The judge’s tirade came maybe just a bit too late

Judge Fred Sandhu

You gotta admire Provincial court Judge Fred Sandhu.

At the same time, you have to pity the fact he can’t simply walk into the CBC or the offices of any other media outlet in Winnipeg and put his opinions on the record for all to hear.

It’s the job of the media to be there to hear what judges like Sandhu have to say. And in this case, only the Winnipeg Sun was on September 30, 2011 — a few days prior to the election — but his words apparently went largely un-noticed by the electorate.

Sandhu was charged on that day with sentencing Daniel Smith, 26, for cracking a broomstick over the head of his wife while she breastfed their child. Then he stabbed her a few times with it.

They were fighting over beer, and the fact money was used to buy the baby essentials at Wal-Mart instead of more booze. The overconsumption of liquor and resulting problems has been a frequent issue in Smith’s life, Sandhu heard.

Without question, one of the most read and commented on posts on this blog in the last year was a recent one about Manitoba’s booze problem and its impact on our soaring violent crime rate.

And how it should be a key focus of any political party seeking reelection if they’re truly serious about ‘getting tough on crime.’

While many comments were positive and agreed to varying extents with my position, others — sent by email, largely, attacked me for taking a perceived prudish and anti-personal-responsibility stance on the issue of alcoholism and booze consumption in our province.

It’s like the Air Canada story that’s been rocking the airwaves this week. The truth hurts.

Sandhu, for whatever reason — frustration, anger, boredom — whatever, used Smith’s case to rail about the provincial booze-influenced-crime issue for an extended period of time.

In addition to my short story in Metro Winnipeg (Dean Pritchard’s earlier story is here), I wanted to put his “tirade” on the record in full.

Here it is, mostly verbatim, for the public record, emphasis mine.

‘Did you hear what you did?’ — it’s rhetorical.

Your behaviour was animalistic. That’s not the way even semi-decent human beings behave.

… It appears to me is what she did is she was asked to get beer and she changed — didn’t want to.

She went and got baby stuff instead because of some reason; she felt the baby needed some stuff.

And here you were, you and your wife and this cousin (Note: she’s 12) — I don’t know how much she was drinking, you were insistent, as was your wife,

‘No, we want to drink.’

That’s much more important to you than anything else.

‘We want to drink’ and if you don’t drink, she comes back without beer, without alcohol and it’s  — you get so upset with this that you hit her over the head with a broomstick — and that wasn’t good enough for you. While she’s holding the four-(month)-old, as I’ve been told, that wasn’t good enough for you and you start stabbing her with it.

All for what? For alcohol? Because you wanted more alcohol?

I don’t understand. I understand the power of alcohol — and that people do what appear to be very evil things because they were under the influence of what can be a very evil substance.

And I’ve been told that the combination in terms of costs to society of alcohol is many, many times greater by factors of 10 and 20 and 30 than any — all of the other drugs combined.

And that’s what we see here day to day, the effects of alcohol. And we hear about people doing these evil things and they say: ‘Well, I’m under the influence of alcohol.’

And I understand that that’s not an excuse, it’s not an excuse, but it shows me — and it’s shown to me day after day, and year after year, the incredible evil of alcohol on certain people. In certain situations.

And the evil is compounded by the fact that even when people appear here, time after time, having done what appear to be evil things, they can’t stop.

They continue to drink — and they continue to do evil things.

And then we look at all that and go, ‘well, is it the person that’s evil?’ The act was certainly evil. ‘Is the person evil? Is alcohol evil?’

You can’t ignore the fact that alcohol’s involved in all of these things. And here’s an almost perfect example of a person who can’t get the alcohol, who can’t get the thing that they crave and they do these animalistic things.

All for the power of alcohol — because of the power of alcohol. Sold at the corner store.

Friendly neighbourhood grocery store soon. 

And we wonder ‘how come there’s so much crime, how come there’s so much apparent evil in the world?’

And the only thing I hear about the alcohol is, ‘Oh, people are using it as an excuse,’ ‘Oh, why should they get less time because they’re drinking alcohol?’

That’s not the point.

The whole point being missed is what alcohol does to people, how it changes their behaviour, how they don’t even remember what they did.

