To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice. ~ Confucius

This is not a good week for the RCMP.

Nor is it a good week for the friends and family who loved Robert Dziekanski, and Orion Hutchinson.After all the time that has passed since their respective deaths, neither family have had a visit from that sweet lady, justice. And why is that?

I’ve spent a good amount of time thinking about both cases in the last several days, and the only thing to come from it is an ever-increasing feeling of frustration, and failure.

Frustration that in both cases,although the circumstances are quite different, the individuals involved in the incidents have failed to do the right thing.

Failure because the RCMP are the only defenders we have in Canada – barring municipal forces. The public depend on them both to maintain law and order and protect us, as their motto would suggest :  ” Maintains le Droit.”  Directly translated it means ‘ Maintain the Right”, (of the Crown )although it is often construed as ” Maintain the Law.”  Using this motto in reference to the deaths of Robert Dziekanski and Orion Hutchinson, it does make me wonder exactly whose rights did they maintain? While Cpl. Robinson was off-duty at the time of his involvement in Orion’s death,I feel his actions have a direct impact on his credibility as an officer of the law. His choices and actions on personal time call to his judgement as a member of the RCMP.

If the public feels they can not trust actions  or judgement of the RCMP, if they have lost confidence in the force as a whole, because of the actions of a few, the system has failed.

If even one person hesitates to ask for help when they need it because they are concerned about what might transpire, the system has failed.

When the public as a whole,are forced  into the position of  even having to consider whether or not an officer is telling the truth when he gives a ‘ statement of fact’, the system has failed. And to some extent, we have failed right along with it by accepting the status quo without question.

The mission and the values represented by the RCMP on their website is admirable, but in reality,meeting the expectations they have  set for themselves has become nearly impossible in light of the two incidents mentioned above.

CORE VALUES OF THE RCMP – Recognizing the dedication of all employees, we will create and maintain an environment of individual safety, well-being and development. We are guided by:

  • integrity
  • honesty
  • professionalism
  • compassion
  • respect
  • accountability

COMMITMENT TO OUR COMMUNITIES – The employees of the RCMP are committed to our communities through:

  • unbiased and respectful treatment of all people
  • accountability
  • mutual problem solving
  • cultural sensitivity
  • enhancement of public safety
  • partnerships and consultation
  • open and honest communication
  • effective and efficient use of resources 
  • quality and timely service

Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong  in what has been often recognized as one of our most noble Canadian organizations,because in the end, they remain accountable to no one but themselves. Even the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP have no ability to enforce changes on the way the RCMP operate. They can make recommendations, and often do, but no one can force the RCMP to accept them. Worse yet, the RCMP have demonstrated on several occasions that they can and will refuse to cooperate with CPC investigations and recommendations.

Clearly, the RCMP need a refresher on their core values and commitments to our communities – that is, if they expect to restore what little confidence the public may have left in the members. A little housecleaning in management and some restructuring would go a long ways. However, in the end, the single act that would restore more faith in our national police force than anything else, would be to simply do the right thing in cases like the ones mentioned above.

I’ve always taught my children that no one is perfect. We make mistakes, we screw things up sometimes, and occasionally shit just happens and you have no control over it. But it is what you do after the shit happens that matters. They know that the right thing to do is acknowledge the screw up, the wrong, or the crime and take the consequence, no matter how hard it is to do.

Why? Because that’s what people with integrity, values and compassion do. Moral courage has become a rarity, in these days where people are more shocked by someone telling the truth, than someone who lies and conceals. The RCMP seem to have become more concerned with saving their own skins than ” maintains le droit.”  

As much as they may deny it, there appears to be two codes of  law and morality in this country; one for the RCMP, and one for the private man.  It brings to mind a Japanese proverb: “The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour. ” I think I speak for many when I say I will never forget the death of Robert Dziekanski, and Orion Hutchinson, nor the actions of the officer/s involved in either.

It is time for the RCMP to  publically acknowledge the failings of the organization, and of many officers within it. Then, and only then, will there be a place for a new beginning, a new start, and perhaps- just perhaps- justice for all.

14 thoughts on “To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice. ~ Confucius

  1. Just like every municipal police force, which gets in the middle of local politics, the RCMP gets into politics at several levels because of its mandates as the national police, provincial police in provinces like B.C., and municipal police where the RCMP is contracted to be.

    The deaths of Robert Dziekanski and Orion Hutchinson were tragic and deplorable. But reading you post on RCMP values and commitments I cannot determine if protesting about the two deaths together was just a coincidence or it implied a connection between them because they had occurred involving the same RCMP officer (i.e., the smallest, atomic level of the RCMP organization), and if so what about another random case such as the death of Ian Bush?

    You are invited to browse my blogs which contain some information about the RCMP and politics, as well as my personal experience when I lived in Vancouver in the 1990s.

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  2. Police involved deaths have resulted through carelessness, negligence incompetence, and worse, and they will continue to occur at much the same rate unless there are attitude shifts by senior police management. Commissioner Paul Kennedy’s experiences show they refuse genuine accountability and will hide or defend foul behavior rather than admit fault.

