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RCMP reform would prevent political interference, criminologists say

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa criminologist says questions about whether political pressure was placed on the RCMP commissioner in the Nova Scotia shooting investigation illustrate why Brenda Lucki should not report to the public safety minister.

A parliamentary committee has called Lucki, former public safety minister Bill Blair, and several other RCMP witnesses to explain what happened during an April 28, 2020, phone call, during which Lucki allegedly said she had promised federal officials to release information about the type of weapons used in the shooting.

According to handwritten notes from Supt. Darren Campbell, who was in charge of the investigation into the shooting spree that left 22 people dead, Lucki said that was tied to upcoming Liberal gun control legislation.

Campbell chose not to release anything about the weapons, stating that may jeopardize the ongoing investigation.

To date, no one has been charged with weapons-related offences in the case, and it was revealed early on that the gunman obtained all the weapons illegally, smuggling most from the United States.

Lucki, the Prime Minister’s Office and Blair have all denied there was any political interference in the RCMP’s investigation.

Criminologist Darryl Davies said if the commissioner reported to Parliament, rather than the public safety minister, this wouldn’t be an issue.

“It makes crystal clear that the RCMP are an autonomous, independent organization and that decision-making will be taken without undue influence from politicians,” he said.

The RCMP Act states that the commissioner is appointed by the minister and “under the direction of the minister, has the control and management of the force and all matters connected with the force.”

Another criminologist disagrees that parliamentary accountability is the answer.

Rob Gordon, who teaches at Simon Fraser University, said what the force needs is proper non-political civilian oversight, but for that to be effective, he said a review of its mandate is needed first.

“It’s trying to be too many things to too many people,” he said, noting that federal police forces in the United States and United Kingdom, for example, are not also tasked with contract policing in rural and remote areas.

Reports have called for this type of structural reform over the years but no government has acted upon them, Gordon said.

“We have been, unfortunately, cursed with a Canadian icon and nobody wants to break it up,” he said.

Facing repeated opposition questions Thursday about whether he believed Campbell’s version of events in the April 28, 2020, meeting, Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair said, “I have never and will not criticize a serving member of the RCMP.”

Gordon called that statement “irresponsible and disappointing flim-flam” while Davies said it shows that governments continue to defend the RCMP rather than try to fix it.

“It’s an institution that has been in crisis and has been dysfunctional for many years,” he said.

Recent evidence at the public inquiry into the killings has focused on how the RCMP withheld information during and after the killings.

While Lucki and national headquarters were prepared to release a list of the victims’ names, the Nova Scotia RCMP didn’t release that information.

In its initial news conference, when reporters asked for the number of victims, Chief Supt. Chris Leather said it was “in excess of 10.” Documents released through the inquiry show that Leather knew there were at least 17 dead.

Hours later, Lucki gave two separate media interviews in which she said the death toll was 13, and then 17.

By 11 p.m. on April 19, 2020, the RCMP had concluded that up to 22 people had been killed, but it didn’t reveal the final number until two days later.

Davies said that shows the need for better policies, training and operational procedures, which “either don’t exist or fell apart.”

“We know that some of the officers on the ground who are responding to both media requests for information, and from families and so on, some of them had absolutely zero training in this area,” he said.

The inquiry will resume hearings Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 25, 2022.

Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press

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MPs plan visit to Taiwan this fall if trip budget approved

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By Marie Woolf in Ottawa

A committee of Canadian MPs is seeking budget approval to make a trade trip to Taiwan this fall despite fears that the plan risks escalating tensions with China.

The House of Commons international trade committee is planning to visit Taiwan and Singapore, although the Commons has not yet approved the committee’s budget for the trip.

New Democrat MP and committee member Brian Masse says Canadians “must support other democracies that have fought for their rights and freedoms.”

“A fall trip across Asia to improve trade relationships, which would include a visit to Taiwan, has been in discussion at the standing committee on international trade,” Masse said.

“Although the trip is still in the planning stages, the NDP is very supportive of developing stronger Canada-Taiwan relations and taking this opportunity to improve our trade relationship with Taiwan.”

Conservative MP and committee vice-chair Randy Hoback said MPs on a Canada-Taiwan parliamentary “friendship group” used to go to Taiwan around twice a year before COVID-19 restricted travel.

Hoback has previously visited the island, which is located around 100 miles off the coast of southeastern China, with the group.

But the Tory MP said he would want to consult Global Affairs Canada before making the trip now. “There’s no intent on my part to antagonize China,” he said.

Earlier this month, China condemned a trip to Taiwan by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

China regards the island of Taiwan as its territory and Beijing imposed sanctions on Pelosi in retaliation to her visit and held military drills around Taiwan.

During Pelosi’s visit, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly urged China to de-escalate tensions, saying legislators often make international visits and they should not be used to justify China’s decision to stage military drills.

Emily Williams, a spokeswoman for Joly, said Wednesday that “Parliamentary associations and friendship groups travel regularly and we respect their independence.”

“Canada continues to have strong and growing trade and people-to-people ties with Taiwan,” she said. “As stated in the G7 foreign ministers’ statement on the Taiwan Strait, Canada is committed to maintaining the rules that have ensured peace and stability for decades, including across the Indo-Pacific region.”

The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Canada said it would give the Parliamentary committee “full support” for a visit that would “facilitate further dialogues” on issues including trade and investment, education and technology.

“By visiting Taiwan and connecting with Taiwanese legislators, Canadian Senators and MPs will gain a better understanding of Taiwan’s development, its role in the region, cross-Strait relations and other latest political and economic developments,” a spokeswoman said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

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G’day for Canada Little Leaguers in beating Australia 7-0 at World Series

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Williamsport –  It started with a lengthy weather delay, but it turned out to be a g’day at Volunteer Stadium for Canada at the 75th Little League World Series.

The Little Mountain Little Leaguers of Vancouver defeated Australia 7-0 in their opening game, out-hitting the squad from Brisbane North Region Little League 11-5.

Canada, coached by Brad Dorwart and Kevin Smith, scored one run in the second, added three more in the fourth, one in the fifth and two in the sixth. Australia had three errors while Canada had one.

Righthanded starter Benjamin Dartnell pitched 3 2/3 innings for Canada and only gave up two hits and one walk. Of the 66 pitches he threw, 43 were strikes.

Jason and Graydon Yan all managed multiple hits for Canada as Jason went 4-for-4 at the plate to lead the Canucks.

The Little Mountain Little Leaguers advanced to the World Series by winning all eight of their games at the 2022 Canadian Region Championship.

Canada’s next game is Friday against Japan.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 17, 2022.

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