Ms. Strachan, let me be one of the first to welcome you back to beautiful British Columbia — the land of the highest gas prices, mountains, water, big trees, horrendous traffic, and where the Green Party has a pulse.

Being a born and raised Okanagan girl, no doubt you are feeling the geographic magnet that is B.C., and like Dorothy in Oz, you probably wanted to return– as there is no place like home. So with a click of those RCMP high-browns and the nod from Wizard Lucki you are now on your way.

It’s been awhile, over 16 years since you were in the policing world here in Lotus land and a lot of things have changed, so I feel bound by some inexplicable duty to give you at least a heads up on what to expect.

Let us first deal with the politicians in this land who you may end up spending some time with considering your new role. The Green party has locked arms with the NDP to see who can be more righteous; who can spend the most money, and clearly would have a love for any future unionized RCMP. It is a mixed political blessing though, as they are not pro-police necessarily, more in favour of groups like the Pivot Legal society, or the Elizabeth Fry Society.

The Federal world of Justin Trudeau and their policies still have an audience out here, even though they seem to be in a political free fall in the other parts of the country.

So don’t be fooled by the blooming Conservatism of the west throughout the Prairies. The right leanings of political philosophy has not seeped over the mountains, conservatism is merely a mirage in this marihuana infused land. There is more chance of Jody Emery being elected out here than a Jason Kenney.

President Bush was chasing Saddam Hussein when you left B.C.and the Americans were about to invade Iraq.

Paul Martin was the Liberal Prime Minister (probably one of the last times the budget was balanced).

Giuliano Zaccardelli was the Commissioner of the RCMP (who was impugned for irregularities in the management of the Pension and Insurance fund).

The RCMP was heralding the first female officer to be placed on an Emergency Response Team and the wave of female empowerment was in its infancy.

This unparalleled growth in female advancement is being mentioned because Commissioner Lucki decided that in announcing your move to head up E Division, she felt that she needed to underline your gender and not your curriculum vitae. It is a bit of the elephant in the room when it comes to the succession plan for E Division.

Ms. Lucki seems pretty one dimensional so far, aiming to fulfill her proscribed and dictated agenda, but in including you she makes you appear as a pawn in her Liberal sanctioned corporate strategy. It clearly drew attention to the possibility that your gender was a central characteristic that was needed for one to get this job. In the end it detracts from your resume, taints the appointment, and tends to confirm thoughts of the older guard.

For the record, I don’t believe the average RCMP officer gives a whit as to whether you are a woman, a man, or a variation of the two. Whether you are green, brown, wearing a turban, or wearing a Scottish tam means nothing in the current real world of policing. Gender does not imbue anyone with intelligence or leadership skills although it is quite clear that the two are equated in government corridors of power.

Putting all that aside, you are here to replace Butterworth-Carr, who heralded not only her femaleness, but her indigenous background, and she had zero impact. She didn’t stay long, enticed by an offer to join the politicos in Victoria. She used a quick stay on the job to springboard into the double-dipping pool, no doubt financially setting herself up for a lucrative run towards pension. It is hoped that you may still a little longer, as the wheels of government turn very slowly, the ability to have any impact takes years not weeks, so some time on the job is needed.

You will be hampered upon your arrival as senior members of the RCMP demographic bubble are leaving, the experienced baby-boomers are reaching their logistical end. Some, like Butterworth-Carr, have discovered a tunnel under the Georgia Strait which leads directly to the Provincial government coffers. The sands of time are changing, whether that is good or bad we will see, but there is little doubt it is creating a vacuum in terms of experience.

Since your departure from the West, almost the entire latter half of your career seems to have been focused on O Division and HQ.

You were the District Commander for N.E. Ontario from 2009-2012; then the Officer in Charge of Criminal Operations in Ontario (interesting in that in Ontario the RCMP is not responsible for most criminal investigations) from 2012-2016; then up the ladder once again to being the Commanding Officer of O Division from 2016-2018.

And of course what resume would be complete in this day and age without being the Officer in Charge of Operations Policy and Programs in Contract and Indigenous Policing in Ottawa. You then followed that by becoming Deputy Commissioner for “Specialized Policing Services”. A steady rise for sure but I will admit to being a little concerned about this rather central Canada version of the RCMP being the substantive part of your resume.

You probably don’t need to be reminded that there is a big gap between O and E, not just a couple of vowel spaces. The fact that you survived and thrived in this non-contract world can be either seen as a plus or a minus. You may be commended or condemned for being able to breath deeply in this rarefied air, as it is a milieu where most of us in the contracts would often feel out of place.

O Division has often been accused of riding and hiding behind the curtain of Federal statutes, where a lack of enforcement and investigational strength is a theme common to those that have worked in both areas. Enforcing such Federal statutes as the Migratory bird Act; or watching the Indigenous hustling cigarettes back and forth from the U.S; or helping illegal immigrants with their luggage; has never been considered the leading edge of police investigation know-how.

This lack of operational acuity has been the standard slam against this Province for years, whether management admits to this operational schizophrenia or not. Another example showed up in the last few days, in the Mark Norman case, serious questions are now being raised about this two year investigation in Ontario which resulted in a single charge. It has been stayed as the defence counsel seems to have been a little more thorough in their inquiries than the police officers that conducted the investigation and there are implications of political interference in the process. Further Mountie embarrassment is on the horizon.

The Force in general has not had such a smooth ride for the last couple of decades and there has been a number of serious setbacks during the time that you were part of the RCMP management power group. A growing legacy of mismanagement whether looking at the carbine issue, internal sexual harassment, and a large number of failed investigations.

Mountie salaries in relation to other agencies have tanked. Recruitment is down. Staffing levels have dwindled to lows never seen before. The Mounties are being questioned over their actions at every turn, whether it be the shooting on Parliament Hill, or the latest, the Mark Norman investigation.

I am not sure of what role you may or may not have played during this last number of years but there is no doubt you have been either a witness or a participant in some of the inane programs and policies which have left this agency in a state of major disrepair. It would be interesting to hear your take and historical role in this troubled time. Actually, it would be nice to finally hear from someone, anyone, of this management era who would admit to the errors, the wrongdoing, and try to set the record straight. Not crocodile tear apologies for things like harassment, but clear, concise explanations as to things like $100 million settlements. Maybe I am asking for too much.

The RCMP in its official bio of you points to your “passion for supporting others”. In 2014 you were given the Ontario Women in Law Enforcement award for the “Mentor of the Year Award”, and then in front of the International Association of Women Police you were also given a “Mentor of the Year Award”. Clearly a 21st century new policing virtue but who knew there was such a thing. Hard to argue with someone who wants to support you though.

You have been away from the dirt and grime of contract policing, living and breathing the filtered world of a Mountie in Ontario. Previously, you were in the corridors of subject matter experts, puffed up self-important people wandering in that dazed mind numbing bureaucracy all spouting pithy truisms at any opportunity.

You have now been freed and at a time in your career where you are un-flammable.

You are back to the heart of the RCMP Criminal operations block, where your Masters degree in “conflict analysis and management” will no doubt come in handy. You are being thrown into a logjam of a multitude of unaddressed and unattended issues, compounded by lacklustre stints of some of your predecessors.

You are about to be thrown into the wolfs lair. E Division with its constant stream of issues can eat and will eat managers up so you need to be careful.

I am hoping that this will be seen by you as a chance to speak out.

My primary recommendation is to be honest and straightforward and speak to the issues. Let’s hear what the RCMP stance will be if the Surrey RCMP get ousted; let’s hear what you are going to do about the vast understaffing that is in all corners of the Force; lets hear about gender and diversity promotions and your view of this dictated policy; lets hear about the politicization of the police force mandated role, which clearly is in full swing in Ottawa; and lets hear about upcoming unionization of the RCMP.

Even if one is able to be exposed to a truly honest appraisal of the issues and opens up the debate to real dialogue, you will have accomplished something not seen in many years in this Province.

The issues surrounding the RCMP will seem endless and at times look very bleak. The constant pablum being fed to the officers of just “you’re doing a great job” is both insulting and demeaning to their intelligence. Talking openly and honestly would be a breath of fresh air.

I am not optimistic, but I stand to be corrected, and will gladly sing the laurels of someone who walks the walk, speaks to the issues and puts on display possible solutions. It seems counter-intuitive that one needs to seek an open and honest management group from a police institution, but sadly this is now the case. It has been missing and it has caused irreparable harm.

Once that is all done, then you can go and enjoy your retirement….

I do wish you the best….


A once faithful servant

Photo courtesy of CTV News via Google Images- Some Rights Reserved

Historical Unsolved Homicides…the value of the past…….

Hundreds of bankers boxes– dusty, worn and frayed at the edges, worn down by the weight of other boxes stacked on top, often damp in the corners, all lodged in inconspicuous backroom places. Out of sight and mostly out of mind, they are spread throughout this Province and the other Provinces; the responsibility of the RCMP, the OPP, the QPP and various scattered Municipal agencies. Historical mysteries sitting, undisturbed, and now in danger of being lost forever. 

Each box has scrawled on it in black marker, a number the start of which indicates the year of the file box being created; 73-1234 or 98-5678 indicating 1973 and 1998. Most will have a surname, also written on the outside of the box, underneath the number, the first indication of the box containing information on a life lived and in all likelihood a life taken abruptly away. A snapshot of a moment in time, life stories, lives abruptly ended. 

If one lifts the uniformly folded cardboard lids and peek inside one finds manila folders, each folder containing assorted government styled papers, each folder numbered, implying some form of organization. The order of importance often seems haphazard. There will be original documents, photocopies, carbon copies, compact discs, floppy discs, even blueprints and loosely bound photographs.  Each document part of a whole, each pointing to a dramatic and often gruesome ending to a life. 

Shoved into these boxes will be exhibits, exhibit reports, and boxes of 3 x 5  index cards, clues as to the relevance of the folders. Sometimes there are many of these boxes, with this same name, or number; the more numerous the boxes the more likely that this was a long case, or a more complicated case, or a case involving more than one person. The breadth and depth of the case in direct correlation to the weight and the number of  volumes. 

In police parlance these are “dormant” cases. Technically “open” or “still under investigation” as the police like to intone when asked; but they are in a deep state of slumber, never to be awoken unless something out of the ordinary occurs. Maybe a dictated annual review, which is usually sporadicly enforced, will sometimes force a reluctant officer to pull the case from the storage room, check the final pages for any “new” information and generally meander through the boxes.

Then, under most circumstances the boxes get put back, back into the darkened rooms, a single page added indicating that there has been no change in the contained information.  Some boxes may be difficult to even find.  

The paper or original information in these boxes is now being lost, inexorably beaten up by time itself and inadequate physical storage.  They all contain the most intimate of stories, real stories of people, their backgrounds, their lifestyles and their fates.  Some of the people in these boxes have prematurely met the ultimate fate, their deaths by a variety of methods only limited by the depravity and the darkness of the human spirit. Long gone to the eyes of the original investigators, but probably not forgotten. Every old investigator cognizant of the one that got away. 

They have not been solved, the killer remains free in the world, unless time and circumstances has also caught up with them as well. 

If one believes that history, or that records of the past are important,  or that every effort should be made to solve any murder, then you may be interested in this story. For this is a story of a largely ignored problem by the RCMP and other Municipal forces and the single attempt at a proposed solution, one which proved ultimately futile. 

This is a story of a need to archive and preserve police files.  It admittedly has never been fashionable to be interested in the library sciences, or the  similar but more current world of digital archiving.  It conjures up images of dusty books, microfiche and bespectacled introspective librarians, lonely figures confined to being the keepers of untold secrets. 

This is not to say that there is not public interest in unsolved homicides; one can tune into the many Netflix docs, the CBC, read Wikipedia, or the Vancouver Sun and find stories of historical murders, served up in some form of sensationalist fashion. The RCMP post pictures of historical victims and the Coroners office publicly maps out found remains cases. Unfortunately, this is mainly public fodder and a needle in the haystack in terms of trying to solve some of these cases, designed more to entice the reader or the watcher, designed for instagram investigators, not a serious study of this dark world nor a studied attempt to make a dent in the growing pile of the unsolved.   

There is an actual need for a concentrated effort to preserve, to digitize these paper files, to capture forever the information that could be lost to deterioration and neglect. 

In this Province and for most other parts of Canada, there is a relatively short historical period of time which is of primary concern. This is mainly the period from 1960 to 2003,  the dominant ages of the paper files in this relatively new country.

In general, around 2003 many police agencies slowly began to go to electronic formats, although it varies by jurisdiction. The paper format was gradually replaced, electronic data finally being made acceptable as a possible original document pushed by the quickly developing technical advancements.

It is somewhat ironic to understand that the paper age has an actual shelf life longer than the digital age, with experts estimating that paper, if properly preserved, has a life of about 50-100 years. (In our now digital storage era, the shelf life of electronic documents is only 10-20 years. Some think that since the newer material has been electronically filed it will last in perpetuity– a largely false belief.) 

However, now the paper files are of the most immediate concern. They are   reaching the end of their shelf lives, the ink is beginning to fade, the photos are beginning to deteriorate and the memories of the investigators are becoming faulty. 

The numbers of unsolved homicide files that are on “paper” in this Province are somewhat daunting. In 2016, when this blogger began to look at this issue, there were 900-1300 unsolved homicides held by the RCMP in the Province of British Columbia alone. There was another 200-300 which would be the responsibility of the Municipal Forces and there is no evidence to suggest that those Municipal agencies have been any better than the RCMP in their preservation. If one draws this issue outward, on a national basis, the situation would be magnified by 10 times. 

In British Columbia and in the Lower Mainland, since the birth of the Integrated Homicide and Investigation Team, they alone have generated at least another additional  300 “unsolved homicides”.  To be sure, those files are being captured in an electronic format, but not a format that is in a consistent with other agencies, nor are they in a position to be integrated and compared to other similar data bases. So the problem of being able to archive and preserve all information, on a fundamental basis, is growing every year. Solvency rates are also declining– further exasperating the issue. 

The police agencies are rarely asked about this archiving problem, but on that rare occasion that they are, the blame is usually placed on the constantly shifting policing priorities and jurisdictions. It simply has not been operational priority. 

Even if reviewed, there is no digitization of the file, so the only electronic reference to this file may be a name or a file number. The contents are not available to investigators without fully and physically reviewing the paper file. If an investigator feels an ongoing investigation may have some relevance to a historical file, whether it be a suspect or some other circumstance, they would need to go back and physically review the entire file, maybe on just a chance of finding some opaque reference. 

There is no cross-pollination of the information contained in those files, none of the more recent files can see or compare information on their files to older investigations.

The police agencies have a public relations mantra which is that no file is ever “closed” without it being solved. Technically they are right in their assertions, they don’t put a big “CH” (Concluded Here) on the file, but they are being totally misleading. They are trying to generate the impression that they are active and constructively reviewing and comparing these files on a regular basis. That is not true.