    Like an alcoholic or drug addict, there can be no recovery until they first admit to their ailments. For years, when caught red-handed, they would blame occasional “bad apples” in the presence of an overwhelming majority of good ones. Truth is, the entire disciplinary process operates badly, if at all, and management aims to preserve the dysfunctional status quo.

    The RCMP is an organization that needs a complete reorganization imposed from outside the current power structure and political management.

    Keep in mind that despite all that has become public, the RCMP Commissioner tried to keep hidden Paul Kennedy’s report on Dziekanski. They’ve had it since October but didn’t want us to see it.

    A new openness and accountability? I don’t think so.

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  3. angus mctavish

    The shift in society of individuals not being to blame for everything has been reflected in our legal system and its components simply because that is the way society has been evolving. People have been getting off of impaired driving, murder, assaults, pedophilia, for years but john doe makes no page one news.

    A former ‘sacred cow’ in the RCMP is a favored target these days. Why would they be immune to the civil rot the rest of society is infested with? How many of the 20,000 officers do you feel are not worthy? Are you basing your opinion on 1%, 5%, 10%? Management or government directed activity, or the defense maneuvers employed by the Department of Justice on the gov’ts behalf? Which are perfectly legal and available to all. Too myopic, and unsupportable if you are.

    You expect to have the public institutions to react at a higher standard than the average joe. Rightly so, however, remember that these institutions are nothing but a make up of our society in general. Hiring is not what it used to be, conduct is not what it used to be, accountability is not what it used to be. In the name of political correctness and personal freedom we have diluted everything from Christmas to the police. And you are surprised and enraged?

    Are we to demand high standards from our institutions and will we give them the ability to select only the best? Don’t be naive. A horde of PC fanatics with the backing of civil liberty / human rights advocates will make short work of that notion.

    You parse about the Bush example, however, your various institutions, Coroner Service, Attorney General, Complaints Commission all came to the same conclusions. You don’t like it but it is what it is. Who are the people in these institutions?

    Instead of rallying against the symptoms that manifest themselves on the front page, you should be fighting the disease.

    Personally, a good start would be to outright fire Robinson regardless of present day due process. Let him sue, I think the price of fighting that case would be the price of doing the right thing. Bets on the government (dept of Justice) letting them do that? Is denying him present day due process the right thing?

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  4. SB

    I understand the way this puts a negative spin on RCMP and in this pair of instances and others yes deserved but i personally work with RCMP often and by and large they are good people most want to make a positive difference and deal with difficult issues often and do it well so id hope we understand as with all things a few do not represent the entire group , the good ones need to see they matter as well

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  5. Laila

    First of all, sorry for the delay in reply- with 4 kids Christmas means a lot of extra activities and preparations that leave me little time on some days.

    Feng- was it an accident that I mentioned these two incidents together to indicate how broken I feel the force is? Not one bit. I think it is a pretty good indicator of the problems from the highest rank to the lowest. And yes, on that basis you could throw the RCMP’s actions regarding Ian Bush in there as well. The fact that Cpl Robinson was involved in both the cases I mentioned is just a sideline. Thank you for taking the time to stop be, please come again!

    Norman, you’ve got it. Completely. Here is the link to a letter from William Elliot to Paul Kennedy: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/news-nouvelles/speeches-stat-discours-decl/20091208-cpc-cpp-eng.htm

    ” December 7, 2009

    Mr. Paul E. Kennedy
    Chair
    Commission for Public Complaints
    Against the RCMP
    P.O. Box 1722, Station “B”
    Ottawa, Ontario K1P 0B3

    Dear Mr. Kennedy:

    This is further to our telephone conversation on December 3, 2009, and your subsequent letter to me of the same date.

    As I indicated, the RCMP is in the process of reviewing your interim report respecting the death of Mr. Robert Dziekanski. As I also noted, we are awaiting the final report of the Braidwood Inquiry in British Columbia which is also examining the circumstances respecting Mr. Dziekanski’s death. We are therefore not in a position to provide you with the results of our review of the interim report as provided for in section 45.46(2) of the RCMP Act.

    As you are well aware, and as has long been the practice, the Act provides that our notice to you will be considered by you in the preparation of your final report. Such final reports are provided to me as Commissioner of the RCMP and to the Minister of Public Safety and are also made public.

    It has not been the practice for interim reports to be made public and we do not believe that it is appropriate for you to do so in this case or more broadly. We believe that the normal process and the sequence of events set out in the legislation should be followed.

    Even if we had completed our review of your interim report and the large volume of documentation accompanying that report, it would not be appropriate, in our view, to provide you with our response prior to receiving the final report of the Inquiry. It is fully expected that Justice Braidwood will make findings and recommendations on the very matters dealt with in your report.

    The RCMP has been fully supportive and actively engaged in the conduct of the Braidwood Inquiry which has heard from many witnesses and conducted extensive public hearings. We expect the final report from the Inquiry will further inform our actions and our response to you.