Somebody who is on cocaine or marijuana or on speed, or on meth — you don’t see them doing these things. Maybe once in a while, something happens, an overdose …

But what happens day after day, month after month, year after year, case after case — is alcohol.

And people try to do things about it and get treatment — they try to go through rehab time and time again. They come back to court, thy lose their freedom. They lose their family, they lose their jobs, they lose their lives — they know other people have lost their lives and they still drink. Absolutely no control.

The control is completely from the substance — and that has to be recognized.

I‘m getting tired of this, in that the … the effect of alcohol people, and the complete lack of treatment facilities in this province to deal with it and people burying their heads in the sand about what the reality is. 

Has to end. Look what it’s doing to our society. And the courts are supposed to deal with it? How can we deal with it?

The only power that I have is to take away your freedom. That’s my ultimate power. That’s it. That’s all I have. When you leave the courtroom here today, you’re not to be punished any further — your punishment is your loss of freedom and that’s it.

When you go to jail, you’re not required to do anything … you’re not required to go to rehab, you’re not required to deal with the alcohol.

You don’t want to, you don’t have to. That because the only power the court has  — your loss of freedom. There is nothing other than the lower penalties that we have, the fines and so on. But the ultimate penalty is simply your loss of freedom.

And it’s up to you to decide what you want to do with all the time on your hand — because you’ve had lots of time on your hands and you’ve done nothing about your alcohol — I haven’t heard anything from your lawyer that you’ve even tried. Maybe you’re one of these people that alcohol is such a strong attraction that you don’t care. You don’t even care for rehab. There’s even a song about that: ‘You don’t even care for rehab,’ because you want the alcohol.

For you, the shining light on the hill is alcohol and you stab people and you hit them over the head with a broomstick and you run up a criminal record that’s three pages long — all alcohol related.

And you’re one of those people that’s only going to quit when you’re face down in the ground.

Is that what you want to be? Is that your life? Four-month-old baby — you’re going to lose your baby, you’re going to lose your life, you’re going to lose your freedom, gonna lose your job — if you had one — that didn’t stop you.

And eventually, there’s gonna be a time where you could well be locked up indefinitely.

Because if you have no control over this substance that makes you such an angry person, makes you do such evil acts — even though you yourself may not be evil ‚ then we have to deal with the evil act. We can’t deal with the person anymore — there’s comes a time, and as I said, the courts have very limited power. We can’t cure the problems of society by sitting here and sending people to jail. It’s not our job.

That’s the job of society to deal with it. And society wants to bury their heads in the sand.

And don’t blame the courts for not being able to fix society’s evils.

Sandhu even made the point of jumping Smith’s time for failing to comply with a probation order for verboten drinking by 15 days (from 45 to 60).

“I think even the two months is generous,” he said.

He even rubbed it in a tiny bit by ordering that Smith pay the $300 victim fine surcharge in the case — a penalty usually wiped out when a person has been locked up for months and months because they’ve likely lost everything. Smith was credited with double time for just shy of a year behind bars.

Just a final word, Mr. Smith. Do something about your alcohol. Unless you want to die, do something about it. I know many people who are very fine people when they are not drinking. And they’re completely different people when they are drinking. And if they didn’t drink, I would say that we wouldn’t even see them. Wouldn’t even see them in court — but we see them time after time after time.

And I give this speech to a lot of people — well, part of this speech to a lot of people — I know it doesn’t get through. All I can try to do is tell you that there is help available. If you don’t take advantage of it, you’re going to be back here again. And again and again and again.

… It’s your life. You’ve got another 50 years to go. Is this how you want to spend it?

-30-

Minor annoyances

There’s a few small things that have been nagging at me lately.

1] Police disciplinary records and the ‘rush to expunge.’

Absolutely wicked editorial today in the WFP about this issue. I’m guessing Catherine Mitchell penned it. Why she’s not a regular public columnist  bewilders me. (Here’s another good recent one.)

From the piece:

The fact it passed council without a whiff of debate is damning.

Well, what irks me is, what do people expect? There is absolutely no public police oversight body in the province that has any tangible teeth. You can’t expect council to carry the water for an independent police oversight body.

And yes, LERA, I’m talking about you, despite the fact you only look at non-criminal complaints against police.

It’s now approaching the end of 2011, and we’re still waiting on your annual report from 2010. That’s not an indication it will say anything, but still. Sheesh.

