In the twenty months between the flood and High River Gun Grab in June of 2013 and the release of the RCMP Complaints Commission’s High River report there was speculation (including my own) that the RCMP were using copies of the Long-Gun Registry that was supposed to be destroyed in 2012 in accordance with an Act passed by Parliament.
In September of 2013, Canada’s National Firearms Association had an expert analyse a radio transmission included in a video that the RCMP released to the media on June 28, 2013 showing a staged search of one home in High River. They neatly edited out how the RCMP entered the family’s home. As a result of the audio analysis the NFA learned that the radio transmission clearly said he’s “located all the firearms.” This indicated that the RCMP were indeed searching for a specific number of firearms rather than merely collecting firearms that they found laying around while searching for survivors. [Emphasis added]
The explanation for the RCMP using the term “located all the firearms” provided on page 52 of the RCMP Complaint Commission’s High River Report is as follows: “In a number of cases, when unsecured firearms were observed by RCMP members in buildings entered for the purpose of protecting life, the members were not in a position to remove the firearms. The priority was to search every house as quickly as possible for the primary purpose of saving lives. When it was not practical to remove the firearms when initially discovered, members at the detachment were provided with the addresses and locations of the unsecured firearms so they could seize them. In normal circumstances, RCMP members would have been required to obtain a warrant for the secondary entry.” [Emphasis added]
We all know now the RCMP didn’t get any warrants for any property they seized from more than a hundred High River homes.
RCMP didn’t get any warrants for any property they seized from more than a hundred High River homes
However, the Commission’s explanation doesn’t hold water (no pun intended) in the case of the RCMP seizing Don and Jane White’s eleven trigger-locked long guns from under a blanket in their upstairs bedroom. For if the RCMP had already searched Don and Jane’s house their front door should have been open – it was not! The RCMP officer’s handwritten notes clearly indicate he kicked in their door.
Then a few days later, after Don and Jane were able to get back to their home and make sure it was secure, Don went to the RCMP detachment in High River to pick up his long guns, where the RCMP officer informed him that that two of his long-guns weren’t registered. Don responded,“That’s right, the two new shotguns we just bought!” [Emphasis added]
The only possible way the RCMP Constable knew that two of Don’s long-guns weren’t registered is if he had access to a copy of the old long-gun registry listing of their guns. See full details of Don and Jane’s ordeal in my column dated April 1, 2014.
Even though these facts were provided to the RCMP Complaints Commissioner almost one year ago, he chose not acknowledge this discrepancy nor did he address it in his report. Failing to destroy all copies of the long-gun registry as directed by an Act of Parliament, and use it so blatantly, would mean the RCMP are in contempt of Parliament. I personally informed several Members of Parliament of these facts in the fall of 2013 suggesting the matter be raised as a point of privilege with the Speaker. I have not been advised why a such an important matter was not raised in the House of Commons or in the House Standing Committee on Public Safety.
In February of 2014, Canada’s National Firearms Association even filed formal complaints with the Privacy Commissioner, Information Commissioner and the Chairman of RCMP Public Complaints Commission requesting a full investigation of this High River case and two others that had been brought to their attention. Last time I checked with the NFA, they had not received any response to these requests.
This is just one more very important reason there has to be a full judicial inquiry into the RCMP’s actions in High River during and following the flood of 2013. For more reasons open the links below.
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
RCMP PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION’S HIGH RIVER REPORT A LESSON FOR POLICE & COMMUNITIES – HOW NOT TO ACT IN AN EMERGENCY
On February 12, 2015, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP released their long-awaited report of their investigation of the RCMP’s actions during and following the emergency flooding in the Town of High River, Alberta between June 20, 2013 to July 13, 2013. The Commission’s investigation examined the RCMP’s forced entries of “more than 754 homes”, their unwarranted search of 4,666 homes (most on at least two occasions), damage complaints filed by more than 1,900 home owners, the RCMP’s seizure of more than 600 firearms and the seizure and destruction of approximately 7,500 pounds (between 400,000 and 450,000 rounds) of ammunition.
After reading the report, it is now clear to me why the Commission changed their name from the Commission for Public Complaints AGAINST the RCMP to the Complaints Commission FOR the RCMP. The report starts with such lofty aims and ambitions by quoting British statesman William Pitt from his speech to the House of Commons in 1763: “The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the forces of the Crown. It may be frail, its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter, the rain may enter,—but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement.” Sadly, the report then goes on to document how the Queen’s forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, did cross the thresholds of 4,666 High River homes, by kicking in doors, searching homes and seizing private property without warrant. The report tries to justify the RCMP’s actions in High River, overlooking the Alberta Emergency Management Act’srequirements for the delegation of authority for unwarranted searches of buildings, omitting or distorting important details, contradicting past public statements and documents; and, holding no one to account for obvious egregious violations of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and offences under Criminal Code and the RCMP Act.
I have been following the High River Gun Grab since it first became public on June 28, 2015. In the course of my investigation, I have filed 42 Federal Access to Information Act (ATIP) requests with the RCMP, the Department of National Defence, the Department of Public Safety and the Privy Council Office. I have also filed 7 Freedom of Information Program (FOIP) requests with the Alberta Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General and the Town of High River. Many of these requests are now being investigated by the respective Information Commissioners for incomplete responses and missing information. Having sifted through thousands of pages of documents provided by these departments and ministries, I wrote eight detailed letters to the Chairman of Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, letters to federal and provincial ministers and several columns questioning what happened in High River during and following the flood of June 2013. This documentation is available at these three URLs:
I. Complaints Commission’s terms of reference too narrow to uncover the whole truth
Unfortunately, all levels of government (and most newspapers and media outlets) have been hanging their hats on the RCMP Complaints Commission’s investigation to uncover everything that what went wrong in High River but not in the other two dozen communities in Alberta that were flooded and also subject to evacuation orders. The Complaints Commission established a very narrow terms of reference to only investigate the following three points:
- Whether the RCMP members or other persons appointed or employed under the authority of the RCMP Act involved in entering private residences in High River complied with all appropriate training, policies, procedures, guidelines and statutory requirements;
- Whether the RCMP members or other persons appointed or employed under the authority of the RCMP Act involved in seizing firearms from private residences in High River complied with all appropriate training, policies, procedures, guidelines and statutory requirements; and
- Whether the RCMP’s national-, divisional- and detachment-level policies, procedures and guidelines relating to such incidents are adequate.
That’s it! Nothing about what the Department of National Defence ordered the Canadian Forces to do, nothing about what the 380 soldiers did and witnessed in High River for the six days they were there, nothing about the Government of Alberta’s role in the whole mess, no real legal analysis of Alberta Emergency Management Act to determine if what was done in High River complied with the Act to authorize the searching of 4,666 homes in High River including forced entries into “more than 754 homes” and causing damage to more than 1,900 homes. Nothing about why the Alberta Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms didn’t protect High River from this unprecedented invasion of privacy, the unwarranted search of their homes and seizure of private property (not just guns). Unfortunately, the seizure of guns was the main focus of the Commission’s investigation and everything else was only examined or reported if it was useful in trying to justify the misdeeds the RCMP committed in High River even before they started seizing guns.
II. Unwarranted entries into 4,666 homes not authorized in accordance with AEM Act
The most important oversight in the Commission’s Report is stated in:
- FINDING NO. 3: Pursuant to the Emergency Management Act, the Emergency Operations Centre authorized and instructed the RCMP’s entry without warrant and search of every High River building as part of the Emergency Operations Centre’s emergency plans.
- FINDING NO. 18: Pursuant to the Emergency Management Act, the Emergency Operations Centre authorized and instructed the RCMP’s entry of High River buildings without warrant to escort home inspection teams as part of the emergency plan.
The High River Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) did not do the authorizing and instructing – people did! Documents tabled in Parliament on September 15, 2014 by the RCMP response to Q-540(c) states:
- The Director of the Town of High River Emergency Operation Centre directed search teams to conduct a door to door search in High River.
- The RCMP High River incident commander approved the use of force as required to enter property. If forced entry was required, search teams were directed to cause the least amount of damage possible.
