Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Jan. 12, 2009)

A couple of things

By Bob Cooper



I can’t imagine what morale must be like in the Canadian Army (sorry, can’t bring myself to say ‘Canadian Forces’, the invention of Trudeau, sticks in my throat) this week after Captain Robert Semrau, an Officer with an exemplary record, was charged with Second Degree Murder for allegedly dispatching a mortally wounded terrorist on the battlefield.  I strongly suspect that when the dust settles this will be found to have been a gross overreaction by the carpet troops at DND Headquarters and would not be surprised if evidence of political interference surfaces.

Globe & Mail Columnist Christie Blatchford writes a column titled Can a Soldier Defend Shooting a Wounded Foe?  No.  I have tremendous respect for Ms. Blatchford and consider her to be one of the few really squared-away journalists in Canada.  I also respect her for going to Afghanistan to see things first hand.  Nonetheless, on this point I must disagree with her.

Capt. Semrau was in combat and was responsible for the lives of every soldier under his command.  This represents a sacred trust in which he pledges to use his best judgment and leadership skills to return each soldier to their families in the same shape he got them.  They had just defeated a Taliban attack with the assistance of U.S. gun ships, which left a terrorist at death’s door.  This guy could not have been saved if Bethesda Naval Hospital was right across the street.

So what was Capt. Semrau to do?  Call for a chopper for someone who was beyond help?  Delay the rest of the mission and keep his troops there exposing them all to the danger of a possible counterattack?  Remember, reverse the roles and the terrorist would have been cheerfully cutting Capt. Semrau’s head off while his buddy videotaped it.  The Taliban don’t trouble themselves with the Geneva Convention.

No, he made the decision to protect his troops, carry on with the mission, and do the only humane thing he felt he could.  Not only did he demonstrate courage in his decision but also the decency to carry it out himself rather than burdening one of his troops with it.  He sounds like the kind of Officer I’d want to serve under and deserves a medal rather than the treatment he’s getting.  Although Capt. Semrau could certainly be forgiven for wishing he’d just walked away and left the guy to the buzzards, everything tells me that he wouldn’t change a thing, consequences notwithstanding.  I’m sure most Canadians join me in wishing him the best of luck.




Kudos to Attorney-General Wally Oppal for demonstrating leadership in dealing with the disgraceful situation in Bountiful that has been allowed to go on for decades due to the timidity of his predecessors.  Pundits were quick to criticize, citing previous opinions from some of BC’s best trial lawyers that a prosecution is unlikely to survive a Charter challenge.  They say that the Supreme Court is likely to declare the Polygamy section invalid.

Perhaps, but so what?  The section isn’t being enforced in the first place and I rather suspect that a lot of Canadians are up for this fight.  They’re sick of people using the Charter as an excuse to conveniently exempt themselves from whatever law they choose.  People need to understand that the freedoms guaranteed in the Charter are not absolute.   Yes, we have freedom of speech but you can’t shout ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.  Freedom of religion?  Sure, so why not legalize ‘honor killings’?  This was child abuse, plain and simple and sometimes you just have to step up and do what’s required.  The other thing that tells me the A-G is right is that both the Province Editorial Board and Ian Mulgrew disagree with him.



Speaking of Mulgrew, I see he’s on another wrongfully convicted crusade, this time in the case of Ivan Henry who’s been inside for the last 26 years since being convicted of a series of Vancouver rapes and declared a Dangerous Offender.  In typical Mulgrew style no hard evidence of a miscarriage is advanced so how do we know Henry is innocent?  Because Mulgrew says so.  Persuaded, no doubt, by fellow traveler and Henry’s new lawyer, Cameron Ward. 

Before everyone goes running out to elevate Henry to martyrdom or sainthood, (like Ward & Mulgrew tried to do with Jeff Berg) let me tell you that I was an Undercover Operator in those days and spent several hours in Henry’s company after he was arrested. In 35 years in law enforcement he was one of the scariest individuals I’ve ever encountered.

I was also one of those ‘well-groomed cops’ in the line-up with Henry.  He was in a headlock because he flipped out just prior to being led into the Line-up Room and had to be controlled.  He did that himself.  Mulgrew never asked why all of us were shackled to each other.  It was because of certain things Henry said to me about how he was going to maim the first cop who stepped into his cell.   He was considered so dangerous that when they came to get us for the Line-Up, the Jail NCO was carrying a baseball bat and made sure that Henry saw it, which took the starch out of him.

This case has been reviewed by every level of court in this country, including 2 trips to BC’s notoriously lax Court of Appeals.  In each case, the courts have said that Mr. Henry is exactly where he belongs.  Nonetheless, Mulgrew closes in dramatic fashion citing the addition of Henry’s name to the “sadly growing list of wrongfully convicted Canadians” then goes on to name exactly 6 of them spanning over 50 years.   Considering that the courts in this country hear literally millions of cases on an annual basis, that’s not a bad record.

Mulgrew says “Henry found himself on a railroad express to the penitentiary”.   I’d say he bought his ticket, drove the train and shoveled the coal.

Prime Time Crime

Contributing 2009