On the municipal level, City Hall’s protection committee, despite having the authority to ask questions of police brass on behalf of citizens, has long been neutered by the unspoken sentiment that nobody on council will dare irk the WPS by asking tough questions, let alone fostering a real debate on policing and police budgetary issues.

I point you to this prior post where, just weeks after four people were shot (three fatally) in the North End and Point Douglas, and not one ward councillor on the committee had a question for the divisional commander of any real consequence. Sad.

That’s beside the point.

The fact that police want a five-year expungement exemption for discipline records doesn’t mean anything, really, in my humble view. It’s reasonable to expect that a police officer can go five years without issues and have their prior record expunged. Cops aren’t perfect, and they deal with seriously bad-assed people. Stuff goes wrong.

Is every one of your decisions perfect?

Aside from this, the Winnipeg public has never seen, nor had a right to see, police service records nor attend discipline hearings formal or informal.

I can count on one finger where I’ve seen the records asked for in court as part of the disclosure process, and that came to nothing.

To me, it’s much ado about nothing from the police end of things.

But, the fact that city politicians let the issue pass in a ‘breathless’ manner should surprise nobody. Not one whit.

2] Where’s Minister Swan?

Maybe I’m missing something, but the only single time I’ve heard a peep out of Justice Minister Andrew Swan (Minto) during the current election campaign is when he said a few words at the police officer memorial at the legislature last weekend. He spoke well.

But what I don’t get is why the provincial Justice Minister, in an election where crime and the solutions for it (should be) a front-and-centre issue for everybody, has been virtually silent.

I just don’t get it, and I guess I expected to see him front and centre stumping for the NDP.

To be honest, the crime and safety platforms from each of the parties are sorely lacking in my opinion. Only the poor Libs, have shown at least some clue that more cops ‘walking the beat,’ a new gun unit or some GPS bracelets aren’t the end-all solution to address our long-term crime problems.

Maybe someone should think about the fact that ‘cops on the beat’ isn’t just about lack of resources, it’s also about officer safety.

You’d be a lunatic to walk up and down College Avenue in a police uniform at any time of day without backup or a cruiser car nearby.

Sheer lunacy.

3] Kid Killers

 14 years old, maybe 80 pounds soaking wet, and now an accused killer of the premeditated kind. In other words, the worst, most reviled kind.

That’s the reality in the case of the teen who allegedly pulled the trigger on the fatal shooting of David Vincett on Boyd Avenue last Sunday.

The associated image is a social media profile picture from an account belonging to the accused, who was charged with first-degree murder for allegedly shooting the guy in the face and leaving him to die.

[UPDATE EDIT] He was recently sentenced for firing a shot at a postal carrier, not as I otherwise suggested. Apologies.

He’s 14 and entrenched in a feared and loathed street gang.

Wow. The theory I’ve heard is that while in jail for the robbery, he was likely ‘schooled’ in how to come up in the IP, make a name for himself.

IP versus MOB.

Although there’s serious doubt as to whether Vincett was a bona fide member of the MOB. Given his ADHD, he may have just blurted out the wrong thing at the wrong time.

Still, that makes Two young people dead in two weeks (teen Clark Stevenson’s stabbing was Sept. 10). The accused in the Stevenson case was arrested while on remand for a vicious stabbing.

Let’s remember:

In 2004, it was Mad Cowz beefing with the B-Siders, and the killing of a young Mad Cow (Shaggy) that forever altered the street gang landscape in the city.

After the Mad Cowz leadership refused to retaliate for Shaggy’s killing to the level that some in the gang felt was needed, the African Mafia was formed. ‘

Not long after, the infighting led to the murder of Phil Haiart. That led to the establishment of ‘Operation Clean Sweep’ – a police and political effort to crack down on gang crime in the West End. That in turn led to the creation of the current Street Crime unit of the WPS.

I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that again.

An irk I have is with media planning in the city — this city, rife with young offenders of all stripes and tendencies.

When are we going to wake up and see that youth crime ought to be a major focus for any outlet?

Cover the cases, get to know the trends and take it seriously when planning crime coverage.

I believe — and maybe I’m wrong — that the general public cares deeply about it, about trying to solve it.

No, you may not be able to name the kids, but that doesn’t mean that the issues and crimes they commit are any less serious.

