Policing in Winnipeg is at a crossroads

photo courtesy winnipegfreepress.com

 

Murders are at an all time high.  Assaults, robberies and theft are rampant.  Our streets are more unsafe than in recent memory.  Retailers are being robbed daily.  Homeowners are having their personal property vandalised and stolen.  In the minds of many their homes are no longer a place of security.

The question is, what are we going to do?  Are we going to wring our hands and bemoan this current sad state of affairs or are we going to demand action?

The problem is, even if enough people got together and demanded action who do we direct such a demand to?  Our Mayor and City Councillors who are responsible for the oversight of policing in Winnipeg?  The Police Board or the Police Service?  Or should we go straight to the Chief of Police?

The 2015-2019 Winnipeg Police Service Strategic Plan outlined four goals and objectives for that time period.  The Police Service’s mission statement is, “Build safe and healthy communities across Winnipeg through excellence in law enforcement and leadership in crime prevention through social development”.  The specific goals are stated as, “less crime and victimization, engaged communities, effective and efficient service and a healthy organization”.

The goals sound laudable enough but when the entire approach is predicated on the flawed strategy of “crime prevention through social development”, the chances of success are limited.  One has only to  look at what is happening on our streets and to look at the crime statistics.  The goals are not being achieved.  The crime rate is rising, calls for service are increasing, and response times are suffering.

Our Mayor seems totally preoccupied with the budget — limiting the size of any tax increase and cutting services is the order of the day.  Nobody wants to pay higher taxes but by the same token nobody (except the criminals) wants to see a continuation of the lawlessness we see on our streets, in our stores and even in private homes.  The Mayor and the Police Service seem to be in lockstep doing the crime prevention through social development and addressing root causes two step.  Its not working and the public is getting tired of hearing the same music and watching our leaders dance the same dance.

The time is right for our leaders to dig deep and reassess how Winnipeg is policed, and how it should be policed.   The recently announced study being conducted in conjunction with Harvard University is a step in the right direction.  Our police officers have become so entangled performing tasks that fall outside the scope of policing that there is limited time to concentrate on their primary mission.   We need to decide what we want our police to do.

Back in 1974 when the eight municipal police departments were amalgamated into the Winnipeg Police Department (as it was then known), every officer was issued with a set of regulations that governed the police and outlined what their function was.  It outlined the primary objectives of the Police Department as: “The safety of the lives and property of citizens, The preservation of peace and good order, The prevention of crime, The detection of offenders, The enforcement of the laws”.

The reason I believe we are at a crossroads is because we have wandered a long way from those objectives outlined in the early 70’s.  We must decide what we want from our police.    Do we want our police officers to be social engineers?  Do we want our approach to crime prevention to be based on a social development strategy?  Do we want to task our police officers with the job of addressing the root causes of crime?

We need our police officers to get back to the basics:  keeping citizens and their property safe, preserving peace and order, preventing crime, arresting offenders and enforcing the law.

 

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries Response to ongoing thefts of liquor

Back on March 7th 2019 I wrote to Premier Pallister indicating that in my view the ongoing thefts from Liquor Stores under the control of the Province  were intolerable in both economic and social terms and that  to allow citizens to flout the law  with impunity sent a negative message to the public.  I asked the Premier what steps the government would be taking to address the situation.

I received a series of responses the end result being a call from a member of the Liquor and Lotteries Security Team.  We had an extended and frank conversation and the individual outlined for me the steps they were taking to address the situation.

I remember thinking at the time that Liquor and Lotteries was attempting to apply a very expensive high tech solution to what really amounts to an age old problem and somewhat simple problem, that is, people walking into a retail outlet and committing theft.

Yet despite my reticience I was somewhat mollified and decided to take a wait ans see attitude.

It would be wrong to assume the Liquor and Lotteries has done nothing to try and stop these thefts.  They are taking steps and these are clearly outlined on their website.

The problem is that the steps they have taken so far are not addressing the problem adequately.  The thefts are continuing seemingly unabated.

In a recent  news conference  Liquor and Lotteries spokesperson Andrea Kowal addressed the issue of liquor thefts and steps Liquor and Lotteries is taking to curb the thefts.  The video goes on for some 15 minutes but it is well worth watching it all.  Kowal is clearly frustrated by the thefts, and the media coverage of the thefts  and comes across as defensive in terms of Liquor and Lotteries continuing inability to deal with the theft issue in an effective manner.  The following is a short quote from that interview:

“Nothing seems to be working.  We have police officers in our stores and they’re robbing us while the police officers, an armed police officer with a gun and a tazer are standing there.  So I’m not quite sure what is supposed to fix this.”