- The RCMP Complaints Commission report clarifies or contradicts Parliamentary documents by stating only one person, the Director of the High River Emergency Operation Centre made all the decisions and directed the RCMP to repeatedly enter 4,666 High River homes using whatever force is necessary. The report identifies the following individuals as responsible for directing the RCMP’s actions in High River:
- Between June 20, 2013 and June 24, 2013, the one man in charge was Ross Shapka, Manager of Protective Services (the bylaw officer) and in his absence, Len Zebedee, the Fire Chief.
- Between June 25, 2013 and July 13, 2013, the one man in charge was James Cornish, EOC Operations Chief, Director of Field and Recovery Operations, Alberta Emergency Management Authority
The fact is that this one-man theory defies common sense and law. No government, including the Town of High River Town Council, would ever approve a plan delegating their authority by making one man fully responsible and accountable for making such momentous decisions, especially in an emergency. In fact, the Alberta Emergency Management Act logically takes this account by making the “local authority” responsible for making these high stake decisions during times of stress in an emergency. Only the “local authority” has the power under the Act to declare a state of local emergency and only the “local authority” has the power to direct the unwarranted entry into to buildings in accordance with their bylaws and established emergency plan. The “local authority” in High River is the Town Council and the 1996 emergency plan they were actually operating under (in accordance with the AEM Act) did not include the unprecedented, unwarranted entries, using whatever force is necessary, into each every High River home regardless if homes were flooded or not.
Lawyer Rick Hemmingson’s legal analysis stated: “Since Mr. Shapka does not appear to be the person who made the original declaration of a state of local emergency in High River then, by law, his direction had to be given “in the operation of the Municipal Emergency Management Plan and related plans or programs”. As we have seen, that condition was spelled out in Section 12 of Bylaw 3843/96. The only written ‘plan or program’ we have been able to uncover is the MEMP [Municipal Emergency Management Plan] referenced above. Here’s where the RCMP’s purported authority begins to collapse on more than one front.”
According to the RCMP Complaints Commission’s report, the Director of the High River Emergency Operation Centre was making up plans on the fly rather than following the High River Town Council’s bylaws and their existing, approved written plan. The High River Town Council would have had to convene and resolve to amend their existing Emergency Plan by incorporating the revised Shapka/Cornish plans that resulted in an unprecedented violation fundamental rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
After reviewing the 480-page FOIP response including all the 362 pages of Scribe Notes taken in the High River Emergency Operation Centre from June 20, 2013 to June 25, 2013, there is no indication that the Town Council was ever convened to make the decision to approve the Shapka/Cornish revised emergency plan, that included having the RCMP conduct unwarranted entry into each and every home and business in High River (including those homes that weren’t even flooded) and authorizing the use of force to enter those homes and businesses.
Neither Shapka nor Cornish had a trace of legal authority to create their own “Emergency Plan” and the RCMP Complaints Commission turned a blind eye to that fundamental requirement in the Act. And – why didn’t the senior officers in the RCMP and the Alberta Justice Minister know this at the time?
The most important piece of evidence missing from the RCMP Complaints Commission report is the fact that they never interviewed Ross Shapka, the very guy they say made all these decisions initially and directed the RCMP to search homes and kick in doors if necessary. For more details of the issues that the Commission should have addressed as part of their analysis of “legal authorities” please read lawyer Rick Hemmingson’s detailed analysis of the Alberta Emergency Management Act in his Canada Free Press column entitled: Who authorized RCMP to make warrantless entries into High River homes during the 2013 flood?
III. Senior Gov’t officials confused about “legal authorities” for forced entries for weeks
Confusion about the “legal authorities” continued for weeks at the very highest levels of law enforcement in the provincial and federal government. And yet, the Commission’s report would have everyone believe that the local bylaw officer was the only one responsible for sorting out this confusion in one meeting at 6 am on June 21, 2013 and authorizing the RCMP to go ahead with their door-kicking plan. This scenario is simply not credible. No wonder Ross Shapka refused to be interviewed by the Commission’s investigators with this massive liability hanging over his head.
On June 25, 2013, Alberta Asst. Deputy Minister of Justice Bill Sweeney, Director of Law Enforcement and former Commanding Officer of the RCMP “K” Division Alberta from was so concerned about the RCMP forced entries into High River homes he e-mailed, RCMP Asst. Commissioner, Marianne Ryan asking, “What legal authority do the police rely on to forcibly enter private property in the flood stricken area? This was in relation to High River and breaking into homes looking for casualties. The Minister was aware that firearms have not been properly stored were seized during these searches and also anticipates that some residents will ask this question later.” If this learned, experience policeman and high level Justice bureaucrat didn’t know (six days after it all started) what “legal authorities” the RCMP were using to kick in ‘more than 754’ doors in High River, how did they expect the bylaw officer in the Town of High River to make an instant decision to approve police to enter every High River home thereby violating the Charter rights of thousands of residents and would ultimately cause so much damage to and seizures and destruction of private property?
On July 12, 2013, then RCMP Asst. Commissioner, Marianne Ryan (now Commanding Officer of the RCMP “K” Division Alberta with the rank of Deputy Commissioner) stated in an e-mail to Alberta Asst. Deputy Minister of Justice Bill Sweeney, “I am also aware of the provisions of the Emergency Management Act and we have obtained a legal opinion from our counsel through the DOJ as to how and when we should consider the provisions of this Act. It is my understanding that authority from the Minister should be obtained if homes are to be inspected for any health or structural issues.”
If this experienced police officer and the Department of Justice legal counsel were still confused about the ‘legal authorities” 22 days after the door-kicking began, how did they expect the High River bylaw officer to have approved all this on his own without any consultation with either with his own Town Council or with provincial officials sitting in the Emergency Operations Centres in High River and in Edmonton? It defies common sense and insults everyone’s intelligence.
IV. RCMP Forced Entries into 754 homes not justified – not one person found as a result
On pages 5 & 6 of the RCMP Complaints Commission’s report they state: RCMP members entered 4,666 homes, and forced entries into more than 754 of those homes. The RCMP Complaints Commission’s report also stated:
- FINDING NO. 7: Forcible entry was implicitly permitted for the purpose of effecting the searches to protect life, to the extent that the minimum amount of damage necessary was caused. [my emphasis]
- FINDING NO. 8: While inadequate records were kept, it is reasonable to conclude that given their role in the emergency plans, RCMP members determined the means used to gain entry to the buildings.
Most importantly, MP SCOTT REID’S ORDER PAPER QUESTION Q-541(c)(iii) asked: how many people were located by the RCMP, or assisted by the RCMP, as a result of the RCMP’s forced entry into residential or non-residential buildings in and around the Town of High River. RCMP RESPONSE Q-541(c)(iii) None.
The term “implicitly permitted” just isn’t a good enough reason for Mounties to start kicking in hundreds of doors to High River homes. Common law with respect to police reliance on exigent circumstances indicates there has to be a clear and present danger to the person inside that is obvious to the officer knocking on the front door, such as a person calling for help, or by looking in the window and seeing someone in distress or by using infrared technologies that were available to the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces to determine if there is a heat signature of a person inside the home. None of this happened, the Mounties just started kicking in doors whether the home was flooded or not.
Reports from High River folks determined that Mounties kicked in doors that weren’t even locked; although, the RCMP Complaints Commission report did not address why the RCMP did such a stupid thing. The handwritten notes taken by RCMP search teams indicate they also kicked in doors inside homes and they also kicked in doors to outdoor sheds. Once again, the Commission’s report did not address why RCMP resorted to these unreasonable searches and the excessive use of force by the Force.
Even if there was an overzealous start to the forced entries on June 20th and 21st, the effectiveness of the whole exercise, especially the forced entries, should have been reassessed at least on a daily basis, if not more often. There is no evidence whatsoever that this prudent approach was taken by the RCMP supervisors in charge. The RCMP’s forced entries and damage to more than 1,900 homes continued after June 24th, the day when the number 754 forced entries was arrived at. Unfortunately, that was the time when the Commission report says the RCMP also stopped taking detailed notes.
Why did they just keep on kicking in doors when they weren’t finding anyone in the homes? It doesn’t make any sense to just keep kicking in doors and never finding anyone who needed rescuing. One would have thought a 100 doors kicked in would have been enough to learn this valuable lesson. By the time the RCMP kicked in two or three hundred doors one would think the folly of these actions would have been more than obvious to even the most junior of RCMP Constables, let alone Inspectors, Superintendents and Assistant Commissioners. But no, they kept right on until they had made unwarranted entries into all 4,666 High River homes.
