Saturday, March 17, 2007
The National Police Force Gone Bad
RCMP: The National Police Force Gone Bad
By Robin Mathews
Something leaps out at you.
RCMP team leader in December, 2003, "of the investigation into whether any fraud or breach of trust offences were committed in relation to [the sale of ] B.C. Rail" was Sergeant Debruyckere "brother-in-law of then-Executive Director of the B.C. Liberal Party, Kelly Reichert [who was] on the Provincial Liberal Party Election Campaign Team with [Finance] minister [Gary] Collins and acted as the Campaign Director." (pp. 6-7)
In 2004 a leak of information was recorded regarding "star" crown witness against Basi and Virk, Eric Bornmann. "Specifically, the leaked information pertained to Mr. Reichert knowing that Mr. Bornmann had been granted immunity from prosecution in exchange for information against Messrs. Basi and Virk." (p.7)
This, and more, is in the Application for Disclosure of February 26, 2007, filed in the Supreme Court of B.C. by the Defence in the Basi, Basi, Virk matter of the legislature search warrant "raids" on Dec. 28, 2003 which seem - more and more - to be the tail that is wagging the dog in the dirty (perhaps criminal) sale of B.C. Rail by the Gordon Campbell government.
The implications of Liberal/RCMP connections to the legitimacy of the sale, to the role of Gordon Campbell and leading cabinet ministers, and to the focus on the three men charged may well turn out to be enormous. Ominously, the Application for Disclosure (item 62, p. 8) reports that finance minister Gary Collins may have been guilty of telling Dave Basi to inform U.S. OmniTRAX - a supposed bidder for B.C. Rail - that a "consolation prize" would be awarded if they would fake continued interest. Collins then met with OmniTRAX "Executives privately at Villa Del Luppo Restaurant" on December 12, 2003. Nonetheless, "the RCMP elected not to conduct further investigation of Minister Collins".
Before the search warrant "raids" on the legislature on December 28, "RCMP", according to the Application for Disclosure "were focused on developing a major communication and public relations strategy to be executed following the search of the Legislature". That, says the Application, involved "a massive media campaign, talk of the "cancer of organized crime", and an RCMP "media release and televised briefing on December 29 [which] drew a clear connection between Mr. Basi, Mr. Virk and organized crime." (item 59, p. 8)
We have to keep in mind that the Application for Disclosure comes from Defence which wishes to bring forward material demonstrating their clients are not guilty of crimes. The presentation to the court, however, pointing to evidence that is apparently solid must be taken seriously, for it is not in the interest of Defence counsel or of their clients to be frivolous or to appear to be misleading the court.
Perhaps to understand fully what a "major communication and public relations strategy" for the RCMP might entail we should look at a little history and experience.
What follows is information that suggests the RCMP has had highly questionable relations with the Liberal forces of Gordon Campbell, that the relations go a long way back, and that they appear to suggest the RCMP has gone bad and needs total national reconstruction from the top down. A point that has to be born in mind, of key importance, is that there is no effective RCMP oversight body in Canada. None. (The reasons for that go back to the McDonald Report in the 1980s).
The system which involves the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (the ONLY review organization) is patently ridiculous, an obvious, expensive game of smoke and mirrors. The Commission - let us say - agrees an investigation should be made. The RCMP investigates itself. The Commission may interpret the investigation. The result goes to the top levels of the RCMP for consideration. RCMP has no obligation to do anything, to mete out penalty, to censure officers, anything. It usually writes a little note back to the Commission (saying "get lost" in one way or another).
My own complaint concerned the RCMP investigation of Glen Clark, B.C. premier, charged with having accepted "favours" for influence. The RCMP alleged they had begun the investigation I asked for - the RCMP investigating the RCMP. I received a letter from an RCMP officer a few months after my complaint saying they had 28 or 29 volumes of "evidentiary material" and they were terminating the investigation. Period. I wrote in protest and heard absolutely nothing.