    We acknowledge your expressed view that the Commission for Public Complaints takes precedence over a provincially constituted public inquiry and you are therefore not bound to wait for the Inquiry’s report. I note, however, that you yourself testified before Justice Braidwood during Part I of the Inquiry and that your interim report refers extensively to evidence led during the public hearings during Part II.

    The current situation and multiplicity of processes suggests that there should be improvements in how the actions of the RCMP are investigated and reviewed and that streamlining and coordination of existing processes is required. The RCMP fully supports improvements being made in these important areas.

    Although we are not yet in a position to respond to your interim report and this letter is not to be considered as notice to you pursuant to the RCMP Act, I would like to underscore that the RCMP has already taken concrete action in relation to a number of the issues, concerns and shortcomings identified in relation to the death of Mr. Dziekanski and the events leading up to and following that terrible event.

    Given that we have worked extensively with you and your staff, you are aware of many of the improvements that have already been made. In fact, you refer to some of these in your interim report.

    Those improvements include changes to our policies and training in relation to the use of conducted energy weapons. Among other things, we have emphasized the risks associated with the use of the weapon, including the risk of death. We have restricted the situations in which a “Taser” is authorized to be used to situations involving risk to public or officer safety. We have placed further emphasis on de-escalation and introduced additional requirements for arranging for medical assistance.

    We have also strengthened our reporting requirements and we provide you with copies of all Incident Reports where a conducted energy weapon has been deployed. As we have publically reported and as you have noted, there has been a significant decrease in the number of such incidents. You may also be interested to know that the RCMP has initiated a pilot project on body-worn video devices and Tasers equipped with video cameras.

    We anticipate that as a result of your findings and recommendations and those of the Braidwood Inquiry, as well as our ongoing work with provinces and territories, policing partners, academics, medical professionals and others, the RCMP will be making further changes to our policies and training related to conducted energy weapons.

    In closing, I would like to thank you for all of your efforts as Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. I understand you will be leaving your position at the end of December. I wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

    Yours sincerely,
    William J.S. Elliott ”
    ************************
    Speaks for itself, no?

    Angus ; )

    First off, I agree with you that the best thing for the RCMP to do right now would be to fire Robinson – his actions off-duty are completely unacceptable on so many levels. Yes, let him sue, let him fight for HIS Rights, but I hope he remembers Orion the entire time. If he has any decency at all, he should take it like a man. Wishful thinking on my part, I bet.

    I also agree that what we see in the RCMP is a symptom of a greater problem,one in which we have all contributed. I think most people feel greatly ineffective at being able to impact or change the status quo, however- where does one even begin?

    HIRE the best candidates, not just the ones that fill whatever quota is deemed to be politically correct at any given time. There must be a list of qualifications and characteristics that make an excellent officer – those should always come before race,gender or ethnicity.
    Screw the PC fanatics. I want the best person on the job and I dont care what colour or race or sex that person happens to be. It has no bearing on their ability to do the job. Reminds me of the NDP quota to get more women on board, but tell me, is that how they got their candidate in Steveston who actually had to leave a debate because she had no clue what the issues where? Bulltweet.

    I have no easy answers, but how do we work towards instituting change at the civilian level? How do we break down the old boys club mentality of protecting ones own? I know what happens with that. There is no public accountability at all. Nine times out of ten, when a complaint is lodged or an inquirey is made through the CPC ( and I know this firsthand) the RCMP will turn it into an internal investigation, which means the public is not privy to the outcome! So what the hell is the use of that? How do we fix that Angus? When there is so much secrecy on such a widespread basis.

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  6. angus mctavish

    Depending on your age, there are a couple of ways to start. Keeping your own house in order like your grandmother used to say is step one.

    Do you accurately complete your taxes each year? Do you cut the neighbors grass because they are elderly and have difficulty getting around? Do you say please and thank you? If you bump some car in a parking lot, do you leave your contact information under the wiper? Are you quick on the horn and middle digit in traffic? When the kid(s) tromp the neighbors flowers playing baseball in the front yards, do you make them complete a restoration and offer an apology? When the authorities bring your son home because he was caught breaking a window with rocks, do you call your lawyer or do you have him set it right on his own accord? Do you have a couple on a holiday family get together and still drive home? If you are caught do you admit your mistake and plead guilty or do you hire a lawyer and fight it all the way on technicalities? Do you return the extra dollar when someone mistakenly gives you too much change? Do you have your children obtain part time employment at a young age or just give them money? What are their duties and responsibilities with respect to the household and family? Do you complain about teachers when your child is disciplined for some transgression?

    The list is extensive, and I think you get the gist of it. Its all too easy to sit back and criticize and ridicule with a broad brush. As I read the letter you reprinted above, I would also wait until I had the results of the public inquiry, and fashion a germane change strategy having benefit of both findings. If I read correctly, the interim report was approximately 200 pages, which in itself takes time to assess and provide and accurate plan of implementation of recommendations. As the Commissioner is a Deputy Minister, which I disagree with, the government will require substantial briefings, costing, planning, legal review, etc., which takes time. I would rather take the extra time to ensure its gets done correctly, rather than hastily to satisfy agendas.