 

The bottom line in terms of the Liquor and Lotteries position as expressed by Kowal is that the ongoing thefts are part of a bigger problem plaguing all retail outlets in Winnipeg and that it is unrealistic to expect Liquor and Lotteries to stop the theft until the underlying social issue and root causes are addressed.  Those comments do not give me a sense that matters are well in hand and that the issue of thefts will be addressed anytime soon.

We all know that there are deep underlying issues that influence crime in Winnipeg and other major urban centres.  Addressing the array of underlying issues may be a solution in the long term but that does not fall within the purview of Liquor and Lotteries mandate.

This may well be a situation where the symptoms of the broader problem need to be addressed in the interim while at the same time attempting to come up with long term solutions.

To draw an analogy to Winnipeg streets, we all know many streets need extensive repair or even replacement but in the interim we still need to be able to drive on them, so we fix the potholes.

We all know we have a major crime problem in Winnipeg, a problem that will not be solved in the short term.  However, in the interim are we willing to settle for wringing our hands and bemoaning the sad state of affairs facing us, and allow crime to run rampant, or are we prepared to address the issue of crime in the here and now?

Remember the auto theft crisis we had in Winnipeg some 20 years ago?  That problem festered and grew and eventually required a radical solution to bring it to heel.

Are we satisfied to let liquor thefts to fester and grow or are we going to demand some action, real concrete action to stop these thefts?

 

Winnipeg Free Press characterization of citizens as vigilantes grossly unfair

The Winnipeg Free Press has taken the position that action by citizens to stop the thieves stealing liquor form Liquor Marts, by making citizen arrests, amounts to vigilantism.

 

Quotes from the Editorial in the October 30, 2019 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press, entitled, Liquor store theft demands complex, costly solutions, stated,

“A second dangerous development is that some citizens have taken the law into their own hands — literally — and tackled and subdued thieves until police arrive.”

“But when it seems that criminals can offend without consequence, some people feel the state has reneged on its end of the deal, and a few frustrated citizens will turn to vigilantism.”

 

An article in the October 31st. 2019 edition of the Winnipeg Free Press an article, Provinces team up against liquor theft, written by Katie May stated,

Here in Winnipeg, police recently warned residents against vigilante justice as local Liquor Marts continue to log between 10 and 20 thefts daily.”

 

What is vigilantism and vigilante justice?

The word ‘vigilante’ has Spanish origins.  It means, to watch or guard.  In other words, to be vigilant.  The word became common in English usage during the 19th century and referred to groups or individuals that attempted to summarily suppress or punish crime outside of established legal boundaries.

In today’s terms, vigilantes are individuals who operate without legal authority and are in fact breaking the law.  Vigilante justice is the act of ‘enforcing’ laws without authority to do so and without regard to due process and the rule of law — again, an illegal activity.

That raises the question, what are citizens in Canada allowed to do and what authority are they granted in terms of intervening when they witness a crime being committed?

Citizen powers of arrest are dealt with under Section 494 of the Criminal Code of Canada:

  • 494 (1) Any one may arrest without warrant:
    • (a)a person whom he finds committing an indictable offence; or
    • (b)a person who, on reasonable grounds, he believes
      • (i) has committed a criminal offence; and
      • (ii)is escaping from and freshly pursued by persons who have lawful authority to arrest that person.
    • (2) The owner or a person in lawful possession of property, or a person authorized by the owner or by a person in lawful possession of property, may arrest a person without a warrant if they find them committing a criminal offence on or in relation to that property; and
      • (a)they make the arrest at that time; or
      • (b)they make the arrest within a reasonable time after the offence is committed and they believe on reasonable grounds that it is not feasible in the circumstances for a peace officer to make the arrest.
    • (3) Any one other than a peace officer who arrests a person without warrant shall forthwith deliver the person to a peace officer.

(4) For greater certainty, a person who is authorized to make an arrest under this section is a person who is authorized by law to do so for the purposes of section 25.