Now that the police scanners have gone dark there may be a push to do just this. Who knows.

-30

The first step is admitting there’s a problem

(eBaums world)

“1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.”

-Alcoholics Anonymous, the first step of the 12-step program

Wanna make Manitoba — home of the violent crime capital of Canada — a safer place to live?

Want to make a meaningful effort to restore public order after this election season?

Then we need to take meaningful, even drastic, steps to get Manitoba’s booze problem under control.

Reductions in violent crime will follow, and I’d imagine pretty quickly at that.

While all signs point to the abuse of booze being the single most common factor in all occurrences of violent crime, Manitoba is moving forward — with plans to get booze into the hands of people in easier and more convenient ways.

Bars and clubs in Winnipeg are packed, night after night, even though the majority of people that I know anyway readily admit they’re only somewhat fun to be at; that the overall experience is kind of sad from a social-interaction perspective.

Why is that?

Casinos in Winnipeg — all government controlled — are also doing brisk business, despite the fact winning it big is a losing proposition for most.

Why is that?

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission rings up record sales year after year after year according to its annual reports. Sales keep climbing, along with the violent crime rate. (In millions of dollars)

2007 — $521,380

2008 — $554,769

2009 — $583,763

2010 — $610,515

Why is that?

Despite a decline in the number of charges laid last year over 2009, impaired driving in Manitoba remains a massive public safety issue. Each time police run a project to crack down on the crime, drunk drivers are caught. There’s never a time the cops head home after a Checkstop shift scratching their heads and saying, ‘ I guess that’s been taken care of.’

Why is that?

I’m no expert in addictions, and I like a cold beer like pretty much everyone else.

But one thing I can say from experience, is that if a serious violent crime happens in Winnipeg, booze is likely a backdrop to the events leading up to it.

Just look at the incredibly serious cases making recent headlines in Winnipeg’s crime news:

Nikita Eaglestick abducts a baby and inexplicably smashes its face on a sidewalk. She was so drunk she couldn’t remember anything about doing it or what led up to it. At the time, she was on bail and bound by a court order to abstain from drinking.

A drinking party in the northern fringes of the West End prompts family members to arm themselves and spill into the streets. A man is run over and killed when a van is used as a weapon. A teen girl faces a first-degree murder charge and an attempted murder charge to boot.

A man twice hailed as a hero for saving people from drowning admits that his chronic alcoholism was a major factor in contributing to an assault on a city doctor when she didn’t have any money to offer him.

“(Faron) Hall said he looks forward to getting out of jail soon, but added that he is nervous because he doesn’t know if or how he can get counselling to kick his alcohol addiction.”

These are but a few of the most blatant and easy to find examples at my fingertips.

But also consider how youth violent crime is also rising. Do we know precisely what role FASD plays in that? Anecdotally, everyone knows it’s a huge issue, and one that’s expensive and complex to fix. We largely leave that largely to an overtaxed justice system to ferret out and try to stem.

But in this provincial election season, we need to come to grips with what the real problem is and expect those who want to lead us into the future to show some vision on this front. If the provincial government can’t change the criminal law per se, it can change the atmosphere in which the law exists. It does, at the end of the day, have the Liquor Control Act in its back pocket.

Instead, the electorate is promised more police officers as the primary way of boosting public safety or order, the cure-all for our seemingly intractable crime issues.

Let’s think about that.

We know that the number one — by a huge margin — call for service police officers spend their times going to are domestic disturbances. (17,019 dispatched calls in 2009. The next highest was ‘check wellbeing’ (also booze-influenced) at 7,862).

How many of those domestics are booze-related — ie: Jimmy got pissed and beat Janey up again?

Eighty per cent? I’d guess it’s even possibly higher.

If we as a society were to try and get a handle on our booze problem, how much police resource time would be saved for officers to do other things? I’d suggest it would be huge. The need for new cops would be nil.

We also know that bootlegging outside the city onto so-called ‘dry’ reserves is a huge problem.

Kives had a good column on new cops as election pledge today.

Look: I know there’s the argument of personal responsibility here. People have to be held accountable for what they choose to ingest and the public’s fed up with intoxication being used as a defence against  culpability for vile criminal acts.

(FASD presents a thorny issue, though, as most would readily admit that unborns can’t make the choice to have that vodka shot or not).