Then if that wasn’t enough, they spent the next nineteen days doing it all over again. Newspaper reports last August stated that the Town of High River had paid out about 1,550 damage claims at a cost of $2.2 million for the RCMP’s actions. So much for causing a “minimum amount of damage” as ordered by RCMP Superintendant Frank Smart and restated as a condition in the High River EOC’s revised plan.
Inexplicably, the 143 pages of handwritten notes taken by the RCMP search teams between June 20 and 24, 2013, clearly show that the RCMP search teams did not kick in the doors to businesses in High River. They looked in the windows and most likely called out with their loud hailers and moved on to the next building . Why treat the businesses differently than the homes? Using the RCMP rationale for searching High River homes and kicking in doors to do so, people could have been trapped inside businesses just as easily as inside their homes. The RCMP Complaints Commission had access to the same handwritten notes I have, so why wasn’t this fact reported?
V. RCMP Officers were not in the 4,666 High River homes lawfully
As noted in the above “legal authorities” analysis, neither Ross Shapka, the High River bylaw officer and James Cornish, Provincial EOC Operations Chief did not have the authority to act alone under the Alberta Emergency Management Act to revise the Municipal Emergency Management Plan that included directing the RCMP to search all 4,666 High River homes and the use of force to enter those homes either during the initial four days while the RCMP say they were searching for survivors or during next nineteen days in the home inspection phase. Consequently, the RCMP entered all 4,666 High River homes unlawfully on both occasions and, consequently, had no authority to seize anything under the “plain view doctrine”.
VI. Number of people “rescued” by RCMP searches not supported in any Handwritten Notes
On page 30 of the RCMP Complaints Commission report they stated: “By late afternoon on Day 5 (June 24), RCMP-led teams completed the house-to-house searches, ending their involvement in the search phase of the rescue operation. By that time, the RCMP had searched more than 4,600 homes and facilitated the rescue of approximately 38 people as a result of the house-to-house searches. Footnote 19: This number appears to be an estimate. There was no uniform tracking system and on other occasions it has been reported as 28 people rescued.” The Commission used the words “rescue” whereas in documents tabled in Parliament the RCMP said the “38 were provided assistance in evacuating the town.” [My emphasis]
The Commission was so unsure of the actual number of people “rescued, as result of the massive search of High River homes, that they didn’t even include it as one of their official findings in their report. Here’s why there is so much confusion:
- (a) In a letter dated August 16, 2013 from “K” Division Commanding Officer Dale McGowan to the Alberta Property Rights Advocate: “During these building searches, several people (28) were indeed found stranded in their homes and were subsequently rescued.”
- (b) In an e-mail dated July 12, 2013, from Asst. Commissioner Marianne Ryan’s to an unknown recipient: “During the these residential searches, several people (28) were indeed found stranded in their homes and were subsequently rescued.”
- (c) In RCMP e-mail dated June 24, 2013 at 7:12 pm from RCMP Superintendent Frank Smart states: “As of 1500hrs today, RCMP led by STO have completed the physical search of all homes in High River (with the exception of a small amount in quadrant 8 which is underwater).” Houses\Buildings 3,337 – Forced Entries 674 – People located 303.” My Note: No mention made of anyone being “rescued” or helped “in evacuating the town.”
- (d) This is an excerpt from an e-mail entitled “Search Numbers” dated June 25, 2013 to RCMP Supt. Frank D. Smart: “Buildings entered: 4,668; Forced Entries: 754; People Located in Evac Zones: 327; Rescued people (Initiated by STO Team for various reasons): 38”. My note: STO = Special Tactical Operations.
- (e) In response to Order Paper Questions submitted by Conservative MP, Scott Reid, the RCMP tabled the following in Parliament on September 15, 2014. Q-541 (c)(ii) “A total of 364 people were located within the portion of the mandatory evacuation area subject to the door-to-door search of residential and non-residential properties searched by the RCMP and other emergency responders. Of these 364 people, 38 were provided assistance in evacuating the town. The remaining 326 people refused the assistance of emergency responders.”
- (f) In the 143 pages of handwritten notes taken by the RCMP search teams between June 20 and June 24, 2013, there is not a single recorded note of anyone being saved, rescued or helped in any way. There are dozens of notes about pets being rescued, fed and watered but nothing about people being helped!
- (g) Evidence of the RCMP saving people by their unwarranted and forced entries is also not mentioned in the 362 pages of handwritten scribe notes taken in the High River Emergency Operation Centre between June 20th and June 25th inclusive.
Compare the RCMP’s lack of note-taking above concerning the number of people rescued or helped out of town compared with the notes and care the RCMP took in documenting their pet rescues. An e-mail dated June 23rd is entitled: “RCMP- Pet Rescue efforts continue in High River.” Then this is followed by a five page document entitled: “FLOOD ZONE -ANIMALS REPORTED LEFT ON PROPERTIES.” The following summary of the number of pets rescued by the RCMP was included in the minutes of their meetings: June 26, 2013 – “430 pets rescued so far”; June 30, 2103 – “690 pets rescued”; July 1, 2013 – “960 pets rescued.” Why did the RCMP take such care documenting the pets they rescued and not make any notes about the people they “rescued” or “helped evacuate town”?
Clearly, the RCMP encountered a few High River residents who refused to evacuate, most likely because their homes weren’t flooded. Perhaps a few residents later decided to leave, after many days without power, and needed RCMP assistance to get out of town. Characterising these 28 or 38 as “rescues” does not fit with the rest of the evidence, including the absence of a single note to that effect. This huge missing piece of documentation explaining the RCMP’s actions in High River was not adequately addressed in the RCMP Complaints Commission report!
VII. Why wasn’t the High River plan implemented in the other 30 flooded communities?
There are many reasons why the full judicial enquiry of the High River forced entries, unwarranted searches and seizures is necessary. In 2012, the Province of Alberta called for a judicial enquiry into health care queue-jumping. The government response to what happened during and following the flooding in High River involves far more serious rights violations and unintended consequences that that queue-jumping issue ever did. The Province of Alberta should be initiating their own independent investigation into the High River fiasco to determine: Why did it all go so wrong in High River and so right in 30 other flooded Alberta communities? Why did no other police force in Alberta (including the RCMP) in other flooded communities not have to kick in even one door? Something went dramatically off the rails in High River. In examining all the handwritten notes taken by RCMP scribes, National Defence scribes and the Town of High River scribes, none are more revealing than the following series of scribe notes transcribed from in the Town of High River FOIP response:
PDF Page 170 (Scribe page 82) – June 21, 2013 – 6:14 am
– “We have Scott Fuller & Superintendant Smart”
– “Starting to roll out a search of all homes”
– “be on the same page and that is being done as we speak”
– “when it comes to that – the search needs to be done”
– “a unified [My note: High River staff tell me no redactions were made to this note]
– “300 military are coming & will be here this afternoon”
PDF Page 262/263 (Scribe page 174/175) – June 21, 2013
– “list of people missing or in houses will be top priority”
– “RCMP STO in attendance – they need to know if search will be systematic or just high priority searches, hard to say where we will search first, have lots of people coming to search.
– “RCMP suggesting that STO be in charge of systematic search since they have expertise Military will come under STO when they arrive.”
PDF Page 264 (Scribe page 176) – June 21, 2013
– “RCMP Lead – (2) Begin to develop search plan of police – no areas of town that we can say are searched and clear for sure”
PDF Page 274 (Scribe page 186) – June 21, 2013
– “8:42 am Update to RCMP Frank Smart – mustering for search of residences – coord S&R with ATCO & FORTIS”
– “RCMP – no equip to get into some areas – waiting for military to arrive from Edmonton – military will work under command of RCMP”
PDF Page 176 (Scribe page 88) – June 21, 2013 – 1:35 pm
– “RCMP will be conducting door-to-door sweep. If homes are locked they will be entering homes by any means necessary.”
It appears the RCMP/STO came into High River assuming they were going to search each and every home in High River (come hell or high water, whether the homes were flooded or not) and the notes would indicate that their assumption was never challenged by the Directors of the EOC, by the High River Mayor and Council, by the provincial staffers in High River, by Jim Cornish from the Provincial Operations Centre (POC) by the office of the Alberta Minister of Justice and Solicitor General or by the Doug Griffiths, Minister of Municipal Affairs, the man ultimately responsible for Emergency Management in Alberta.
