(This column was published in the North Shore News on Sept. 13, 2000)


New RCMP commissioner no political patsy

By Leo Knight

SATURDAY'S editorial in the National Post suggests newly appointed RCMP Commissioner Giuliano "Zack" Zaccardelli's comments at a press conference last week were alarmist.  


To a point they are correct.  


But, when Zack told the country that our sovereignty is under threat from elements of organized crime trying to corrupt our political system, he was right on the money. The fact that he could not or would not provide the assembled media hordes with specifics to back his claim is incidental to his position and should not be construed by the National Post or anyone else as anything other that what was intended.  


This information should not come as a shock to regular readers of this humble space. Last week I discussed the Sidewinder debacle and interference from the prime minister's office into the investigation conducted into just that specific problem.  


For those of you who missed it, Zack said last week at a press conference, "For the first time in this country, we are seeing signs of criminal organizations that are so sophisticated that they are focusing on destabilizing certain aspects of our society," he told the assembled media.  


"There are criminal organizations that target the destabilization of our parliamentary system," Zaccardelli said to the astonished press corps.  


When he was pressed for details, Zack was caught in a difficult position. "It is not fear-mongering in the least. I can't give you, obviously, specific details, but we clearly have information that indicates that criminal organizations, sophisticated criminal organizations, as part of their strategy is not only to maximize their profits through illegal activities, but it is also, in doing that, in maximizing their profits, where they can attempt to try and corrupt and try to destabilize situations," he explained.  


Zaccardelli's comments, in my view, are not alarmist, as the National Post claimed. Rather, they are significant in that they are factual and the last thing the Liberal government wants to hear said publicly. And this is what is truly interesting.  


For the past 10 years, since the days of former Commissioner, Norman Ingster, the office of the Commissioner of the RCMP has been politicized like never before in the storied history of the force. Courtesy of Brian Mulroney, who made the position into a deputy minister rank, the politicians have compromised the independence of the Mounties.  


And this is why things like the Sidewinder situation occur. When the head of the federal police force must answer to a Minister of the Crown, an elected politician, then the very real probability of interference to suit political purposes is the natural and I would argue, inevitable result.  


Zack, in saying what he did, has served notice that he will be independent and will not bend to political pressure from the prime minister's office. At least, that's what the first actions he has taken are indicating.  


Time will tell if he can maintain the same position when budget time comes around.  


* * *  


I read with amusement the story out of Washington DC, indicating American lawyers are getting upset with their collective reputation and are urging law schools to put more emphasis on their ethics classes.  


Now I wouldn't presume to be adversarial towards lawyers, but realistically, they belong to a profession it is de rigeur to poke fun at. Theirs is the only profession to have its own category of jokes. Let me share a little story with you proving truth is often stranger than fiction.  


Recently in Alberta, an Edmonton lawyer tried to get reinstated by the provincial bar. He got a collective raspberry for his efforts. Thhggggggh! And well deserved I might add.  


You see, four years ago, he was approached by a 14-year-old hooker who wanted him to represent her, on legal aid, on a morality charge.  


In the initial meeting, he propositioned the young girl who, for money on the street, would provide sexual favours to anyone. But, she drew the line at boinking her lawyer. Even a 14-year-old street 'ho has more moral fibre than that.  


He insisted and the young, dare I say, lady, went straight to the vice cops who arrested her and blew the whistle instead of the lawyer.  


The vice guys, barely containing their glee, wired up their witness and sent her off to meet with her amorous attorney.  


Monitoring the conversation from outside the hotel room the generous lothario had sprung for, the detectives waited for the right moment in time to announce their presence. While not exactly catching the salacious solicitor in flagrante delicto, when the door came in, the obviously excited barrister was standing, or hopping might be more accurate, on one leg attempting to shed his boxers.  


The ever efficient vice cops, camera in hand, managed to capture the Kodak moment perfectly. The would-be lover looked somewhat startled as he gaped directly into the law's lens.  


The lead detective called the senior partner in the man's firm and suggested he might wish to be aware of the quandary. "Too bad. So sad. In jail. Send bail," or words to that effect.  


After gasping when he learned of his protégé's predicament, he advised the giggling detective to tell his prisoner to seek legal advice from other places. Evidently loyalty was not a strong suit.  


The lawyer was ultimately defrocked by the Alberta Bar hence his recent appeal and application for re-instatement.  


A police officer's lot is not always a happy one, but some days make it all worth while.






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