    How long did it take to get here? Multiply times at least two, in order to extricate.

    Your analogy of the NDP quota is one excellent example of why we are where we are today. There are large number of candidates that are fervent and dedicated to positive change in politics, but they are overshadowed and shunted aside by such posturing.

    The mission statement you referred to above is, at first blush, quite comprehensive. Can we say, without reservation that we fulfill those points on a daily basis? If we can, as a whole, then we can effectively work with others to ensure they do as well? Sweeping generalizations based in negativity are contrary to effective and positive change.

    There are possibly too many processes to satisfy most people. However, many of these systems are in place because of legal issues. Check the following links:
    http://www.erc-cee.gc.ca/erc-cee/mandat-eng.aspx
    http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/index.html
    http://www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca/prr/rep/index-eng.aspx

    All internal investigations are reported to the CPC by law. They are to represent you. Sometimes all it takes is a meeting with someone in charge to get some satisfaction. Unfortunately the present system here is not unique. FOI requests are granted in pretty well all situations involving gov’t dep’t actions. You have to be your own advocate to sometimes get information.

    As the Mahatma adage admonishes: Be the change you want to see in the world.

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  7. Laila

    I think for the most part, I live by that adage, as do my kids. Which is why I have a hard time with some individuals because I think we are all responsible through our choices and actions.

    That being said, it is easier said than done. And I feel it would be ridiculous to expect that initiating changes within the RCMP- or any other governmental organization , should wait for society as a whole to correct itself on the issues discussed above.

    Is the problem with the RCMP a symptom of a greater problem? No doubt. But helping your neighbour shovel their drive has nothing to do with the lack of transparency and the lack of cooperation of the RCMP with the CPC , or any other investigating body.

    What initiated this is the Dziekanski case. What a botch up that was, and there was absolutely not one reason why the RCMP could not have ” done the right thing” on many different levels of the incident and ensuing investigation.

    I find one portion of your comment interesting :

    ” The mission statement you referred to above is, at first blush, quite comprehensive. Can we say, without reservation that we fulfill those points on a daily basis? If we can, as a whole, then we can effectively work with others to ensure they do as well? Sweeping generalizations based in negativity are contrary to effective and positive change”

    When you use ” we” , are you referring to ourselves as part of society, or are you using “we” in referring to yourself as part of the RCMP organisation?

    You twirl a good spin Angus, but regardless of what the law is, things like complaints and FOI’s require navigating a system that is completely user unfriendly and far too lengthy- regardless of the legal reasoning behind the process.

    It is almost as if the issuing agency thinks that if they make it confusing enough, and lengthy enough, and delay it as long as possible, they can dissuade the person asking questions or looking for information. An average joe might give up rather than wade through the bureacracy.

    Now that we have heard your suggestions for societies ailments, please share how we achieve true accountability and transparency within the RCMP. The only way I see that it can be done is to have a truly independant agency that oversee’s them and that has the power to enforce changes on the enforcers themselves.

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  8. angus mctavish

    “We” refers to the collective we as in society. Sorry for not being clearer. Does that change the meaning of my paragraph for you?

    I object to your classification of my points as “spin”.

    “You twirl a good spin Angus, but regardless of what the law is, things like complaints and FOI’s require navigating a system that is completely user unfriendly and far too lengthy- regardless of the legal reasoning behind the process.”

    The institutions I referred to, that we have, were formed for a reason. From CPC to FOI to inquiries, and beyond. Have we examined the impetus for the creation of these? What were the initial mandates and parameters of operation? Who staffs these apparatuses? What qualifications have we established for the persons that make up the organization. If we find dysfunction, is it not reasonable to discover why and attempt to correct it before we discard it? How did we form them in the first instance?

    Regardless of the law? Do I really have to explain why that is a non starter? Why are the laws there in the first place? You will find that most regulatory bodies were as a result of some untoward situation. Law is fashioned from events, and case law from interpretation of them. To ask various organs to dismiss the law is folly.

    I would suggest that we examine these before we begin the creation of yet another layer of bureaucracy. (Did you not say that “a system that is completely user unfriendly and far too lengthy) Is it feasible to adjust the make up, operation, and legal status of what we have? I do not subscribe to the theory that if something is not functioning properly that we damn the expense and replace bodies for the sake of change. In other words succumb to the sky is falling mentality.

    The RCMP is not the only body accused of obfuscation or unaccountability. The same principal applies to others as well.

    I do not, (and you will not find in my submission), suggest that we all wait until society is a truly “just society” (apologies to Trudeau) before we act. Please reread carefully, and I apologize if I am not as clear as I should be.

    The point of shoveling the neighbors driveway etc., was directed at the question you posed as to how we start. I am sure I do not have to tell you that by raising conscientious, respectful citizens, we make society a better place. I referred to that in the point with respect to starting somewhere. By simile I refer to the gradual change that can permeate an organization beginning with proper hiring practices etc. By extension, you will replace all the problem officials at some point, but it takes time.

    If you will, sending the highest ranking officers in the RCMP (retiring in a few years) to special leadership training at great expense does not comfort me in regards of fundamental change.

