Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Dec 14, 2015)

Yuletide Cheer 


By Bob Cooper



As the old saying goes, ‘It’s not what you say so much as how you say it’.   Last week RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson delivered a rousing, heart-warming, year’s end message of support to the troops.  This came indirectly in the form of remarks to the Assembly of First Nations (RCMP chief tells AFN he wants to rid force of racist officers) where he said “I understand that there are racists in my police force, I don’t want them to be in my police force”.  Members of “my police force” from coast to coast got to read it the next day in the newspaper. 

It was done in the typical tone-deaf style for which the Commissioner has become well known.  Normally he takes any criticism of the RCMP personally no matter how constructive or well intentioned, particularly if it comes from within, and those who dare to question are derisively and very publicly dismissed as ignorant whiners but when criticism comes from the AFN, it’s another story. 

The Commissioner’s choice of the words “I understand…” is interesting.  It’s like someone mentioned the possibility to him in the men’s room the other day.  Like ‘Hmm, first I’ve heard of this’.  In fairness, he could have been trying to say ‘I know’.  Either way Boss, assuming this is true, you’ve been at the helm since 2011 so why are they still here? 

I’m the first to agree that many of Canada’s native Indians live in deplorable 3rd world conditions on reserves that have become cesspools of alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual assault, domestic violence, and murder.  While shameful, it’s not the fault of the police.  They just get to go in and clean up the results, day in and day out.  A steady diet of that is bound to affect anyone and this has nothing to do with skin color.  If you work in a place whether it’s an Indian Reserve or the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, where the people are largely dysfunctional and prey upon each other, your opinion of those people is likely to drop a notch or two.  That’s not racism.   It’s human nature. 

The sad state of much of Canada’s native population is largely the result of policies that have enslaved these poor people in a cycle of government dependency for decades.  Nine billion tax dollars a year goes into the Department of Indian Affairs and until recent ‘sunshine’ laws, we weren’t allowed to know how one dime of it was spent.  Then there’s native ‘self-government’ itself.  For years natives themselves have complained of reserves where the Chief & his family live in luxury while the rest live in squalor and now we know that in some cases that’s very true.  Some Chiefs were making more than the Prime Minister, an absurdity that became more difficult to argue after our last election.  The worst Chief in the country would be at least as good as Justin Trudeau, who has vowed to repeal those laws.  

But RCMP policy prohibits criticizing the government and political correctness bars apportioning any blame to natives themselves so the Commissioner was pretty much left with his own members to throw under the bus and he didn’t hesitate.  In a previous column celebrating his predecessor’s departure Good Start to a New Year: I wrote What the news media either missed or ignored was that throughout all of this, all over BC and the rest of Canada, individual Mounties carried on.  Despite the constant negative headlines, despite being understaffed and spread way too thin, they continued to go out every day making a difference in the communities they served, risking, and sometimes giving, their lives in the process.   Often in weather and surroundings that would make most of us shudder.  This fact alone clearly demonstrates that whatever organizational problems the RCMP may have, lack of work ethic or devotion to duty are not among them”.  The Commissioner could have balanced his message by reminding his audience of this (or blaming the whole thing on climate change) but he didn’t even try.  His Officers, NCOs, and members deserve so much better.  

Every organization has its bad apples and the police are no exception but curing the ills of Canada’s native population or those besetting the RCMP begins in each case with its own leaders.  Thus far, neither have shown themselves particularly up to the task.


Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



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