column was published in the
June 9, 1999)
politics with our justice system
By Leo Knight
last month, West Vancouver MP John Reynolds, in his position as
Reform Justice Critic, took on RCMP Commissioner Phillip Murray
over the issue of the understaffing of B.C. Mountie detachments.
most Lower Mainland detachments running with about 10% staffing
shortfalls, Murray testified before the justice committee in the
House, that the normal shortfall is about 2%. He tried to
minimize the current problems and deflect attention by
suggesting Reynolds was criticizing the work of the officers at
a letter written to Murray on May 26, Reynolds refuted the
allegation: "Your officers in B.C. are facing difficult
work situations because of staffing levels and are being forced
to carry out their activities from a deficient position.
this, they are doing a superb job. I believe it would be
patently unfair to make them the pawns or scapegoats in this
government-initiated staffing reduction process."
has recognized, correctly in my opinion, that RCMP understaffing
is little more than a political exercise designed to
artificially hold budget levels down at the risk of the safety
of both the remaining officers trying to do more with less and
the general public who depend on the police for their
demonstrate the politicization of justice as it exists in B.C.
today, let's have a look at the story of John Boncore, a native
rights activist, and ex-RCMP corporal John Gould.
the end of the Gustafsen Lake trial, on sentencing day, Boncore
spat in the face of Sheldon Tate, one of the team of defence
lawyers representing the perpetrators of the armed standoff.
complaint was made at the Surrey detachment, and Gould, then in
the Serious Crimes Section, was ordered to investigate the
investigation resulted in an assault charge and the subsequent
trial ended a couple of weeks ago with a suspended sentence and
short term of probation handed out to Boncore.
the opening of the trial, the prosecutor advised the court she
required 20 minutes to put in the Crown's case. The defence
counsel, George Wool, dragged out the trial for two whole days
and the matter had to be put over for sentencing.
Surrey courthouse was in high security mode for the trial. Metal
detectors were employed to ensure none of the native activists
took any violent action. Nine armed sheriffs patrolled the
corridors, four of whom had to be brought in on overtime.
trial was heard in the only secure courtroom replete with
bulletproof glass and armed guards. All for a spitting trial.
the trial Gould was roasted by defence counsel for the length of
time it took to complete his investigation into the matter.
After the trial, Gould explained his position in a letter to the
was a member in the Serious Crimes section at the largest,
busiest, most understaffed RCMP detachment in Canada. I, like
every member on our unit, was bogged down with murder, rape and
armed robbery investigations.
tell the truth, this file was thrown at the bottom of the pile.
I found it difficult to explain to a murder victim's family that
their investigation was put on hold as I was tied up
investigating a spitting offence."
said, "The chief superintendent of Surrey detachment went
on national news last month explaining his detachment was broke.
... Police airplanes and helicopters had been grounded, boats
docked, Serious Crime investigations put on hold, overtime
curtailed and seven damaged police cars sat rusting in the
parking lot because there was no money to repair them," he
somehow, the taxpayers had enough money to finance this
investigation and trial," Gould said.
if a police officer is spat upon, recent court rulings have
decreed it's part of the job. Scrape off the oyster and get on
with the job. But, when a lawyer gets horked on, it's all hands
to the pumps with a Serious Crimes investigator assigned the
file. No expense spared for this loogie lunacy.
pointed out that court time is at a premium. With the closure of
the Langley, West Van and Richmond courthouses last year by our
cost-conscious attorney general, the remaining courthouses are
bursting at the seams. Langley cases are assigned to Surrey.
Surrey, now overloaded, sends its overflow to Delta and
Coquitlam. Court administrators are even contemplating moving
some of the Surrey trials to Chilliwack!
to Gould, "There are cases of individuals not being charged
for B&E and auto theft due to the overcrowded courts,
however, spitting trials proceed."
concluded, "When you consider the cost of a secure
courtroom, prosecutors and defence fees, sheriff overtime and
other expenses, which included bringing a defence lawyer down
from Kamloops at Crown's expense, this had to be the most
expensive spitting trial in Canadian history."
became so frustrated that he quit the RCMP. Not to take a
pension. Far from it. He had served for 18 1/2 years, a year and
a half short of his minimum pension time. He quit because he
just couldn't take it any more.
up one more vacant position in the RCMP because of political
stupidity. The experienced, veteran homicide (and spitting)
investigator will be replaced next year sometime -- maybe --
with a recruit just out of training.
the ultimate irony, AG Ujjal Dosanjh, whose staff pushed the
spitting trial, wrote to the federal solicitor general
complaining of the staffing shortages here in B.C. He was
accused by the federal government and Phillip Murray of playing