They are not digitizing these older files, and they are not actively investigating these files.  The only salvation for police management is that the public simply doesn’t know; the public assume wrongly, that all police files are instantly and readily available to all homicide investigators. 

There is one exception in this Province in terms of units re-investigating historical files in the RCMP. That is the Unsolved Homicide Unit of about 10-20 officers who review old files and selectively work historic files. Sounds good, but one needs to consider that each team in the group, may only take a new file every 8 months or so.

The other bit of sleight of hand is that the Unsolved Unit actually re-investigates only the “solved files”; files where a suspect has actually been already identified, but where for some reason the file was not being worked. It is hard to explain, but the fact is there are many files that have already identified suspects, but for one reason or another have been neglected. These files alone keep this unit busy and it only makes sense in terms of productivity to go for the low hanging fruit. 

Now if you optimistically assume that this group does 3-5 files per year, you can easily do the math and see the finger in the dyke problem here.  There is no way to catch up or even make a dent in the pile. It is not for lack of effort by this relatively small unit, it is just a matter of numbers.

The preservation of historic information is finally being recognized in various forms throughout the rest of society as various organizations are striving to cope with this growing issue.

Interestingly, some locations are actually using police inspired methods to try and solve their respective archiving problems.

At Harvard University they are in the process of trying to develop an operating system for capturing their paper and digital archives using workflow modelled after “police forensic standards”. The idea is to “create, authenticate, unimpeachable source data….” at a standard that would make the archive “suitable as evidence in a criminal trial”. Now, if capturing hundreds of homicide investigations seems to be a difficult task, Harvard is attempting to go back 375 years of history.

The problems they are encountering are similar to the police issues; files with floppy discs, zip drives, tapes, and cassettes. So they are not only capturing the information, they are also preserving the techniques that are needed to retrieve that data.

In California, in a former San Francisco Church, Brewster Kahle continues with the goal he started with in the 1990’s, which was to curate and create an “Internet Archive”. His lofty goal? To save all the world’s information.

Even to the pessimist he has been quite successful: 435 billion web pages have been preserved, 7 million books, 2.1 million audio recordings, and 1.8 million videos have been preserved and digitized, and now accessible to the Public. This archive draws 2-3 million visitors daily.

This is to say that although the archiving and digitizing of police homicide files seems both time consuming and manpower intensive, it is doable. It pales in comparison to these more ambitious projects and one would think that the goal of preserving these investigations and their contents dealing with the most heinous of crimes should be a laudable goal. But so far neither the police, or their respective government administrations, feel that is part of their duty or responsibility.

Which leads me to the more personal and subjective 2nd half of this story.

For two years, the writer of this blog, along with a couple of associates joined with the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University, the Institute of Canadian Urban Research Studies (ICURS) and the School of Applied Science in a proposal on a non-profit basis to digitally archive these old historic homicide files.

It was supported by many people including the former RCMP head of E Division, a former VP and CIO for BC Hydro, the Dean of the school of Applied Science, and the School of Criminology at SFU.

Without going into all the details, the business plan outlined the logistics of locating files and moving them to a secure facility where the paper files would be reviewed, scanned, and converted to a digital format, one that would eventually be shared by all those participating. The reviewing would be done by PHD students in combination with the departments of Applied Science. SFU was motivated by being able to have access to a vast database for research purposes and the hands on review would give students ideas for that research.

There were many hurdles to overcome, as one would guess; security clearances, privacy issues, physical security issues, evidence chains, research controls and results, database construction, expert and standards of review, personnel, exhibit issues, and photo issues.

This is just to name a few of the problems, but over a two year period, these questions were for the most part answered and a proposal was put forward to the RCMP and the Vancouver City Police.

Initially the RCMP expressed interest, each meeting leading to a few more questions on how the operation will be housed and how it will work. Budget issues often came up (we estimated that it would take a financial commitment of 1/2 of 1% of the RCMP E Division Policing budget) The biggest concern of course, was the RCMP turning over, at least temporarily, unsolved homicide investigations to an outside party, even though they would have the appropriate security clearances. At one time they even proposed the possibility of giving up space inside their HQ at Green Timbers to get around this continuity issue.

The possible expandability of this proposal was obvious. Other Municipal agencies, other Provinces, and in a utopia, a database of all unsolved homicide files in the country. One could also bring in the solved files, as they too could have links to other investigations and be of great value.

Of course all the information would be owned by the agencies themselves, and throughout there would be oversight by those same police agencies.

“Digital 229” was the Project name and it was a non-profit enterprise. No one involved was paid during this two year period, all the extra effort was put in on a volunteer basis.

So what happened?

It was a surprise to some, but not a surprise to others who felt all along that the RCMP would have a difficult time ever climbing out of the proverbial operational “box”, the inability to go against the way it was always done.

There is no clear answer as to why the idea died. In the end, we were not given a reason which made any sense. It was un-ceremonious to say the least, as we only heard through the grapevine that negotiations had been terminated; nobody made any direct contact with any of the parties involved.

After many attempted phone connections to re-ignite the business plan, an Inspector (who had not ever been involved in the process) wrote to us and gave up an excuse over needing “sole source funding”, which had also been previously addressed, as the reason of not going forward.

Was this the real reason? We don’t think so. It was clear this officer was directed to kill the project at the direction of some higher ups and to come up with some justification for it.

At one of the original meetings with the heads of the E Division RCMP one officer said he had one question. “What if you guys uncover a number of files that need further investigation?” In other words, if this process we proposed actually assisted in solving some files or pointing to possible suspects, where would they find the resources to re-investigate them?

I’ll admit to being slightly dumbfounded, the question seemed to indicate that the police were concerned about the actual solving of homicides. This was a through the looking-glass moment, a parallel reality where the police were actually more concerned about political administrative repercussions more than the actual solving of cases.

But, so ended an extensive effort to address the unsolved homicides in this Province.

It was and is disappointing of course. What we clearly lacked was a political incentive, one fired up by government.

A few years ago in 2010, the National Inquiry into Missing and Indigenous Women was announced. Their mandate in particular was to dig into the police handling of these Indigenous files. Sources tell me that E Division quickly found a number of officers to travel the Province and review all of these files, clearly in the hope that there would be no problems uncovered.

Of course, they reviewed all these files and then wrote a report, but we have been told they were not converted to digital files.

The RCMP had no problem funding these specific reviews nor in finding the personnel to conduct the inquiries.

So while you routinely watch Netflix, or tune in to CBC True Detective, and assume the mantel of being the next Columbo, one should realize there is a far better way of actually impacting this problem. Less dramatic for sure, but truly effective.

They are currently ignoring the history and one knows what happens when you ignore history.

So the files sit in the boxes, languishing in the file rooms, all in need of a boring librarian. We can see them and touch them, they are contained, but they are hidden from view. The veil of secrecy enshrouds them, protecting them from public scrutiny.

It would seem that at the very least it is owed to the families who have been touched in the most profound way possible. We need to preserve their stories. And maybe, just maybe, give them actual hope. A concentrated and earnest academic effort is needed to make this possible.

As to the suspects, the criminals who killed and remain unaccountable–maybe it’s time for that slogan from history to be resurrected, you know the one, the one where the Mounties “always get their man”.

After all, the past causes the present and so the future.

Photo courtesy of the kirbster via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved

Alas, the Emperor has no Clothes…

In British Columbia, or E Division (just for this blog we will let the E stand for Emperor) there has been one area of investigation where the RCMP has been woefully inadequate, for at least a couple of decades, whether one wants to measure it statistically or in terms of impactful effort.

In the last couple of weeks, that weakness has been revealed and underscored once again, this time by the NDP government and former RCMP Peter German, in a report on money laundering, a significant sub-set in the general category of financial crime.

Inside the police community it has been well known for quite some time, that the RCMP has ignored “white collar crime”, both in term of the allocation of funds or personnel. An often quoted inside joke amongst members in talking about job transfers, was throughout their career how they had ducked and avoided being assigned to the the “fraud” section. A small reflection perhaps, but this attitude of avoiding the financial investigative groups in terms of a possible career, is not a phenomena of the last couple of years.

The growth of internet crime in the 1990’s has thrown fuel on to this constantly burning flame and left Canada with a reputation of being a safe harbour for the financial criminal. This type of crime has often been portrayed as the “victimless” crime, after all the only ones being hurt were those cold-hearted bastions of industry– the banks. The police held this view for the longest time, equally guilty of looking the other way, the problem not worthy of serious examination or study. Even today, in terms of “strategic priorities” you will find it listed fifth, right after “youth” and the “indigenous”.

This lack of a concentrated effort has now been exposed once again, this time spurred on by a new found public and media interest who have taken to conflating money laundering with inflated real estate prices. Of course, there are many fundamental economic issues causing high prices in Vancouver but the one that seems to grate on the middle affluent is the thought of illegal monies from mainland China driving up the price in real estate or on luxury cars. Of course, there are also direct links to drug dealing and therefore the opioid crisis, the other hot button issue. The monies have been traveling through the only pipeline they seem to be able to build in this Province, the one of elastic bound $20 dollar bills pushed through the conduits provided by the casinos.

In the lastest instalment BC Attorney General David Eby called a press conference to discuss a finding of Peter German in his 2nd report on the subject in this Province. Eby claimed to have been so shocked by an early edition of these latest findings that he felt it necessary to go to the public now, not waiting for the entire 2nd report.

So what was the shocking revelation for the NDP?

Well, Peter German being the intrepid former RCMP officer that he was, decided to ask how many officers were actually on the job in terms of investigating money laundering?

The answer: Zero.

Now, one would think that this information would have been known before this time, as it seems like an obvious avenue of inquiry, even for us lesser informed. At the beginning of this inquiry it would have seemed logical to search out who the investigative experts were in the field? Apparently not.

The original answer of course was not zero.

We would not be able to identify the RCMP involvement, if they did not, at the very least try to cover or fudge the actual numbers, hoping of course that there was only the one question; no follow up, no probing allowed.

The RCMP answer to German was that there was 26 “positions” .

German knows the code of when the answer is “positions” and knew enough to then ask, well how many were actually filling those 26 positions?

Answer 11.

German decided to dig further and asked of those 11 how many were actually on the job?

Answer 5.

And those 5 that were actually showing up to work, he persisted, what were they doing?

Well, long pause, they are just packaging and referring all files to the Provincial Civil Forfeiture group.

Thus the secret was out of the bag. Afterword, if you had listened closely and put your ear to the ground outside Green Timbers, you would have heard the sound of bodies scrambling in and out of conference rooms, frantic terse phone calls, the bumping together of the police and political brains entrusted with these matters — stumbling and mumbling on how could they justify such an apparent illustration of lack of operational effort.

Even for those adroit at media manipulation in the “Strategic Communications unit” must have been struggling, proposing spins that at the very least would have been difficult to say with a straight face.

Bill Blair (who had apparently been warned by Eby and given an early copy of the report) started off by admitting that indeed there had been “significant cuts” in some of the Federal units. Then his political survival senses kicked in, and the Liberal godfather of pot began his spin: “We have made very significant announcement in Budget 2019, restoring the RCMP capacity and making significant new investments in intelligence gathering and furthering steps that will facilitate investigation and the prosecution of money laundering offences”. So in translation this means; yup, we haven’t been doing anything so far, but look out now, we are coming with guns blazing.

Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett who is becoming remarkably proficient with this kind of yarn spinning, no doubt through un-wanted practise, came up with a buzz worthy comment calling the report and the findings only a “snapshot in time”. If it was indeed a snapshot it must have been taken on a Polaroid One Step.

But like Blair, Hackett when prompted feels the need to beef up his response. He said that the report “didn’t capture all personnel who are involved in cases where money laundering is a component”. He goes on to say that there are over 40 prioritized “projects” underway, and guess what, they found out that “8 of them involve money laundering.” One wonders what standard may be in play here. For instance, a drug dealer being investigated who has a house or a car, could be referred to as being a possible “money laundering” case, using this criteria.

We should also point out that it would be somewhat negligent to not understand a bit of Peter German’s former history with the RCMP. Just six years ago, German was a high ranking officer in the RCMP, the Deputy Commissioner in fact, and as such was at one time technically overseeing financial investigations throughout Canada. He was in charge during the time of the Integrated Marketing Enforcement Teams. Remember them? They were “equipped to respond swiftly to major capital market fraud”. It was by any measure a total flop with three cases brought to court during their first nine years in existence. In essence these positions have been now rolled into the BC Securities Commission, but the RCMP still have a difficult time in providing an adequate minor level of trained officers.

In his 31 years with the RCMP, German did use his time wisely, earning an MA in Public Policy and a Phd in Law from the University of London. He apparently transitioned into an expert in the area of money laundering, wrote a book on it in fact. So someone at the 2nd highest rank in the RCMP (and was rumoured to be in contention for the Commissioner ) and was responsible for areas such as money laundering, did not make a dent in this problem or more importantly did not at least become vocal about the issue while in a policing position. But now, retired and running his own consulting business he has been hired to write a report on the problem of money laundering and throw dirt at the Mounties for their lack of effort. This is not to day say that this makes his report of little value, Mr. German is a well respected learned fellow, so quite the contrary, but one has to appreciate the irony.

Those of course are just the Federal job positions. What has the Province been doing? Well the Liberals being the party in power for most of this time in question have many questions that need to be answered, and the NDP is for the most part still able to feign ignorance.

Ex-RCMP and whistle blower Joe Schalk was the Senior Director of Investigations for BC’s Gaming and Enforcement Branch and was reporting this issue for many years, as early as 2012.

This branch at the time reported to the B.C. Lottery Corporation who would have received many of the reports issued pointing out the problem. They apparently didn’t like the attention it was getting and inevitably the relationship between the two groups began to deteriorate.

In April 2014, the Ministry of Finance conducted a review of BCLC and concluded that the two groups had become dysfunctional and “adversarial”. They recommended a full review of the entire Corporation. Meanwhile, in 2014 Schalk was fired for his efforts, a victim of the old management game very prevalent in this Province, that if you don’t like the message shoot the messenger.

Even with this kind of attention and concern, BCLC, according to German, was still accepting government awards for their exemplary performance.

Schalk was finally exonerated in German’s report for “nailing the issue” and continues to speak openly about the issue, even calling for a full public inquiry. The NDP are still holding back on such an inquiry, no doubt worried that if they let “it” hit the proverbial fan, how much is going to blow back on them.

As said earlier, this is all just one component of a much larger problem in this Province and in this country which has taken root and many can share in the blame; besides the police, Federal and Provincial governments, Crown Counsel offices.

In a recent poll, 36% of Canadian organizations say they have been victimized by white collar crime.

There is the fallacy that most of this crime is too sophisticated to detect, when in fact 61 % of that crime is done by a perpetrator inside the organization. The cost for this; 1 in 10 organizational victims are in excess of $5 million.

According to Criminal Intelligence Service Canada, organized financial crime, including debit and credit card fraud, totals over $5 billion per year. That works out to a cost of roughly $600 per family in Canada.