But let’s at least call a spade a spade and take the first step in admitting Manitoba has a drinking problem.

Since the state regulates the sale and consumption of booze, and profits greatly from it, we should demand nothing less. It’s time to have a real discussion about crime in our province and how to meaningfully affect change.

And now — at least up until Oct. 4 is the time we did it.

-30-

The burden of proof

(Federal Court of Canada coat of arms)

Note: Settle in, dear reader. Since this virtually-located post cost me real dollars in terms of photocopying exhibits and documents, it’s long. But, for those with an interest in stories of justice, governance, local politics and accountability, this may be right up your alley. Thanks, JST.

Liquor-for-votes allegations in dry community prompts probe

If there’s anything one could immediately say that R.J. (Bob) Norton has under his belt, it’s experience.

After 25 years as a police officer with the RCMP, he began a successful new career as a private investigator and security consultant that’s now spanned 15 years and taken him into far-flung Africa and South America.

Fourty years is a long time to hone an investigator’s nose for trying to get at the truth of things. He’s been a hired (independent) gun for federal government before — an indication his work is a known and trusted commodity.

Since 2005, Norton has also been working as an electoral officer for Band Elections and conducting investigations of elections appeals.

On Mar. 16, 2010, Norton was contracted by officials in the department of Indian and Northern Affairs (INAC) to take a look into a litany of serious allegations made by man who finished 3rd in the summer 2009 election for chief of Manitoba’s Little Grand Rapids First Nation.

Specifically, Norton was hired by INAC to investigate allegations some votes for the current chief and one band councillor on LGR had been ‘bought’ with plastic bottles of whiskey and cans of beer, and additionally, that an electoral officer had allegedly engaged in corrupt practices by encouraging an elder on which candidate to vote for.

It was the second time in recent years Norton had been tapped to look into such allegations in the same community.

The First Nation is remote, being located about 280 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. In summer it’s accessible only by boat or aircraft.

It’s policed by members of the RCMP, Norton’s former employer.

Little Grand Rapids is also a dry reserve.

The community (with an on-reserve population of roughly 1,000) has been alcohol-free by statute — meaning the possession and consumption of alcohol there is illegal under the Manitoba Liquor Control Act — since 1996.

Despite that, Norton’s research and experience led him to remark in a report to INAC that booze is still a major problem on the reserve.

“With a high rate of alcoholism on the LGRFN and it being a dry reserve, beer and liquor is a valuable commodity,” he wrote in his April 1, 2010 report. “Beer and liquor can sell for several times the retail price or be used to influence people such as at election time.”

He gives an example in his report. Norton states a large bottle of whiskey and two 24 cases of beer would cost about $115 in Winnipeg. Bootlegged on the reserve, it would sell for about $400-500, he said.

He asked around: An MLCC senior inspector told him the most common product imported to Manitoba’s dry reserves are 26 oz. or 66 oz. bottles of Windsor Whiskey.

“The containers are plastic as opposed to heavy breakable glass and the bottles do not have long necks taking up more room in transit,” Norton stated.

‘Connect the dots’

(Parliament building)

Before going further, I think it’s important at this point to introduce Norton’s findings after his roughly two-week long investigation concluded:

The allegations in this report, if proven in criminal court, could be violations of the following law.

  • Section 465(1)(d), Criminal Code of Canada, Conspire to commit a criminal offence
  • Section 85.1(4) Indian Act. Violation of Alcohol Bylaw
  • Section 115(3) Manitoba Liquor Control Act, Unlawful Transportation of Alcohol
  • Section 127(1) Manitoba Liquor Control Act, Major Offence By Person

In a subsequent email to an INAC official overseeing the review, Norton told her:

“I suggest if this was in any municipality in Canada there would be a long and aggressive investigation to gather sufficient information to support criminal charges under provincial election laws. All we need here is to show that corrupt practices “appear” to have taken place.

“As the judge in the Peguis case said…. “connect the dots” (My words).

“If you brief DoJ [the department of justice] and they say it is almost there… let me know what you need.

Bob”

INAC, however, ultimately elected to dismiss all allegations — and therefore Norton’s findings — citing a lack of evidence to support that a violation of the Indian Act or the Indian Band Election Regulations had taken place.

How could that be? Didn’t the department hire Norton?