More than three years after I had lodged the complaint - having received not a single word for years - I received a telephone call from the second-in-command at the Commission saying they had completed their investigation and I would be receiving the report after it had been sent to the top level of the RCMP and had been finalized. It arrived with the conclusion that two experienced RCMP officers had WRONGFULLY terminated the investigation. The Commission recommended better training of officers to prevent such things happening, with which the RCMP top brass had no quarrel. And the Commission stated it would leave to the discretion of the RCMP whether they would re-open the investigation or not. The RCMP chose not to do so. For all intents and purposes there was no investigation whatever. The result is that I may fairly retain my conviction that the British Columbia RCMP worked with the Gordon Campbell forces to fake a case that could be fought against Glen Clark with the intention of destroying his political career.
The Glen Clark case arose out of the politics of the time - Liberals under Gordon Campbell, in fact, fighting to break the hold of the NDP on B.C. (More of that to come.)
A totally non-political complaint receiving the same kind of insane treatment as mine involved an ordinary citizen in the Kelowna area who believed he had very important information about the (still unsolved) Mindy Tran murder case. The RCMP refused to take his testimony, coerced him, and much more. The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP took years to do nothing whatever about his case. Find out about all that at www.transfixed.net or at www.mindytran.com
I cite the two widely different cases to show that the Commission for Public Complaints is not a genuine oversight body. Whatever it thinks it does, in fact it provides a cover for RCMP wrong-doing because it gives the public the impression that RCMP illegalities and other kinds of misbehaviour are dealt with - and they are not. As a result, the RCMP can work - legally and illegally - for political forces of its choice and face no penalty or serious review.
In B.C. - to trace a single, revealing line - we may ask if the RCMP has not only obstructed the court proceedings in regard to the Basi, Basi, Virk charges, but has it been working for Gordon Campbell Liberal interests over more than a decade? And has it been perfecting "major communications and public relations" strategies that involve what has come to be called (using RCMP phrasing) "smear and disinformation" tactics?
In the mid-nineties (with Ujjal Dosanjh in the Attorney General position), an almost insane "war" was conducted against Native people and non-Native supporters (about 30) at Gustafsen Lake. (read From Attica to Gastafsen Lake, by Splitting the Sky and Sandra Bruderer, self-published, 2001). The incident involved the RCMP, the Canadian Armed forces, and, it is alleged, wildly illegal activities on the part of "the forces of order". Of particular interest was one RCMP officer who had a significant place in the set of events.
His name is Sergeant Peter Montague. At one point he convinced CBC radio to give special emergency time to broadcast into the Gustafsen Lake community because, apparently, of an impending crisis involving threat to human life. Professor Anthony Hall, a Native Studies expert, and another researcher, concluded the supposed basis for impending crisis argued by Montague was, almost without question, a fabrication.
RCMP Media Relations officer, Montague was a very busy man throughout the operation. At one point in the set of events he was caught on an RCMP videotape - parts of which are missing - saying with a smile "Smear campaigns are our [the RCMP's] specialty" (p. 435, >From Attica to Gustafsen Lake). His words were echoed by Sergeant Dennis Ryan who admitted in court to his statement caught also on videotape that plans were to employ "smear and disinformation". Ryan admitted in court, also, that the RCMP "illegally used juvenile criminal records of some of the militants they believed to be in the camp" with the purpose of discrediting. (p. 435, From Attica to Gustafsen Lake)
At one level the Gustafsen Lake "standoff" was a huge experimental chamber for "smear and disinformation" tactics, RCMP/media collaboration, government complicity, and try-outs of illegal activity to further policy ends. I have barely touched on the astonishing story.
Ujjal Dosanjh made his way to the premiership after (as Attorney General) he had publicly reported the criminal investigation of Glen Clark who, then, resigned in the appropriate fashion. What ensued I call "the fraudulent investigation and trial of Glen Clark, premier of B.C." Dosanjh's New Democrats lost the election to Gordon Campbell (as I saw it, almost as if that was what Dosanjh wanted). Probably for the first time in Commonwealth history, a premier (Dosanjh) announced nearly a week before the election that he expected to lose it. In a short time Dosanjh was working for the Liberal Party. He became a part of Paul Martin's B.C. "dream team" and went to Ottawa to become a federal Liberal cabinet minister.