The reference to Section 25 of the Criminal Code is also of importance as it authorizes the use of force by citizens when making a citizen’s arrest:

 

Protection of persons acting under authority

  • 25 (1) Everyone who is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law
    • (a)as a private person,
    • (b)as a peace officer or public officer,
    • (c)in aid of a peace officer or public officer, or
    • (d)by virtue of his office,

is, if he acts on reasonable grounds, justified in doing what he is required or authorized to do and in using as much force as is necessary for that purpose.

In layman’s words, here is what these two sections of the Criminal Code mean:

— A citizen who sees an indictable offence being committed (theft, for example, is an indictable offence) has the legal authority to make a citizen arrest.  The important thing is that the citizen must see the actual commission of the offence.  A citizen could not, for example, arrest a suspect whom he recognizes from a video as having committed an offence in the past (police, however, do have the authority to arrest a suspect in that instance).

— If a citizen is acting lawfully and making a citizen arrest, he/she may use force to do so.  The force used must be reasonable in terms of the circumstance.

— Once a citizen makes an arrest there is an obligation to turn the arrested person over to police ‘forthwith’.  In the case of Liquor store thefts that would means there is an obligation to contact police as soon as practicable after such an arrest is made so that police can take custody of the suspect and process the suspect through the criminal justice system.

Citizens, acting within the law and arresting thieves at Liquor Marts are not vigilantes.  They are exemplary citizens who take citizenship seriously.  They should be commended not denigrated.

The circumstance such as the number of suspects, their attitude and whether you are alone with a group of people, and your age and capabilities are determining factors in terms of whether you should get involved when you see an offence being committed.

That brings me to the second point in the above-mentioned mention Free Press editorial:

The nature of liquor store larceny sparks controversy because it appears the thieves are stealing with impunity.  A defining characteristic of a country such as Canada is that when crimes are committed against people and property, good citizens agree to let the state handle it and criminals get busted.”

That in a nutshell is precisely what has plagued policing for at least half a century if not longer.  What the editorial is referencing is what is referred to as the ‘professional model of policing’, which was based on three tenets: random patrols, rapid response to calls for service, and reactive criminal investigation.

Under this model the role of citizens is reduced to reporting crime, after the fact.  There is no cohesion between citizens and the police and no sense of working together toward a common cause or goal.  It is more like a contractual financial agreement; citizens pay taxes and in return receive services.  That may be an acceptable model for refuse collection but not for policing.

It was this model which resulted in alienation between the police and the public and removed the public from the crime prevention equation that led many community groups from the 1970’s and onward to demand some form of community policing; in essence, a return to the model of policing envisioned by Sir Robert Peel.

Peel’s Principles of Policing were introduced in 1829 at a time when policing in England was moving from a watchman model where citizens took turns performing the watchman/policing  function at the community level to a system where policing was moving to hiring peace officers to perform the policing function on a full time basis.   At the time Peel and others were worried that the hiring of full-time peace officers could possibly lead to alienation between the public and the police.

Peel’s 7th Principle (see below) which has become the mantra of community policing advocates addresses the issue of maintaining the link between the community and the police:

Principle Seven

To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen, in the interests of community welfare and existence.  For a complete listing of Peel’s principles and a commentary on each click( here )

The section in the Canadian Criminal Code that grants citizens the authority to arrest can be traced back to Peel’s 7th Principle.  If the public are to be involved in assisting police in the interests of community welfare and existence, they need legislated authority that empowers them to do so in order to make their actions legal and fit into the framework of the rule of law.

The Winnipeg Free Press in their October 30th Editorial  suggests that a defining characteristic for a country such as Canada is that good citizens agree to let the state handle criminal activity and that citizens will mind their own business.  If that is true, then community policing is dead, because community policing envisioned citizens and the police working together to combat crime.

The way to resolve criminal issues is direct and meaningful interaction between the police and the community, where both parties work to support each other in pursuit of a common goal.  That goal in Peel’s words is the absence of crime.   We need to live up to the tradition of ‘the police are the public and the public are the police’.

 

 

First Past the Post versus Proportional Representation in the 2019 Manitoba Election

Following the 2019 Federal election there is a lot of discussion on social media about ‘first past the post’ (FPP) versus ‘proportional representation” (PR) and whether our electoral system in Canada is a fair one.

A previous post outlined how the two approaches would have impacted the recent Federal election.

A look at the recent election in Manitoba show that the outcome here would also have been quite dramatically different under a PR versus FPP system as well.

