The RCMP Public Complaint’s Commission published their long-awaited report on the High River Gun Grab on February 12, 2015. Their 122-page report included fifty-two findings and ten recommendations.
RCMP PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION NO. 5 reads: “The RCMP should review its emergency management policies at the national and divisional level to ensure that they provide clear and comprehensive direction with respect to the legal authorities and duties of its members in emergency situations, taking into consideration the specific authorities and duties set forth in provincial or territorial legislation.” [Emphasis added]
In June of 2014, the RCMP had already started revising their Emergency/Evacuations policy for Alberta communities. A draft copy of theRCMP “K” Division Operations Manual Chapter 13.100 Evacuations was sent to me in response to one of my 42 Access to Information Actrequests regarding the High River forced entries, unwarranted searches and seizures.
In High River the RCMP kicked in “more than 754 doors,” entered 4,666 homes (at least twice) without warrant, seized more than 600 firearms, seized and destroyed between 400,000 and 450,000 rounds of ammunition (most without any paperwork proving the destruction was necessary or authorized by the owners), and seized other private property, all without warrants. The RCMP have repeatedly stated that their authority for conducting this mayhem in High River was, and will be in the future, Section 19 of the Alberta Emergency Management Act (AEMA). The RCMP Public Complaints Commission High River report concurred. The Alberta Property Rights Advocate disagreed and sixty-seven percent of the people in High River thought the RCMP’s actions were not “appropriate”. Trust in the RCMP is so bad in High River that fifty-three percent of residents polled last August indicated they would be prepared to refuse an evacuation order in the event of another emergency.
The Alberta Property Rights Advocate’s 2013 report tabled in the Legislature on June 2, 2014made the following Recommendation 2013.05 – “that the Legislature amend the Emergency Management Act to clarify and affirm the consistent respect for and deference to private property rights, even in the face of an emergency situation. Specifically, it is recommended that section 19 of the Act be amended to confirm that a natural disaster does not create licence to disregard the property rights of individual Albertans, nor does it absolve the authorities from a responsibility to follow the due process of law (including the need to obtain Ministerial authorization) if any encroachments do become necessary as an emergency response.” [Emphasis added]
To date I can find no record of these amendments to AEMA have been accepted by the Prentice Government. The Alberta Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship debated the Property Rights Advocate’s High River report and recommendations in their meeting of December 18, 2014.
On March 13, 2015, I asked Alberta Property Rights Advocate, Lee Cutforth, Q.C. for a status report on his High River Recommendation 5. He responded: “You may be aware that last December, I appeared before the Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Resource Stewardship, to discuss the recommendations in my Annual Reports (for 2012 and 2013). The Committee has since decided that they would not accept my recommendation to amend the Emergency Management Act. While that is disappointing, I continue to stand by that recommendation, and trust that in time, appropriate changes to EMA will be made.”[Emphasis added}
Rather than debate the evidence in the Property Rights Advocate’s report on the Forced Entry of Homes in the Town of High River and the merits of his recommendation number five, the Standing Committee members, absent any Wildrose MLAs, actually spent more time debating the need for the government to review “continuing need for this office.”
Analysis of the RCMP’s draft Emergency/Evacuations policies by lawyers in the Library of Parliament stated: “The Alberta Property Rights Advocate suggests that there is a need to clarify the legislation. Similarly, the finding that RCMP members relied on the authority of section 19 of the EMA rather than operational direction from the proper authorities suggests a need to clarify the RCMP Policy. As the RCMP Policy does not currently appear to explicitly state that the authority to rely upon the powers in section 19(1) of the EMA, including the warrantless entry power, is dependent on a grant of authority to do so by the proper officials, it may be that an RCMP member seeking guidance as to his or her authority from its text would mistakenly conclude that the EMA provides emergency responders a warrantless entry power (see paras. 1.5, 1.5.1, 1.5.2, 220.127.116.11 and 4.6 of the RCMP Policy).” [Emphasis added]
So with the Alberta Government refusing to deal with the evidence provided on the High River forced entries, searches and seizures by the Alberta Property Rights Advocate and refusing to accept his common sense recommendation to amend the Alberta Emergency Management Act,what will the RCMP’s draft Emergency/Evacuation policy mean for Alberta communities when they declare a state of local emergency?
The Alberta RCMP’s draft Emergency/Evacuations policy seems to be taking advantage of a poorly worded authority from the province and expanding upon it to conduct criminal investigations in the midst of a crisis. What this means is that the RCMP will be able to simply ignore section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms once the “local authority” has given the okay to start kicking in doors. Unless the governing legislation is amended or the draft policy is changed, search and rescue will quickly deteriorate into search and seizure as it did in High River. The possibility of angry confrontations between the RCMP and the effected populace will become an inevitability, again as it did in High River. If the RCMP draft policy is implemented it will result in many residents refusing to leave a dangerous situation thereby compounding the problems faced by first responders who are trying to gain compliance with an evacuation order. Nowhere have I seen a policy so carefully calculated to result in warrantless fishing trips by an increasingly militarized police agency.
It is important for every town policed by the RCMP to review these draft RCMP policies line by line and send their comments to Premier Prentice, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, MPs, MLAs and the Alberta Property Rights Advocate.
If you also want to avoid a repeat of what happened in High River in your town, you should also amend your own Municipal Emergency Management Plans to clarify who has the authority to order a door-to-door search of homes and businesses, how the search should be conducted (i.e. door-knocking, loud hailers and infrared scanners versus kicking in doors and tracking mud and sewage through everyone’s home) and what the RCMP and other officials are authorized to do once inside the homes. Ask yourselves, is it better to allow residents back into town to retrieve their pets, check for safety hazards and shut off the circuit breakers or let RCMP enter homes without warrant to do it?
Another disturbing development with respect to the High River forced entries, unwarranted searches and seizures, including the report by the Alberta Property Rights Advocate, is that the documentation and evidence uncovered over the last twenty months has been ignored by the mainstream media. The exceptions being Canada Free Press, Sun News columnist Lorne Gunter and the Sun News Network that shut off its cameras, silenced four years of hyperlinks and closed their doors on February 12, 2015.
This commentary has described a few more very important reasons why there has to be a full judicial inquiry into the RCMP’s and the Provincial Government’s actions in High River during and following the flood of 2013. For more reasons open the links below.
RCMP COMPLAINTS COMMISSION’S HIGH RIVER REPORT
A LESSON FOR POLICE & COMMUNITIES – HOW NOT TO ACT IN AN EMERGENCY
By Dennis R. Young February 22, 2015
COMMENTARY #1 – RCMP HIGH RIVER REPORT
WHY DIDN’T THE RCMP TELL REPORTERS THE WHOLE TRUTH IN 2013?
By Dennis R. Young February 18, 2015
COMMENTARY #2 – RCMP HIGH RIVER REPORT
LONG-GUN REGISTRY DATA USED IN HIGH RIVER GUN GRAB
By Dennis R. Young March 9, 2015
CANADA’S NATIONAL FIREARMS ASSOCIATION MEDIA RELEASE – MONDAY, MARCH 9, 2015
NFA POLL RESULTS: PUBLIC BELIEVES POLICE ACTIONS AT HIGH RIVER UNNECESSARY
HIGH RIVER QUESTIONS FOR MINISTER OF DEFENCE JASON KENNEY – MARCH 3, 2015
ALBERTA JUSTICE MINISTER JONATHAN DENIS RESPONDS TO HIGH RIVER GUN GRAB CONCERNS – JAN 28, 2015