Peter Montague's transformation is equally interesting. He was twice wooed by Gordon Campbell, it is reported, to run for the B.C. Liberal Party, but refused. After Gustafsen Lake, however, he joined the branch of the B.C. RCMP that conducted the "investigation" of Glen Clark, becoming "the chief investigator in the Clark corruption case" (Globe and Mail, Oct 30 02). He was a part of the strange search warrant "raid" on Glen Clark's East Vancouver home that was marked by the presence of BCTV, filming what became in the minds of many people part of a smear campaign, part of - you might say, to quote from the February 26, 2007 Defence Application for Disclosure in the Supreme Court of B.C. - "a massive media campaign." Glen Clark (in 2002) described the BCTV event as "a carefully orchestrated strategy to maximize media exposure".
Clark's comment was made in the context of a special retirement luncheon for Peter Montague held by journalists on October 29, 2002. Robert Matas, in his Globe and Mail story the next day, wrote "The Vancouver television crew that filmed former premier Glen Clark in his kitchen during a controversial police raid gave a retirement gift yesterday to the chief investigator in the Clark corruption case.
Gary Hanney, a cameraman with BCTV, made the presentation. Senior BCTV reporter, John Daly, who was at Mr. Clark's house during the police raid on March 2, 1999, was also at the luncheon.
Both Mr. Daly and Mr. Hanney refused to explain why they presented a token gift to Staff Sergeant Montague."
Calls have been made in both cases - the Gustafsen Lake "stand-off" and the Glen Clark investigation and trial - for full-scale public inquiries. They have not been forthcoming. As a result, the RCMP feels more and more at ease in its behaviour and practice. On April 10, 2004, the Vancouver Sun reported "RCMP Commissioner Guiliano Zaccardelli and members of Canada's diplomatic corps win honours as big spenders of expense accounts for cabinet ministers and top civil servants". (p. A9) Fallen into disgrace over his conduct involving the RCMP and Maher Arar three years later, Zaccardelli seems to have continued his grand "lifestyle". The Globe and Mail reported in March, 2007 that the "RCMP paid a communications consultant almost $25,000 to help Guiliano Zaccardelli prepare for parliamentary hearings that ultimately led to the former commissioner's resignation." What would he have said if he hadn't the benefit of $25,000 worth of help?
We should not forget that at RCMP headquarters the very large pension trouble and misuse of money commented upon by the auditor general involved misuse of expense accounts, "rampant" nepotism in human resources, miss-sourcing of contracts for $2 million, misuse of consultants, and a case in which "an officer was promoted after working on his superior's house". (Vanc. Sun, Sept 23 07 A4). Notice that no discipline or penalty was meted out to any of the people involved. But innocent Glen Clark, we remember, was charged, investigated for months and months in full public spotlight, tried for 136 days, and ruined for a rumour that he might have thought of giving a favour to someone who worked on his house. Was that whole piece of history the result of a carefully calculated "smear and disinformation" campaign?
Does the RCMP live in a world of double standards? Is it free to commit crimes, certain it will never be penalized? Does it work increasingly for and with - legally and illegally - particular political parties on the Right? The answer to all those questions seems to be: Yes.
Careful Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin did something of a summary of RCMP lows on December 7, 2006, listing many large fiascos - but neither the Gustafsen Lake nor the Glen Clark scandals were among them, perhaps because there are too many RCMP violations of integrity to keep track of. Martin gives room for "honest mistakes". Then he adds: "But too many of the RCMP's recent activities haven't had the look of honest mistakes" (A19). Will the "B.C. legislature raids" be added to the list of large, shady (perhaps criminal) undertakings by the RCMP?