What happened to the Rule of Law? Are the RCMP above the law? This year is the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. If the King is not above the law, how did the RCMP manage it?
It is incumbent on the Prentice Government to correct the mistakes made by the Redford Government in High River during and following the flood. At a minimum, the High River report should result in a rewriting of the Alberta Emergency Management Act to address the manner in which decisions should be, made, authorized, delegated and implemented in every Alberta community when the RCMP “suggest” unwarranted entries, using whatever force is necessary, into homes during an emergency.
VIII. How can High River home owners ever trust the RCMP again?
On August 7, 2014, Canada’s National Firearms Association issued a news release entitled:“POLL OF HIGH RIVER RESIDENTS SHOWS A DISMAL LACK OF TRUST IN RCMP.” Here is an excerpt from the NFA release: “The telephone poll was conducted during the evenings of August 5 and 6 and asked the following question: “Knowing what you know today, if High River had another flood would you obey an evacuation order?” A total of 2,296 total phone connections were made with 444 persons completing the poll, and of those, 39% answered Yes, 44% answered No and 17% were Undecided.. If we consider the poll results for just those residents who had made up their minds, 53% would refuse to evacuate their homes if a state of emergency was declared.”
Once RCMP Commissioner Paulson has released his response to the RCMP Complaints Commission’s High River report, another poll or series of polls will be necessary to see if the response by the federal and provincial governments has re-built the trust of High River homeowners.
Trust will never be rebuilt in High River until there has been a full airing of the facts and this means the power to subpoena witnesses and have everyone testify under oath. That means there must be a judicial inquiry must be called by either the federal or provincial government or both.
IX. The RCMP Complaints Commission’s investigation fell short in many, many ways.
I will be writing a number of letters to Commission Chair Ian McPhail to address the report’s shortcomings. These missing elements were as a result of the constraints established by legislation and a mandate that was too narrowly focused and are not a reflection of the competence or integrity of the Commission Chair or the diligence of his investigators.
- Example #1: There were many stories being told by High River residents of RCMP officer’s were seen “high-fiving” each other after kicking in doors. This matter was not included in the Commission’s High River report because investigators were unable to convince anyone in High River witnesses who were willing to have their names made public.
- Example #2: The report states in FINDING NO. 31: There is no information to support the claim that RCMP members breached any gun safes. One of the main reasons no witnesses came forward is because they were intimidated by the RCMP.
Here is my first letter published in the Canadian Shooting Sports Association’s E-News blast dated February 18, 2015: WHY DIDN’T THE RCMP TELL REPORTERS THE WHOLE TRUTH IN 2013?
Dennis Young retired to Airdrie, Alberta, in 2007 after working for 13 years on Parliament Hill for Garry Breitkreuz, MP for Yorkton-Melville. Dennis is a member of the Calgary RCMP Veterans Association and a Honourary Life Member of both the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and the National Firearms Association. For his 20-year crusade for the rights of firearms owners, Dennis received the NFA’s David A. Tomlinson Memorial Award for 2014 and the CSSA’s John Holdstock Memorial Award for 2014.
OPEN LETTER TO RCMP PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION CHAIRMAN WHY DIDN’T THE RCMP TELL REPORTERS THE WHOLE TRUTH IN 2013?
Team CSSA E-NEWS – February 18, 2015
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GUEST COMMENTARY – WHY DIDN’T THE RCMP TELL REPORTERS THE WHOLE TRUTH IN 2013? (By Dennis R. Young | February 17, 2015)
A letter to Ian McPhail, Q.C., Chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (Commission) – the Commission that initiated a complaint and public interest investigation into the conduct of those RCMP members involved in entering private residences and seizing firearms following flooding in High River, Alberta in June and July 2013.
Dear Mr. McPhail:
Although there are many findings and recommendations regarding poor communications during the whole fiasco, your report fails to address the reasons why all RCMP spokespersons chose not to tell reporters the whole truth about the Force’s firearms seizures back in 2013; thereby misleading the public for more than a year and a half. I refer you to nine instances I documented in my letter to you dated September 26, 2013 (see link below).
Your report also contradicts former Commanding Officer of “K” Division Dale McGowan when he wrote to the Alberta Property Rights Advocate on August 16, 2013 stating: “…we did not take operational direction from any elected officials or public service employees to enter in private homes and remove personal property.” Your report clearly states the opposite on page 24: “At approximately 6:30 a.m., as the directing authority of the EOC [Emergency Operation Centre] at the time, Mr. Zebedee authorized the preparation of a search plan involving door-to-door searches. The EOC ordered a search of all town residences to ensure that people had been evacuated.” And again on page 25, “Pursuant to EOC directions, the RCMP prepared the search plan. During their briefing, RCMP members received the following directions: Search every house; Record house number and whether empty or occupied; Entry required to ensure life; For occupied homes document who is in the home, who is missing and the names of the next of kin; Searched homes to be marked with tape; Don’t go through deep water; Secure homes upon leaving; and, On loud hailer identify police.” That looks like “operational direction” to me and without it, your justification for all the unwarranted entries into 4,666 High River homes would fail to hold water (no pun intended) as per your FINDING NO. 3: Pursuant to the Emergency Management Act, the Emergency Operations Centre authorized and instructed the RCMP’s entry without warrant and search of every High River building as part of the Emergency Operations Centre’s emergency plans.
Your report fails to comment on the above contradiction nor explain how Deputy Commissioner McGowan got his facts so wrong in his letter to the Alberta Property Rights Advocate in 2013.
Part of the communication problems you identified in your report stem from the fact that the RCMP were not being completely honest with the media and the public about their forced entries into at least 754 homes, damage to more than 1,900 homes, seizure of hundreds of guns, seizure and destruction of 450,000 rounds of ammunition and the full extent of their activities while inside the 4,666 homes they entered without warrant between June 20, 2013 and July 13, 2013. You acknowledge this problem on page 93 of your report where you stated: “This information had been known to RCMP incident command from the outset of the seizures. The failure to convey this information from the start resulted in the RCMP losing control of the issue as other voices filled the void.” And once again on page 107 where you state: “A lack of leadership was also noted by the Commission in the failure by lead RCMP members to integrate a strong communications strategy into its emergency response. This resulted in a failure to provide timely and transparent communications with respect to contentious actions such as the forced entries into homes and the seizure of firearms there from.”
What benefit did these senior officers hope to gain by hiding these facts from the public for so long? Did you ask all those RCMP members in charge of the High River searches and seizures listed in Appendix 3, and if so, what was their justification? Admitting these mistakes at the start, accepting responsibility, holding the persons accountable and making a heartfelt apology for these glaring mistakes and rights violations would have gone a long way to start rebuilding the trust with High River home owners in 2013 rather than 2015. As it is now, everyone is waiting for RCMP Commissioner Paulson to hold his own officers accountable for their actions.
It seems that even after your report was released, the Commanding Officer for “K” Division, Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan, couldn’t bring herself to admit the troops under her command had done anything other than seize “unsecured firearms”. VIDEO – RCMP DEPUTY COMMISSIONER MARIANNE RYAN RESPONDS TO COMMISSION’S HIGH RIVER GUN GRAB REPORT – FEBRUARY 12, 2015
As you know, I have filed 42 Access to Information Act requests with federal departments and seven Freedom of Information Program requests with Alberta Government Ministries and the Town of High River. More than a dozen of these files are being investigated by the respective Information Commissioners for missing information. Many of the facts and conclusions presented in your report aren’t supported by the evidence I have amassed and the reports I have received from High River residents. I will be reporting on these inconsistencies, contradictions and outstanding questions over the next few weeks.
Dennis R. Young
Honourary Life Member of the CSSA and the NFA
Member of the Calgary RCMP Veterans Association
THE FOURTH LETTER TO THE RCMP PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSIONER – SEPTEMBER 26, 2013
HIGH RIVER – WHY DIDN’T THE RCMP TELL REPORTERS THE WHOLE TRUTH?
THE CIVILIAN REVIEW AND COMPLAINTS COMMISSION FOR THE RCMP REPORT INTO THE HIGH RIVER GUN GRAB – FEBRUARY 12, 2015
“Allan Rock said he came to Ottawa with the belief that only the police and military should have firearms. I believe that firearms ownership is a right, but a right that comes with responsibilities.” – The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety
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THANK YOU SUN NEWS – Sun News Network has left Canada’s broadcasting scene. We are grateful for the support they showed our community in keeping issues like the High River fiasco and the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty alive.