2019 Manitoba Election

Party % of popular vote First past the post Proportional representation
Conservative 47.02 38 27
NDP 31.38 18 18
Liberal 14.48 4 8
Green 6.43 0 4
Other 1 0 0

 

The Conservative seat count would have been reduced to 26 from 38.  The NDP would have held their own, and the Liberals and the Green Party would have seen their seat count increased form 4 to 8 and 0 to 4 respectively.  In other words, Manitoba would have a minority Conservative government that could be brought down at any time if the other three parties had the will. Under such a scenario you might even see a NDP, Liberal, Green coalition or an NDP minority government propped up by the Liberal and the Green Party.

 

The results in the 2017 BC election would have looked like this:

Party % of popular vote First past the post Proportional representation
Liberal 40.36 42 35
NDP 40.28 41 35
Green 16.84 3 15
Other 2.52 1 2

BC currently has a minority government and that would not have changed under a PR system but the Green Party would have gained 12 seats.

 

In the recent Alberta election won by the United Conservatives they would have won a majority under either system but both the NDP and the Alberta Party would have seen an increase from 24 to 28 and from 0 to 8 seats respectively.

Party % of popular vote First past the post Proportional representation
United Conservative 54.88 63 48
NDP 32.67 24 28
Alberta Party 9.08 0 8
Other (total of 11) 3.37 0 3

 

The bottom line is this:  if Canada were to changed to a PR from a FPP electoral system the larger established political parties stand to lose seats while the smaller parties who currently have no standing in terms of seats would see an increase.

The result might well be a increase in the number of minority governments at the provincial level.

Why we still have a ‘first past the post’ system in Canada

During the 2015 election the Liberals ran on a promise to change the electoral system from a first past the post to a proportional representation system.

Did you ever ask yourself why the Liberals abandoned that promise so quickly?  The 2019 election results provide the answer.

I’m certain the Liberals did a lot of result modeling and quickly realized that the proportional representation system did not favour the Liberal Party.

The table below show how the political parties would have fared in the 2019 election under such a system.

 

Party % of popular vote First past the post Proportional representation
Liberal 33.06 157 112
Conservative 34.4 121 116
Bloc 7.7 32 26
NDP 15.9 24 53
Greens 6.5 3 22

 

Both the Conservatives and the Bloc would have ‘lost’ a few seats under a proportional representation system but the big losers would have been the Liberals who would have seen their number of seats reduce from 157 to 112, a loss of 45 seats.

The big winners would have been the NDP (gain of 29 seats) and the Greens (gain of 19 seats).

Whether you like the idea of proportional representation or not it would certainly change the political landscape in Canada.

The SNC-Lavalin Affair- Part II

 

Gerald Butts testimony before the House of Commons Justice Committee

The House of Commons Justice Committee is not a court of law.

This is obvious to everyone who has watched the recent testimony before that body.  Because the Committee is a political body, it is an extension of the ruling party, and it’s deliberations are not a search for the truth.  It is a Liberal dominated Committee hell-bent on  establishing political cover for the actions of the Liberal government.

The Committee however has some of the trappings of a court of law.  It calls witnesses and hears testimony but at the end of the day it does not reach any conclusions or make any rulings.

In short it is a political exercise.

The role of Mr. Butts at the Committee

If one were to draw parallels between the Committee hearings and a court of law it might look like this.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould was the complainant,  the prime witness for the prosecution.  She testified as to the alleged wrong doing perpetrated  by the Prime Minister, the PMO, the Clerk of the Privy Counsel and others in their attempt to interfere with her duties as the Attorney General in an attempt  influence the course of justice.

Mr. Butts appeared for the defence, in this case his own defence and defence of the government and its officials and most importantly in defence of the Prime Minister.

As in a court of law the defence does not need to prove that they (the accused) did not do what they are accused of.

All they need to do is raise a reasonable doubt and that was what Mr. Butts was there to do.

In the case of Mr. Butts all he needed to do was muddy the waters.  Because of the political realities he took great case not to attack Jody Wilson-Raybould, an Indigenous woman.  He nibbled around the edges and attempted to raise doubts, to muddy the waters.

In a court of law if reasonable doubt is raised the accused is entitled to an acquittal.

In the case of the Justice Committee there is no true trier of fact so at the end of the day, no ruling was rendered.