Replacement (temporary?) for the disgraced Guiliano Zaccardelli is former top B.C. RCMP officer Beverley Busson. She was a senior officer and then top officer during many of the events described here. She was top officer when a brother-in-law of a leading B.C. Liberal was "the team leader of the investigation into whether any fraud or breach of trust offences [especially, of course, among Liberals] were committed in relation to B.C. Rail". (item 49, p. 6) She was top officer during the time when - some have alleged - there has been an appearance of a concentration upon the charges against Basi, Basi, and Virk and a parallel RCMP neglect, perhaps, of investigation and (maybe) charges against senior legislature and non-legislature Liberals. She was top officer when Defence was arguing that the RCMP was not cooperating and, perhaps, was blocking evidence necessary to the conduct of the trial presided over by Madam Justice Elizabeth Bennett.
And so we come back to the Supreme Court of B.C. where the Basi, Basi, and Virk trial is imminent, though motions to stay proceedings and/or to call them invalid in the light of Charter violations must still be heard. Bets are still being taken on the likelihood of the trial going ahead. Madam Justice Bennett has said all documents not universally bearing a publication ban will be available to the public. The public's high interest in the case, she declares, must be served. That is reassuring, but it is relatively easy to say.
Much, much more difficult to say is how plain and direct have been the laying of charges and the pursuit of justice in the matter. Could the case against the three men charged have been purposefully fudged (a) to take attention away from the real malefactors? (b) Could it have been purposefully fudged in such a way as to be destroyed by a Charter challenge, declaring violations of the men's fundamental rights in a search for evidence? (c) Could it all be smoke and mirrors prepared by the Gordon Campbell forces and the RCMP working together? And could we all wake up some morning soon to be told the trial has been stayed, no charges exist, and no one will be found guilty of anything? And, in fact, might we be told that the Crown has decided the waters have been so muddied the best thing to do is to turn completely away from the whole matter And Get On With Building British Columbia?
Have the RCMP and the Gordon Campbell Liberals (and the Crown?) worked successfully together in the past to prevent justice from being done, or worse, to engage in acts of injustice (called "crimes")? If so, what is to stop them from being as successful in the present?
In following the Basi/Virk trial it seems Mr. Mason, again, has drawn attention to numerous problems in the RCMP's investigative techniques. He has even suggested the trial itself might be comprised because of the way the RCMP obtained wiretap evidence.
Given all that Robin, I'm curious as to why you are such a critic of Mr. Mason. In your essay you seem to be pointing to many of the problems Mr. Mason has spent the last year writing about.
It just seems odd.
Is it only British Columbia? Or does this adversarial attitude prevail everywhere? If so, is that what's gone wrong with our world?
It's troubling that the pro vs con approach essentially pushes citizens into war with one another, rather than uniting them to examine the issues without prejudice. Take the Legislature, the House of Commons, any courtroom, all set up to be ... Them vs US ... no common ground. And yet our province -- in matters such as B.C. Rail -- should be all common ground.
An earlier commenter (maybe it was you?) demanded -- with flags of outrage flying -- that I admit serious flaws for thinking that Gary Mason wrote a bad column about Basi & Virk when in the past I had thought two of his columns were good. Isn't this the formula for a closed mind? Didn't it mean: get an idea in a previous century and stick with it forevermore despite the evidence? Does this explain why many people think global warming isn't happening?
Well, Gary Mason may be Santa Claus himself, but if so Santa wrote a lousy, biased, patronizing, demeaning article on 23 December 2006.
"A critic" doesn't mean always and forever blaming somebody for their mistakes. Nobody is always and forever bad. Or always and forever good. A decent critic watches for the signs, tries to make sense of it all, and moves on. A spin doctor, on the other hand, takes the pieces and creates a self-serving message disguised as news.
A critic -- like a good citizen -- is supposed to evaluate things from a neutral position, putting things in two columns: good and bad ... with fair-minded being good and manipulation being bad. A decent critic comes up with a total, then moves on.
Gary Mason was outrageously bad on an issue of great importance to the province of British Columbia. That earned him an F in my critique ... but, for cryin' out loud, it doesn't keep him in the doghouse forever.
Sheesh. Aren't they teaching philosophy in school anymore?