Hindsight is 20/20 in YVR case
Two of the four RCMP officers involved in the incident at YVR that resulted in the tragic death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski were found guilty of perjury in bizarre decisions and given custody sentences. I don’t believe either will serve any time at all. And the reality is that none of the four needed to be put through the hell that they have these last seven years.
Both Cpl. Monty Robinson and Cst. Kwesi Millington have filed appeals of their convictions and given the other two Mounties involved were acquitted at bar and the Crown appealed one and was soundly defeated in the Court of Appeal, it seems likely the appeals will be successful. At least I hope that will be the case. I have stated this before and will say so again; not one of those four officers did anything wrong. They responded according to their training and the RCMP policy such as it was at the time.
For them to be in criminal proceedings at all is a travesty. Let alone for the trumped-up charges of perjury.
Throughout, the media narrative has been relentless all based on misconceptions that could have easily been cleared up had only the RCMP as an entity, done a better job of communicating with the public instead of hunkering down in the bunker, so to speak, and hoping things would blow over.
The fall-out of those bad communications decisions resulted in the convictions against two of those members for perjury, mind you, nothing to do with the events at YVR. Which in itself, is ludicrous. In the Millington case as an example, Mr. Justice Ehrcke decided that a perjury was committed because he “inferred” they must have colluded. The alternative is that he could have “inferred” they were telling the truth, which they were.
What Ehrcke ignored, conveniently, was it was physically impossible for the four members to have colluded at the Sub-Detachment following the event simply because Robinson as the supervisor on the scene remained at YVR awaiting the IHIT investigators while the other three went to the Sub-Detachment to make their notes and await Robinson and the IHIT investigators. In the interim, Sgt. Mike Ingles, their Staff Relations Representative, arrived at the sub-detachment and sat with the members. Yet somehow Erchke arrived at the decision he did and in my opinion will be overturned on appeal.
But more telling to me is the phone call made by S/Sgt. Ken Ackles, who was oncoming watch commander in Richmond a few hours after the event. He called Robinson’s cell and asked what had happened. Robinson said, ironically, “Don’t worry Staff, we’ve got a video that shows the whole thing. There’s no problem.” He was, of course, referring to the so-called Pritchard video.
Now, I ask you, if Robinson believed for a minute there was anything wrong with the handling of the event or indeed, that they had some need to collude, to get their story straight, why would he say that to Ackles?
Why would all four give statements to investigators voluntarily without benefit of counsel as they were advised by Sgt. Mike Ingles?
The answer of course is simple. They believed they had handled everything appropriately and had done nothing wrong. After all, as Robinson said, they had the video which backed them up. Little did he know what effect that video would have once the uninformed media got hold of it.
The problem was an error made by media liaison officer Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre at the first media briefing where he gave some inaccurate information to the assembled media that could have been easily corrected in a subsequent press conference simply by saying something like, “We apologize but Sgt. Lemaitre gave you some inaccurate information yesterday based on the information he had at the time. Subsequent investigation has revealed . . . ”
Had the RCMP done that, the story would have died a death within the news cycle. But they didn’t. The Inspector in charge of IHIT at the time, Wayne Rideout, who is now part of the senior management team for the RCMP in BC, made the decision not to correct the record. Lemaitre was removed because essentially the media labelled him a liar and he had lost whatever credibility he had earned over the years.
Everything resulted from that one, stupid decision by Rideout. The Braidwood Inquiry and it’s wrong-headed conclusions, the subsequent Kennedy report, the Special Prosecutor and the resulting criminal charges against the four officers, everything, resulted from that one ill-advised decision.
The other thing that has not occurred is that the RCMP has never once said publicly that their members reacted according to their training and within policy as it existed at the time. They’ve said it privately behind the scenes when the senior management declined to order a Code of Conduct investigation against the YVR four.
In policy, a COC can be ordered against a subordinate officer within one year of the event in question. On the evening before that year was up following the incident at YVR, then Commanding Officer, Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass sent out an email to senior management saying that “tomorrow is the expiration of the COC period and unless I hear anything to the contrary, it will expire.”
No one in senior management offered a word in disagreement. And, that includes current Commissioner Bob Paulson. But they, as the senior management team, stood mute in public as the Force in general and the YVR four in particular, were being pilloried in the media.
Had they not done so, I believe they would have avoided the ensuing public relations debacle and the resulting damage done to the reputation of the iconic national police force.
In conversation with Bass recently, I asked him about his position on the YVR four. He said, “I continue to be of the belief that the four members acted in accordance with their training and the policy at the time and that I never saw any indication that they committed perjury.”
Well, I asked, why not say that publicly at the time? He responded, reasonably I suppose, that while in the position as Commanding Officer of E Division it wouldn’t have been appropriate with all that was going on, with what he called a media “feeding frenzy.” But that now, as a retired civilian, he is free to speak.
Fair enough. I then asked about the decision not to correct the Lemaitre statement that led to all the troubles that resulted. He said he was not aware of the decision at the time, but that he felt as the CO he had to trust the decisions made by his unit commanders.
Also fair enough. But, I can’t help but think that had he engaged in that conversation with the officer in charge of IHIT and reviewed that foolish decision, a lot of grief might have been avoided. Not to mention the north of $50 million the incident has cost the taxpayers so far.
But then, hindsight is 20/20.