Who protects us from the protectors?

In August 2007, three officers of the Sûreté du Québec disguised themselves and joined crowds gathered at a summit of political leaders in Montebello. Protest leader Dave Coles noticed three bandana-clad “burly” men trying to incite violence. Coles demanded they unmask and identify themselves. Instead, they hustled away with the help of uniformed police.  Initial denials of involvement by police officials were made suspect by video shared on YouTube showing the masked men, one with a large rock in hand. Photographs of uncommon police issue boots worn by each of the men added evidence.

Seemed a fairly straight forward gotcha, right?  Police caught doing something known to be a questionable tactic used on occasion by authorities aiming to discredit protests. Presumably, all that was needed was an admission, an apology and a commitment to discard the tactic permanently. But no, authorities don’t work that way. More than three years later, the situation is still under review.

In May 2009, the Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner found no misconduct despite admitting the undercover police had verbally and physically abused Dave Coles, repeatedly refused to identify themselves as the law requires or to put down a rock when Coles asked them to do so. The Commissioner’s finding was reversed on appeal and he was instructed to reexamine the issue. Coles asked for official standing in the review with the intention of seeking the identify of who gave the infiltration order.

Of course, the matter continues unresolved as packs of lawyers build comprehensive files to justify massive billings to government. In July 2010, Quebec’s Committee of Police Ethics rejected Coles application to intervene in future hearings. The initial complaint remains unresolved after almost three and a half years.

Does any of this sound familiar? Actually, a matter unresolved after only 39 months would not raise an eyebrow among legal officials here, British Columbia’s government or the hangers-on (lawyers and PR flacks etc.) that manage to run up humongous fees whenever justice is under review.

The Montebello case is a bit distant but it has elements we should recognize. Does the British Columbia case of Frank Paul cause your blood pressure to elevate, either as an ethical person, a taxpayer or both?

In winter 1998, Mr. Paul, a 47-year-old New Brunswick Mi’Kmaq First Nations man living in Vancouver, was dumped and left to die by police in a back alley of the downtown eastside. Vancouver Police and the crown prosecutors worked together to ensure that no person was held responsible for Paul’s treatment, which included being dragged semi-conscious on the floor of the police station for transportation to oblivion. Retired Judge William Davies was eventually appointed to examine the death of Paul. The Criminal Justice Branch of BC fought all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, at public expense, in an effort to avoid being accountable to the public for its failures. After direction by the SCOC, Justice Davies reopened hearings for testimony of very reluctant prosecutor officials.

Davies issued a devastating report titled “ALONE and COLD” that shames Vancouver Police officers involved and VPD management. Also, shamed by implication, are crown prosecutors, including the highest officials of BC’s CJB. This week, hearings continue and the most grotesque ass-covering imaginable is underway by men in suits who still hold senior justice positions in British Columbia, including sitting in the Supreme Court of BC.

I will write more about this issue in days to come. The action of Justice William Davies seems admirable in this case and he prevented this issue from suffering the death that CJB wished for it. We can also thank public interest lawyers Cameron Ward, Grace Pastine, Mike Tammen, and Stephen Kelliher. As the twelfth anniversary of Frank Paul’s sad death approaches, a busload of high priced government and police lawyers have their meters rolling, piling up more millions to extract from the public treasury.

Justice Davies will eventually issue a supplementary report and CJB officials and Attorney General  de Jong will thank the Judge sincerely and promise to study his recommendations carefully. Then, they will stack the Davies reports to gather dust beside the Braidwood reports and the other critical examinations of BC justice. The final cheques will be written and BMW dealers will deliver new models. Life carries on as before.

Today, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, offered words which ended with a warning that is a succinct treasure of wisdom:

I find that the whole process has really been straight-jacketed. The statement that the Commissioner read this morning was basically the Riot Act, indicating that the questions had to be carefully phrased and whatnot. And, quite frankly, if we’re not careful here, we might stumble onto the truth.

Proving that some people in traditional media are still doing excellent work, Katie DeRosa of the Times Colonist has a worthwhile piece titled Special Investigation: Who is policing our police?

Categories: Accountability, Justice

Tagged as:

Leave a reply but be on topic and civil.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s