Thank you Kory, Ezra, Brian, Faith, Bryn, Jerry, Adrienne, Matt, Marissa and so many others who became dear friends over the years. We will miss you folks!
For those CSSA members who wish to keep in touch, here are a few URL’s:
https://www.facebook.com/kory.teneycke | www.ezralevant.com | www.brianlilley.com | www.faithgoldy.ca | https://www.facebook.com/bryn.weese | www.torontosun.com/author/jerry-agar | www.torontosun.com/author/adrienne-batra | https://twitter.com/marissasemkiw
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A CSSA MEMBER WRITES –
Prime Minister, after 18 long months we have finally received the report on the RCMP’s deplorable actions in High River AB.
As expected, there are numerous instances were the police acted illegally, improperly and in direct contravention of acceptable police practises. Prime Minister, while this report is a good first step, it raises as many questions as it answers and, as a result, it is imperative that a full judicial inquiry be called with authority to subpoena and to punish all those found to be in violation of our laws.
Based on their previous actions, I have little confidence that some members of this force will actually honour their oath to tell the truth, but a full inquiry will get us much closer to why this assault on the rights of Canadians occurred and who was responsible. Once this information has been obtained, it is imperative that charges be laid against the offenders and that they are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
With respect, a report that basically tells the RCMP to write a new operations manual will not suffice, the law was clearly, repeatedly and knowingly broken and those involved must be held to account.
SUNDAY HUNTING: A MESSAGE FROM THE NOVA SCOTIA FEDERATION OF ANGLERS AND HUNTERS –
Finally after years of hard work Nova Scotia is considering Sunday Hunting. They are doing a survey and from what I understand it is some who don’t want it that are being more vocal than the hunting community. Please take the time to spread the word and encourage hunters to complete the on-line survey. It is short and sweet and takes less than a minute.
Because only one survey will be accepted per IP address, a telephone message or email can be sent by other members of the family if more than one person in a household is interested.
Please send this out to your email lists especially your Nova Scotia members.
Let’s make sure our voice is listened to.
NS Federation of Anglers and Hunters
NS Department of Natural Resources
P.O. Box 698
Halifax, NS B3J 2T9
You may also leave a voice mail message at 902-424-7955
CANADA IN THE ROUGH – BACK COUNTRY MOUNTAIN CARIBOU
THIS WEEK – While sleeping beside a glacier-filled lake, Keith and the crew climb thousands of feet in elevation each day to chase mountain caribou on top of the world. With breathtaking views and amazing wildlife encounters, Keith hunts hard for an elusive big bull in one of the most remote locations on the planet.
See the teaser: http://www.canadaintherough.com/back-country-mountain-caribou/
ALBERTA RCMP TO BE SUED OVER HIGH RIVER GUNS SEIZURE AS WATCHDOG REPORT SLAMS LEADERSHIP (By Robson Fletcher | Metro | February 12, 2015)
A class-action lawsuit will be filed against the RCMP Thursday over their seizure of hundreds of firearms from High River homes during the 2013 flood, according to a lawyer representing affected residents.
The legal action will come as a new report is released slamming the Mounties for failing to report the weapon seizures to either a court or the public. The report also blames Alberta’s “K” Division of the RCMP for a lack of leadership during the crisis.
Clint Docken of Docken Klym, a Calgary law firm that specializes in class-action litigation, said he plans to file a statement of claim Thursday, shortly after the report is made public.
“The class is defined here as all persons resident in High River who had at least one legally held firearm seized by the RCMP from June 20 to July 10,” Docken said of the lawsuit, adding it will argue, in part, that the Mounties violated residents’ Charter rights.
The seizures infuriated High River residents and gun-rights advocates alike, including Dennis Young, an Airdrie resident and former RCMP officer who has followed the case closely.
Young said he’s not surprised the report from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP placed much of the blame on the Mounties’ senior leadership.
“They lost control of their troops,” Young said. “After the first seizure of firearms, the alarm bells should have gone off.”
High River resident Don White, who said he had “about a dozen” long guns taken from his home, hopes the RCMP will publicly apologize.
While the controversy surrounding the Mounties’ actions has centred largely around the fact that they went after firearms, in particular, White said it’s the more fundamental principles of private-property rights and protection from unlawful search and seizure that are important to him.
“To me, it’s about having a cop smash your door down five days after the flood and take anything out of your bloody house,” he said.
MOUNTIES TO LEARN A LESSON FROM GUN-GRAB REPORT, BUT THEY ALSO NEED TO LEARN GUN OWNERS ARE NOT A THREAT (By Lorne Gunter | QMI Agency | February 12, 2015)
The report of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the RCMP is quite clear about Mounties’ actions in High River following the devastating flood there in June 2013. Hundreds of legally owned guns were taken from private homes without proper “legal authority.” That’s a polite way of saying Mounties illegally grabbed guns from law-abiding citizens – without warrants and without crucial judicial oversight.
The report also finds that Mounties violated the “plain view” doctrine which holds that if officers are in a location legally and they see evidence of an unrelated crime “in plain view” they are justified in seizing it. But in High River, Mounties looked in places inside homes where no survivors could have been hiding, such as inside boxes, between mattresses and under linens in closets. Since their authority for being inside private homes without warrants was Alberta’s Emergency Management Act, and since the EMA only authorizes warrantless searches to save trapped survivors, the commission ruled that to the extent Mounties looked in places where survivors could not be, “the searches exceeded their authorized scope by expanding from a search for people or pets to a search for firearms.”
What the CRCC report fails to do is recommend stern action against those Mounties who kicked in doors and scooped up guns. The report found that many of the more than 600 guns Mounties took were legally stored, but they seized them anyway. Still the CRCC went as far as it could. It lacks the mandate to recommend any of the “Three Ds”: discipline, demotion or dismissal. Under the law governing the commission, it is pretty much limited to pointing out the force’s shortcomings and recommending members not do the same the next time a wildfire, flood, tornado, ice storm or earthquake devastates a Canadian town. It is now up to RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to determine whether punishment of officers or commanders is needed.
Where I might disagree with the commissioners is over their conclusion that Mounties were acting “in good faith.” Frontline officers believed they had justification to seize guns. It was higher-ups who failed to explain the legal limits of their searches. I’d be tempted to go along with that narrative if not for two troubling details.
In the 72 hours immediately after the Highwood River overflowed its banks, we know that “4,666 buildings were entered and searched. Of these, 754 were forcibly entered.” How do we know this? Despite the chaos and destruction between June 21 and 24, Mounties kept reasonably detailed notes regarding their searches. But we don’t know exactly how many homes Mounties entered between June 25 and July 10, when searches stopped, “because of the lack of records, it is impossible to determine how many times the damage was the result of the [RCMP-led] teams’ forced entry…”
Somehow with billions of litres of water crashing everywhere and scores of residents needing help to escape, it was still possible for Mounties to take reasonably detailed notes. Yet for the three weeks after the immediate emergency subsided, while the sun was shining and the town was nearly empty, Mounties didn’t keep good records of what they were doing. What were they hiding?
Also, Mounties failed to seek warrants for their searches after June 24 when there was clearly time to do so. On numerous occasions, courts have ruled that when police have an opportunity to seek a warrant, they must. Mounties had lots of time to seek warrants, but didn’t. Why? Were they worried a judge would stop them? I think the CRCC report will back Mounties off from ever repeating their gun-grabbing actions during future disasters. But it will be up to RCMP Commissioner Paulson to retrain his members not to see law-abiding gun owners as a threat to public safety.
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FOLLOWING OCT. 22 ATTACK, BORDER GUARDS LOBBY TO WEAR FIREARMS AT AIRPORTS (By Jordan Press | Ottawa Citizen | February 10, 2015)
Canada’s border guards have turned up the pressure on the federal government to allow them to wear firearms at Canada’s airports, the last ports of entry where the guards are still banned from carrying guns.
The security level at every port remains high following the shooting at the National War Memorial and Parliament Hill on Oct. 22, 2014. On that day, border guards at Canada’s largest airport were denied their request to carry firearms – even as armed police patrolled part of Pearson International Airport.
