– Image from : http://wpmedia.calgaryherald.com/2014/12/highriver.jpg?quality=55&strip=all&w=840&h=630&crop=1
Senior politicians stated (hoped) that the High River report released on February 12, 2015 by the RCMP Public Complaints Commission would close the file on the hundreds of doors being kicked in, 4,666 x 2 unwarranted entries and searches, seizures of hundreds of guns, and seizure and destruction of tons of ammunition, seizure of firearms magazines, bows, knives, etc, etc. The 122-page report didn’t even come close to answering all the questions that High River residents asked at their town hall meeting on September 5, 2013.
PROMISE: Alberta Justice Minister and Solicitor General Jonathan Denis’ letter dated January 28, 2015 stated: “The Province of Alberta, as a contracting partner for the services of the RCMP, have worked with the CRCC (Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP), as the federally legislated oversight body, to ensure sufficient accountability to Alberta and its citizens results from this independent review.”
Comment: The RCMP Public Complaints Commission’s High River report didn’t deliver on the Justice Minister’s promise.
PROMISE: Defence Minister Rob Nicholson’s letter dated January 5, 2015stated: “I am confident that the Commission will look into many of the questions you raise in your letter and that have been expressed by other members of the public and I look forward to the results of the investigation.”
Comment: Once again the RCMP Public Complaints Commission’s High River report didn’t answer the questions I posed to the Defence Minister.
PROMISE: On September 6, 2013, Peter MacKay, Justice Minister and Attorney General for Canada responded to a constituent’s concerns (PDF page 000158): “I am honoured to assume the responsibilities of this position and I intend to work with great commitment to maintain and enhance the integrity and professionalism of Canada’s system of justice. As you are aware, the RCMP falls under the purview of my colleague the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I note that you also addressed your correspondence to Minister Blaney’s predecessor. While I appreciate being made aware of your concerns, I will leave this matter to be considered by Minister Blaney. The oversight of policing services in Alberta is the responsibility of the Honourable Jonathan Denis, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General of Alberta. Therefore, if you have not already done so, you may wish to share your concerns with Minister Denis.”
Comment: The RCMP Complaints Commission High River report did nothing to “enhance the integrity and professionalism of Canada’s justice system” as promised by Justice Minister MacKay.
PROMISE: In response to dozens of letters of complaint and concern to Prime Minister Harper, many requesting a judicial enquiry into the RCMP actions in High River, the Prime Minister’s Office responded: “You may be assured that your comments have been carefully reviewed. A copy of your correspondence has been forwarded to the Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I am certain that the Minister will appreciate being made aware of your views and will want to give them every consideration.”
Comment: The RCMP Complaints Commission High River report did not give the “views” of these many constituents “every consideration.” Now it is up to the Prime Minister and the Public Safety Minister to demand an inquiry that will address all the outstanding issues and rebuild the trust of High River residents. RCMP draft emergency/evacuation policies seem to be written to justify a repeat of what happened in High River in 2013. Let’s hope the final version makes the necessary corrections to protect the Charter rights of evacuated residents during the next emergency/evacuation.
PROMISE: Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness responded stating (PDF page 000119): “Please rest assured that the Government of Canada will continue to do everything it can to assist Albertans deal with this tragedy.”
Comment: The High River report prepared by the RCMP Public Complaints Commission does not give these constituent’s concerns “every consideration and does not begin to “do everything it can to assist Albertans to deal with this tragedy”.
So many ministers responsible for the RCMP and no one being held accountable for what the RCMP did to the 4,666 High River homes and their owners’ private property. Two telephone polls conducted in High River demonstrate the inadequacy of the RCMP Complaints Commission’s High River report: A telephone poll taken after the Commission’s report was released, showed that 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 orderin the event of another emergency/evacuation.
If trust is to be rebuilt among the residents of High River a more thorough investigation has to be conducted, one that will answer all the questions that still remain outstanding, then the persons responsible must be held accountable for what the RCMP were allowed to do in High River and legislation drafted, passed and enacted to make sure it never happens again anywhere in Canada.
HERE ARE JUST A FEW QUESTIONS THAT REMAIN UNANSWERED TODAY:
- If the RCMP really were on the side of the angels in High River, why did the RCMP lie to the media about what they were doing to and inside the High River homes (i.e. forced entries and unwarranted searches). Senior RCMP officers insisted repeatedly that all the firearms they seized were “unsecured” and “in plain view”. The RCMP Complaints Commissioner High Report exposed these lies but failed to explain why these RCMP officers lied in the first place. Will these RCMP officers be held accountable for not telling the truth to the media and the public?