    I would refer you to an article I read recently about the RCMP ousting a cadet from its training program, who, for the last 10 years has been trying to be rehired and compensated by them for what was ostensibly firing for poor performance. He maintains discrimination, however has not been successful in legal circles thus far. What are your feelings toward such situations? Who would you uphold, and how far are you willing to let your various legal organs go? Questions you have to address.

    If you consult with some senior officers in the RCMP they will tell you that in days long past, the RCMP could summarily dismiss you at the behest of a Commissioned Officer of standing. Do you wish a return to such instant finality or do you subscribe to due process as every other citizen has today?

    With respect to your last paragraph, do you not consider the CPC independent and civilian? Why? Can it be re-mandated and structured as I previously referred to?

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  9. salvatore bennedetto

    For my buck, I would agree that the head honcho should not be in the government. And I say that if you dont work for the government then you dont have to play by its rules. Hire who you want with the rules you want and if the guy cant play by the rules then fire him. It works that way in private enterprise so maybe your first step is separating the cops and the government. You can have all the overseers you want as long as they are not from, been employed by, hired by or walked by any governemnt agency.

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  10. Laila

    Angus-

    First off, the CPC may have civilian bodies within it, however, can you please explain the purpose of having an organization charged with the responsibility of overseeing the actions of the RCMP, but DOES NOT have the ability to enforce ANY of its findings or recommendations? Hmmm?

    Stupidity at it’s finest. If I were Paul Kennedy, I would be shouting as loud as I could to make this point clear. But perhaps he has, in his own way…

    Seems to me that the CPC, when looked upon in that aspect, would be the biggest waste of money in history.

    ” Here is your job. Investigate complaints. Look at every bit of evidence, over every bit of testimony, and then- when you determined the RCMP have screwed up somewhere along the line-present your findings. Go for it. But know, without hesistation, that you have no ability to make the RCMP vary in their conduct whatsoever, unless( and this is abig unless) your findings garner so much public support and outcry that we are forced to alter our current course of conduct”
    In that vein, I suggest you, and everyone else, take a look at Norm Farrell’s post : http://northerninsights.blogspot.com/2009/12/talking-to-wind.html

    Despite all of your well-written and very carefully maneuvered reply, you still fail to address all the issues we, ‘the society’, have with the RCMP.

    ” The RCMP is not the only body accused of obfuscation or unaccountability. The same principal applies to others as well”

    Who cares? Really? We already know this accusation has been applied, and in my eyes, proven in many BC government agencies AND with many BC government minister’s-but this conversation applies to the RCMP. I’m personally working on that Angus.

    Humour me, if you will.

    Why would anyone give the CPC the ability to investigate complaints against the RCMP, to find ‘fault’ as one would have it, with their actions, give them the ability to make recommendations- but not give them the independant ability to enforce those recommendations?

    It seems to me that that would only be done by someone, or by a collective of individuals, who would want to protect the structure and operating ability of the RCMP at any cost.

    Make the public believe there is an avenue for truth, and for justice to be applied to those seemingly above the law – the lawmakers, and the law enforcers themselves. Let them be appeased, even if it a false appeasement. Let the deception be called the CPC. IN other words, the CPC might be able to open our eyes, but for the love of God, don’t blink or it will all be gone.

    Game over.

    Paul Kennedy addressed this very issue in 2008:
    http://www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca/nrm/spe/2008/20081201-eng.aspx

    I include it here in it’s entirety, because of it’s relevance.

    “CPC 20th Anniversary – Opening Address
    Delivered by Paul E. Kennedy, Chair of the CPC

    Check against delivery

    Good morning.

    First, I would like to thank everyone for joining us today to mark 20 years of civilian oversight of the RCMP. I am very pleased to see individuals from such a variety of fields, including government, academia, NGOs and the media.

    I would like to acknowledge the presence the Commissioner of the RCMP, distinguished members of the House of Commons Messers Norlock, Holland and Cullen as well as Senator Kenny. We are also joined here today by many of my provincial counterparts from the West to the East coast of Canada.

    Finally, I would like to acknowledge the presence of Mrs. Siddiqui, a member of the Cross-Cultural Roundtable on Security.

    We are here today to talk about transparency and accountability. These are concepts that have been around in one form or another for quite some time. Transparency in the field of justice is manifested in our open court system and you see accountability expressed through freely held elections of your government representatives. These concepts are not static however. Rather, they are akin to the famous “memes” described by Richard Dawkins in his book “the Selfish Gene” and are self replicating and evolutionary. Most importantly they have found a home in the consciousness of western democracies.

    In the public safety domain, the 1970’s saw the emergence of the Ombudsman role as a response to the challenge of “who watches the watchers”. In Canada, during that same period, concerns were expressed about an absence of oversight for policing. A number of provinces took legislative actions to address this through the establishment of civilian oversight bodies. At the federal level we saw the establishment of the Marin Commission in 1974 and of the MacDonald Commission in 1977 both of which examined the activities of the RCMP.

