Friday 24 May 2013

The  RCMP:  Canada’s  rogue  police  force   (Part 1)                 


The Royal Canadian Mounted Police force is Canada’s federal police and it is also British Columbia’s main provincial police force. Of course in larger cities such as Vancouver and Victoria including seven other large communities and aboriginal communities in B.C., they have their own police forces but in much smaller communities, the RCMP is the police force that operates in those communities and surrounding areas and B.C.



Recently, there have been some real horror stories surfacing about the conduct of some of the members of the RCMP across Canada however RCMP misconduct goes further back in Canadian history. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police has a history of wrongdoing dating back to 1873 and has been involved in several high-profile controversies during that time, particularly in the 1970s.

A series of more than 400 illegal break-ins by the RCMP were revealed by Vancouver Sun reporter John Sawatsky in his front-page exposé headline “Trail of break-in leads to RCMP cover-up” on December 7, 1976. The story won the Vancouver Sun the Michener Award that year.

The following year, it was uncovered that the October 6, 1972, break-in at the Agence de Presse Libre du Québec office, had been the work of an RCMP investigation dubbed Operation Bricole, (APLQ) not right-wing militants as previously believed. The small leftist Quebec group had reported more than a thousand significant files missing or damaged following the break-in. One RCMP, one SQ and one SPVM officer pleaded guilty on June 16, 1977, but their punishment was merely unconditional discharges in other words, no fines or jail times. On April 19, 1978, the Director of the RCMP criminal operations branch admitted that the RCMP had entered more than 400 premises without warrants since 1970.

In 1974, RCMP Security Service Corporal Robert Samson was arrested at a hospital after a failed bombing. The bomb exploded while in his hands, causing him to lose some fingers and tearing his eardrums while he was at the house of Sam Steinberg, founder of Steinberg Foods in Montreal. While this bombing was not sanctioned by the RCMP, at his trial he admitted that he had done much worse on instructions of the RCMP, and admitted he had been involved in the APLQ break-in.


Perhaps the best-remembered scandal, on the night of May 6, 1972, the RCMP Security Service burned down a barn owned by Paul Rose's mother in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Rochelle, Quebec. They suspected that separatists such as Rose were planning to meet with members of the Black Panthers from the United States. The RCMP arson came after they failed to convince a judge to allow them to wiretap the alleged meeting place.


In 1973, more than thirty members of the RCMP Security Service committed a break-in to steal a computerized members list of Parti Québécois members, in an investigation dubbed Operation Ham. John Starnes who was the head of the RCMP Security Service, claimed that the purpose of this operation was to investigate allegations that the PQ had funneled $200,000 worth of donations through a Swiss banking account.

In 1972, it was suspected that there was a Soviet infiltrator in the ranks of Canadian intelligence. Suspicion initially fell upon Leslie James Bennett. With Bennett's personal leftist politics, and past acquaintanceship with defector Kim Philby, he was pilloried as the most likely suspect by the RCMP themselves, although the RCMP was asked to investigate Bennett by James Jesus Angleton of the CIA. The accusations and interrogations by the police led to the breakdown of Bennett's marriage and early retirement. In the 1980s it was discovered that the mole had actually been Sergeant Gilles Brunet, the son of an RCMP assistant commissioner and not Bennett.

In 1997, the APEC summit was held in Vancouver. the Royal Canadian Mounted Police improperly used pepper spray and conducted strip searches against protesters, who were objecting to the presence of several autocratic leaders such as Indonesian president Suharto. A subsequent public inquiry concluded that the RCMP was at fault, showing a lack of professionalism and a failure of planning. The report also charged that the Canadian government interfered with police operations, possibly in an effort to shield certain leaders from being publicly embarrassed by the protests.

In 1999, RCMP Constable Michael Ferguson fatally shot local resident Darren Varley after being supposedly attacked inside the holding cells at a Pincher Creek police station. After two hung juries, Ferguson was convicted at a third trial of the killing of Varley and found guilty of manslaughter.