- How was it possible for one person, the Director of the High River Emergency Operation Centre, to make the decision to have the RCMP to enter 4,666 High River homes, using whatever force necessary without first getting approval from the Town Council and/or a Provincial Minister? Has anything changed to prevent it from happening again in another Alberta community when an emergency is declared and an evacuation ordered?
- Why were a senior Alberta Government official and a senior RCMP officer still debating “legal authorities”regarding the RCMP use of force to enter High River homes 22 days after the first doors were kicked in? Why have the federal government and the provincial government so far failed to release the “Crown counsel” paper on legal authorities referred to in the e-mails between the government and the RCMP despite me filing an Access to Information Act request, a Freedom of Information Act request and twice writing to the Alberta Minister of Justice directly?
- Why did the RCMP Public Complaints Commission High River report fail to mention the different interpretation of legal authorities for the RCMP forced entries of High River homes taken by the Alberta Property Rights Advocate to wit, “. . .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]
- Why won’t the Province of Alberta commit themselves to implement the recommendation of the Alberta Property Rights Advocate to amend the Alberta Emergency Management Act to better protect Alberta residents from having their doors kicked in, unwarranted searches of their homes and seizures of their private property?
- What were the “hard decisions” that required the removal of all local High River RCMP officers from High River on June 24, 2013?
- Why did the RCMP Complaints Commission report exclude obvious RCMP evidence and public testimony about the RCMP ammunition seizures; namely, “400,000 – 450,000 rounds of ammunition that was also surrendered by the public for destruction,” and “We have destroyed approximately 5,000 pounds of ammunition and we have 2,500 pounds here that will be destroyed as well,”? Why was so much of this ammunition destroyed without documentation and without permission of the owners?
- Furthermore, the Commission should not begin with the presumption that the RCMP acted lawfully with respect to the seizure and destruction of tons of ammunition. The RCMP had no legal authority to be inside the High River homes and they had no warrants. Surely it is up to the RCMP to prove that each seizure and destruction of that ammunition was lawful. Why did the Commission flip the burden of proof on its head in High River by concluding somebody has to prove that ALL – each and every one – of their ammunition seizures were unlawful before it will make a finding that the RCMP did anything wrong?
- Page 74 of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission High River report found, “However, the note-keeping on this issue was particularly wanting and as such it is not possible to determine if all seized ammunition was unlawfully stored and, thus, properly seized.” So if the RCMP want to avoid being held accountable for their actions, they just don’t take notes? This is proof of either a shoddy investigation or a cover-up. There were 273 RCMP officers and 330 soldiers in High River, why weren’t they interviewed about what they saw and did during and following the searches and seizures?
- On November 26, 2014, Canada Free Press published my column that included a list of questions that had to be answered by the RCMP Public Complaints Commission High River report. Here are some important questions from that list that remain unanswered today:
- Why didn’t the RCMP get a warrant or warrants to break into thousands of homes? They had lots of time to do it. This is especially true of those homes where property was damaged, seized and charges laid.
- Why didn’t the RCMP use thermal imaging technology to find survivors rather than kick in doors? This technology was available to both the RCMP and Canadian Forces.
- Why did the RCMP kick in the doors to homes that weren’t flooded?
- Why did the RCMP kick in doors to homes that were left unlocked?
- Why did the RCMP kick in doors on the inside of a number of High River homes?
- Why did the RCMP clearly target homes with firearms and kick in doors to get them?
- Why did the Canadian Armed Forces provide transportation to the RCMP to the High River homes when their orders from the Minister and the Chief of Defence Staff specifically ordered them “not to engage in law enforcement activities?
- Why did the Canadian Armed Forces(CAF) continue to assist the RCMP with their unwarranted door-to-door search and seizure operation for two more days after the CAF said there was no further risk to life and limb.
- Why haven’t the RCMP been investigated for Contempt of Parliament for failing to destroy all copies of the Long-gun Registry as ordered by an Act of Parliament? There are other examples across Canada – not just the ones in High River, Alberta.
- Why does the legal authority of the Alberta Emergency Management Act to enter buildings without warrant supersede homeowners’ rights enumerated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Bill of Rights, and the Alberta Bill of Rights?
- What will it take for the residents of High River to trust the RCMP and the government to take care of their homes in the next emergency/evacuation?
This commentary has described more very important reasons why there needs to be a full judicial inquiry into the RCMP’s actions and the Alberta Government’s support for and defence of those actions. 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
COMMENTARY #3 – RCMP HIGH RIVER REPORT
DO YOU WANT A REPEAT OF WHAT THE RCMP DID IN HIGH RIVER FOR YOUR TOWN?
By Dennis R. Young – March 16, 2015
COMMENTARY #4 – RCMP HIGH RIVER REPORT
OPEN LETTER TO ALBERTA JUSTICE MINISTER JONATHAN DENIS
By Dennis R. Young – March 24, 2015