We’ll get there. Read on.

Denials and silence

When Norton arrived on his fact-finding mission at Little Grand Rapids, he had 18 people, Keeper, and the current chief on his roster to talk to as witnesses.

He had already talked to the local RCMP Sergeant who pledged full co-operation.

But getting to the bottom of things wasn’t going to be easy, Norton immediately discovered.

On arrival, the local man he had hired to act as his translator, driver and assistant in locating the various witnesses suddenly backed out.

“His brother … took the same stand,” Norton wrote. “I concluded that both had been influenced not to assist with the investigation.”

Not to be deterred, Norton managed to hire a local woman to do what others so suddenly appeared unwilling to.

His first step was to investigate an allegation the chief provided alcohol to two men in exchange for their votes. Both were interviewed in Ojibway and each stated they had received nothing for their votes and the allegations were false.

It was the same result when he spoke to three others in connection to separate allegations that the chief and a councilor traded booze for votes on two occasions.

Next, Norton switched gears and tackled Keeper’s allegation that a local electoral officer “influenced elderly voters by advising them which candidate to vote for.”

The woman he spoke to said she witnessed the officer tell an elder to vote for the current chief over selecting Keeper, who was also a candidate.

That same day, Norton spoke with the election official at his home. He denied any wrongdoing and said he did not influence the elder to vote for any candidate.

But the official said something that undoubtedly perked Norton’s ears up:

“[He] verbally admitted that he had accepted bottles of liquor from [the councilor] at a post-election party,” Norton said in his report to INAC.

The next day, he spoke with the elder who was allegedly influenced. Most of the conversation was in Ojibway. The woman told Norton “everything was OK with her voting on election day and she did not want to get involved.”

The woman’s granddaughter was present during the interview, Norton said. In English, she told him that the woman had actually complained the election official interfered with her vote as alleged by Keeper.

Norton remarked in his report the granddaughter’s version corroborated the polling booth witness’s story. The government would later argue it was heresay (which is, technically true).

That same day and into the next, Norton spoke with three other people. Each denied being given anything for their vote.

However, two stated that the councilor in question “gave them small bottles of whiskey during a celebration party after the election,” Norton informed INAC.

The councillor was interviewed by Norton a few days later and denied there was any such party or celebration after the election.

But there was a booze-fuelled one just weeks before it, Keeper alleged.

Ask the RCMP, he said.

They were called there.

RCMP respond to party, booze discovered

In a recent Federal court decision, the delegate for INAC looking into the allegations was quoted as making the following comments in a report:

While there is a high rate of alcoholism on the reserve, Little Grand Rapids has been a “dry” reserve since 1996.

The allegation that [the chief] and/or his supporters provided alcohol to electors in exchange for their votes was also submitted in the previous election held in 2007.

The investigation in both instances was undertaken by Norton Security Consulting Inc. (Bob Norton). The investigator reports that there is no doubt that alcohol was distributed by [the chief] and his supporters during the election, but individuals refuse to provide the investigator with a statement for fear of losing their jobs and/or for their physical safety.

In his appeal, Nelson Keeper states that “on or about July 19, 2009 a campaign party was held (by the chief) a couple of weeks prior to election day for the sole purpose of bribing people with alcohol”.

The Elections Unit contacted the RCMP about alcohol being provided to individuals at this party, and in a written statement the RCMP confirm that “police received a report of a large party … where liquor was readily available. Police….observed a number of intoxicated individuals drinking liquor in and around the store. [The chief] was present and took ownership of the liquor. [The chief] indicated a meeting had just finished and he was in the process of having everyone leave.”

While the RCMP confirmed that there was a pre-election campaign party, the RCMP was unable to confirm that alcohol was exchanged for votes. In response to the circulated appeal, [the chief] stated in his affidavit that the gathering was a birthday party in his honour and included a copy of his status card which confirmed his date of birth as being July 17, ****

On March 22, 2010, the investigator asked the RCMP why [The chief] was not charged for being in possession of liquor at the party. The RCMP reported that the local detachment was advised not to charge [the chief] from a higher authority with the RCMP in Winnipeg.

On April 1, 2010, [The chief] was interviewed by the investigator in the presence of the chief’s lawyer… When asked about the above mentioned party held at Owens Store, the chief denied taking ownership of the liquor, and as such, [the chief] claimed the police report was incorrect.