An internal security report obtained by the Citizen indicates the Canada Border Service Agency (CBSA) raised its threat level amid the heightened security concerns spurred by the Ottawa shooting.
The report says that CBSA officers at Pearson and at Billy Bishop airport in Toronto’s downtown core “requested permission to wear duty firearms” as local police “carrying automatic weapons” walked the halls of Pearson International’s largest terminal.
“Management denied their request,” reads the report, which doesn’t give an explanation for the decision.
The president of the border guards’ union said his members didn’t understand the government’s reasoning for not letting trained border guards carry firearms at airports. Jean-Pierre Fortin said up to half of border guards at Pearson International and other airports – such as Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier International Airport – are trained to carry sidearms, but their guns are kept in a secure locker.
“What happened here in Ottawa, during the week that there was that threat … they sent police officers to the airport to have the armed presence instead of allowing our 14 officers who were already trained” to carry firearms, said Fortin, national president of the Customs and Immigration Union.
“Personally, I’ve been talking with the minister (Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney) several times over the last few months, raising the matter with him,” he said. “We’re increasing the pressure on the government right now to consider that question to arm our people.”
Border guards are only allowed to carry firearms inside airport terminals if they are enforcing a deportation order, or arresting someone under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Border guards that do carry firearms are trained to the same level as RCMP officers.
Blaney’s office indicated the government had no plans to change the policy.
“All Canadians were shocked by the violent terrorist attack on October 22,” said spokesman Jean-Christophe de le Rue.
“That said, the locations in question (passenger airports) have been assessed to be low risk, are in close proximity to a police presence where armed assistance could be called upon. Our government is continually reviewing the environment to ensure the safety of our officers.”
The issue is one of several raised in documents obtained by the Citizen that outline the response at Canada’s border crossings, airports and marine ports in the wake of the shootings on Oct. 22.
Officers at the CBSA’s national targeting centre, which reviews cargo and passenger manifests to identify threats, conducted risk assessments “in order to identify possibly previously unknown persons” or shipments that could be a national security concern, according to the report. Shortly after the shooting, CBSA intelligence officers began working with the RCMP and Ottawa police.
Overseas staff were asked to report daily on terrorist threats, “including political dimensions,” and any “specific interventions” CBSA officers and allied countries took “in interdicting suspect travellers.”
“This includes information directly related to the threat activity witnessed in Ottawa on October 22, 2014,” the report says.
The agency directed staff to either cover up, or not wear their uniforms once they left work, even though there were no specific threats identified against CBSA offices or officials. That directive, a CBSA spokeswoman said, remained in place until Nov. 22.
The Canadian Armed Forces issued a similar order to its members across the country on Oct. 22. The military says that order was lifted on Dec. 11.
GUN OWNERS ARE SECOND-CLASS CITIZENS (By Lorne Gunter | QMI Agency | Posted February 17, 2015 | Updated February 18, 2015)
If you own a gun in this country, you’re a second-class citizen. Police, politicians, Crown prosecutors and even judges believe you forfeit rights the rest of us take for granted (such as respect for your private property) once you buy a gun – even if you buy it legally.
Before I go further, let me explain that I have never owned a gun and never expect to. My interest in gun owners’ rights is based on the belief that if the state can rob my fellow law-abiding citizens of rights just because they enjoy shooting sports, then they can rob me of my rights, too, for something I do legally but which becomes unfashionable.
The High River gun grab is a prime example of what I mean, but so too is the tragic experience of Bruce and Donna Montague of Dryden, Ont.
Bruce Montague was a highly respected gunsmith. I say “was” because federal courts have now stripped him of the right to own guns or to earn a livelihood connected with firearms.
Bruce’s crime? He actively opposed Bill C-68, the 1995 amendments to the Criminal Code that required all Canadian firearms owners to register their rifles and shotguns with the government.
Feeling the law was an unjust infringement on his basic rights, Montague let his old firearms acquisition certificate expire in 2003 rather than apply for a new possession and acquisition licence.
The next year, his wife Donna did the same.
In the fall of 2004, police arrested Bruce at a gun show in Dryden and held him in jail for 10 days until he agreed to show them where he kept his guns. They were in a hidden room that could only be accessed by pushing a nail into a knothole to move a pine-board wall panel.
Montague is not a simple hero. His woodland northwest Ontario home also came with an underground shooting tunnel that he used to test weapons he was repairing, including many he was working on for local police officers.
And he was convicted by a jury and spent six months in jail for filing serial numbers off guns, lacking a licence and altering the firing mechanisms of some guns to make them automatics.
Bruce knew he was provoking Ottawa and expected to suffer the consequences.
Not only did Ottawa send him to jail for longer than a first-time armed robber would likely spend, it also sought to strip him of his guns, a collection worth well over $100,000. Not content to send him to jail, the federal government wanted to make him penniless, too, and unable to work.
Bizarrely, an Ontario judge also permitted the feds to take Bruce’s ammunition because among the items found in his underground firing range were some military manuals. That, the judge said, proved Bruce was preparing for a revolution.
But as out of all proportion as that is, the Ontario government’s actions are far worse. They amount to state-sponsored vigilantism.
Even though the prosecution of the Montagues was handled by federal lawyers and judges, Ontario is now using its provincial forfeiture law to seize Montague’s home, which Ontario Crown attorneys argue is a proceed of crime.
Remember, Bruce never used his guns to commit a crime. His crime was administrative in nature – not getting himself licensed and refusing to register his guns.
But Ontario now wants to leave the Montagues homeless because, the province argues, Bruce operated his gunsmith business out of the home he and Donna built for themselves, and since he has been convicted of firearms offences, that makes his home a den of criminal activity.
It’s hard to imagine Ottawa or Ontario treating the owner of any other legal product this way. But gun owners have become second-class Canadians.
POP-TART GUN LAWS: FIGHTING FOR THE RIGHT TO KEEP AND BEAR PASTRY IN THE U.S. (By Meagan Fitzpatrick | CBC News | January 26, 2915)
Pop-Tarts aren’t recommended as a source of nutrition, but in some parts of the U.S. they are a source of inspiration for legislators looking to change policies on guns and education.
A series of incidents have led defenders of the right to keep and bear arms to stand up for children who chew their breakfast pastries into the shape of a gun.
So-called Pop-Tart gun laws emerged in the U.S. in 2013, when a seven-year-old boy in Baltimore was suspended after he nibbled his snack (it wasn’t actually the Pop-Tart brand of toaster pastry) into the shape of a gun and apparently directed it at his classmates.
Joshua Welch was kicked out of school for two days, sparking a debate about gun rights and zero tolerance policies in schools. His second grade teacher said he was not suspended for chewing his breakfast into a gun, but for a pattern of disruptive behaviour. His parents fought to get the suspension scrubbed from his record and Joshua eventually changed schools.
The case prompted a Maryland state senator, J.B. Jennings, to introduce legislation aimed at ensuring no other child was disciplined for a Pop-Tart-type incident. The Reasonable School Discipline Act of 2013 sought to prohibit schools from suspending a student who had a picture of a gun or “any other object that resembles a gun but serves another purpose.”
Making a hand gesture resembling a gun doesn’t deserve a suspension either, according to the bill.
Zero tolerance too far?
The bill noted that after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 children and six adults were killed in late 2012, there was a heightened concern about guns and schools.
But Jennings said some school officials had exercised questionable judgment and overreacted to incidents like the toaster pastry case.
“If we wait too long, this type of reaction will become the standard response by school administrators only serving to perpetuate fear amongst our young students, not to mention putting marks on permanent academic records that are neither appropriate nor warranted,” he said on his website at the time.
The proposed legislation referenced other students besides Joshua who had gotten in trouble. A five-year-old girl in Pennsylvania was suspended from kindergarten for telling her classmate she would use her Hello Kitty bubble gun on her and on herself.
She was examined by a psychologist to ensure she wasn’t a danger to anyone and then her suspension was reduced from 10 days to two.
Another example was a high school student in Arizona suspended for making the desktop background on his school laptop a picture of an AK-47.
The breakfast pastry-inspired bill in Maryland died at the committee stage, and a similar one in Oklahoma also stalled last year. But Oklahoma Senator Sally Kerns reintroduced the bill this week.
Some critics of the bills were opposed because they found them unnecessary and want to keep control of discipline in the hands of teachers and school boards, not state legislatures.
Florida passed law last year.