Canada has produced some famous fraudsters in the past; Harold Ballard the now deceased but former owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who was convicted of 47 counts of tax evasion, Alan Eagleson the hockey agent, and Conrad Black who in 2007 was convicted of using $60 million in company funds. Mr. Black, now apparently reformed, writes a column for the National Post.

Among the 35 member countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) bid rigging, cartels, and collusion are estimated to add 20% in costs to any government procurement initiative around the world.

Suffice to say, it is fair comment that there are some financial crime issues in Canada, not just British Columbia.

The RCMP web sites are misleading and have not been updated if one was ever trying to untangle and look behind this bureaucratic veil of secrecy. There are still references to IPOC (Integrated Proceeds of Crime) who on their site point to successes in 2006 and 2009. They are references to IMET (Integrated Market Enforcement Team) which have virtually disappeared, many members re-assigned, some others melding into the BC Securities Commission. IPOC was reviewed back in 2010 by Public Safety Canada and described their operations being severely impacted by “partners leaving…vacancy…staff turnovers..and recruitment issues..are all contributing to less than optimal performance” . It wasn’t working even then.

The RCMP still list having 27 Commercial Crime Sections across the country. They don’t really.

Re-organization in the RCMP has become a dogma, which has been combining and mutating with aggressive promotions and the push to specialization. It has been in full swing over the last number of years and German even makes reference to 2013 as being one of the recent turning points in this current system.

To understand the depth of the problem, one has to understand the depth of the re-organization, and the vast number of personnel involved.

There are four groups of agencies involved with the potential to be involved in money laundering and other associated financial crimes. The RCMP, CFSEU-BC, OCABC, and JIGIT. (Never doubt for a moment the policing ability to come up with acronyms- JIGIT being a personal favourite)

The RCMP has a Federal group named the Federal Serious and Organized Crime Unit (FSOC). It is in this group that you will find a series of Teams and officers (a team usually being about eight). It was about 2013 that various separate departments, drug sections, commercial crime sections etc. got rolled under this Federally controlled apparatus. Operational direction and the assigning of priorities began coming from Ottawa, national priorities were going to outweigh local or Provincial authorities.

Two of the teams in this FSOC deal now with Financial crimes and supposedly have some expertise in the money laundering field. Of course this is the group that German was told had 26 positions, but there were only 5 actually working, and those 5 were simply bundling up investigations and passing the information to BC Civil Forfeiture (yes, another group).

Sources estimate that there is about a 30% vacancy rate Canada wide in the Federal positions being overseen by Ottawa, and this staffing problem is clearly causing major disruptions in any consistent effort in any of these specialized fields.

Besides FSOC and the RCMP, then there is the CSFEU-BC (Combined Forces Special Enforcement unit) whose primary mandate is gangs and gang activity. In addition there is OCABC (Organized Crime Agency of BC), a Provincial organization which is the new iteration of the old CLEU (Combined Law Enforcement Unit). Confused yet.

Wait, there is still JIGIT which is the Joint Illegal Gaming Investigation Team. This was formed in April 2016 and consists of 36 police officers and over 200 civilian personnel. They claim to have 8 active investigations. At first glance, no matter what file/member ratio you may employ, this seems pretty light.

CSFEU-BC and OCA-BC are both managed by a Deputy Commissioner of the RCMP; in this case, Mr. Hackett. So you can see why he feels the need to defend. In his defence he very cleverly talks about the investigations inside CFSEU (40 ongoing investigations) thus avoiding outing the Feds.

The Senior Management team has representatives from all of the agencies, OCA, RCMP and CFSEU.

CFSEU and OCABC has over 400 officers and civilians.

When you consider the number of personnel involved in all these groups combined, it would seem difficult to argue that the number of officers is insufficient.

What may be the crux of the problem, what the issue at its core may be more simple at least in broad terms.

The RCMP has a now ingrained inability to be forthright; the inability to say things were tried and didn’t work, the inability to speak to their political masters and say there is not enough resources to be all things to all people. The no job too small or “doing more with less” is a never ending conundrum that leads nowhere.

Like all government groups, failure is not and can not be an admitted option. Everything is always a success, no matter how dismal the effort or how big the lie. Honesty about their lack or strength of effort has been side-lined and obfuscation is the media tool.

They just can not bring themselves to admit that they can not do it all. They are no longer capable of being a one stop shop on the Federal or Provincial level. When you combine this with low priority being given to financial crime, with the concurrent need for highly specialized academic personnel, what results is a smorgasbord of uncoordinated piece meal investigational files on all levels. Any substantial efforts are being frustrated from the very start and often met with failure. (You will note that we haven’t mentioned the most recent abject recent failure in the Silver International Investments case, which deserves attention on its own)

Throw in governments always in flux who are continually altering the political priorities, a dis-connected Ottawa, insufficient funding in both the needed technology and personnel and a recalcitrant justice system and you end up with zero prosecutions.

The same number now apparently working on money laundering.

Christine Duhaime, an financial crime and money laundering specialist with Duhaime Law said “It’s pretty serious, it’s saying there is no oversight and no real enforcement in this area for the whole province–it’s a little bit crazy”.

A telling snapshot for sure, let’s hope that someone, sometime, takes a look at the issue with a little longer lens.

Photo via Flickr Commons by Andrew Kuchling – Some Rights Reserved

Machiavelli in the Midst


It keeps pulling you back, you try to get out, and it just pulls you back in again, a sucking vortex of palace intrigue. An Ottawa drama, part Downtown Abbey, part the Office; backroom politics on full enticing display. Throw in the ridiculous opposition parties with over the top hyperbole and a salivating ‘breaking news’ media, and admittedly it makes for a delicious soup for the political junkies. We all know, or at least presume, that behind these syrupy politicians there is often a hidden counter message, but we are not often given a glimpse of the nuances, the real dialogue, where honesty often hides behind the curated media releases.

Trudeau’s gossamer world of appointments based on identity politics and minimal merit are now crashing head long into reality, a reality played by a group of less than pure politicians. The Liberal policy planks of women advancement and Indigenous reconciliation are being gutted– ripped from their promised platform by a woman who maybe should be identified as more Louis Riel than a Federalist Trudeau Liberal.

We have now learned that Ms. Raybould was audio recording her meeting with Michael Wernick and has now provided a 17 minute tape to the Justice Committee, unbeknownst to Mr. Wernick. So, it would appear that JWR (as the fawning press like to call her) has more in common with Michael Cohen, the greasy lawyer for Trump than any of us would have thought, or has been written in a previous blog where we compared the two. Cohen recorded Trump during the time he was negotiating with the ‘affair’ girls. Cohen wanted Trump on the record, for blackmail or for just covering his posterior, it is not quite clear.

So we would be remiss if we didn’t ask Ms. Raybould as to why she was recording her discussion with Michael Wernick? What was her intent?

Having been around for a few years in policing, this writer dealt with wiretaps, interview recordings, and the surreptitious recording of suspects. It becomes very clear if operating in this world, that if one is recording someone else, unbeknownst to that party, they are hoping for one of two possibilities. That the recorded person says something out of the ordinary, or, they are hoping to entice that recorded person into saying something out of the ordinary. In other words, there is a singular purpose to the effort. Was Ms. Raybould recording this conversation as possible “evidence” of wrong-doing, or is it a little more sinister, something that she could use as a weapon against the powers to be, especially if they tried to get rid of her.

“it is better to be feared than loved, if you can not be both” – Machiavelli

The questions that this recording and its content engenders are numerous. Remember that she never mentioned having a recording of Wernick when she testified for 4-5 hours. Did it slip her mind? Did she not see it as relevant at that time? What changed? Did she record anyone else? Are there other recordings that she doesn’t think are relevant at this time?

The recording basically covers the same territory as has been outlined by JWR and Wernick. There is nothing earth shattering in it. It is clear that the Liberals were putting pressure on her, and it was equally clear in what she said and how she said it, that JWR was adamant and somewhat belligerent about having made up her mind. Wernick says the Prime Minister is concerned that they are not considering a DPA (Deferred Prosecution Agreement) even though it is a tool that is open to them, and the loss of jobs for SNC should be a consideration. Wernick on a couple of occasions argues with her about it constituting in undue pressure saying “I’m not seeing anything inappropriate in it”. This of course fits with what he said during his appearance before the Justice committee.

There are some other tantalizing clues in the audio recording.

Wernick expresses concern that it is not good that the Prime Minister and his Justice Minister are at “loggerheads”. Clear indication that this is not the first disagreement which has occurred between JWR and JT.

Ms. Raybould is clearly agitated in this conversation. She in clear and no uncertain terms says that she believes that this is “interference”…that they are “politically pressuring me”. Was she speaking to the recording? It was a very clear and concise choice of words, somewhat out of sync, but deliberate in their delivery.

She is also clearly agitated by the fact that Wernick tells her that the PM may get some advice from Beverly McLaughlin, the former Supreme Court Chief Justice. You don’t have to read too far between the lines to see that they are questioning her competence, and she does not like it.

She even misstates during the phone call that she has “evidence” of a copy of the Section 13 being sent early in September to the PMO; then quickly changes it to having notes of it being sent to the PMO. This slip in language is further evidence that this phone call, her note-taking, her direction to her staff to take notes on this matter, is clearly indicative that Ms. Raybould was in the stages of preparing her personal case. She felt the need to prepare a case against her leader and his minions, but is she preparing this case because of her ‘principles’ or is this because, as she states in this very conversation that she is waiting “for the other foot to drop”? Her “dream job” after all (at least in her mind )was in jeopardy. So was this plotting and framing a case about her job security or was it for standing up for prosecutorial independence?

It is this writer’s belief that JWR was not taking this stance because of the SNC-Lavalin affair. What has often been largely ignored in the reporting to date is the fact that JWR has shown no previous problem with interfering in the judicial process– she has in fact interfered in a direct way on more than one occasion. Whether it be the Colten Boushie trial in Saskatchewan, or in the Restoule case, which has been outlined by former Judge Brian Giesbrecht of Manitoba in his article in the CTC Journal.

In the Restoule case, Indigenous lawyers argued that treaty annuity payments in the Robinson treaties (covering the Northern Great Lakes) should be retroactive for the last 150 years. A “practise directive” was issued by JWR’s office which deliberately weakened the Crown case making it inevitable that the Judge would “find for the plaintiff”. In effect the Minister “threw the game”. Other indigenous groups are now lining up to try and get the same rulings in their cases. This could cost in the “billions of dollars” and an anonymous Crown stated at the time and that if “these directives are not reversed there will be huge financial consequences for taxpayers”.

How this is not a conflict of interest should be the first question. When the Justice Minister, a former Assembly of First Nations Executive, is making policy and issuing directives directly affecting the Indigenous and their future claims. (Do you remember the furor by the opposition when Morneau was involved in legislation affecting the insurance industry) But besides being a clear conflict, it is also clear evidence that JWR has no compunction in interfering in the judicial process. She just doesn’t want to interfere for SNC Lavalin.

One of her last acts as the Justice Minister, after being demoted, was to affirm her Practise Directives to the Justice Ministry where it was stated that they should cease “adversarial” arguments in all litigation involving “indigenous claims”. In other words, find a settlement with the Indigenous claims, do not take them into court.

In this audiotaped phone call it starts with Wernick saying that he is “not calling you about the litigation directive”. Was there a previous dispute about the litigation directives? Were her directives which could effectively cost the taxpayers millions if not billions of dollars maybe being seen as a cause gone too far, even for the Liberals?

We have also now learned, apparently by a Liberal leak, that Ms. Raybould was trying to have a Manitoba Justice, Justice Glenn Joyal elevated to the head of the Supreme Court of Canada. An unusual move as Joyal was not already a member of the Supreme Court of Canada. The credentials of Mr. Joyal aside, apparently Ms. Raybould planned to then move an Indigenous judge into the vacated Manitoba Court of Queens Bench. Apparently, Trudeau did not go along with this recommendation and instead appointed Richard Wagner.

The leak itself has caused consternation among the Conservative and NDP pundits (although they had no concerns about the original Globe and Mail leak–which clearly pointed at Raybould’s office), but the fact that Ms. Raybould’s was maybe orchestrating another pro- Indigenous political move, seems to be secondary to the partisan commentaries.

It is mesmerizing that Ms. Raybould is escaping close scrutiny of her motivations and tactics. Is it possible that our level of political correctness does not allow for the same scrutiny for a woman, and that an indigenous woman is somehow fireproof? Is it possible we overlook a clear conflict of interest, a single issued focused minister, who is in the habit of recording her colleagues, and instead want to believe her to be some form of principled Mother Theresa?

This blog would never be judged a supporter of Justin Trudeau and this group of Liberals. They have brought this on themselves. But they are awakening now to the fact that there was a Machiavelli in their midst, someone capable of deceit who was prepared, if scorned, of taking all of them down.

In July 1974 Richard Nixon went down in flames over a recorded conversation, the infamous “smoking gun” tape that had been exposed by Alexander Butterfield. Ms. Raybould’s tape may also be her downfall, as the element of mistrust of her is now forefront in Liberal caucus minds and the cracks in her armour are beginning to appear.

Does Ms. Raybould have an agenda? There should be little doubt.

She clearly has designs on being a power player in the Liberal party in the future. That is why she has not left the Party, which seems counter-intuitive in light of her slagging of Justin. How could one possibly argue their personal “principles”, say you have no confidence in the leader of that party, while at the same time stay in the Liberal party?

Today as this is being written she is arguing that she should be allowed to remain in caucus. She clearly wants to stay and take advantage of being in the Liberal circle. One can only wait and see if the Liberal caucus will be swayed by her claim of pure intentions and that she is doing the “best job she can” as she told Global News in a somewhat arrogant and testy reply as to whether she should resign.

In her public posture she will keep polishing the teller of truths narrative. She has no other choice, but one wonders if the recording was a step gone too far in terms of her political agenda. Whether it was a mistake or not, it clearly was a revelation of her true character.

During a recent feast hosted for her in Campbell River on Vancouver Island her tried and true repetitive theme came through– “I come from a long line of matriarchs and I am a truth teller in accordance with the laws and traditions of our Big House…”.

One has to wonder whether “her truth” is actually the same as our truth and whether the “Big House” includes the Houses of Parliament.

Photo courtesy of Jody Wilson-Raybould via Twitter

“20th century vs 21st century”

Sit and eavesdrop in any worn, linoleum floored coffee shop, anywhere in the grey haired parts of this Province, anywhere where you can find the blue wall retirees, and you will hear 20th century retired cop bitching about the present state of policing. The “good old days” is a tried and true theme with this coffee klatch audience, sagely nodding in agreement, or shaking their heads about the latest RCMP news tale. They lament the old times, when “men were men” or any other tired aphorism– in between the normal senior comparisons, about ill-health, urination, and the kids.

Was it all good then? No, it wasn’t. Was it fun? Yup, for the most part. But time heals and memories often become selective, making it easier to forget the alcoholism, the suicides, the divorces, and the inevitable creeping cynicism.

