Month: March 2017

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Police against the world

OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso

The thin blue line was traditionally meant as a supportive rallying cry for the police. It signified the line between order and chaos.

But in its modern incarnation, it has evolved in the minds of many in the police and the outside world to mean a class struggle between under-siege police officers who feel persecuted, misunderstood and generally beleaguered, and the rest of us. Whether it’s in labour negotiations, seeing their carding powers reduced or facing the dreaded Special Investigations Unit, the thin blue line means solidary against that dark world looming outside the comfort of the police station.

News yesterday that Ottawa police officers were selling black-and-blue wristbands inscribed with Cst. Dan Montsion’s badge number #1998 along with the statement “United we stand” is deeply troubling. Cst. Montsion was recently charged by the SIU with a handful of criminal offences, included attempted murder, in the recent death of Abdirahman Abdi. The bracelets are being sold for $2 with proceeds going to the police union’s benevolent fund.

Understandably so, community groups are in an upheaval, strongly attacking the move as an insult to the community. The police union supports the wearing of the bracelet off-duty. A senior officer, Insp. Pat Flanigan, defended the bracelet: “(this) is not about interfering with the judicial process. It’s about providing support to one of our member.”

Let’s take the human emotions out of the equation for a moment and look at the legal impact of the police wearing this bracelet, even off-duty. Criminal charges have been laid against Cst. Montsion and there are witness officers to the incident. The prosecution may call these officers to trial. If they happen to have witnessed something not favourable to Cst. Montsion, does the thin blue line and “United we stand” kick-in with a message to them not to “rat out” a fellow officer charged with attempted murder?

During SIU trials, cops typically show-up in droves to the courtroom to watch the trial and show their “support” for a fellow officer. Will they be wearing the bracelet to remind brother and sister officers testifying about the need to stand united?

The police often forget that they are public servants. You work for us. Sure esprit de corps and support among your officers and rank are key to efficiency and cohesion. But the only way the police-society rapport will work is, to borrow from Sir Robert Peel, the original founder of modern policing, “the police are the public and the public are the police.” There’s no room for division.

Some disgruntled cops accused police chief Charles Bordeleau, who issued an edict against wearing the bracelet while on duty, of a double standard for wearing a rainbow wristband during the Ottawa Pride Parade. It’s a ridiculous comparison. The thin blue line band spreads division, an “us vs them” mentality, while the rainbow wristband signifies inclusion and harmony between society and the LGBT community.

It’s refreshing to see Ottawa Police Board Chair Coun. Eli- El-Chantiry finally do his job of defending the public interest. He decried the bracelet as “distasteful” and a setback in rebuilding community connections following the Abdi incident. Similarly, Bordeleau was right to issue a stern warning to his cops about the “community perceptions of actions like these wristbands.”

I’ve spoken to many cops about Cst. Montsion. They have genuinely expressed shock at the charges. They spoke highly of him. If they want to show support, send him an email, text him, or give him a hug, but don’t take part in a crass campaign that risks interfering with the administration of justice and tearing communities apart.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Trump and Wynne – 2 peas in a pod

United States of America President Donald Trump, and Premier Kathleen Wynne have more in common than you think. As the world moves towards greater accountability and fighting corruption, Trump and Wynne appear to be the only ones swimming against the fish.

At the beginning of the year, Trump scrapped an anti-corruption regulation put in place last year to increase transparency in business dealings of energy companies. He passed a regulation getting rid of U.S. energy companies’ obligation to disclose any payments involving domestic or foreign governments to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Then there’s Wynne. She appears to often be at odds, or even fighting, with the Ontario Auditor-General. She arrogantly got rid of the rule that the AG vets government ads to ensure they aren’t blatant political commercials touting the greatness of her party. Since then, the AG has castigated her for doing just that. Liberal Party of Ontario commercials masquerading as public policy announcements have now become the norm. Your tax money at work.

For the first time ever, Wynne also tabled unaudited financial statements in the Legislature because she disagreed with the AG’s audit methodology. We’re heading downhill fast.

Lest we forget that along with the partial privatization of Hydro One, Wynne also cut out all independent officers of parliament. The public is left with no proper oversight mechanisms.

While Trump’s America and Wynne’s Ontario are relaxing rules and practices meant to minimize corruption, the rest of the world is going the other way.

Contrast Wynne’s intolerance with oversight to the federal government’s announcement in last week’s budget that the Canadian Revenue Agency is about to get new money to get tough with tax cheats.

I recently conducted a comprehensive review of the Business Ombudsman Council of Ukraine. It’s a formidable office recently set-up with support from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. A highly-professional office, its goal is to get rid of corruption between the private sector and government. Similar initiatives are under way in former Soviet block entities to create anti-corruption bodies to instill confidence in business opportunities.