    The MacDonald Commission, with its focus on the RCMP’s national security activities, lead to the establishment of CSIS in 1984 and its civilian oversight body the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) with its suite of powers designed to discharge its mandate.

    The Marin Commission, by contrast, dealt with discipline, grievances and complaints from the public. Marin envisioned the establishment of a “People’s Watchman.” A person who could focus the light of publicity on his concern as to injustices and needed change. A person who “can bring the lamp of scrutiny to otherwise dark places, even over the resistance of those who would draw the blinds.”

    Ten years after those fine words were spoken, the government in 1986 introduced legislation in response to Judge Marin’s report. In October of 1988, some two years after its introduction, Parliament enacted Part VII of the RCMP Act and established the current Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.

    How does that legislation stack up against the recommendations of Judge Marin or other oversight models that Parliament had put in place leading up to 1988? The best way to answer this is to simply compare the powers of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP with other similar bodies.

    The Access to Information and Privacy Acts passed in 1982 and the CSIS Act (1984) with its establishment of the SIRC contain foundational powers that are not found in the CPC’s legislative mandate. More specifically, they contain a right to access all information but for Cabinet confidences, a general power to summon witnesses and to subpoena evidence and the ability, where appropriate to hold hearings in private. The CPC has no such powers.

    What went wrong? The gap between the vision found in Judge Marin’s 1976 report and the 1988 legislation calls to mind the words of Abigail Adams, the wife of President John Adams who noted that “We have too many high sounding words and too few actions that correspond to them.”

    A principled approach to civilian oversight would, I believe, address the recommendation contained in the 2003 Report of the Auditor General wherein she observed that an oversight body should possess powers of review that are proportionate to the intrusiveness of the powers held by the body over which it exercises review. In Canada, the organization with the most intrusive powers is arguably the RCMP. But what does that mean for the CPC?

    Are there consequences flowing from the inadequacies of the current civilian oversight model that governs the CPC? I believe that there are. And they are being manifested at two distinct levels.

    The gradual erosion of public confidence in the police, in large part, due to a perceived lack of accountability. I have seen media reports wherein reference is made to public opinion polls which purport to say that the RCMP was still viewed favourably by 85 percent of the population. I for one don’t put a lot of faith in such polls and I am not sure in a democracy whether any comfort can be taken from an arbitrary number whether it be 60 percent, 80 percent or 90 percent. The reality is that the police require the support and co-operation of all citizens to fulfill their functions effectively. This is what matters the most.

    I prefer to rely upon my own experience during the past 35 years with public safety issues. I have observed a sea of change over that period that entails a general lack of respect and trust for public institutions including police institutions. One sees that general trend expressed daily in the media whether it be by a blogger, a letter written to the editor, an article by a journalist or an editorial. This cynicism is chronic as opposed to episodic. Police efforts to address these concerns have been perceived largely as self serving. Unsuccessful efforts to address public concerns have in a number of cases merely compounded public cynicism.

    Independent civilian oversight I believe could play an effective role in addressing these challenges and help maintain and restore the public’s confidence in the police. Effective civilian oversight would not only address the public’s concerns but would also assist the police who are increasingly professionalizing their role and have become more remote from the concerns of citizens. An oversight body can bridge the police/public divide by asking questions that the police frequently don’t ask themselves and by offering recommendations that would be more responsive to citizens concerns. Simply put, effective oversight brings the public perspective to the police.

    Another, possibly more mundane, benefit in these times of financial constraint is simple cost effectiveness. An inadequate oversight model has recently forced the government in response to individual crises to establish a list of costly Commissions of Inquiry in the public safety area including those headed by Justices O’Connor, Major and Iaccobuci. My comments should not be taken as a criticism of the work performed by those eminent jurists, but merely to point out that such commissions are created to address gaps in existing oversight regimes. Unfortunately these inquiries are very costly.

    When I consider the powers held by the Privacy Commissioner, the Auditor General, the SIRC or the CSE Commissioner, I have asked myself “is there some reason why they possess the range of powers they have and the CPC doesn’t? Is there a need to shelter the RCMP from this degree of oversight for fear that it would somehow negatively impact upon their ability to fulfill their important public safety function?” To answer that question, it is useful to look at civilian oversight of the police function in other western democracies, in particular those that flow out of the British common law tradition.

    In the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, we see police oversight bodies that are active participants in the police investigation; participants with the authority to supervise, oversee or manage police investigations, as well as conduct investigations on their own, some of which are not subject to appeal and contain binding findings.

    Take for example Australia where police corruption has recently driven the creation of six oversight bodies, many that have the power to mount technical operations, develop human sources, and hold public hearings prior to criminal proceedings.

    Across the Commonwealth we see a magnitude of legislative changes that have been adopted over the past twenty years. In all cases the creation of the police oversight bodies and the legislative changes that enhanced the scope of powers translated into benefits for the state of policing and the citizens.

    Is there any suggestion that the police forces of these countries have been weakened in their ability to effectively discharge their responsibilities? Has there been a lessening of or an increase in public support for the police? I would argue no. Has there been a diminishment of certain kinds of concerns? I would argue yes.