(Record of the AG, Vol. 1, pp. 187 – 188) [Emphasis mine.]

Appearance of wrongdoing is benchmark: Judge

I pause now to tell you why you’re reading this (and hopefully you’re still here, because there’s considerably more that Norton told INAC that he found out).

(Justice Douglas Campbell)

Recently, Federal Court Justice Douglas Campbell told INAC to go back and reinvestigate the allegations, saying their initial decision to not pursue it further was based on a “fundamental” legal error in interpreting Indian Band Election Regulations and the standard of proof regarding decisions to set aside election results.

“The [minister’s] decision is set aside and the appeal is referred back to the minister for re-determination on the following direction: the re-determination be conducted according to the correct standard of evidence evaluation and on the complete existing evidentiary record.”

The federal court was charged with reviewing INAC’s decision to not investigate Keeper’s allegations further (as per Norton’s recommendations) nor overturn the election results.  The review came at Keeper’s request.

Essentially (by my reading, anyway), Justice Campbell ruled that INAC was required to make its decision about the Little Grand Rapids situation based on the proof of “the appearance of wrongdoing” and not wrongdoing proven as fact.

Because as hard as Norton tried in his capacity as the hired gun independent investigator to get people to talk to him, many stated they wouldn’t out of fear for their safety and/or livelihoods in the community.

Campbell, in his assessment of the case, was acutely aware of this and chided INAC and its decision-making delegate for not taking this into account.

“The Evaluator [INAC’s delegate] apparently chose to apply a practice of reporting only on the basis of evidence of wrongdoing coming from persons directly involved in the circumstances of the wrongdoing, and who are willing to co-operate as a witness, well knowing [Norton] found that such witnesses could not be expected to come forward due to threat of intimidation,” he said.

“This practice is not only remarkably unfair to right-minded people living on the Little Grand Rapids First Nation, but is unrealistic in the prevailing context.

“In the present case, the wealth of evidence coming from the observer witnesses to wrongdoing was required to be evaluated. In addition, compelling circumstantial evidence was required to be considered…”

The judge then goes on to quote another report to INAC on the Little Grand Situation — and the ultimate recommended disposition the department should follow:

Campbell:

“The closing to the Evaluator’s report to the Delegate reads as follows:

An investigation has been undertaken to investigate the allegations of widespread vote buying for the past two elections. It is highly regrettable that individuals are unable to substantiate these allegations for fear of losing their jobs and/or their personal safety.

To reduce or eliminate the availability of alcohol to buy votes prior to the next general election, suggestion is made that Headquarters and Regional departmental staff meet with the RCMP (Superintendent, Selkirk Detachment and local detachment office on Little Grand Rapids), the Manitoba Liquor Control Board, the Department of Transportation (i.e. flights to/from LGR) and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs in order to develop a common strategy.

Recommendation

We recommend that the appeal be dismissed and that you sign the enclosed letters to the Regional Director General of the Manitoba Region and all of the candidates accordingly. The results of the election, held on July 22, 2009, should be allowed to stand.”

‘Uh-uh,’ Campbell suggests. ‘Not good enough.’

“There was a responsibility to act on the evidence presented in the Investigator’s report. What I find to be regrettable is that the Evaluator and the Delegate failed to reasonably address the reality of the serious election problems faced by the People of the Little Grand Rapids First Nation.”

(Little Grand Rapids locator map)

Councillor was bootlegger: allegation

But the above isn’t all that Norton told INAC he discovered in the course of his investigation.

He also told INAC’s case evaluator that witnesses who spoke to him alleged the following:

  • That the chief gave liquor to an alcoholic mother whose kids were in the care of CFS (but present at her home for a visit at the time) — [this came as second-hand information he couldn’t corroborate].
  • That the chief delivered beer to someone
  • That a councillor delivered whiskey to band members’s homes using a car for the purposes of garnering votes.
  • That the councillor imported liquor to the reserve with the help of his mother

Strangely, one of the witnesses — Keeper’s sister — found herself evicted from her home and her paycheque left unsigned just days after speaking with Norton, he reported.

The chief informed Norton in an interview that the eviction was “to make space available for people visiting the community.”