The government of Canada, both under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has been a strong supporter of increased checks and balances in Africa.

I’m currently working as an Anti-Corruption Expert to increase accountability and transparency in Cameroun, Burkina Faso, Mali and Madagascar. These initiatives are key not only in improving the day-to-day lives of people in these countries, but also by providing hope and stimulating local economies. They are relatively inexpensive to run and promise great dividends. What’s not to like about them?

Trump has slashed financial aid to developing countries so he can spend more on the military. I suspect this is just the beginning of cuts. This is short-sighted and self-defeating. When properly structured, this aid is not a purely altruistic act. First world countries providing assistance ensure that these countries have the infrastructure and the know-how to thrive. All of which is part of the equation of world stability.

In the end, we all benefit.

Looking at the Trump-Wynne moves that are so at odds with what’s happening in the rest of the world it strikes me that one government is too green and cocky to know what it’s doing and the other is just too rackety and worn-out.

But from out here in Yaoudé, things are looking bright for the rest of the world.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Drop the act, not the gloves

News that the Ottawa police has some officers outfitted with assault gloves featuring a thick piece of carbon fibre over the knuckles doesn’t trouble me in the least – they have much more lethal tools as their disposal, such as military style assault weapons. But what’s more troublesome is the secrecy surrounding the Oakley Standard Issue garment.

This is a case of the cover-up being worse than the crime.

We knew for sure since July 24 that at least one cop, Const. Daniel Montsion wore the assault gloves when he got into a confrontation with Abdirahman Abdi. A widely available cellphone video shows him wearing them as he’s crouched near Abdi’s unconscious body, complete with the Oakley logo. Montsion was charged last week with manslaughter, aggravated assault and assault with a weapon by the Special Investigations Unit.

Apart from brief comments to CBC from Const. Mark Soucy confirming what we suspected – that more than one cop has the gloves – Chief of police Charles Bordeleau cited the SIU’s rule preventing police from commenting on its investigations to erect a wall of silence around legitimate questions such as which officers have them and protocols for use.

The SIU’s rule is a complete red herring. It exists to protect the integrity of a criminal investigation. Bordeleau sure was quick on the draw last July 24, appearing to suggest that Abdi had brought the situation onto himself. He said that once police arrived to the call, they found Abdi to continue to be “assaultive.”

It might be an inconvenient truth for Bordeleau, maybe even embarrassing one, if he was caught off guard by the news of the gloves, but there’s certainly a strong public interest in finding out what’s going on here.

Toronto police had no problems talking about their glove policy with the CBC. They’ve been wearing them for more than 20 years, generally for use when dealing with hazards like broken glass, adding that they were issued for the purpose of protection but anything else would be speculative. Fair enough.

Think Bordeleau’s civilian boss would have your back on this one? Don’t bet on it. Police services board chair Eli El-Chantiry was just as evasive as Bordeleau. “The Police Services Act of Ontario prohibits members of the police services board from being involved in day-to-day operations, and this would include matters related to equipment needs of officers,” he falsely proclaimed.

Not only is the board not prohibited from being involved in such issues, they are expected to do just that. What exactly does El-Chantiry think his role is? Having tea and crumpets with police brass while ignoring the tough issues?

The Toronto Police Services Board had their knuckles rapped by highly-regarded former Ontario Court of Appeal judge John Morden for abdicating their duties during the 2010 G20 summit. The board had hired him to find out what went wrong leading to mass confusion and arrests. He was blunt, telling them they didn’t know their job.

“Information, including operational information, is a key element in what the board requires in the proper discharge of its statutory responsibility to oversee the Toronto Police Service,” Morden said Friday.

This whole party line from boards that they can’t get involved in police operational information was created by the police and adopted by boards who generally act like the three monkeys “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.”

It’s time our police boards stopped acting like cop groupies. If the Chief of police won’t be forthright with us, they should have the spine to ask the tough questions on our behalf.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Special Investigations Unit

Sometimes the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (SIU) can be its worst enemy.

The SIU is a civilian criminal investigative body called in when police officers cause serious injury or death of a civilian. It was created over 25 years ago. Chiefs of police don’t like it. Most cops downright hate it.

The SIU has a multifaceted role to play. Sure, they charge cops if they believe the law was broken, but they have a much wider responsibility to shine the spotlight on an incident when they don’t lay charges. And the SIU needs to account for its own operations. Former Justice George Adams has called the SIU the “bulwark of democracy.” And for good reason.

But the SIU has not published an annual report in two years, which is very troubling. Annual reports should be published a few months after the end of the fiscal year. But the last one posted on SIU’s website is for end of fiscal 2015. Annual reports are great for showcasing achievements, publishing statistics on operations, speaking to future goals and talking about ongoing challenges.