    Northern Ireland provides a unique look into the role and importance of police oversight. Borne out of the turbulent years of civil unrest in the 70s, 80s and 90s, the work of the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman is daunting, to say the least.

    However, since its creation in 2000, annual polling illustrates an increase in public perception and support for the police and the oversight body.

    For example, 2008 polls indicate that public awareness of the police Ombudsman grew from 65 percent in 2001 to 90 percent in 2008, and that 70 percent of police officers investigated by the Police Ombudsman were ‘very satisfied’ or ‘satisfied’ with the service they received.

    Also of interest is the way people are complaining. In 2000/01 30 percent of complaints were made directly to the Ombudsman, whereas 54 percent were made to the police service. Today, the trend has reversed: 55 percent of complaints are being made to the Ombudsman and 29 percent are made to the police.

    This is occurring in Canada as well as today approximately 60 percent of all complaints against the RCMP come to the CPC first. This was not the case a mere three years ago.

    If there has been no reduction in the ability of the police to successfully discharge their role in the face of strong civilian oversight, why then are we seemingly so reluctant in Canada to enhance our current oversight model at the national level?

    Several provincial governments have brought about change to the legislation covering police oversight at least once since the creation of their police oversight body. In most cases, changes were prompted in response to public outcry.

    For example current legislative developments in Manitoba are a response to Justice Salhany’s report on the Taman Inquiry, and in Saskatchewan the release of the Stonechild Inquiry prompted the creation of the Police Complaints Commission there. Legislative changes appear to be coming soon in British Columbia, and Alberta recently adjusted its system.

    In most cases, the implemented changes had a direct impact on the state of policing in the environment in question. In all cases, the changes translated into benefits.

    I fear similar movement at the national level is not keeping pace.

    As I indicated at the outset of my remarks, the concepts of transparency and accountability are firmly entrenched within the consciousness of western democracies. I believe that there is an irresistible tide of growing public expectation that governments will respond to public concerns in this important area.

    I was heartened to note that the Speech from the Throne on November 19, 2008 included a commitment by the Government to table a national security statement to explain how it intends to balance the new threats and challenges to national security that we face with the need for oversight, accountability and the protection of civil liberties. I look forward to hearing from the panel members and audience questions throughout the day. I would like to know if there really is a tide of expectations and what our response should be.

    Lawrence J. Peter, author of The Peter Principle, observed that a “Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.” Looking back over the 34 years since the establishment of the Marin Commission, that observation has a certain resonance. I would hope that the contribution of panellists today will help inform a debate that will move us from inadequate civilian oversight to a model of appropriate, effective and meaningful oversight in respect of the RCMP.

    Thank you.”

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  11. Skookum1

    “Le Droit” as in “the Right (of the Crown” is not anything to do with “rights”….it more means “the power of the Crown”, i.e. “authority”. “Correctness” is also implied, as if authority and “right conduct” were part and party of each other. It’s an antiquated concept, rooted in the force’s founding “to subdue the West” (see “An Unauthorized History of the RCMP”, which you’ll find listed on Amazon and is in some Lower Mainland libraries (e.g. SFU) and is well worth a read).

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  12. amgus mctavish

    “Despite all of your well-written and very carefully maneuvered reply, you still fail to address all the issues we, ‘the society’, have with the RCMP.”

    Please do not craft subtext where it is not, and assume that I “maneuver” my replies.

    Perhaps I can simplify my response for you. My apologies for extended points.

    1. Is there supposedly a system in place to address any issues with the RCMP? yes

    2. Is this system addressing the issues and is flexible enough to address upcoming issues? No, doesn’t appear to be.

    3. Have you fully examined the workings of the system?
    No, not independently.

    4. Can the mandate / operational capacity of the system be altered to become serviceable? Unknown without further examination. Legislation may be in order.

    5. Should we discard legal constraints in fashioning this or a new entity into our desired vehicle? No, you cannot disregard the law, you can only try and change it where possible.

    6. Is this a “cost is no object” issue? No, one must refrain from costly wholesale change unless absolutely necessary. Read “cost” in as tax dollars directly from your wallet, or redirected from where?

    More broadly:

    1. Are there external influences that may be responsible for the issues befalling the institution (RCMP) Yes

    2. What are some of the main external issues?

    -Lack of control over hiring practices.
    -Head of the organization is a Deputy Minister, and former politico.
    -Directed in all legal issues by the Dep’t of Justice, another arm of the government.
    -Constrained by labor law.
    -Responses to circumstances proscribed by government
    -Subject of government meddling, from equipment purchases, auditing, to pencils and pens.
    -Dealing with outrageous criminal court responses.

    3. What are some of the main internal issues?

    -Management unable to structure proper public responses to major issues.
    -Management unable to relate to its own employees. (think Brown report)
    -Ottawa driven policies designed to fit the entire spectrum of the country.
    -Inability to summarily terminate unsuitable candidates and employees.
    -Lack of a cohesive voice (union/association) for the membership to utilize.
    -Having to investigate its own legal quagmires.
    -Having to submit to the outdated RCMP Act for accountability, discipline and grievance matters.
    -Constrained in responses by government policy.
    -Complete its millions of public service demands with insufficient resources.

