community powers to benefit ‘the nation’.
Repression of populations usually requires at some point in the process the use of police forces. They are transformed from being organizations of citizen protection ‘keeping the peace’ to instruments of repression in the hands of the government/corporations alliance.
‘RCMP hid cost of gun registry destruction from press’ (Globe and Mail, Tues. Sept. 17, A10). Why? The Conservative government ordered the destruction of the federal gun registry data. The RCMP undertook the task, refused to report on it, refused to provide figures for eleven months, still refuses to speak on the matter … as a lap-dog taking orders from the Stephen Harper cabinet, renouncing even an appearance of independence. The role of police and policing in Canada is being politicized, militarized, deregulated and brutalized.
Concerned observers see politicization and militarization of police evident in large public events like the G20 brutality and the repression of Quebec students in the Maple Spring. But police actions against individual ordinary people on behalf of private corporations or as ‘biker gang brutality’ also grows. As does the ‘deregulation’ of police violence.
The nation itself is now under full-scale attack through assaults on (a) the rule of law, (b) the supremacy of parliament, (c) the sanctity of the individual, (d) the validity of Canada’s independent democracy and, therefore, the legitimacy of Canadians to decide through their representatives the primary policies of their country.
The attack is wide open. The present Conservative government led by Stephen Harper (a) destroys regulation, regulatory bodies, and information necessary to shape law. At the same time, it misinforms the public on legal matters. Stephen Harper himself declared the recent Robocall misuse undertaken to influence the Saskatchewan public against electoral boundary change … perfectly acceptable practice. (CP, Feb 6, 13)
He personally reviewed Senator Pamela Wallin’s Senate account and declared her spending appropriate. Elected Conservative MPs are bound and gagged. Appointed actors (cabinet, Senate, Conservative Party, and PMO) gibber rehearsed lines to surround repressive measures with distracting noise.
The present Conservative government undertakes (b) sovereignty-robbing foreign treaties executed without any relation to parliament and its members. In addition, it bulldozes through the House of Commons foreign corporation-serving bills of such magnitude and complexity the bills cannot receive democratic scrutiny. It loaded the Senate with political hacks, using taxpayers’ money to reward partisan work and to pervert the proper function of Senators and the institution.
The Conservative government destroys and/or vitiates entities protecting justice and the sanctity of the individual: the courts, the police, whistle-blower organizations, unions, and other citizen-protection groups. On two occasions of major importance the BC Rail Scandal and the case taken in Alberta by Jessica Ernst against Encana Corporation and the Alberta government regulator for Fracking damage (still being fought) the Conservative Minister of Justice promoted effective judges off the cases in mid-legal process to prevent, many believe, justice being done. Out of the BC Rail Scandal Stephen Harper appointed the man believed by many to be most central to the issue, former premier Gordon Campbell, to the position of Canadian High Commissioner in London, whisking him out of the province.
In both cases the role of the RCMP has been called seriously into question as being less than impartial. The tip of the iceberg doesn’t show in cases that attract major public attention because they involve governments and large corporations. The tip of the iceberg is seen in what might be called small, individual cases where police wrong-doing and/or brutality is almost inexplicable.
In 2007 an innocent, unilingual, slightly confused Polish immigrant arriving at Vancouver International Airport, Robert Dziekanskli, was set upon by four RCMP officers, tasered five times, and died with police officers ‘restraining’ him as he lay on the floor.
The RCMP as a body is alleged to have attempted cover-up and falsification of the facts. The Commissioner in Ottawa telephoned to sympathize with the officers involved. The premier of B.C., Gordon Campbell, expressed his sympathy to the top RCMP officer in B.C.
A witness film to the police action revealed the brutality of the police officers and the serious misreporting of the event. Much of the general public who watched the film believed a murder had been committed. A former RCMP and CSIS officer told me he expected criminal charges to be laid within days after the event.
The tip of the iceberg reveals the solidarity of the RCMP (and government), from the perpetrators of the act on up, to prevent full and fair legal action in a case generally believed to be a criminal case.
Going on seven years later, after millions of dollars have been spent on denials, and reports, and a Commission of Inquiry, and the appointment of a Special Crown Prosecutor who took almost a year to read the Commission Report, and a series of what I believe are pretend trials of the men involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski for … perjury (?) … the matter drags on and on and on, a hopeless mess and a travesty of law and justice. A disgrace to Canada ….
Many believe the RCMP proved it can violate the rule of law for years and years with impunity. Reform that has been demanded publicly is all but ignored in the RCMP head offices in Ottawa. At the same time the present Conservative government demands more and more control of the Force, insisting, for instance, that all statements by the Commissioner are first vetted by cabinet.