Without an annual report, we are left with bits and pieces from press releases or snippets from here or there. But if you want to know how many cases were investigated by the SIU in the last two years or how many charges were laid, you’re out of luck. A recent story in the Toronto Star shone the light on the existence of more than 150 recent letters sent from SIU Director Tony Loparco to the Toronto police revealing “new cases of what the watchdog considers problematic officer conduct uncovered during probes of police-involved deaths, serious injuries or allegations of sexual assault”.

The Star obtained the information by resorting to a Freedom of Information request and piecing together the information. It is completely unacceptable for the media to have to jump through these hoops to get information which should be proactively made public.

What could possibly be the reason for not publishing timely annual reports? Did the Ministry of the Attorney General, to which the SIU reports, run out of ink? Or does the SIU see its obligation towards transparency as just a burden?

A few years ago, as Ontario Ombudsman, I investigated a similar situation where the SIU had not published an annual report for some time. What I uncovered was that the SIU had written the reports but that MAG had blocked their release as it found them too provocative. Let’s hope that the last year’s annual report is not sitting on current Attorney General Yasir Naqvi’s desk for fear that its release will make cops feel uneasy.

In a few weeks from now, Ontario Court of Appeal judge Michael Tulloch is set to release his report on the SIU and police reforms. Naqvi should order the SIU to release its annual report now and not wait before Tulloch goes public with his recommendations.

If Naqvi’s the one with the SIU annual report sitting on his desk, Premier Kathleen Wynne should order him to release it, with perhaps a little trip to the woodshed for a talk on the significance of the police accountability watchdog being accountable itself.

by André Marin André Marin No Comments

Ides of March

Beware of Ides of March, Premier Kathleen Wynne, coming this Wednesday, March 15. This is when Julius Cesar met his fate. And, if rumours have it, your Attorney General Yasir Naqvi is sharpening his blade.

He’s our chief officer of the crown and he’s likely plotting to replace Wynne as she slips into the low 10s of support from the public. She’s very close to it and no Premier has ever been so low in public approval for so long.

In typical Wynne-speak, she talks a storm about hanging on and doing all the fighting, and all. But the reality is that it’s out of her hands and she’s looking at the real possibility of a coup.

These days, Wynne’s looking haggard and tired. And stale in the new ideas department. She looks like the Titanic after it hit an iceberg. Except her ship is sinking even faster. Naqvi is looking like, well, Naqvi.

There’s not a bandwagon he hasn’t jumped on.

Our AG is there for any photo op, even if it only involves marking the opening an envelope. Last fall, he was photographed handing out apples to passerby in downtown Ottawa under his own branded pop-up tent, all by himself, looking friendless and lonely. But that hasn’t stopped him from working any and every gimmick to get attention.

He lurches from announcing one pilot project to another. They’re usually based on the flavour of the month. Whether it’s about selling twelve packs of beer in LCBOs, launching a project to give up to free four hours of legal advice to sex assault survivors, or a myriad of police schemes, showboat Naqvi is there. Right now, Naqvi’s in the midst of conducting an online survey about reigning in ticket scalpers. It’s a rehash of prior announcements. One of the questions he puts to the public is whether we believe tickets should be made more affordable to consumers? Duh! Is this survey really necessary? Of course not. It’s just another Naqvi machination to get himself publicity on populist matters.

As former Corrections Minister, Naqvi visited inmate Adam Capay at his glass-encased cell at the decrepit Thunder Bay 90-year-old jail. He was still sitting in solitary confinement after more than 4 years awaiting his murder trial with lights on 24/7. The United Nations says that more than 15 consecutive days in solitary confinement is a form of torture. Capay asked him who he was and Naqvi responded he was the Corrections Minister. When news came out that Naqvi had seen Capay and ignored his plight, Naqvi claimed he didn’t remember the encounter. Right. I guess there’s not a lot of votes in caring for inmates.

Naqvi is media-hungry in a big way. The ends justify the means. He didn’t blink an eye over trying to embarrass his Liberal counterpart, federal Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould by publicly calling for the end of preliminary hearings. Couldn’t he have just picked up the phone and had one of those infamous Wynne “conversations” with her? But I guess that’s not nearly as attention-grabbing.

So if I was Wynne, I’d be afraid, very afraid of Ides of March. I’d make sure my OPP bodyguards would not wander too far this March 15. When Ceasar realized that he was being stabbed to death by his friend Brutus, he uttered “Et tu, Brute” meaning even you my friend are among the assassins. She should be fearful of saying “Et tu, Yasir” and seeing her political career over.

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