But as we march forward through 2019, it is clearly time to give over to the 21st century cop, to pass the baton or torch which was long held high. It is time for this generation of police to start ignoring the allegedly wise and learned 20th century cop. They are irrelevant, their stories are clearly of a different time, a time that will never be re-captured. It is time for the 20th century cop to let go, time to stay quiet. Nothing is being gained by bemoaning the passage of time.

Let’s consider some of the subtle and not so subtle differences.

The recruits of yester-year came from the Prairies, the Maritimes and the rural areas in between. They were often escaping life on a farm or on a fishing boat. The pay was irrelevant, the 19 year old wanted to get away. It was a steady job with a pension, yes, but more importantly it looked exciting and often a path out.

No real qualifications were needed. Strong backs more important than advanced matriculation. Ability to fight, withstand abuse and go through the door without questioning, were the valuable and lauded attributes.

The 21st century individual needs to question, in fact doesn’t understand why anything would go unchallenged. Their better educations tend to lead one to question and a greater appreciation for the grey area; no more the black and white of the 20th century where there was only right or wrong. It did seem simpler then.

The 20th century cops were physical specimens. As one neared graduation local Regina club goers knew not to take on the 5th and 6th month recruit. They were in the best shape of their lives but it was all down hill from there. In the 20th century the ability to fight was more valued than the 21st century Queens Silver Jubilee medal.

The 21st century cop is less physical, less the body builder, more the marathoner. The latest individuals leaving Depot or the Training Academy try to eat well, they “maintain”, drink tea rather than copious amounts of black coffee, go to yoga and are usually fitted in Nike or Adidas from head to toe. Their ball cap is always backwards. They pack their own lunches in neat compartmentalized lunch bags– no longer are they caught wolfing down the lasagna special at the Knight and Day at two in the morning.

Salaries were almost irrelevant to the 20th century cop, the government was presumed to be looking after them, so they rarely checked their pay cheques. They were never going to get rich, but they would always have a roof over their heads. Their economic goals were firmly middle working class.

The 21st century Mountie has greater expectations, they expect to live well, and often marry accordingly. Two vacations a year, two good vehicles, and eating out are regular activities, and with a little overtime can reach the upper echelons of society.

They are considering unionization, a possibility unheard of and demonized by the 20th century cop. The 20th century cop was more likely to be wearing a gas mask and holding plexiglass shields, breaking up union demonstrations, not organizing them.

Until the 1970’s police officers were only men. Think about that and one will begin to understand the uncomprehending looks, when trying to explain harassment, bullying and life in the blue bubble during the 20th century.

The 20th century female cop who appeared in the 1970’s had the most difficult job in policing, there should be no doubt. They were harassed and subject to intense bullying.

In the 21st century women have become hiring priorities and are now running the organizations that once could not comprehend them. They are now controlling the dialogue. “Inclusion” can be heard around the water cooler.

By the same measure the 20th century male cop was also abused; harassed as a matter of course, starting in Depot where the training syllabus depended on a strict regimen. The theory being that it could only make you tougher, it was just discipline. Trainers went to the Depot Pub to celebrate when one of the recruits “couldn’t take it” and had dropped out as a result of their abuse. A troop of 32 rarely graduated with all 32, at least two or three failed or quit, usually because the abuse and ridiculous punishments was not what they anticipated. It was part of the curriculum. No complaints were heard, but graduation meant that you beat them at their own game. You were now a “member”.

The 20th century cop who grew in this world does not understand the problem with harassment, doesn’t understand the definition of bullying growing up in this atmosphere of survival of the fittest. The 20th century cop admired the female officer who was “one of the boys”. The 20th century cop often did not abide or recognize the line where that behaviour became sexual, often based more out of ignorance than evil intent. When measured in the 21st century it was all wrong. When measured in the 20th century it was also wrong, but the perpetrators did not recognize it, abuse of their power and position, somehow an extension of a man’s right in a man’s world.

The 20th century cop talked to people. They didn’t like being in the office, where they could be encumbered by bosses and extra duties. The placement of computers in police cars was the key to bliss and the avoidance of the bosses. The 21 st century cop seems to enjoy the office, more socializing possible, the loneliness of a single person patrol car an anathema to this forever socially integrated group.

The 20th century cop avoided the press, the media were the enemy. Say nothing was the dogma. The 21st century cop has a full corps of media relations officers and knows to include media considerations in the investigational process. Twitter launches before police have even got to the crime in many cases. All 21st century cops are aware of cameras.

The 20th century cop had no awareness of “career”. They depended on assessments by their peers and the passage of time to lead to promotion. All in due time and they expected to ride a police car for many years. The 21st century cop who has been exposed to early promotions plans on only a few years in the “harness” and have preconceived notions as to what rung of the ladder they should have reached. The first promotion to Corporal for the 20th century copy was often fifteen to twenty years, they were part of the baby boomer bubble. Coming behind the bubble the 21st century cop is promoted much earlier, sometimes as early as five years.

The 20 century road cop was surrounded by experienced officers, it was not uncommon to have many officers holding twelve or fifteen years of service. The 21st century road cop averages about eighteen months service. Guidance for them is almost non-existent. Even the newly minted bosses sometimes have less seven or eight years service.

The 20th century cop started off with a Sam Browne holster, a .38 revolver constantly swivelling about on his hip, a couple of plastic holders for a trusted yellow plastic flashlight, and maybe a baton. When they got pepper spray issued, they used it more on themselves while horsing around then they did on any contrite suspects.

The 21st century cop carries the 9mm, extra handcuffs, pepper spray, gloves, a taser, a collapsible baton, a radio hearing bud, mechanical tools, and a carbine rifle. There are no more foot chases, nor any such thing as a roomy police car.

That .38 revolver rarely came out of its holster. Most 20th century cops were not going to shoot anyone for erratic behaviour, or disobeying their commands to comply. If there were no other options, it was going to get physical. The 21st century cop believes in a circle of safety surrounding them that can not be breached.

When confronted with violence, the 21st century cop turns to escalating levels of tools while the 20th century cop takes off his watch, not wanting to cause any damage to the watch his or her kids gave them. They anticipated violence, but first try to figure out how to try and talk to the individual. The bad guy was allowed the first swing. Rarely were there charges for assault of a police officer if there was a fight and just as rarely would there be a complaint about assaultive behaviour.

The 20th century cop has no conception of the approach undertaken by four officers at the Vancouver airport, where a single male threatened them with a stapler. The 21st century members in this case did not hesitate to go to their tool belt to avoid a physical confrontation. If they had wrestled the man to the ground the 20th century cop may also have inadvertently caused the man to have a heart attack– but there would not have been the same toll. Nobody would have gone to jail.

The current spate of complaints against police is a glaring and often abusive example of the 20th century cop being held to 21st century management. The vast majority of the cases which are hitting the public eye and seem examples of brutality or ill-advised police decisions are often just the result of two completely different mind sets, 20th vs 21st.

The 20th century cop is continually being exposed by cell phone video technology, no matter the level of the confrontation. The 21st cop is always aware of being watched.

The 20th century cop wanted to be able to type, and often wrestled with carbon copies and with a ham fist pounded the typewriter keys. The 21st century cop knows “apps”. “There is an app for that” may have become the mission statement.

The 20th century cop talks to the neighbours at the scene of a crime, the 21st century cop asks if there is any video. In this new age; if there is no DNA, or no video, there is no crime.

In the 20th century the Operational Manual was a “guideline”.

In the 20th century there was the Blue Wall. No more, as brick by brick it has been dismantled. There is no concept of a blue wall being acceptable in the 21st century.

In the 20th century cops were held in high public esteem, a positive element of society, a black and white answer in the non-political world of policing.

The 21st century cop is political, forced there by social media and the new 180 character journalism.

The old school guy or girl rising through the ranks replaced by the politically correct, where you are recognized for your identity and gender as much as your resume. It is no individual’s fault, it is just accepted as being a better way.

In public, the 20th century cop stands erect, Ray-Bans in place with a stern demeanour. The 21st century cop is often seen dancing or marching in the latest cause parade. They both still look ridiculous.

So where does this leave us?

In the Venn diagram of 20th and 21st century policing the area of congruence is becoming smaller and smaller. The commonalities are disappearing. Neither side is right or wrong, they are just different.

Policing has not changed, the police are still the medium between the interactions of people. You are still trying to discern right from wrong, Your principles should still be your guide. In the end, it is no more complicated than that.

So here is to the 21st century cops, assiduously working to “maintens le droit”.

It is indeed a new world, full of both the same and different problems.

Learn from history, but ignore the old silver backs chirping on the sidelines like Statler and Waldorf, as they wander in search of the early-bird special.

Listen to their stories out of respect, but make your own stories, and enjoy the ride. We did.

Photo courtesy of Dennis Sylvester Hurd via Flickr Commons – Some rights reserved

Two hearing rooms, two witnesses, two versions..

It was a sort of twist on a “worlds colliding” storyline; in one day, one was able to watch seven riveting hours of two committee hearings, in front of two justices committees, with two different witnesses. Different issues, different countries, but both witnesses trying to heave over their respective political institutions, both, like moths having now apparently seen the light and have been drawn to the flame of righteousness.

One claimed that he had now realized his past lies and deceptions, and now felt the need to tell the truth. His jail sentence about to begin in a couple of months adding to the drama, and no doubt his ability to easily appear in public may be hindered by incarceration. The truth he told was that he had lied and cheated on behalf of his President, the President of the United States.

The other witness, was wanting to speak “her truth”. Not a singular truth, “her truth”. A woman scorned apparently, removed from her dream portfolio and her dreams of promoting the indigenous agenda on behalf of Canadians flattened by a vengeful Prime Minister; removed because she claimed that she had failed to buckle under political pressure and interference in the judicial process. At least that was her story. She too had found the path to righteousness.

In viewing these committee hearings it is often difficult to narrow in on that stated truth as the political grandstanding in both these committee rooms was in full bloom. Difficult for the viewing public to try and draw some conclusion as to who was telling the truth; a he/ he said, or a he/she/he said quandary. The facts too often twisted and turned to fit the reporting or political agendas.

Of course, one of these individuals we are talking about is Michael Cohen. A fixer of problems in the sordid world of blackmail and sexual impropriety, aided by dispensing copious amounts of money, all in the effort keep the President from being tarnished. In the end his success at fending off the “fake news” could be debated.

The other, Jody Wilson-Raybould, the Attorney General and Justice Minister for the Government of Canada under Trudeau and the Liberals. She is claiming that she resigned under pressure from her boss and his political cabal, that she was being pressured to interfere with the Judicial process in an effort to make a good deal for the business and Quebec based conglomerate SNC-Lavalin.

In our effort to get to the truth in both cases, we should judge both of these individuals by three criteria; the criteria that is practised in most criminal or civil cases and told to most juries. That is, that anytime one is being asked to judge or weigh evidence, one should consider the following criteria.

Credibility. Does the witness appear or come across as credible?

Corroboration. Can any evidence of the witness be corroborated?

And finally, what are their motives, does the witness have a possible agenda, or an ulterior motive in coming forward? Strong motives have a tendency to warp the truth.

These principles of truthfulness apply to any judgement or determination that one is trying to make, whether it be on the gangster turned witness or a domestic dispute in family court.

Let’s first deal with Mr. Cohen as he seems to be the most black and white out of the characters, and like most men, somewhat easier read.

Cohen confessed to previous lies, previous deceptions, previously aiding the President to hide his misogynistic exploits, and altering tax returns to help the President. One may or may not be surprised by the depth of the loyalty he had shown. He was Trump’s “personal lawyer” for ten years, but solicitor client privilege went out the window when Prosecutors from two different offices began to put their feet on his neck.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould, is also a lawyer, who despite a paper thin resume, leapt to the top of the political food chain, aided no doubt by the fact that she was a woman, but more importantly an indigenous woman. She was given a substantial and powerful Ministry despite this very limited judicial experience, a combined portfolio of Justice Minister and Attorney General. As the Attorney General she oversaw the Public Prosecution Service who was overseeing the prosecution of SNC-Lavalin.

“A little over three years” by her own admission was the height of her legal career working in the Crown office at 222 Main St in Vancouver where she no doubt handled copious amounts of theft, shoplifting and minor assault files; but nothing much larger than that. From there she she went on to work as Regional Chief for the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. With this limited legal background she was placed overseeing the broad and often complicated mandate of Canadian law and its applications. It would be like making a four year officer the Chief of Police, or the Commissioner of the RCMP.

She was both in practise and in theory effectively a one issue Minister, an activist lawyer for Indigenous rights. One must keep this in mind when we consider the eventual outcomes.

So what was Mr Cohen’s motive? He had already pled guilty to criminal offences, for which he will be going to jail. His reputation has been effectively destroyed, at least for the near future. He could maybe expect some leniency in sentencing, which will happen in about a month, but the Special Prosecutor has already written a letter on his behalf in terms of his assistance in their investigation. It would seem that he has little to gain at this stage.

His sole motivation seems to be to try and salvage his tattered reputation and come out a bit on the good side if at all possible. He also seems to enjoy the attention.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould motive? A little more difficult to figure out.

What was covered in the hearing to some degree was that she was demoted from her job as Attorney General and the Minister of Justice, and she believed that her being moved was the result of her refusal to bow to political pressure. She clearly was angry on her removal from being the Attorney General. Several members of the press during the time of the swearing in ceremonies even commenting on her clearly obvious stone-faced cold demeanour. She went from in her words “her dream job” and being in one of the most powerful Cabinet positions, to a 2nd tier cabinet post, usually reserved for those on the way up or on the way out.

Clearly Ms. Wilson-Raybould may have had revenge in mind, both on her Prime Minister and those around him. It seems as likely a motive as any. There is little doubt that she decided to come forward only after being demoted. If she had remained as Attorney General, we would not have heard any of these allegations of wrongdoing, and she would have been campaigning for Trudeau and the Liberals. She still remains in the Liberal caucus although she has told everyone that now she has no confidence in the Prime Minister.

The one question that was never asked of her was whether or not she leaked the story to the Globe and Mail. Was she the “unnamed source”? Gerald Butts in his testimony made reference to being contacted by the Globe and Mail for the requisite media reaction, and he said that the reporter seemed to be describing the one and only meeting he had with Ms. Raybould at the Chateau Laurier. There were only two of them there, and if she or someone close to her did leak the story, revenge would be confirmed as her sole motivation and may have actually put her in a precarious legal position. Mysteriously no one questioned this possible angle.

If revenge was her motive, then her statements should be viewed in a more severe light.

Lets now consider corroboration. Mr. Cohen produced some supporting documents, such as income tax reports, and the payments to the female dalliances. He named others that were in the room and almost dared the committee to bring them forward. He has also gone on record in several court room appearances, and as mentioned before, the Special Counsel’s office, who would have tried to corroborate his evidence.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould used her “self-made” notes of these occasions, braggingly asserting that she always takes copious notes, and early on had instructed her Chief of Staff to take detailed notes on anything to do with SNC. When asked if the Committee could have those notes, she said she would take it under advisement. However, her direct quotes, as they normally do, came across as being accurate and irrefutable. However, equally noted was the fact that there may have been other references in her notes she did not wish exposed.