RCMP violence and violation of the kind observed in the Robert Dziekanski case is not rare. Rather, actions go unobserved because of the ‘unimportance’ of the people violated or because of hasty, effective cover-up. In the Kelly Marie Richard Alberta dental malpractice case, the Lonnie Lundrud case in Quesnel, B.C., the Robert Erickson case in McBride, B.C., the Frank and Helen case in Chilliwack, B.C. and the RCMP ‘interference’ in the Wiebo Ludwig case the Canadian public can see in only those small number of instances cited that the RCMP works against ordinary citizens dramatically and in highest probability criminally as well.
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What of the larger picture the one made up of public protests against corporate government, globalized repression, attacks on basic freedoms and the rule of law, and the growing movement to impoverish whole populations on behalf of the one per cent?
Carefully gathered, chilling information is present in a recent book published in Quebec. It is edited by Francis Dupuis-Deri and is entitled A qui la rue? or in English Who Owns The Street?
The reality behind the question of the title appears to be that action in the streets by citizens is more and more relevant and even necessary. That is so because of the consolidation of government and the private corporations and because of the sell-out of formerly independent bodies: press and media, the courts, and the Opposition political parties. Together, they join in the repression of public freedoms: freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom of the individual, as well as the common responsibility of all citizens to the rule of law.
The book out of Quebec covers police behavior from the anti-globalization action in Seattle (Sept. 2001) to the student actions against educational inequality in Quebec in 2012 (‘the Maple Spring’). Three Canadian matters are dealt with: the G20 summit debacle of 2010, the Quebec Maple Spring of 2012, and the annual March 15 demonstration against police brutality in Montreal, since 1997.
The astonishing figures for the last event, held annually, tell the story. Though the demonstration is never large compared to many others, from 2005 until 2013 the number of people arrested at the demonstration has risen from 5 in 2005 to 297 in 2013.
One might well conclude that the Montreal police supported by ‘the law’ in Quebec wish to erase public criticism of Montreal police brutality.
The book edited by political science professor from the University of Quebec at Montreal, Frances Dupuis-Deri, demonstrates a dangerous and disturbing trend in Canada. Police actions more and more are becoming politicized. That means police do not appear at demonstrations ‘to keep the peace’. They arrive with political orders to target selected groups however peaceable to foment violence, and to make arrests. They deliberately break the law, knowing they will be protected by government, corporations, the press, and the courts.
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Faking the need for police intervention, the police now engage in arrests of mass groups all the members of which cannot, by any stretch of the imagination be guilty of law breaking. In addition, the police engage in so-called ‘preventative arrests’ arrests of people the police claim might commit criminal acts. Law experts consulted have declared such arrests lawless and unconstitutional.
Individual police officers often use foul and insulting language in dealing with demonstrators revealing open political prejudice. Example of Quebec, French-language, ‘street’ (joual’ist) expressions may be linguistically amusing but they are, in fact, vicious and offensive.
The political intention of Canadian police is marked by their attempt in Quebec to charge (often) innocent demonstrators, to give them the chance of immediate release if they admit guilt and pay a municipal fine of (most recently) $637.00.
Many innocent demonstrators believe an arrest means an infraction of the law. It doesn’t. And long court trials often reveal that many, many people charged are innocent of wrong-doing.
The ruse of getting on-the-spot admissions of guilt from the innocent and levying fines against them has been put in place. Alexander Popovic, activist against police brutality, spent years fighting the ruse. He writes about the long campaign in A qui la rue?
His advice to demonstrators is to refuse admission of guilt and an on-the-spot fine. Demonstrators must fight for their innocence in large numbers, must crowd the punitive jails set up, and then self-defend in the courts forcing them to observe the rule of law and just courtroom procedure.
If the court system becomes bankrupt as a result of lawless police action against large numbers of well-meaning citizens concerned for the good of Canadian society, then the bankruptcy of the courts might point to the bankrupt democracy in which such police behavior is permitted.
The history of government/corporate/police brutality revealed in A qui la rue/ Who Owns the Street? must teach additional lessons. Demonstrations against government/corporate/police oppression must grow in number and size. Demonstrators must self-educate about law and the courts. They must organize filming and other witnessing of police brutality. They must write immediate accounts of police lawlessness. They must gain political party, union, NGO, etc. support (or refusal of support) to make public.
Opposition party support for lawless police action must be exposed and attacked in order to protect the innocent.
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In the largest sense, Canadians must realize they face police forces in Canada that are changing for the worse, that apparently welcome direction from above to engage in violent and lawless activity.
The name we give to such collaboration is ‘fascism’. That collaboration must be fought by Canadians with increasing awareness and increasing determination. Canadians must prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the Canadian people own the street not the police and not governments locked in the ugly embrace of private corporations.