Thursday, October 05, 2006

Doo-in' It Right at Last

Commandant 'Presto' of The RCMP went on TV last week to "apologize" for his force's sorry performance in the Arar affair. If you'll remember, Arar, a Canadian citizen of Syrian descent, was stopped at New York's airport as he was returning to Canada from a visit to the middle east. The security involved required a check with Canadian officials to see if Arar was 'legit'. Apparently, police sources provided information to the FBI that Arar was a 'person of interest' to the RCMP and that both he, and his wife, had ties to AlQaeda. Arar was deported to Syria where he was jailed for a year, tortured and eventually released at the behest of the Canadian government. It turns out that there was not a scintilla of truth in what the FBI were told. Not only that, the RCMP remained 'mum' on the issue for the next four years. It took a judicial inquiry to discover what the redcoats already knew - they'd lied.

But knowing something, and admitting something, are two entirely different things. Zacardelli, the chief of the Mounties apologized to Arar and his family. He said it shouldn't have happened. Did he admit the Mounties goofed? No. It was the Americans who deported him, it was the Syrians who tortured him. The Mounties were only guilty of, "Doing their best." as the Z-master defined it.

Now it seems to me that doing your best doesn't leave much room for improvement. It also seems to me that protecting Canada and Canadians is job one for a national police force. Failing to do that, on a large or small scale, is failing in the prime purpose. That such failure results in the injury of a Canadian citizen is more than failure, it's acting against the best interests of the nation. In a way, it's treachery. The RCMP acted traitorously. How does one improve that - trust me it won't happen again?

In addition to this is another concern. Over the course of the 4 years since the incident, different Justice Ministers have tried to find out what went on, the RCMP didn't tell them. In my estimation we have a police force, active in Canada, who see themselves, somehow, as being superior to the elected officials for whom they work. They are also mutinous.

What happened to the officers involved? They recieved their due promotions and advances in grade and emolument. Commandant Zacardelli himself expressed his congratulations on their outstanding performance. If things continue in their course, one of these fellows will be the next chief superintendant. I think that is wrong.

Over the years the 'Mounties ' have been responsible for a number of foul-ups and muffed investigations. There was the famous 'wire-tap' and barn-burning incident a few years back in Quebec. That caused the introduction of legislation to govern such police actions. Then there was the Airbus scandal - an investigation leading to unsubstantiated charges against former PM Brian Mulroney and which set the taxpayers back a few million dollars. There was the Air India bombing investigation - muffed.

In the more recent past incidents pointing up a certain paucity of training resulting in the deaths of RCMP officers, undisciplined behaviour at protests in BC,and questionable directions in the training of Haitian police forces, have all brought the force into some question.

It was realized, as well, that the RCMP, at one time Canada's main security and counter-espionage body, was out of its depth in the field and a new specialized organ was set up to relieve them - CSIS.

Zacardelli and his minions have been members of the RCMP for all these fiascos. What they learned - incompetence is rewarded - is something they seemed to have applied through their careers and particularly in this incident.

I don't think that Mr. Zacardelli, or his unteroffizieren, should be allowed to oversee whatever changes are to be made to the way the RCMP carries out its duties or the way it shares information about Canadians. When somebody's got a communicable disease you isolate them. To prevent the spread of whatever rot has gotten into the RCMP, some severe pruning is required. From the top of the tree as far down as is necessary to hit healthy wood. Otherwise, at some future point, we'll be dealing with more of the same, or worse.

Sammy Steele would be spinning in his grave, to coin a neo-con phrase, to see how his Force has degenerated into a group of career-oriented middle managers and bull-shit artists.

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