In an opening statement of some fifty minutes and then four and a half hours of questioning and clarification Ms Wilson-Raybould went over how she had received a Section 13 note from the Director of Public Prosecutions which detailed the reasons they decided that they would go ahead with the prosecution and not the Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

It is a private document so the contents of the reasoning put forward has not seen the light of examination. This was around September 12th 2018 and Ms Raybould was on vacation in Australia, and returned to Ottawa on the 16th of September, and stated that by September 18th or 19th she concurred with the Director and they would go ahead with the Criminal prosecution. As she emphatically said throughout the hearing, she had therefore, “made up her mind” after a couple of days of review.

This becomes a central issue because even though she said she made up her mind, after meeting with the PM and the Clerk of the Privy Counsel Office, she agreed to further meetings with Michael Wernick and the Deputy Minister of Justice. She even said that SNC could write her a letter that she would forward to the Public Prosecution Office.

Gerald Butts testified that he was not aware of her having “made up her mind” until her testimony before the Judicial committee. She herself stated that at no time did she tell the PM, the Clerk of the Privy Counsel Office, or the PMO that she had made up her mind and that she was not interested in discussing it further. She also stated that at no time did she think anything was being done illegally, which one would assume means that there was no obstruction of justice taking place.

She then detailed twenty “points of contact” which were ten phone calls and ten meetings over the next few months; from September to December 2018, where she felt she was pressured by both the PMO, the PMO staffers, and the Clerk of the Privy Counsel Office to consider a relatively new tool in the prosecution briefcase, a Deferred Prosecution Agreement.

It would seem that Ms Wilson-Raybould was playing two sets of cards; one appearing to be compliant and interested in other options, while at the same time stating privately that she thought this was political interference. Even in her one and only meeting with Butts, she prompted the two hour dinner, not him, and was texting friendly notes before and after the meeting. He says that she only brought up SNC Lavalin near the very end of the dinner, that most of the conversation pertained to other indigenous issues, which is very much in keeping with her priorities, and therefore logical.

After seeing the outcry over GM in Oshawa of 1500 jobs, it is not much of a stretch to say that the government would be worried in terms of public policy, and whether a DPA option would be a more suitable outcome. Keep in mind that this is not a get out of jail free card as some have put out there, it is simply a guilty plea but limits the effects on the company itself, its shareholders, contractors, and invested pension funds. It was a plea agreement proposal. What this all came down to was whether speaking about the secondary political issues to an Attorney General around a prosecution was in fact interference?

Ms Wilson-Raybould testified as to “veiled threats”; references to finding a “solution”; a direct confrontation with the PM as to whether he was politically interfering? She admitted that he said, no, that he affirmed that it was her decision, and in her own words there was nothing illegal about this pressure, but that it was “inappropriate”.

Lets also keep in mind that Ms Wilson-Raybould had no problem interfering in the Colten Boushie/Gerald Stanley case in Saskatchewan. She had no problem eventually amending the law to alter the jury selection process to appease the Indigenous activists over this case, and passed Bill C-75.

This is also the same Minister who has offered up Section 35 Directives for three different issues– HIV, Terrorism, and of course, where she directed the Department of Justice on Indigenous Litigation. This latter Directive issued by this Justice Minister is an interesting document considering her apparent principle of not interfering in the judicial process.

In this directive she is directing the Department of Justice. She states that “the Attorney General may seek to intervene in cases that raise important issues, particularly ones that may affect reconciliation”. It goes on, and enforces or “ensures its relationships with indigenous peoples..rights to self-determination, including the inherent right of self-government”. So a former advocate for the Assembly of First Nations is issuing a directive dealing with and enforcing indigenous rights. Is Trudeau advocating for his constituents and jobs in Quebec any different? Are they both not clear conflicts of interest?

So her stated reluctance to interfere in the judicial process seems at least a little bit suspect.

She feels she should not have been put under this pressure, which for the most part centred on their asking for at least an outside legal opinion before she proceeded. This suggestion does not seem illogical, it is common practise. (She did not seem to have problems asking for legal advice as to what she could testify to) She also blocked a Deputy Minister of Justice report that was supposed to be sent to the PMO. Why? Was she worried about a counter opinion to hers?

She was asked whether the subsequent quitting of the Cabinet and the Veterans Affairs Ministry was the result of this pressure. She said she could not comment on this as it being of Cabinet privilege, although Butts and Wernick did not seem to be similarly constrained, even though the latter two were both under the same guidelines.

This was very convenient for her. She did not mention that she had in fact been offered the Department of Indigenous Affairs, not Veterans Affairs.

This is a big difference in light of the all-consuming importance this Liberal government puts on Indigenous issues (even creating its own Ministry). It made perfect sense to put her in this portfolio, and it would not have been considered a demotion. This totally crushes the theory that she was demoted because of her principled stand on SNC, and therefore hurt her credibility in terms of the political narrative that she was pushing.

It is pretty apparent that Ms Wilson-Raybould brought this forward because she was angry. She wanted to keep this “dream job”, and when told by the PM expressed shock and confronted him in saying that this was about other issues, i.e. SNC Lavalin. Both the PM and Butts who was listening in, said no, it was a logical choice and it had been spurred by the retiring of Scott Bryson. They said they were surprised by this statement. The phone call ended.

A few days later she turned down the Indigenous Affairs job, because she now stated that she could have nothing to do with running a Ministry that oversaw the Indian Act. Would the Justice Ministry and the Attorney General’s office not have to on occasion enforce the Indian Act? Was she not responsible for carrying out all laws in this country?

They then offered her Veterans Affairs, which she took, was sworn in, and then quit that as well. Swearing allegiance to the Liberals and the PM during the swearing in ceremony, but in a few days losing confidence in this same group.

Her partner and friend, Jane Philpott, who was offered Treasury Board, was “excited” according to the Prime Minister when she took the job and then abruptly also quit a little while later; in defence apparently of Wilson-Raybould. She was the previous Minister of Indigenous Affairs, and interestingly offered up the fact that Ms Raybould would be upset, and would think that her shuffle was because of SNC Lavalin, before it was mentioned by Ms Wilson-Raybould.

Both expressed an inability to have confidence in their leader Mr. Trudeau, but both seemingly want to stay Liberals. The press are forever asking Trudeau as to why he would leave them in caucus. Philpott and Wilson-Raybould are rarely asked to defend their staying in the Liberal caucus.

The Conservatives and the NDP loved Ms Wilson-Raybould. They had after all found the holy grail, one that would lead them to the promised land, to an election where they had a chance of being elected. The Liberals are confused, angry with these allegations and besmirching of their cause, but don’t want to appear to be against the two women, who after all are still standing in their midst.

The press revelled in the “principled” and “brave” Jody Wilson-Raybould. while her indigenous father, ridiculously screamed racism from the sidelines. The story line being that the nasty Trudeau and his cronies had blackballed this outstanding example of an exemplary brave indigenous cabinet minister.

It was eye-opening to see the Press pick and choose their subject lines, often ignoring what the actual evidence that had been stated; which you would only know if you sat for all of the testimony. They pushed the dramatic elements of confrontation. The CBC was buffeted by the winds of Trudeau slamming on the one hand, while at the same time wanting to defend the “principled” Wilson-Raybould. (As an aside, Ms. Philpott is married to a CBC radio journalist)

Mr. Scheer not to be left behind in the expressions of shock, called for the resignation of the Prime Minister. No need for further witnesses in his opinion, Ms Wilson-Raybould was a “compelling” and “truthful” witness. He accepted all of her testimony as gospel. Why would she lie? After all she had her own notes to fall back on.

The two male witnesses who at times claimed a totally different narrative, often backed up by surrendered text messages, were not to be believed. One the head of the PMO and the other the head of the PCO. Both of long-standing duration in government, both articulate, and both telling a different version of the events.

Both expressed confusion as to what had been termed “inappropriate”, in fact both testified as to the need in this case to speak to the public policy surrounding this decision. Both said they were unaware of any “inappropriate” discussions, and both confirmed that neither had been told by Wilson-Raybould’s decision being set in concrete. Wilson-Raybould admitted that she never told either of these parties or the PM of her concern about the interference directly.

But apparently their evidence was not to be believed. Their truth was not her truth.

There is little doubt that the Liberals wanted her to consider alternative prosecution. The Liberals are very tied to the SNC conglomerate, and have been for many years. It is also true that the Liberals consider themselves the defenders of Quebec, so anything affecting jobs in Quebec, a political haven, was serious. They were too smart to direct Ms Wilson-Raybould, so they offered up other meetings in an attempt to persuade, and cajole, and even pushed her into seeking an outside legal opinion. Their intentions were political and thus they were attempting to alter the judicial outcome, it was in their political interest.

Does anyone believe this does not go on, on a regular basis? Does anyone believe for example, that the oil companies have not been lobbying regarding the pipeline; does anyone believe that the Indigenous are doing backroom deals in terms of that same pipeline? Does anyone believe that the Prosecution office does not take politics into consideration? (read my previous blog). We can and should not be that naive, there is always a need to ask questions.

It is wrong in principal. There should be a line that can not be crossed. But normally in Canada we are wilfully blind to these shenanigans.

Was that line crossed in this case? It may never be fully known. What is apparent though in reviewing both of these witnesses is that evidence of Ms Wilson-Raybould should at the very least be tested, her motivations were not pure, nor principled. Principles can not be brought out only when convenient.

So who of the two were the most credible? Cohen or Wilson-Raybould?

In this case, if sitting on the jury, and objectively measuring truthfulness of these witnesses through the lens of corroboration and motivation, the confirmed liar Mr. Cohen may have outdone the righteous Minister, and he may be the most believable.

Carol Goman who wrote the book, “Silent Language of Leaders” says men are often more boastful, but men and women equally lie, it all “depends on the destructive effect of the the lie being told”.

Photo “Black and White Justice” courtesy of Phil Roeder via Flickr Commons Some Rights Reserved


First, a correction. A reader informed me that Jody Wilson-Raybould actually received the S.13 notice from the Prosecutor on September 4 not 12th as I reported, and then returned home on the 12th. She testified that she had her mind made up by Sept 16th, two working days after returning home.

Of course, since I wrote this blog, other developments have occurred. The tide seems to be swinging a little against Ms Raybould, with the leak that she and Trudeau had an earlier disagreement over Judge selection with her not getting her way in terms of the appointment. Her apparent recommendation for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was Justice Glenn Joyal of the Manitoba Court of Queens Bench. If that had happened the broader plan was then to replace Joyal with an “Indigenous” Chief Justice for Manitoba Queens Bench. Many are demanding an investigation into the leak of this investigation, including Ms. Raybould. Of course, she did not demand an investigation on the earlier Globe and Mail leak, which of course benefitted her position and office, and started this whole thing rolling along.

If this is true, there is a great deal of more credence given to the theory that JWR was upset with Trudeau who rejected her Chief Justice bid. Makes it all the more plausible that she was angry over her move, nothing more, and she decided to hit back.

The drama continues.

Show me the Money…

A rumour was recently heard that the RCMP may be in line to get a 12% pay raise; but before everyone jumps for joy and goes out and buys the new F150, or puts up that downpayment on the east end fixer upper, all of which you have been putting off for the past seven frozen years– there was a bit of a caveat in that rumour. There was no term or length mentioned, nor was it thought to be retroactive. So if 12% seems great, imagine it spread over the next five years and it loses some of its lustre.

A needed pay raise seems to be on the lips of almost all officers in the RCMP. Meanwhile they wait. The yet to be certified National Police Federation (NPF) state that in terms of their priorities, an interim pay agreement is the first order of business should they reach the goal of certification.

The NPF are currently in a holding pattern, much to the dismay of many RCMP members. They are being held in abeyance by those upstart C Division members, otherwise known as the QMPMA, who are challenging bill C-7, which allows for the unionization of the RCMP, but it only allows for a single representative union. The votes are in throughout the country, but the results are not being revealed until such time as the challenge launched by the QMPMA has been reviewed by the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board (FPSLREB)

The Quebec members are challenging the constitutionality of Bill C-7, in particular where the Act calls for a single police voice. Though the Board can not change or amend Bill C-7, they can decide whether the law infringes on Quebec members Charter rights. The hearing is currently scheduled for March 26-27, and a ruling should be given within the week, or so they promise.

Clearly the NPF does not want a ruling in favourof the QMPMA and its 800 members; it argues and wants to represent Canadian RCMP officers as a whole, not a sum of many parts.

The QMPMA for its part and partially in response says it is being unfairly scapegoated for these further delays. It has argued in the past and continues to argue that there should indeed be one union representing Canadian Mounties, but feel that Quebec, because of its cultural and language differences, should have a strong position or seat at the executive table. They say there are “geographical, functional, administrative, and linguistic characteristics” which make them unique.

To reflect their distinct nature, for instance in the proposed seven member Executive counsel, they believe that there should be a guaranteed Vice-President position coming from or guaranteed to the QMPMA . The problem is arguably two-fold; only 4.4% of the RCMP works in Quebec so the mere numbers do not demand such over representation and secondly; it is the question as to whether cultural and linguistic differences are measurable in terms of police work. Many would say that the police role in a union or bargaining unit, should be relatively blind to cultural differences, thereby making it a moot argument.

Whether one believes that a special seat should be reserved for Quebec members is a political issue, it is not an argument that is impactful in terms of the economics of labour. The members will need to decide, but in the meantime this issue seems to be destined to be played out further for at least the short term. If the Board rules in the favour of the QMPMA, one could only think that this would force some serious coming together on the part of the NPF to try and resolve the issue, rather than force further delays.

Politics aside, there is little argument over what constitutes the primary issue in the short term, everyone seemingly is banging the same drum of necessity for “a pay increase”. They reflexively point to the current seven year freeze on the RCMP salaries as the obvious and primary justification for a pay raise. The freeze has meant they have fallen behind the other police forces which form their universe.

The RCMP salary structure over the years has always relied on the police “universe” which is made up of other municipal and Provincial agencies who negotiated their own separate pay increments. The Mounties simply attached themselves to these groups and watch as the “ratcheting” effect forces the Federal government to try and keep the RCMP officers in the same general range– an apple to apple comparison they argue. Just as clearly, the RCMP management has been woefully inadequate in their ability to keep up, as there are current claims that the membership is now 65th out of 80 police agencies. Implicit in this argument of course is that the RCMP by its very nature should at least be in the top ten.

Is this an opportunity to address some of the glaring problems of the salary structure?

Every officer in the RCMP are viewed as being the same, doing the same job, interchangeable. Therefore one raise, one salary fits all. It falls from this logic that everyone in the RCMP is equal in value, therefore, the pay should be exactly the same across the board.

Clearly this automatic pushing up of salaries has stalled in the past 7 years, but it is equally clear that there are some who are studying this ratchet effect, and questioning the viability of continuing with this same model. It naturally leads to the discussions as to whether police officers are becoming unaffordable.