On September 26, 2002, during a stopover in New York City en route from a family vacation in Tunisia to Montreal, Maher Arar was detained by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, acting upon erroneous information supplied by the RCMP. Arar was then sent to Syria where he was imprisoned for more than 10 months, tortured and forced to sign a false confession that he had trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. A public campaign brought about his release and a public inquiry into his case found that he had no ties to terrorism whatsoever.


Ahmad El Maati, a Canadian Muslim, was detained and tortured in Syria while under investigation by RCMP investigators. El Maati was eventually released without charge. On September 28, 2006, RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli issued a carefully worded public apology to Arar and his family during the House of Commons committee on public safety and national security in which he said; “Mr. Arar, I wish to take this opportunity to express publicly to you and to your wife and to your children how truly sorry I am for whatever part the actions of the RCMP may have contributed to the terrible injustices that you experienced and the pain that you and your family endured.” In a subsequent December 2006 appearance in front of a Commons committee, Zaccardelli said that regarding what he knew at the time and what he told government ministers at his first appearance before the committee in September was inaccurate. He resigned the following day. On January 26, 2007, after months of negotiations between the Canadian government and Arar's Canadian legal counsel, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology for any role Canadian officials may have played in what happened to Arar, and announced that Arar would receive $10.5 million settlement for his ordeal and an additional $1 million for legal costs.


In 2004, Andrew McIntosh, an investigative journalist at The National Post, revealed that a secret audit had detailed misuse of millions of dollars by the RCMP of its own members' pension fund. The same day his story was published, Commissioner Zaccardelli announced the force would pay back to the pension fund the millions misused.


After Zaccardelli's resignation in 2007, a public accounts committee heard several testimonies from former and current RCMP officers alleging serious fraud and nepotism at the upper management level under Zaccardelli. The fraud allegations went back to 2002. Zaccardelli launched an investigation and then two days later he cancelled the criminal investigation into the matter, which was then resumed by the Ottawa Police Service after his resignation. Zaccardelli somehow managed to maintain control over the subsequent probe and for this reason, nobody in the RCMP was arrested or  charged. The investigation by the Ottawa Police Service found serious nepotism and wasteful spending. A follow-up investigation by the Auditor-General found millions of dollars inappropriately charged to the pension and insurance plans by those in the RCMP who manipulated the fraud.

Following the 2002 case of a Prince George judge, David Ramsay, who pled guilty to misconduct with young prostitutes, similar allegations were made against Constable Justin Harris and other RCMP officers. Harris was accused of having touched an underage prostitute, paying a prostitute for sex between 1993 and 2001.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act forbade a hearing to take place more than one year after a senior officer had been made aware of such allegations, but because the allegations had been made against nine officers with little evidence, the RCMP did not launch a criminal investigation against Harris, nor did it launch a misconduct hearing until 2005. On October 4, 2006, the RCMP disciplinary board decided to stop all proceedings against Harris because the investigation conflicted with the RCMP Act. (This decision was later appealed by the senior RCMP officer in B.C.)

Robert Dziekański was a Polish immigrant who arrived at the Vancouver International Airport on October 14, 2007, and was lost and confused 10 hours at the airport because he couldn’t speak English before being attacked by four RCMP officers. He died of a heart attack after being tasered a total of five times by four RCMP officers. These officers were not punished by the RCMP.


In October 2008, it was revealed that the RCMP had used taxpayer money to pay individuals to write negative, politically biased reports about the Vancouver safe injection site called Insite. In addition to this, memos were distributed referring to British Columbia's Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (which is a nationally renowned repository of some of the top AIDS research in the world) as the Centre for Excrements and suggesting stacking radio shows with callers against Insite.


This ends Part I of this series. In Part II, I will tell you of the constant and ongoing abuses brought against women in the RCMP by their male counterparts.

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