Supporters, though, say legislation is needed because schools are going too far with their zero tolerance policies and are imposing excessive punishments for behaviour that shouldn’t even be punishable in the first place.
Florida is the one state that has successfully passed a so-called Pop-Tart gun bill. Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law last June.
It allows students to wear clothing that depicts a gun, to use a writing utensil or their hands to simulate a gun, to draw a picture of a gun, to make a gun out of plastic building blocks, to have a toy gun if it’s less than five centimetres in length, and to brandish “a partially consumed pastry or other food item to simulate a firearm.”
Now Texas could be the next state to pass a Pop-Tart gun law. Representative Ryan Guillen is championing the cause and introduced a bill last month.
“I saw stories in the media about kids being taken out of class over something as silly as a Pop-Tart gun. I don’t want to see that happen,” he said in an email. He was not available for an interview.
“As unlikely as these incidents may seem, they actually happened. The bill is a proactive effort to prevent even the chance of a Texas student losing valuable instruction time due to an act of non-disruptive, non-threatening behaviour by a child,” said Guillen.
A new governor and legislature was just sworn in Texas, meaning it will still be a few weeks until the bill is studied in committee and put to a vote.
LIBERAL VERMONT LIKES GUNS – MEASURE TO ADD RESTRICTIONS GARNERS OPPOSITION FROM MANY, INCLUDING DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR. (By Dave Gram | Associated Press | February 10, 2015)
MONTPELIER, Vt. – One of the most liberal states in the country also is one of the most passionate about defending the right to bear arms, a fact that is coming to the fore following proposed legislation to expand background checks and add other gun regulations.
Hundreds of Vermont residents are expected to pack the state House chamber for a public hearing Tuesday night on Senate Bill 31, which would expand background checks from retail to private gun sales, step up reporting about people deemed psychologically unfit to have a gun and add state jurisdiction to what is now just federal enforcement of the ban on convicted felons possessing guns.
The bill has drawn strong opposition from powerful gun-rights groups and from Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat and lifelong hunter.
Why the Second Amendment fervour in a state that Election Day exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and other media have found to be among the most liberal?
“I think it’s a result of years and years of Vermonters respecting guns as a tool to manage wildlife and to put food on the table,” Shumlin said in an interview. “That’s what motivates us to own a gun. It’s not necessarily what motivates someone who lives in Manhattan to own a gun.”
Whether people grew up in a hunting family as he did “really influences how you look at this,” the governor added.
Hunters have nothing to worry about, said Ann Braden of Brattleboro, president of the group Gun Sense Vermont, which supports the measure.
“This legislation doesn’t affect the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. It’s focused exclusively on keeping guns out of the hands of convicted abusers, violent felons, and drug traffickers,” she said.
But the gun-rights groups are adamant: “No more gun control bills,” said Bill Moore of Vermont Traditions Coalition. “We don’t need them in the safest state in the nation.”
There’s widespread concern among gun owners about background checks in general, said Evan Hughes, vice-president of the Vermont Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs.
“A lot of people in the gun-owning community see every step down the regulatory road eventually leads toward registration and confiscation,” Hughes said.
Background check supporters say the federal government does not keep a record of the sale – that is kept in the gun shop. But law enforcement can have access to the records.
FBI figures showed Vermont was the safest state in the country in 2013, with 115 violent crimes per 100,000 people. That was less than a third the national rate of 368 violent crimes per 100,000 people.
That’s often attributed to having no big urban areas – the state’s largest city is Burlington, population about 40,000. A sparser population and civic traditions like the New England town meeting also are sometimes cited. “I think there’s a strong sense of community in Vermont,” said Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn.
The bill, sponsored by the top three Democrats in the Vermont Senate, has three main components:
* It would expand background checks to private sales, with an exemption for sales between family members. If one neighbour wants to sell a gun to another, they must approach a federally-licensed firearms dealer, who would run an electronic background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.
* It would make it a violation of state law as well as federal law for convicted felons to possess firearms. This would give state and local police new power to enforce the law.
* It would require that anyone found by a court to have a mental disorder making him or her a danger to self or others, or who had been found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity, or who had been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility, to have that information forwarded to the federal background check database for exclusion from being allowed to buy a gun.
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CANADA FREE PRESS – Who authorized RCMP to make warrantless entries into High River homes during the 2013 flood?
In the summer of 2013, Canadians were witness to wholesale house-to-house searches and seizures of property by the RCMP in High River, Alberta. Certainly hundreds and more likely thousands of private homes were entered without probable cause and without warrants. Doors were kicked in and officers entered the abandoned homes. Firearms, ammunition and other weapons, e.g., archery equipment, were seized. Complaints were made and various explanations and justifications have since been offered by the RCMP in response.
This précis examines one of the more recent claims from the RCMP – that they were carrying out warrantless searches for stranded people and pets under lawful direction given to them by the High River Emergency Operations Centre; likely the Director of the Town of High River Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) and/or the RCMP High River incident commander. Regardless of their long titles, these persons, and anyone else who was part of the Town’s EOC, must act within the law. On that basis, it turns out this latest justification for their action doesn’t quite hold water.
A state of emergency was initially declared by the Town of High River on June 20, 2013. There was a later state of emergency declared by the Province and then another declaration by the Town. It is the first two declarations that were made during the time these house-to-house entires were made and firearms seized.
The Town claims in its recently released Report that the Province made its own declaration of emergency on June 27 in order to give some much-needed rest to municipal officials who had been handling the local declaration of emergency. One would have thought it would have been enough for the Town to simply ask for help and that the Province would have sent more resources and personnel if those were required. If the Town’s Emergency Operation Centre (EOC) had the authority to delegate to the RCMP the power to kick down the doors to thousands of private homes, then surely the Town’s EOC had the authority to delegate to some provincial personnel the power to organize sandbags and backwash the filters at the sewage plant without requiring another declaration of emergency by the Province. Apparently, not. In any event, that issue is outside the scope of this brief paper and I turn to the narrower question of whether the High River EOC could legally delegate to the RCMP the power to make warrantless entry into High River homes, forcibly or otherwise.
The Town Council of High River, like every other town and city in Alberta, had the power under Alberta’s Emergency Management Act to declare a state of local emergency. It’s powers under the Act were to be exercised by an “emergency management agency” which the town was required to establish under that Act. That agency seems to have been established in High River and is described in the Town’s Emergency Bylaw 3843/96. A copy of this Bylaw is also available online.
For the purposes of this editorial, let’s call that agency the High River “EOC”.
The Town had also drafted and adopted a formal emergency plan, as it was required to do. According to local sources, the Municipal Emergency Management Plan (“MEMP”) that was in effect in High River in the summer of 2013 was this document.
Do any of these legal instruments permit the Council or someone at the Town’s EOC to direct the RCMP to make warrantless searches, as the RCMP have claimed? On the basis of the documents I have reviewed and the plain wording of Alberta’s Emergency Management Act (“EMA”), I don’t believe so.
In order to set aside other hurdles that would require deeper analysis, let us assume that the EMA authorized warrantless entries into residences although it only uses the word “building” rather than “residence” or “home”, and let us further assume that the Charter permits such a broad and intrusive interpretation that word, and we will further assume that Council was able to legitimately delegate such extraordinary power to a single unelected person, that apparently being the head bylaw enforcement officer (informally known as the local “dog catcher” in my youth but whom the RCMP refer to as “Director of the Town of High River Emergency Operation Centre”). Even with all those assumptions made, there are problems finding such authorization within the enabling bylaw and the accompanying MEMP.
Bylaw 3843/96 plainly required that the authorization for warrantless entries must be “in the operation of” the MEMP or related plans and programs. The relevant passage of Section 12 of the Bylaw reads:
12. Subject to Section 15, when a state of local emergency is declared, the persons making the declaration may
(g) authorize the entry into any building or on any land, without warrant, by any person in the course of implementing an emergency plan or program;
(k) authorize any persons at any time to exercise, in the operation of the Municipal Emergency Management Plan and related plans or programs, any power specified in Paragraphs (b) through (j) in relation to any part of the municipality affected by a declaration of a state of local emergency. [my emphasis]
Under the High River Bylaw, it appears that only one of these persons can authorize warrantless entries: (a) the person making the declaration, or (b) some other authorized person who is exercising such power “in the operation of” the Municipal Emergency Management Plan. Let’s examine each of those possibilities in turn.