Will the discount coupons that municipalities in this country get by using cheaper Mountie labour be removed by unionization? Will political control of the police service in their community be more viable if they are paying the full bill when the discount disappears as a result of increased salaries.

This one size fits all in terms of pay raises has pointed to some recurrent issues over the years which have never been dealt with in any substantive way. The single pay structure has created holes in the system, impediments that have negatively impacted such things as recruitment and retainment.

For many years there has been internal and eternal debates across the country. Does an RCMP officer stationed in New Brunswick deserve the same pay as an officer working in Surrey? Does an officer working in uniform on the streets deserve the same salary as an officer working in an administrative function?

Is it time that the RCMP gives some consideration to the clearly obvious, that all jobs in the RCMP are not the same, and all officers are not working in the same location.

If one looks at some agreed upon factors for employment classification programs which lead to a determination of a salary, in most jobs and in most circumstances, they can be summed up in nine categories:

  1. geographic location
  2. Industry – what industry are you in? are you a lawyer working for a large firm, or are you a public prosecutor
  3. Education
  4. Experience
  5. Performance Reports
  6. Whether or not your’e a boss- Supervision
  7. Associations and Certifications
  8. Hazardous Working Conditions
  9. Shift Differentials

What is interesting in reviewing these categories is that the one size fits all argument of the RCMP does not fit into most of these factors. Geographic location, industry, education, performance reports, associations or certifications have no bearing on the actual salary determination in RCMP negotiations with Treasury Board. Five of the nine factors that should be considered are not in the RCMP model.

The disconnect is the most obvious when one considers the geographic factor. There is no allowance for where you live in the calculation(with the obvious exception for isolated posts). An officer can pay $300,000 for a house in the Maritimes where in Vancouver the average house price is $1.2 million. When there is a requirement to work and live in the area you are policing, how can this still not be a factor.

A New Jersey police officer makes about $70,000 per year, whereas an officer in Wyoming makes about $40,000.00 per year. Almost the entire difference is due to the geographic component.

The average Toronto police officer makes $98,000 and more than half of those officers make over $100,000. This partly comes from the labour argument of having to live in an expensive city. Burnaby or Richmond RCMP officers can easily make this same argument, but it is not quite as simple if you are in fact working in Weyburn, Saskatchewan.

Going down the factor list. Education is at a bare minimum to get into the RCMP, let alone a consideration in determining ultimate salaries. There is no accounting for graduate degrees or specialized courses of study when factoring in how much money someone should earn.

Experience is not a factor, the only pay raise that is expected is one where one is promoted, where one would be taking on supervisor duties. There is no value given to someone being on the job for a length of time. A twelve year member makes the same amount of money as the three year member. Somewhat ludicrous when one considers the amount of “learning on the job” that is experienced and is especially particular to police work.

How well you do the job is not really a salary issue either. Yes, there are performance requirements in terms of bare minimum, but the officer doing a great job is not rewarded through any kind of salary renumeration. There is no structure in place to measure or implement such a scheme.

There are a couple of factors that do apply currently. There are in fact shift differentials in place, and everyone points to the hazardous nature of the job.

One should be cautious about the hazardous nature of the job in arguing it as a primary factor. It is not as cut and dry as imagined by the general public. Statistically policing is not the most dangerous job, in fact it is not even in the top ten. The QMPMA argue in their web page writings, that their officers are on the “front line” implying a greater need for consideration. Are they on the front line in a non-contract Province?

Statistically the most dangerous policing job may in fact be highway patrol, or an officer working in a rural area, far from backup.

So is it possible in this age of data and data scientists that some form of algorithm could calculate some base salary which is consistent with the specific job, in a a specific location, or take into account some specialized training or experience. Could it be loaded in such a way that measurements could be made of the level of hazard to a specific job, that there would be greater compensation for those working in uniform interacting with the public everyday? Could those calculations make it more palatable to be working in shift work, in uniform, in an expensive city? Could this be beneficial in keeping officers on the road? Possibly.

In a discussion of RCMP salaries and the expectations of a pay raise, one would be remiss if one did not examine the current salary figures, especially in comparison to the general public. Consider the following:

The average police officer in the U.S. makes $54,462 as of January 1, 2019. Now, this is U.S dollars, so let’s add another 25% to take into account the American dollar. That would be an additional $13,615,50 for a total salary of $68,057.50.

The RCMP fresh from Depot Mountie makes $53,144 and at the end of 36 months is making $86,110.

The average RCMP officer makes $94,081.

To be in the top 10% of compensation for all employments in this country you need to be above $93,000. So the vast majority of police officers in this country, and in particular the RCMP are already making in the top ten percentile. If one is going to argue financial need, it is tentative ground. The highest paid public servants are currently, police, fire and ambulance workers.

When one considers all these factors and arguments, is there any expectation that this is anything more than food for thought?


It seems unlikely that any union in its early stages could venture down the road of changing the current salary structure and in fact there may be no current capability to undertake a more complicated formula. And, everyone knows RCMP management is not exactly a troupe given to improvisation. And, if you listen closely you can hear the howls of dismay even on reading these suggestions, as there is normally not much sympathy in the East for the members on the West Coast. A brother and sisterhood maybe, but when it comes to money most Mounties have historically been quite insular.

If one is reading the tea leaves, in terms of where the Mounties are headed both in salary and in terms of the structure of the whole organization, one also can not discount the recent developments; the emphasis on Federal over Provincial policing; Surrey the largest Canadian RCMP detachment going to a Municipal force; the removal of the administrative role for the RCMP; an advisory Board to begin exerting its influence over change in the RCMP; and a growing concern amongst the public and the politicians as to the ratcheting of police salaries.

This also may be for nought as the other rumour being heard out of Ottawa is that the RCMP may be aiming to get out of contract policing altogether. Throwing uniform policing back to the Provinces, and heading for an FBI styled RCMP. Commissioner Lucki to be the next Herbert Hoover?

Either way it is clear that any new union is going to have its hands full in the next few years and hopefully it will not end up spending its time just re-arranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship.

It is difficult to imagine Mounties arm in arm, bullhorn at the ready screaming “Workers of the world unite”! And it may be a little premature to picture the red serge marching in lockstep to the Communist Manifesto, as imagined by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels.

Maybe Bob Dylan summed it up the best.

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons and “Images Money” with Some Rights Reserved.

Frat boys and egos gone Wild

As one watches a police officer sit in the accused box inside a secure courtroom, only the back of the head visible from the gallery, the background droning noise of lawyers speaking in hushed self-importance, one can not help but be disheartened. This is not the place cops are supposed to find themselves; silent, not reacting, heads bowed in shame or avoidance.

But recently, this is where three of the four accused Mounties found themselves. After many years of courtroom haggling and delays; Attew, Brassington, Michaud and Johnson now join an infamous group of cops gone bad, or more accurately, a case of cops gone stupid.

They did however, for the most part, manage to get away with it. Destroying their reputations, putting the battered RCMP back in the news for the wrong reasons, and almost sinking a large investigation–but in the end it did not hurt them, at least in terms of what resulted during a few hours in Vancouver courtroom 67.

Six criminal charges against Dave Attew, seven criminal offences against Derek Brassington, and three criminal charges against Danny Michaud. All pled away, discarded by Crown Chris Considine. All reduced down to a single criminal count against Brassington and two summary conviction offences under the RCMP Act pertaining to Section 48(1) against Michaud and Attew.

In a somewhat rare move, the criminal charges against Attew and Michaud were discarded, replaced by a single new charge under the RCMP act, which states that any member who “concerts or connives at any act whereby any rule, order or regulation made”. Thirteen criminal charges minimized almost to the point of insignificance.

Only this to show after years of delays, trips to the Supreme Court of Canada and a denied Jordan application. Charges of breach of trust, obstruction and fraud reduced to almost nothing. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in court time, lawyers, judges, investigators both within the RCMP and the Ontario Provincial Police, exchanged in essence for some community work service. Michaud has even been paid for the last eight years while sitting at home.

Despite two facing charges of fraud for unjustified overtime claims, no doubt amounting into the thousands of dollars, only Mr Brassington was fined $10K. Mr. Attew gets to keep his money.

There was a nagging feeling throughout watching the proceedings that the Crown (and no doubt in consult with the RCMP management) did not have an appetite for a trial and the prolonged embarrassment that would have played out over several weeks in a courtroom in full view of the media. This was a whitewash—the alternative explanation is that Mr. Considine is the worst deal maker in Provincial criminal history. Clearly, they wanted this to quietly go away, and except for a few uncomfortable days in the media, it will in fact disappear from the public conscience.

So what actually went wrong? We were told in court, that this investigation was being led by S/Sgt Dave Attew, “one of the top investigators in the Province”. His now wife, in a letter to the court talked about him being a “golden boy”. How did he and the apparently equally talented Sgt. Derek Brassington get so led astray. These self-purported talents to the world of investigation pulled down into the cesspool of criminals. Were they outwitted by some 21st century Dr Moriarty? No, they were pulled under by some twenty something girls whose singular talent seems to have been the ability to date blinged out thugs.

This group of wayward Mounties wants you to believe that this all happened because of the high stress involved in the investigation, the organizational and media pressure, the need to cultivate ‘gangsters’ to testify, that they had to ingratiate themselves to this hideous criminal element; all while selflessly sacrificing their families and putting themselves in jeopardy. While this plays well in the courtroom, it is unadulterated nonsense.

The answer is more simple. This was a massive failure of supervision, coupled with misogynist men acting like pubescent boys, and of greed.

To begin to understand one needs to know the organizational structure within IHIT at the time of this file. There were several investigational teams within IHIT, and these teams of eight are led by Sargents. The primary investigator for any homicide file usually is assigned out of the members of those teams.

Then there is the Team Commander, a person who is assigned and is supposed to be somewhat above the fray, one step removed from the Investigative teams and his or her job is simply oversight, watching the running of the file, both in terms of investigational direction and the administration of the file.

The Team Commander does not, or at least should not get involved in the actual investigational operations. This is also true of the role of the Primary investigator, who is mandated to stay free of being side-tracked operationally.

Above these teams and assignments there is also a full time Administrative officer, who oversees expenses, overtime claims and other such tasks, on behalf of the entire IHIT unit.

Prior to the Surrey 6 file all of these individuals had a history and a reputation for overtime claims, they were accustomed to inflated pay cheques. IHIT management watched over as members of this group established a pattern of working continuously, unchallenged as to the need or justification for countless hours of overtime. There was even a unique custom in IHIT at the end of each fiscal year; the big claimers would come together to compare T-4’s, seeking boasting rights as to who had made the most money. Among this group was Attew, and some future Inspectors like Brian Cantera, and Gary Shinkaruk.

Attew was clearly the leader of this group. He had come from Richmond Detachment for a brief stay in Surrey before joining the newly formed IHIT. His fellow workers in Richmond Detachment were none other than Joe Sabotin, Danny Michaud, and Paul Johnston. All no doubt aided in their coming to IHIT by Attew. Brassington came from Langley Detachment but was known to be a fan of Attew. Therefore all unlikely to question, or voice operational opposition.

This was a culture of free spending and inflated salaries through overtime. Company cars, late nights, road trips, inner office romances, all buoyed by a sense of importance, of important work being led by elite investigators. They were considered above normal scrutiny. It was largely a boy’s club. They took advantage of this fraternity atmosphere, seemingly never impeded, at least in those days, of any thoughts of family and children.

The Officer in Charge of the IHIT group, who at the time of the Surrey 6 was newly minted Mountie Supt. John Robin. Mr. Robin came from retirement as an Inspector with the Delta PD., and was then sworn in as an officer with the RCMP. This raised some eyebrows at the time. A very lucrative move to be sure, but it caused one to wonder if being new to the RCMP he was in the best position to supervise the RCMP’s only homicide unit.

When the Surrey 6 file came in, not one, but two teams were tasked with attending this file. One team called was headed by Sgt. Joe Sabotin and the other team was headed by Sgt Derek Brassington. Both were relatively newly promoted Sargents.

One other myth that should be dispelled at the outset. This was not a complicated file, labour intensive possibly, but not one that was overly difficult to fathom or an incident that had not been dealt with hundreds of times in the past. There was one murder event, inside a single crime scene, with multiple victims all inside the same scene, and multiple suspects from a single criminal group. The Press labelled it a “big” file only because of the number of victims. Experienced investigators also knew that “turning” someone in the criminal group would be needed if the file was ever going to be successful in terms of the laying of charges. That too was not unusual in these gang style homicides.

S/Sgt Attew claimed in court that he was “reluctantly” pulled in to head the investigation and oversee the two teams as the Primary Investigator and Team Commander. This seems a little self-serving.

S/Sgt Attew, who was a S/Sgt early at 18 years service was also not the most experienced investigator in IHIT at the time. Sgt Brassington himself had only 13 years service. In the world of homicide investigation they would not be considered senior officers.

So a friendly group of relatively inexperienced investigators, with a penchant for overtime and a high living lifestyle was paired with a new boss in IHIT, one unfamiliar with the protocols.

As this file progressed, Attew, the team commander and alleged primary investigator, ignored the rules of the command group and became directly involved in cultivating the killer to turn witness —the person the Court refers to as “Witness X”. Attew was just as interested, apparently, in the fact that Witness X, also had a girlfriend who the courts are calling “Jane Doe 2”.

Brassington, who was also acting as a cultivator of this killer began to travel and hang around with this core group of gangsters and their girlfriends. Brassington began to spend time with “Jane Doe 1”, a former girlfriend of both Jamie Bacon and high level gangster Kevin Leclair.

Both girls were in their twenties, while Attew and Brassington were pushing forty years old. They traversed the country, staying in hotels with these “witnesses”, and the restaurants evolved into bars, where alcohol became the fuel for relaxed inhibitions and common sense.

Brassington told the court that he “fell in love” with Jane Doe 1, walking hand in hand in Victoria, having sex at the “safe house”, sometimes in front of others (at one time another female officer was present).

Attew for his part, was pursuing Jane Doe 2, sneaking to her hotel room, rolling around the bedroom, groping her, kissing passionately, or “sexual touching” as the courts like to call it. Not on one occasion, on several occasions. If anything Attew was a persistent lover, if not a persistent investigator. One incident occurred in Montreal, where they ran up an $800 bill for liquor as all of them came together, in the bar where Jane Doe 2 was now working. Attew went to her apartment in his conjugal pursuit bringing new meaning to “witness management”.

They were claiming overtime of course during this time and claiming and righting off their escapades to “expenses”. We never will learn about how much money was involved, but it would have been substantial over many months.

During this investigation, they also formed inside IHIT, their own Witness Management team or unit, which was led by Sgt Ross Joaquin, formerly of the undercover unit. Why was there a need for a separate unit? The RCMP already had such an independent unit. But by doing so, this gave these investigators greater control of all activities surrounding these witnesses. Convenient at least for sure, in terms of what was going on. Where Joaquin disappeared too has not been mentioned.