    There are others but the above noted are some of the main points I wanted to convey, along with the fact they are not alone. And that they (RCMP & various agencies personnel) are us, your neighbors, friends, committee members, sports coaches, colleagues, etc. You can probably, I hope, deduce that I refer to us instead of them and us. All the institutions are made up of us, including our frailties and faults. Thus the reference to keeping ones own house in order.

    Now that I have condensed my response, perhaps you could answer my queries from my other submission.

    1. “Can it (CPC) be re-mandated and structured as I previously referred to?”

    2. ““We” refers to the collective we as in society. Sorry for not being clearer. Does that change the meaning of my paragraph for you?”

    3. “Regardless of the law? Do I really have to explain why that is a non starter?”

    4. ” What are your feelings toward such situations? Who would you uphold, and how far are you willing to let your various legal organs go?”

    And finally, you ask “I have no easy answers, but how do we work towards instituting change at the civilian level?”

    I agree with you there are no easy answers, however, if you start with a reasoned assessment of the situation free from emotional baggage, innuendo, supposition, political stripe, et al, you can distill the matter to a manageable core. From there fashion your response and then begin the dialogue with persons in authority, with vigor and insistence.

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  13. Laila

    1. “Can it (CPC) be re-mandated and structured as I previously referred to?”

    Yes, I think so. But the key issue for me is that they MUST be givin the ability to and authority to enforce their findings and rulling on all invesitigations and complaints, and sanction the actions of the RCMP as required.

    2. ““We” refers to the collective we as in society. Sorry for not being clearer. Does that change the meaning of my paragraph for you?” thank you for the clarification- again.

    3. “Regardless of the law? Do I really have to explain why that is a non starter?”

    Sure, if you want to. Question: Are you a lawyer or work in the legal arena?

    Occasionally difficult situations require radical solutions. I am well aware that making any changes will ikely set of a chain reaction or set a precedent. However, when the process breaks down, or is unmanegable in such a way that could be deemed to favour those within the RCMP, something needs to be changed.

    I understand ‘due process’. I understand that these rules,regulations, procedures etc, were put into place for specific reasons and purposes. However, the RCMP, many times, do not adhere to their own policies. While some say there is a public perception that it is a big old boys club where they protect their own at any cost, I say the perception, in many cases, has been proven to be accurate by their own actions.

    What you suggest, takes an inexorbitant amount of time, in my opinion. I say we, the people, get on our federal politicians non-stop to pass legislation that enables the CPC to have authority over the RCMP.

    4. ” What are your feelings toward such situations? Who would you uphold, and how far are you willing to let your various legal organs go?”

    If there is one thing I am sick to death of, it is the air on entitlement so many people demonstrate these days, and this does go back many years. Most people will sue for anything at the drop of a hat. In the case you mention, I see no issues with firing someone for lack of performance. Let the ass sue and try discrimination, or some other sleazy defence that a hungry lawyer will concoct. And I say sleazy because again, in the litigious society we have created, everything is used as a reason to sue someone else, and it clogs the system for the real cases that need addressing.

    I say, at some point it stops. The employer has the right to fire, or not hire, any employee on due cause or reason with substantiation.
    Let me add this, as well. I’m not a cop-hater, nor do I think every cop is bad. I know some great RCMP that work their asses off in tough conditions every day, without a lot of support. And if anything, it is for those wonderful men and woman that are in the force, that these changes need to be made most.

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  14. It is not clear to me if the RCMP is an old boys Club, or that the public is being assessed, i.e., ‘sized’, by the RCMP and to a lesser degree perhaps even by the CPC when it comes to public complaints.

    My experience has been from years ago when I once filed a public complaint with what was then named the RCMP Public Complaints Commission; my sense was that the Commission and the RCMP management likely prejudged the situation, and so you might be given a ‘due process’ but the arrangement and the assignments were predisposed in some way.

    In my case, I soon withdrew the complaint but the Commission investigator, who also dealt with the 1992 Giant Gold Mine strike in Yellowknife, might be personally related to an RCMP “E” Division officer handling internal investigation for public complaints!(?)

    I guess in the old days there was a sort of accepted social standard for behavior to be automatically considered as right or wrong, appropriate or not, and for a person to be viewed as a good guy or bad, and things might not have withstood the challenges from today’s younger generation who like to contest the ‘due process’.

    But as the society is opening up the RCMP management may have also chosen to recruit more confrontational young officers, i.e., opting for a type of internationalization/modernization objective in that direction even before 9/11. The RCMP may have learned the lesson of APEC 97 quite differently from what the Commission wanted them to.

    And so when you look farther than B.C., you also see the James Roszko debacle in Alberta, ahead of which the RCMP unfortunately might have geared up for a confrontation and then it turned out beyond their expectation.

    I am not sure if these thoughts are relevant to Norman Farrell’s notion of a “complete reorganization” of the RCMP.

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