Members of the Justice Committee on all sides essentially have their minds made up and can be expected to arrive at conclusions drawn along party lines.

 

Was doubt raised

From the press coverage of the Prime Minister’s subsequent comments to the media it would appear that he is convinced that his friend Mr. Butts succeeded in raising sufficient doubt and he is now parroting Mr. Butts’ mantra of confusion and misunderstanding, but no wrongdoing.   Mr. Butts muddied the water and the Prime Minister is the straw now stirring the muddied water in an attempt to  ensure the sediment does not settle.

Mr Butts was a competent witness and performed well in terms of adding confusion to the issue.  However,  it will not take long for the sediment stirred up by Mr. Butts to settle to the bottom.  In my view this attempts at muddying the water succeeded but only on a  temporary basis.  As he stated in his testimony  “facts are stubborn things”.

Facts  are indeed stubborn things and the facts presented by the former Attorney General  stand tall and speak for themselves, untarnished, untainted and powerful.

They will survive the current Liberal onslaught and survive in the minds of Canadians who in this case are the true triers of fact.

Canadians will render their decision on this matter on October 21st. 2019.

The Lavalin Affair: The letter that was never written

Former Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould

 

As was the case with many Canadians, last Wednesday I couldn’t get any work done.  I sat glued to my 70 inch television watching the riveting testimony of former Minister of Justice and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould as she testified before the House of Commons Justice Committee.  I was so convinced that her testimony would be ground breaking that I set my PVR to record both the testimony and the following commentary by pundits on both channels that were broadcasting the historic event.

And the former Attorney General did not disappoint.  Many had speculated that in her testimony Wilson-Raybould would  ‘nibble around the edges’ and perhaps create a weak ‘he said-she said’ scenario.

Wrong, there was no nibbling around the edges.  Wilson-Raybould got right to the heart of the matter.

Less than 10 seconds into her opening statement, Wilson-Raybould hit us with this statement:

“For a period of approximately four months, between September and December of 2018, I experienced a consistent and sustained effort by many people within the government to seek to politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in my role as the attorney general of Canada, in an inappropriate effort to secure a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC-Lavalin.”

Of note is that she did not say in her role as Minister of Justice and Attorney General, rather, just in her role as the Attorney General.

This made it very clear that she had a firm grasp of her postion and the difference between her dual roles.  On one hand she was the Minister of Justice, a member of the cabinet;  on the other, she was the Attorney General, two very separate and distinct roles.  Two very distinct roles that dictated two very different types of communication and interaction that cabinet colleagues, the Privy Council office, the PMO and the Prime Minister himself could have with her.  As the minister of Justice they could communicate with her politically, however in her role as the Attorney General the communication needed to be on a legal basis as outlined by law and convention.

It would appear that this distinction was lost on the Prime Minister,  the Clerk of the Privy Council and political staffers in the PMO.  Not only did they blur the lines, they obliterated them.

There is one point that I’ve thought a lot about since I watched Ms Wilson-Raybould’s testimony and listened to endless commentary and the opinions expressed in the subsequent media coverage.

Much has been made of the fact that the former attorney general would not take into consideration the so called ‘additional information’ being pushed forward by SNC-Lavalin through the Prime Minister and other political entities.

The fact is, Ms Wilson-Raybould did provide the opportunity for SNC-Lavalin to advance their legal argument in an appropriate manner.

During her September 19th 2018 meeting with the Prime Minster, also attended by the Clerk of the Privy Council, she made the following offer:

I offered that if SNC were to send — I offered to the clerk, if SNC were to send me a letter expressing their concerns, their public interest arguments, it would be permissible, and I would appropriately forward it directly to the director of public prosecutions.

This offer was never followed up on by SNC-Lavalin.

The question is, why not? The answer is:  the former attorney general made an offer to SNC-Lavalin to mount a legal argument.

The reason SNC-Lavalin did not respond is that in all likelihood they understood that they did not have a strong legal argument to make, in favour of a deferred prosecution agreement.

SNC-Lavalin through their pressure on government wanted the government to arrange a  political solution to a legal problem.

The Prime Minister, the PMO and the Clerk of the Privy Council  through their “sustained effort”  to “politically interfere in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion” attempted to deliver exactly what SNC-Lavalin wanted: a political solution for a legal problem.

But for the resolve, courage and integrity displayed by Jody Wilson-Raybould, they might have succeeded.