Michaud, who had only been at IHIT for six months was assigned to this unit, giving him the free ability to travel with and party with this group. Also convenient.

So Dave Attew, who was either the Primary and the Team Commander or both was directly involved in witness protection, as was the Team Leader of one of the other teams, Brassington. Common sense, not so common in this case, would seem to indicate that all this could only end badly.

One must understand that although there were lots of officers indirectly working on this file, a core group, maybe 10 or 12 would likely meet every day to ‘brief’ on this file. It would be impossible that this group would not know of the comings and goings of Attew/Brassington et al., It would or should have caused all to question what was going on. Where that group disappeared to is also a question likely not to be answered.

Where was John Robin? Who was running the investigation and all its disparate parts while two of the main leaders were frolicking? Who was signing overtime and expenses?

It all unravelled of course, when Brassington’s loyal lover began telling everyone she was in a “relationship” with Brassington, even telling Michaud.

Over goes the apple cart, Brassington finally gets confronted by John Robin, who runs to the Commanding Officer of E Division Gary Bass, who finally does the proper thing and notifies the Ontario Provincial Police requesting that they launch an internal investigation.

The Ontario Provincial Police after many months, were in the end probably not awed by these supreme investigators. That had to leave shaking their heads and they ended up recommending over twenty criminal charges.

Among the things they uncovered: “hitting on other women”, “boasting about their undercover police work”, Attew making “inappropriate overtures” while hanging at a bar in Whistler, and Brassington bobbing in a hot tub at the YMCA boasting about the monies he was making and confessing to having an affair. All this while falsifying overtime claims and expenses for thousands of dollars. Even one officer, Michaud, got caught lying to his fellow brother officers in the OPP about when he knew about the Brassington affair.

At no time did these smart guys ever consider they were being “set up”? At no time did they not think that they were both compromising the investigation, and possibly endangering officers lives? At no time did they consider that this breach of trust was in fact a criminal offence, a straight indictable offence, punishable by a possible five years in jail? Clearly they did not think they would get caught as they followed their penises across the country.

It is the stupidity of of it all that resounds. These were future poster-boys for the “MeTooMovement” but there was not an officer or manager in sight who thought to question what was going on, no officer knowledgeable enough to see that operational protocol was being violated from the outset. And none of the members of the investigative team had the temerity to speak up.

Accountability in the RCMP and in particular in this Province never seems to get past the first level, and in this instance the Crown has joined in to promote this miscarriage of justice. As for the taxpayer, you are out a lot of money, the lawyers even got special permission to charge more for their services.

The RCMP management breathes out a collective sigh of relief knowing that once again backroom deals have cleared out the skeleton from their closets and quickly buried them in the backyard.

Harry Truman said “the buck stops here”, not so true amongst the upper levels of the RCMP. They are quite content to let these officers take the fall, no consideration as to who was responsible for oversight. It all sounds too familiar.

Attew, Sobotin, Brassington, Johnson, and Michaud are now all divorced.

Attew is off to a rehabilitation program for a month in the interior of British Columbia at a hotel, all paid for by Veterans Affairs. After all he is retired police officer suffering, again according to his defence counsel, with depression, suicidal thoughts, and panic attacks.

Brassington will likely go back to working with his brother in construction and begin a new chapter as he has found a new “love of his life”.

Michaud will possibly remain with the RCMP as he continues to be paid and he faces the next question as to whether this breach of the code of conduct will mean that he will be removed from the RCMP.

Johnston still is awaiting court in March, but he is in a real fight for his life– battling cancer.

As one sat in the public gallery watching the court grinding on in its inimitable way, slightly out of touch with reality, it was difficult not to be sympathetic to the officers sitting in the courtroom. The fall from grace is indeed unforgiving on a personal level.

But hen as one looked down the row of seats there sat Eileen Mohan, mother of the 18 year old Chris, who was heading off to basketball one minute, and in the next face down in sheer terror as his life was about to be ended. She has weathered and is dealing with the unfathomable. It is unknown whether she even comprehends how close this entire case came to crashing.

Justice was jeopardized by this group of officers. This was not a game. This was not a frat party. There, standing in front of you, is the face of the breach of the public trust, it’s in the face of Eileen Mohan.

As a member of the public you should be very angry and if you are a police officer who plays within the lines you should be disgusted. Your job just got a whole lot harder.

Photo courtesy of Roger Williams via Flick Commons Some Rights Reserved

Disclaimer: The author was both a Team Leader and a Team Commander in IHIT during the time of Attew, Brassington and Paul Johnson. They were on a different team.

Jumping Ship….

If you have been keeping track you may have noted that some significant officers of the Executive rank of the RCMP have decided that now is a good time to get out of Dodge. Maybe most noteworthy is Kevin Brosseau the Deputy Commissioner, who was in the running for the Commissioners job; and a couple of months ago another Deputy Commissioner, Joanne Crampton, announced her retirement. She too had been in the running for the job of Commissioner. So both have announced their departure after they were jumped over in terms of rank, by the eventual winner of the Commissioner sweepstakes by Goodale friend Ms. Lucki. In Ottawa, where the Peter Principle seems to run freely and where nepotism is of second nature, one would have to assume that both saw the writing on the wall, that the ultimate brass ring was now officially out of reach.

Meanwhile, out on the West Coast, another darling of the political identity movement, Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr has also announced her retirement as head of E Divsion. She too was rumoured to be in the running for the Commissioners job and according to some reports was in effect the front runner. Many speculated that the person who was once trumpeted by the Vancouver Sun as a “trail-blazing First Nations leader” saw the grass growing greener on the other side of the political fence, time to put the resume to monetary use.

It is not unusual of course for people to depart, especially when most have a furtive eye on lucrative second jobs, and ex Mounties seem to have a knack for not wanting to retire, and often have ambitions of joining Canada’s 10% economic elite.

To accomplish this they seem to have developed the ability, like “Bumblebee”, to morph into jobs where their lack of expertise does not hinder their aspirations. There are many examples, such as Bill Blair who mysteriously found a new calling in the marihuana industry as a preamble to launching a political career with the Liberals; Julian Fantino, former Chief of the Toronto Police Service who once called the legalizing of marihuana equivalent to the legalizing of murder; and a former West Vancouver Police Chief, the illustrious Kash Heed, who never saw a camera he didn’t like, or a podium he didn’t want to stand on, has also been advising the marihuana industry for years.

Ms. Butterworth-Carr not letting any grass grow under her feet, has joined the ranks of the disaffected and announced her new 2nd job as the incoming Deputy Minister and Director of Police Services for the Province in Victoria; replacing Clayton Pecknold. Needless to say, she has raised a few eyebrows, and concerns about this possible conflict of interest.

Ms Butterworth-Carr was not in her current role as the titular head of the RCMP in British Columbia very long, only have taken the job with great fanfare in March 2017. So she has been in her current top post for two years, maybe long enough to get a cup of coffee at the in-house Green Timbers Tim Hortons, but clearly not enough time to undertake any initiatives of significance.

Her CV is replete with First Nations references and the requisite buzz phrases: “strategic planning” “coaching” “mentoring” and the always suspect assignments of community policing, employee safety and crime prevention. It is therefore fair to question her qualifications for the job as deputy minister where she will be “superintending” policing in the Province, “establishing Provincial Policy standards” and “inspecting and reporting on the quality of police services”, amongst and including the municipal police agencies.

Between her anticipated pension and her new salary, an educated guess will put her pension and salary income over $300,000.00. Clearly she will be joining the select few with a combined salary as much as the Chief of Vancouver City Police and far in excess of any other police chief in the Lower Mainland.

But qualifications and exorbitant compensation aside, what is more curious is both the timing and obvious conflict of interest in this appointment.

During her brief tenure, she saw the City of Surrey vote to pronounce that they are going to go to a Municipal force, a major move which must have sent some shock waves even to the often seemingly disconnected Ottawa RCMP establishment.

As Professor Rob Gordon of Simon Fraser University has said this move by Butterworth-Carr has left him “astounded by the bravado with which they have gone ahead and done this”. What he is referencing is that the City of Surrey must submit a plan to the Province to leave the RCMP, which will need the approval of Mike Farnworth the current Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. An advisor to this application will be none other than Butterworth-Carr in her new role, the former RCMP spokesperson and defender of the Surrey RCMP.

To be fair, Butterworth-Carr has never said she disagreed with the people of Surrey a possible indication that she is at least politically savvy enough to avoid the obvious pitfalls. However, since the election in Surrey, she has clearly been directed or taken her own initiative to show and demonstrate how the RCMP, in her opinion is doing an exemplary job in Surrey.

There was evidence of this public defence during a bizarre interview with Global news.  She along with Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs and Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett presented themselves saying they wanted to speak to the Forces “successes and challenges”. So on December 17, 2018 the three sat, looking uncomfortable, to clearly try and curtail the buzz over the election in Surrey and all the negative news which has been circling the RCMP over the last several months.

They clearly were not prepared despite this interview being by their request. When asked what were the big successes in 2018 Ms. Butterworth-Carr pointed to the “technological advancement” of the RCMP; that they were “piloting digital evidence” and “advancing interactions with Crown”.

If that wasn’t head scratching enough, they promised they were going to be more “tenacious with the social media environment” and they were going to “get out in front of news stories”. They said that the RCMP needs a “progressive culture” and that they were working at improving the “workplace culture”.

Of course the Global news anchor recognizes government nonsense patter when she hears it, so she then asked about the Lemaitre inquiry. Ms. Butterworth-Carr said that she was not in “a position to respond to that”. There was no follow up question, so it was never asked why the head of the RCMP for the entire Province would not be in a position to respond to this issue. The RCMP have been perfecting for many years the old dodge and hide but this defied normal logic.

When asked about the Surrey election and the move to go to a municipal police force she said that it would be up to her Federal and Political masters (she of course did not mention that she was heading over to be one of the politicos -a fact that at the time of the interview must have been known to her)

She did say that the RCMP is “delivering an exceptional service”, which she also had mirrored in an internal memo to her RCMP brothers and sisters saying that there had been “great work done by the RCMP”.

Near the end of the interview, as if he had been jabbed under the table, Mr. Hackett then jumped in to this fragmented interview, with the observation that in travelling the Province with Mr. Stubbs they had noted that there was a lot of “positivity out there”.

So there you have it, the three top Mounties in the Province and their take on the current political and criminal climate in British Columbia. Is there any wonder this group is in trouble or that Ms. Butterworth-Carr is bailing out? With their promises to meet with Crown more often and maybe sending their files in PDF rather than on discs, the RCMP officers watching this display must have felt positively giddy about the future.

It was a glaring example of the total lack of leadership in the RCMP. From top to bottom there is a shortage of principled, dynamic, and informed leadership. Maintaining the status quo, doing the same thing over and over again and but expecting different results and expecting the general membership to fall in line, is in fact the sign of insanity,

The system is such that the commissioned officers of the RCMP need to comply with and be part of an accepted creed of conformity to government and political needs, and they literally spend hundreds of hours playing the system, learning the new terminologies, and gaming the new political identities.

But just once, you would hope that someone arrives at a higher level, with some vision of the future, with some solutions to the pressing problems, and with some ability to communicate that vision. Just once, you would like to see some of them stay around long enough to enact that commitment. Just once, you would like to see someone turn down the rolls of money being wafted tantalizingly under their noses because of their inflated sometimes conjured resumes, and instead hang around long enough to have some success.

This group needs to spend less time on LinkedIn, more time on honesty and integrity, and less time echoing their political masters. In the wise words of Sir Winston Churchill, “kites rise highest against the wind, not with it”.

Leaders become leaders when they step forward and only when they are accepted by their followers. The RCMP is in desperate need of a leader unencumbered or enamoured by trappings or future benefits.

In terms of Ms. Butterworth-Carr and the announcement of her new job, the management of the RCMP and the NDP lead government will likely put on their blinders once again ignoring the obvious conflict and maybe a little jealous of her financial windfall. The police rank and file will resignedly shrug their shoulders, give a ‘told you so’ smirk, and carry on, as there is no other choice.

Potter Stewart, a former associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court said, that “ethics is the difference between what you have the right to do, and what is right to do”. Sadly, there seems to be no one in the upper echelons of the RCMP or in the current B.C. government that seems to understand that distinction.

Photo Courtesy of DVIDSHUB via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

Want to be a Terrorist? Call the RCMP help line..

In the last couple of months, the RCMP and its multiple investigative arms have been dealt several kicks to its institutional gut. They have had three major cases stayed in the last couple of months; one involved money laundering, another drug smuggling, and the third was a case of domestic terrorism. They say time heals and thanks to our speedy court system, all of these cases have had some years pass, making us forget the RCMP management bouquets of self-congratulations and the blowing of trumpets at the time of the original arrests. All three of these cases deserve scrutiny and demand some explanations, however the novelty of the terrorist case may be the most interesting and the most concerning.

The RCMP foray into the case of domestic terrorism involved the two now infamous “targets”; John Nuttall and Amanda Korody. A startled public expressed shock and consternation, as for some reason most Canadians still believe they are immune to this kind of thing, while the media tried to outdo each other with terrorism hyperbole.

A trial and the appeal courts five years later however found something quite different. After the initial trial the presiding judge basically overruled the jury, and announced that the two had been entrapped and entered a stay of proceedings on all charges. A couple of more years later, the Appeals court agreed with Judge Catherine Bruce, that this was a “clear case of police manufactured crime…”. That the police “did not disrupt an ongoing criminal plan” as had been advertised, in fact the police conduct of this file was a “travesty of justice”. Harsh words, even for a court system which is never reluctant to put the police on trial.

It is too easy to just say that the police “screwed up” in this incidence. One needs to dig down, sift through some layers of bureaucracy and investigational mandates, to begin to understand where this case went wrong and to begin to understand who should be accountable.

One has to start with the “targets”. Who were these terrorists, Nuttall and Korody? Well, their most notable feature may be the fact that they were two heroine addicts on the methadone program; they did not have their own residence living with Nuttall’s grandmother in a basement suite. They were on financial assistance, spent hours watching endless videos, and, rarely left the house. But somewhere in this sad, desperate, and often mindless existence, Mr Nuttall and Ms Korody decided to convert to Islam. Why? That will be left to the psychiatrists, but in hindsight their religion choice was probably the most significant factor. They likely would have gone unnoticed if they had turned to a different God.

It was 2013, the year of the Boston Marathon bombing by the Tsarnaev brothers. Islamic terrorism around the world was front and centre, both in the news and in the minds of the Ottawa Federal authorities. It would be a year later when a lone gunmen known in B.C. circles as “Muslim Mike” would attack the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. The political climate and the police were on edge. And it was the beginning of this mis-guided investigation.

There was a political environment fermenting in Ottawa, bubbling over with a need to thwart any budding terrorism. A need for the RCMP to prove itself to the world of our contribution to the righteous fight against terrorism. Instead, this investigation would turn out to be a shining example of institutional investigational “tunnel vision”, susceptible to over reaction and seeing ghosts where none existed.

