Appeared in North Shore News – June 25, 2010
All states are police states. Canada included.
Even in our vaunted democracy we live in a permanent Tow-Away Zone.
Doubt it? Then answer this: Who has the guns? Who are the enforcers? Most of all, who are the certified snoops?
It’s a matter of degree. As our national holiday approaches, we can rejoice that we don’t live in North Korea under Dear Leader Kim Jong-il — where, good example, the cops seized a bewildered woman and threw her in prison. She found out why only long afterwards: She had known the Dear Leader’s wife when young. It was feared she might say something even minutely discrediting about the Dear Leader’s wife.
And not to stop at an easy cuffing of an odious Communist state: The United States under George Bush, including its courts, legislators and high bureaucrats, found weasel ways of legally permitting torture of terrorist suspects, possibly the blackest chapter in the history of the republic — while most of the media kept morally silent.
In Canada’s system of government with its courtly bow to the rule of law and fastidious division of powers, Dear Leader Stephen Harper — er, the prime minister — has nothing like the clout over the police that the extremely wimpish-looking Kim enjoys. Savour the irony: If he had, the remarkably competent manager Harper certainly would have headed off at the pass the monumental blundering and ultimately deadly turf-protection of police who appear to have graduated from the same class of Keystone Kops Academy.
Hold on. I said blundering. Big, bad mistakes. Ham-handed fumbling. Human bloody error.
Yes, in part. But I suspect many people see deeper implications that are far worse.
As the cases of the Air India terrorist bombing (25 years and no heads have rolled, no perpetrators convicted) and of the shameful police action in Robert Dziekanski’s death have agonizingly showed, the nation’s top echelons of law enforcers are contemptuously arrogant — as if above the very laws they’ve sworn to enforce, and with a wanna-do-something-about-it? attitude to the civil government and to the public they are supposed to serve.
(It happens in huge cases at lower levels too. Niagara area and Toronto police were so embroiled in turf warfare and confused communications that sadistic rapist Paul Bernardo might still be torturing and murdering young girls, had not his wicked accomplice Karla Homolka — she helped kill her own sister! — led police to damning evidence they had overlooked, in exchange for an absurdly soft 12-year prison sentence. That’s why Homolka now walks the streets again while two bereaved families’ lives are ruined.)
In the wake of blunt, meticulous reports by retired Supreme Court justice John Major regarding the Air India bombing, which could have been prevented if the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service had got their jealous acts together, and by Thomas Braidwood into confused Polish immigrant Dziekanski’s last horrific minutes, I’d say there ought to be obstruction of justice investigations flying all around those two scandals, indicting top authorities and their obedient minions in the police and the federal government who tried everything they could — ducking, dodging and foot-dragging to keep the truth from coming out and their own asses from being exposed.
Those were the “second crimes” — in any but the legal sense — that have added to the well-rooted cynicism flourishing across the land: The deal, the cover-up, the inquiry that exposes without having the authority to indict.
But out of the Braidwood inquiry, at long last a special prosecutor has been appointed, West Vancouver’s distinguished criminal lawyer Richard Peck, to take a second look at the possibility of criminal charges against the four Mounties involved in the Tasering and death minutes later of Dziekanski, caught on the unshakable evidence of a camera.
In Canada, as everywhere that mankind treads, the elites can close ranks when the sticky stuff hits a fan with really far-flung trajectory as smoothly as you can say “deer guts on a brass doorknob.” When the Airbus affair re-emerged recently the National Post, a paper I normally admire, rolled out the big guns of Conrad Black and former reporter Philip Mathias to shore up the good name of Brian Mulroney, which somehow I suspect wouldn’t have attracted their attention if Mulroney wasn’t a former prime minister and a Conservative. Not that, mea culpa, I was warmly disposed toward Stevie Cameron’s 1994 book On the Take: Crime, Corruption and Greed in the Mulroney Years.
The undersigned has no animus against police as such. On the contrary. I’ve noted before that in my police reporting days I knew policemen (few if any women then) so exemplary in character that I’d trust them not only to catch but to fairly treat and finally to shrewdly judge and punish those they dealt with.
Police work is almost inhumanly exhausting, frustrating and disillusioning. (I don’t dare ask a former Crown counsel I know about his deepest thoughts.) As Vancouver Sun legal affairs columnist Ian Mulgrew recently pointed out, three decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada protecting the accused are largely responsible for the long court delays and legal devices that frustrate police and public and enrich lawyers.
But not to lose the thread here: The RCMP and intelligence agencies by any name can and do snoop around plenty. Among countless and mostly unearthed others, they had dossiers on dangerous socialist Tommy Douglas, now (almost uniquely) revered as a great Canadian politician, and on Quebec separatists, including former premier René Lévesque.
In daily newspaper days in the turbulent 1960s-’70s, I amused myself looking around the newsroom, wondering: Which reporter is the Communist apparatchik? Which editor is the RCMP-FBI mole? Is it paranoid to suspect that such entities would infiltrate large media to subtly influence public opinion?
I think not. But it fired up my fictional mind. A novel: Potentially damaging intelligence has been gathered on both prominent and scarcely known members of Parliament (and which of us, beyond a few saints, has lived so purely as to be bullet-proof, so to speak?). Top cops meet with their nominal political master, the very upset prime minister, and casually drop tidbits about same into their conversation. The PM, being alertly numerate, grasps that if scandal destroyed a few of his MPs his minority government would be defeated. Cleaning out the higher echelons of the security establishment doesn’t look like such a good idea after all. How to resolve the dilemma? I`d have to figure that out.
Ah, it would never sell. Just cheap and lurid fiction.
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A Salvation Army Thrift Shop has appeared in the heart of Ambleside. I didn’t know the recession was that bad.
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It doesn’t need a boost here, but of the 10 or so plays I’ve seen this season — including the underrated Dangerous Corner — the one that out-entertained all of them put together is Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story at the Stanley. Bill Millerd did a beautiful job putting it together and Zachary Stevenson is phenomenal in the lead role (the voice-over of Vancouver’s Red Robinson, who interviewed the original, has a talk-on part). And I don’t even like rock and roll.
© Trevor Lautens, 2010