Local politicians made the declaration of a state of emergency. The RCMP has not claimed they were delegated warrantless entry powers by the Mayor or Councillors. In fact, in a letter to the Alberta Property Rights Advocate, the RCMP Commander of K Division (Alberta) denied that such direction came from politicians. The High River Town Council has not admitted to giving that direction. We can conclude that there is no claim that such authorization was given by the person(s) who made the declaration of emergency.
Recently, the RCMP has claimed that their powers came from the High River EOC. That is corroborated. According to a report on SUN News of an interview with Mr. Ross Shapka, a bylaw officer in High River during the flood who was then-commander of the EOC, it was Shapka who gave the order to the RCMP to conduct searches of High River homes.
Since Mr. Shapka does not appear to be the person who made the original declaration of a state of local emergency in High River then, by law, his direction had to be given “in the operation of the Municipal Emergency Management Plan and related plans or programs”. As we have seen, that condition was spelled out in Section 12 of Bylaw 3843/96. The only written “plan or program” we have been able to uncover is the MEMP referenced above. Here’s where the RCMP’s purported authority begins to collapse on more than one front.
First, the MEMP itself lists in Section 4.10 the powers of the Director of the High River EOC. That list of powers does not include the power to authorize the RCMP or anyone else to make warrantless entries into residences, or any building. Mr. Shapka was given a list of powers in the MEMP but the power to authorize warrantless entries was not among them. Doesn’t that end the claim that he was able to confer such power on the RCMP?
Furthermore, Sections 4.7.3 and 4.7.4 of the MEMP provide direct references for the Town’s emergency procedures and powers. The powers of Sections 19 and 24 of the EMA, (the ultimate source of these alleged warrantless search powers) is expressly stated to belong to “Council”. How can Council or the EOC validly delegate warrantless entry powers “in the operation of” a Plan which itself states that such power belongs to Council? It is circular reasoning or, at least, seems ineffective.
Second, both the Act and the Bylaw appear to limit the power to authorize warrantless entries to situations where such warrantless entries are made in furtherance of an existing Emergency Plan.
In the EMA, subsection 24(1)(c) states that a local authority may exercise the enumerated extraordinary powers, e.g., warrantless entry into buildings, “in the operation of an emergency plan or program”. The relevant portion of the Town’s Bylaw contains the same wording when it talks about delegation of that power to anyone. The power must be exercised in furtherance of a prepared Emergency Plan.
Such a limitation makes sense. Prudent legislators would not want to hand down broad draconian powers to people who might panic in an emergency. They would want bureaucrats, civil servants and police exercising any extraordinary emergency power ONLY within the limits of a written Emergency Plan that was thought out calmly and carefully before the emergency hit. In fact, that is just how the Act and the Bylaw were drafted. Here is where the plot thickens.
The RCMP have lately claimed that they were forcibly entering homes to search for, and tend to, stranded people and any abandoned pets. Let’s examine each of those claims.
My friend, Dennis Young, has obtained a copy of officers’ notes taken during the RCMP’s door- crashing campaign. We have carefully reviewed all of those notes. There is not a single mention of a rescued person, although the feeding pets is recorded. This discrepancy has also been reported by Lorne Gunter of SUN News. Therefore, the RCMP claim that 754 High River homes were forcibly entered, resulting in approximately 2,000 damage claims submitted by residents and that a total of 4,666 warrantless entries were made (with some homes entered more than once) for the principal purpose of rescuing persons rings hollow. After reviewing hundreds and hundreds of pages of RCMP documents obtained through Access to Information Act requests, RCMP notes do not record a single person rescued in that door-crashing campaign. Not one.
The other alleged rescue effort was to save pets. To date, no-one has challenged the business of rescuing pets. I do so now.
Recall the requirement that the power to authorize warrantless entries must be made “in the operation of” the Municipal Emergency Management Plan and related plans or programs.
There appears to be nothing in the EMA nor the Town’s then-existing Bylaw and Emergency Plan which empowers or directs – or even mentions – the search or rescue of pets as being the Town’s concern during a state of emergency.
If the Bylaw and/or MEMP does not mention the care of pets or the welfare of pets as part of the High River’s emergency agenda or plan, then how does anybody claim to be using these extraordinary powers “in the operation of” the Town’s Municipal Emergency Management Plan? There is nothing in the provided copies of either the High River Bylaw or the MEMP that mentions pets. How can it be reasonably claimed that the RCMP’s door-to-door search for pets and forcible entry into homes for that alleged purpose was “in the operation of” the MEMP?
It is not reasonable to postulate that High River might have had some unwritten emergency “plan or program” where the RCMP might find a chain of legal justification to break down doors to feed pets. The EMA pretty clearly requires that qualifying plans and programs shall be in writing and it certainly contemplates that such plans and programs will have been prepared by local authorities before an emergency arises. The only such plan or program we have found is the MEMP referenced above. As stated, pets are not mentioned.
If there is a Provincial emergency plan which addresses the rescue of pets, we have not yet seen it. Such a plan might support the RCMP’s position, assuming that power can be traced to the High River EOC and then on to the RCMP, as they have claimed.
A third problem with the claim of a valid delegation of power from the High River EOC to the RCMP arises with any actions taken after June 27.
Recall that the Province made its own declaration of a state of emergency on June 27. That is recorded in High River’s account of what happened during the flood and which is posted here.
There are consequences to a Provincial declaration of a state of emergency. Section 22(3) of Alberta’s EMA reads:
22. Cancellation of declaration of state of local emergency
22(3) A declaration of a state of local emergency ceases to be of any force or effect on the making of an order for a state of emergency by the Lieutenant Governor in Council relating to the same area of the municipality. [my bold]
On a plain reading of subsection 22(3) of the EMA, from and after June 27, 2013 when the Province made its own declaration of a state of emergency, nobody in the High River EOC had the authority to permit warrantless searching nor to delegate that to the RCMP. Why? Because the state of local emergency declared by High River had, by law, ceased to have any force and effect when the Province had issued its own declaration and therefore it would seem that all the consequences in the High River Bylaw and MEMP that were triggered by that declaration of a local state of emergency on June 20 was also at an end. The Town Council reverted to their usual status and Mr. Shapka returned to being a bylaw enforcement officer.
From and after June 27, it seems the RCMP could no more look to the High River EOC or the High River Town Council for authority to enter flooded High River homes without permission (forcibly or otherwise) than the RCMP could look to them to issue search warrants in a drug operation. Such authorities must come from a Judge under the features of our Rule of Law.
There is evidence that warrantless entries were made after June 27th. An e-mail penned on June 14, 2014 by K Division Commanding Officer Marianne Ryan confirmed the unwarranted search of “. . . 4,666 homes and businesses in High River for the purpose of locating missing persons and checking for gas leaks. Forced entry occurred at 754 of those locations. After June 24th and until July 13th, when home inspections ended, the RCMP acted as security escorts for pet rescue, building inspection and utility crews. The majority of homes were re-visited at least once again for these purposes.”
In summary, it is hard to understand how leadership in the RCMP could have truly believed in the summer of 2013 that their officers could legally crash down doors to High River homes in search of possibly stranded pets; it is utterly impossible to understand how that justification can be advanced a year later.
When one recalls the blithe answer of an RCMP spokesman at that first news conference which questioned these entries and gun seizures, concerns are amplified. Recall also that the RCMP spokesman said that such actions are “not remarkable for us.” That may be, but such police actions are certainly remarkable for the rest of us.
At the the of the day, why do we need take a hard and unflinching look at this disturbing episode in Alberta’s and Canada’s history? Most of the answer is simple.
Tyranny is like a bad cooking odour. It is always easier to smell in someone else’s house.
Note: Thanks and appreciation are due to my friend, Dennis Young, a retired RCMP member, for his tireless work in getting to the bottom of what really happened in High River. That important effort continues.
Rick Hemmingson is a published author whose legal experience ranges through various litigation matters to a variety of solicitor’s work including estate planning, probate, corporate, partnerships and real estate development; with a special interest in matters related to the Firearms Act and regulations. Rick is a past member of the Board of Governors of the Alberta Civil Trial Lawyers Association. He graduated with distinction from the University of Saskatchewan in 1988 and is a Member of the Bar in both Alberta and British Columbia.
-Guest Column by Rick Hemmingson, J.D. October 25, 2014