It is also a story of how once the police machine is grinding along it is very difficult to reverse or stop the process, often rolling over any contrary narrative, or any human rights in the process. It is a difficult to explain, a mindset of how everything undertaken must be a success, there was no other option.

Compounding this clouded vision was a lack of supervision, a lack of understanding of the law, and two factions in the RCMP who were at odds with each other on how to proceed.

Clearly he was a violent person, but there are many of them that come across the police blotter, so what made him different than the others. How did this common criminal step over the threshold into terrorism?

In July 2012, the first mention of Nuttall showing some signs of his new prescription for life occurred when a female accidentally overheard a conversation on the street. Mr. Nuttall was on a cellphone, talking or yelling, about “blowing up” Islamic countries and making references to the “afterlife”. The female contacted the police, who attended and spoke with her to verify what she heard. When they spoke with her they noted that she was intoxicated.

A few months later another individual, who the courts call M.C. met Mr. Nuttall at a mosque. The recently converted Nuttall spoke of having killed a Jewish woman (which was later determined to be false); and he wanted help travelling to Afghanistan to take part in a violent jihad. Mr Nuttall was banned from several mosques because of his aberrant behaviour and the individual M.C. expressed concern for Nuttall’s mental health.

There should be no doubt that Nuttall was violent: convictions for robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault and at least two incidents of domestic violence against his girlfriend/spouse Amanda Korody. All the files referred to his mental instability and behavioural issues.

In normal times, under normal circumstances, Mr Nuttall would have continued to be a proverbial flag in police computers a notation on his police file should he pop up in terms of any investigation or complaint. He seemed more of a subject for the Mental Health Act, seeming to always exhibit behaviour consistent with mental instability. In this case, if he was indeed a wannabe terrorist, he had no problem announcing to the world or anyone that would listen, that he was one, or at least wanted to become one.

An overheard phone call by itself does not warrant too much further action, but then along comes the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS), who sends a letter to the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team (INSET) stating that Nuttall was a “potential threat to national security”. It was a “tip”, there was no source of the information given, and there were no actionable details.

A couple of months after this, CSIS sends another letter, updating their information to INSET; upping the ante as it were, now declaring that Nuttall had tried to purchase or had bought potassium nitrate. A chemical that can be used in the creation of explosives. This report too was unconfirmed at the time and in the end never corroborated.

So armed with this rather limited and unbacked information, INSET launches into an investigation. They conduct surveillance on Nuttall and Korody, and quickly learn that they are quite boring, never leave the house, and appear to have no life outside the walls of their house.

Yet, despite the negative findings, and despite it being uncorroborated information, this investigative group decides somewhat surprisingly that they will enter into an expensive undercover investigation, a technique usually used when in possession of much harder information. No terrorist activities had been uncovered, they had little more than one individual, Mr Nuttall, who may have been qualified for examination under the mental health act to justify this next step.

There was no evidence that Mr Nuttall was involved with a terrorist group, but to give the benefit of doubt, the police in this instance presumably must have felt there was enough there to warrant some form of “infiltration”.

There were three investigational groups that became directly involved. The respective mandates and the nuanced differences was where this file left them susceptible to mistakes.

CSIS is an intelligence agency that deals only in intelligence, it does not go to court, its investigations do not face scrutiny or examination in any public forum. It does not want to be exposed to any public light, out of necessity they argue.

CSIS was formed in the early 1980’s when the MacDonald Commission took Security Service away from the RCMP and formed this alternate agency (the primary reason, ironically considering this case, being that the Commission felt that the RCMP lacked the political sophistication to investigate groups such as the FLQ at the time).

The effectiveness of CSIS and its contributions to our national security, are up for conjecture and debate, as no one is fully versed on what they are doing; short of the cabinet committee on security and intelligence. Therefore, the public will likely remain in the dark, now and into the future. It can be argued that there is an investigational necessity to secrecy in the world of intelligence, but the fact that there never will be a shining light on their operational effectiveness, also makes for a convenient and easy hiding place, and is fully reliant on the public trust of Ottawa and its politicians.

With this mandate and with this structure at CSIS, when they receive or are exposed to information which is of a criminal nature, they are mandate bound to turn it over to the police for further investigation, which in this case is INSET. When CSIS makes the decision to turn over this or any criminal information, in some ways their interest in the case fades, as does their willingness and ability to cooperate.

INSET is the Federally directed group within the RCMP, with sections in the various Provinces including British Columbia. For a number of years it has been an innocuous group, hardly heard from, with a reputation of a good place to spend your retirement years, a sleepy hollow, an arm who often liked to hide behind the nomenclature of “national security” if ever questioned. As a result INSET is rarely heard or seen in the public eye.

However, over the last few years it has enjoyed a renewal, brought on by greater Ottawa Federal interest, a large increase in their manpower resources and budget, and this section began to catch the eye of Major Crime investigators who wanted a little quieter lifestyle. As an example, two of the three INSET investigators who formed the investigative group in this Nuttall case came from Major Crime backgrounds. One other thing should be noted and may be a key to understanding what went wrong, is that these major crime investigators brought with them some major crime investigative techniques; which often included undercover operations. That was their experience, it was part of their toolbox.

The third group of significance who may have played the most significant role in this investigation was the “Undercover Shop”. A relatively small section, which developed about 30 years ago. It was a group specifically designed to get close to the criminal element by being one of them, becoming entrusted by them, with the ultimate goal of obtaining confessions or uncovering criminal ties. It enjoys a somewhat misplaced allure not often found in other investigational teams.

As the years have moved on they have become more exposed through the courts, the techniques often on full display, the methods studied in criminology courses. They even talk about it on their own public website. If you were listening to talk radio today you would have heard their techniques being the subject of talk radio. Any technique that is exposed to such a great degree, is less effective and possibly dangerous.

Over they years the Undercover Unit developed tried and true “scenarios”; staged one act plays with police officers pretending to be part of the criminal element, designed to further their credibility with the target; all hopefully leading to a point where the target fills the need to inform “Mr. Big” about his previous criminality. Ultimately the target wants to please, to gain approval of the actor playing Mr. Big and the acceptance and protection of the fake criminal group. In some cases, these scenarios drag on, and there can be over over fifty such “scenarios” or more, but in this Nuttall case, there were only twenty-eight, which may also be a flag of either wanting the file to end, or one borne of a hurried desperation to reach the goal.

In the late 1990’s the U.C. unit became heavily involved with Major Crime teams and began to deal almost exclusively with homicide cases. since 2008 they have been involved in some 350 cases in which 95% have resulted in conviction.) These were cases where murders had been committed, the suspect had been identified by major crime investigators, and the goal of the undercover operation was to get a “confession” to the crime, often to corroborate and verify the circumstantial evidence in the case. It was an important role to play, but it was not up to this group to conduct the investigation.

The Undercover Unit’s exposure in the courts over the last ten years has led many investigators, lawyers, and academics to question whether their techniques are becoming fragile; that these techniques only work on the feeble minded, the un-connected, the neophytes of the criminal world. The unit was becoming less successful with more exposure, and several times have been called out by their “targets” as being the police. They do not talk about the cases that went wrong, nor should you ever hear about them, at least in theory.

So these two factions came together, INSET and the U.C. group, no doubt with the approval of upper management in both B.C. and in Ottawa and a decision was made that an undercover operation would be undertaken. Even though there had been no offence committed, by Nuttall or Korody, and maybe just as notable even though there was no confession being sought. This was by its very design somewhat of a fishing trip, characteristic in some ways of any “infiltration”.

The U.C. group was about to undertake an operation with no goal other than the infiltration of these two abhorrent but sad individuals, but began using a technique that was geared to obtaining specific results, a confession, a “Mr. Big”. The nature of the scenarios were a combination of a need to infiltrate, but they also began using techniques aimed at ending at a Mr. Big. This seems somewhat counter-intuitive from any investigators standpoint and could lead to confusion in the goals if nothing else. How does one aim for a confession if there is no crime? The very setup and the road they were going down was pre-destined to lead to claims of entrapment. They needed to create the crime and push the two targets toward it, the building blocks to an argument of being entrapped.

One should also point out that these types of operations can easily get into the millions of dollars in terms of cost, but there was no municipal or provincial budget oversight–INSET and the U.C. group were playing with Federal monies. (It is interesting to note that with this new found interest in terrorist files in Ottawa, INSET’s budget went from $717,000 in 2003 and in 2013, the year of this case, it was at $22.9 million.)

So the Undercover Operation began. The “hook” or “bump” into Nuttall by the undercover operators was tried and true, the old “would you help me look for my sister” line to act as a public introduction. Nuttall fell hook line and sinker, which in some ways should also have been a red flag, a warning signal as to Nuttall’s mental capacity and competence. He eventually became so enamoured with the operator that he even declared his love for him.

Without going into all the scenarios that were employed, suffice to say that Nuttall throughout: talked of extravagant plans, made ridiculous demands, was unable to focus, could not carry out the simplest of tasks. He went from wanting to kill civilians, to wanting to kill soldiers, from wanting to blow up a nuclear submarine, to blowing up a passenger ferry but not wanting to kill children or innocents. He wanted to blow up the “train” to Victoria, so was quite disappointed to find there was no train that went to Victoria.

He went from wanting to build rockets, and getting access to sniper rifles, to eventually settling for the building of pressure cooker bombs just like the Boston bombers. This more controllable goal was pushed at the suggestion and direction of the Undercover group.

The U.C. “shop” continued to focus on getting Nuttall to write down his plans, no doubt believing that it would be corroboration of his intent and capabilities. Nuttall claimed to have those plans on his laptop, then discovered to not having plans, to being asked to write down plans, and then not being able to physically complete them.

His goals went from freeing Omar Khadr, to forcing the American army out of Afghanistan, to having all the prisoners released from Guantanamo. He was “in training” when he was playing “paintball”. His goals, dreams, needs and plans changed daily. He could not carry out a common grocery list even when directed by the UC operator.

So it was borne out of necessity that the Undercover group began to direct him. (It should be noted that the primary undercover operator despite all of the above, testified that he did not believe that Nuttall was “incapable”).

Once the police begin to direct, all the police personnel involved should have been aware that they were no longer toying with “entrapment” they were now within its grasp. And as early as May 2013 some opinion inside the U.C. shop began to talk about the fact that they were exerting too much influence through the primary undercover operator. One of the investigative team Sargents argued that Nuttall and Korody did not represent a “risk”. Sources say that this Sargent ended up leaving the investigative team, turning over the running of the file to someone with more intensity to push this file.

So it carried on, with Nuttall carrying on his delusional path. At one point he even breaks down crying because he can not write out a plan as he had been directed. He fears the wrath of the undercover operator because he couldn’t do what he was told, even on one occaisson bringing a “marble gun” for protection. After finally settling with a plan, albeit unwritten, to blow up the Parliament buildings in Victoria.

Nuttall insists on videotaping a “recce” to check out the target area discreetly. He is promptly seen talking to police, tourist guides, and using his own name, clearly not having learned the lesson that he should be somewhat covert.

Nuttall emerges from this mayhem, with an agreement with the undercover team to build pressure cooker bombs, just like the Boston brothers. The undercover team manages to control this process, to the point that they were able to make them inert and give them back to Nuttall, so they could be buried in the bushes outside the Victoria Legislature buildings. (They also forget to get the appropriate warrant to give the “bombs” back to Nuttall with a minute trace of C4 and the courts pointed out that the RCMP had in fact broken the law)

Nuttall gets cold feet as the moment nears, to the point of asking for a “spiritual advisor”, and refers to dying like a “martyr”. Graciously, he says he would bequeath his paint gun to the undercover operator for future training purposes.

In the end of this farcical operation, they are allowed to bury the bombs in the “bushes”, and then went and sat in a hotel room waiting for the news to report their feat. Of course, they were bitterly disappointed when the news did not erupt.

With little trouble they were then arrested.

Equally surprising in this tale of misdeeds is that at the end of it all, the police managed to convince the Crown to lay charges.

And then, after the stay of proceedings placed by the trial Judge, The Crown had the audacity to appeal it, spending more tax dollars on clearly a fruitless mission. The Crown, argued in its appeal, that the two suspects were “completely responsible for crafting and carrying out the plan…and the RCMP operation was not manipulative”. It must have been hard keeping a straight face in their applications. There may have been mistakes made by the trial Judge in terms of some of the more legal issues, but no one could possibly argue that this was not entrapment.

The trial judge, Justice Catherine Bruce rightly said that the undercover operator “actually propelled Nuttall to a more extreme view”. She said the RCMP “instigated and skillfully engineered the very terrorist act committed by the defendants”. The RCMP “induced the commission of an offence..without reasonable suspicion or while acting mala fides”. One can forgive the odd Mountie from not understanding “entrapment”, but how do a group of lawyers not understand it.

So where does this leave us. After millions of dollars spent in lawyers and police operations and the errors in judgement will there be repercussions? Obviously not, this is government, this is the infallible RCMP, after all they are not holding anyone responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in sexual harassment claims.

It should raise questions, not just confined to the individual officers, but to the upper echelons, the supervisors who read and approved of these actions. We have a multi-layered and dysfunctional RCMP in terms of investigational mandates and recognition as to what constitutes a security threat. Sources are telling me that there is another three year long operation, which has also fallen under the same spell as Nuttall. That is trying to find suspects where none exist.

All of this is amplified by an Ottawa which has a severe disconnect with those officers on the ground who are conducting the investigations.

Miscommunication and understanding was compounded by a dogmatic and unbendable and unimaginative Undercover group who continue to use outdated techniques, not being able to recognize that the circumstances should not have been addressed by another “Mr Big”.

It was hurt by an intransigent investigative team, who seemed incapable of understanding entrapment, who just let the machine grind forward. One does not believe for a minute that the officers involved were ill-intentioned. They were struggling inside some vague criminal laws, were lacking sound guidance from Crown along the way and needed a fuller appreciation of the level of sophistication needed to prove an act of terrorism.

There is a monumental lack of understanding that a terrorist act is a political act. There is a 120 year old saying that “One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter”. Nuttall and Korody were neither.

Was Mr. Nuttall and Ms Korody dangerous individuals? To be sure. There are lots of dangerous people out there, just read Twitter.

There is a layered dysfunction in the RCMP. It is an organization consumed by gender and identity politics while a tornado of police needs and demands circle. Always trying to be the one fits all agency, all things to everyone. Doing everything, but not anything well. Whether it be white collar crime, child or internet crime, it never admits its failure, nor do they admit that they have been pulled in every direction while the government ignores or exacerbates chronic manpower and resource issues. They have grown or have been stretched too far, now too big to succeed. Only strong leadership and an honest appraisal of the capabilities and needs of this organization will pull it out of this flat spin.

*All the quotes in this story can be found from the judgement itself listed here:  2018 BCCA 479.

**Also, in terms of full disclosure, the author has had experience in major crime cases, and specifically in major crime cases, where an undercover operation which used the Mr. Big was employed. Some were successful, some were not. The author also was a member of Security Service which then became CSIS.

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