In the case of the supposed liquor importation, Norton’s report states he was contacted by a woman who alleged she was paid $100 on behalf of the local councillor to transport people and booze (30 cases of 12 cans of Budweiser and “two or three hockey style bags which may have contained whiskey as they were very heavy.”) from a nearby airport.

She told Norton she was so upset by what took place that she told a local store manager who reported it to the RCMP.

“In an attempt to confirm the details of this allegation, I interviewed the two airport employees who were present at the time the flight arrived. They were working outside on a fence … Although there was some indication that they knew what I was talking about, they did not want to co-operate for fear of their jobs,” Norton said.

Another person he spoke to — who was there when the flight arrived — “became emotional” when Norton contacted her.

“My investigation was causing too many problems on the reserve and her husband had just been fired from his band job,” Norton reported her as saying.

“She believed that he was fired because he spoke with me,” he said.

“She refused to co-operate.”

Norton tried to get in touch with the pilot of the plane, but at the time of writing, she had moved away and did not immediately return his messages.

“The RCMP confirmed that they had been advised of the flight, but it was several days after the incident and at the time could do nothing about it,” Norton said.

The next election in Little Grand Rapids takes place in July 2011.

‘Innuendo, speculation and unsubstantiated hearsay’

The chief and the councillor have each denied any wrongdoing and have not been charged with any crime. The allegations made against them by Keeper and others have not been proven.

The chief fought back vigorously against Keeper’s judicial review/appeal of INAC’s decision, saying the evidence Norton gathered didn’t prove anything, or in some instances was “very weak”.

“[The chief], submits that INAC considered all the materials before it and came to a reasonable decision based on the evidence,” he said in an affidavit.

“There was no compelling circumstantial evidence of corrupt practices before INAC and no sound basis upon which this honourable court could conclude that INAC made erroneous findings of fact in a perverse or capricious manner, or with regard to the material before it,” the chief said.

For its part, INAC — through the Attorney General of Canada — also fought the judicial review on a number of grounds, not least of which that INAC’s own investigator’s allegations of fear and intimidation in the community “were based on innuendo, speculation and unsubstantiated hearsay,” according to an affidavit filed Nov. 26, 2010.

The decision to not investigate further was “justified, transparent and intelligible,” as set out by case law, lawyers for the AG said.

“It was open to the minister to assess what weight, if any, to give to this evidence.

“Deference should be shown to the minister’s decision to not rely upon this and other anonymous evidence. Several individuals who were interviewed by the investigator denied that anyone had contacted them or threatened them with respect to the investigation,” the affidavit said.

“The minister, in accordance with the [Indian Band Elections Regulations], properly considered all of the evidence and concluded that there was insufficient evidence to establish corrupt practice in connection with the election. Without sufficient credible evidence, the minister was unable to conclude that [the councillor and chief] engaged in corrupt practice or that [the election official] interfered with voters’ voting decisions in connection with the election. The minister’s decision can be rationally supported by the evidence,” the AG stated.

As we now know, the judge clearly disagreed with INAC and the chief’s positions.

Forfeiture laws not used: report

As an aside, Norton’s final remarks in his report to INAC raises some questions that strike me as worth pondering:

Although the RCMP has seized large quantities of alcohol coming into [Little Grand Rapids First Nation] by road and aircraft, they have not taken advantage of the law that permits seizure of vehicles, boats and planes used in the commission of offences.

Section 103 (1) of the Indian Act permits seizure of property used in the commission of offences under the act. A judge can order the forfeiture of the property to the Crown.

The Criminal Property Forfeiture Act in the Province of Manitoba could result in the seizure of planes, vehicles and boats used in the transport of alcohol in contravention of the Indian Act, the Criminal Code and the Liquor Control Act.

If this is truly the case, why don’t we?

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Mynarksi, polling results by station

The Katz-supporting and well-spoken Jenny Motkaluk is defeated by Ross Eadie just days after a triple shooting in the crime-troubled area.

Interesting that in the Mynarski area hardest hit by crime, Motkaluk took her only polling victory at Children of the Earth School.

I guess the parts of the ward where Eadie really cleaned up are “not a crime disaster” as he famously said of the area not long ago.

Motkaluk also took the seniors vote in the advance polls.

Greg Littlejohn also seems to have run a fairly well-recieved campaign.

Peace, order and good government

Kevin Chief, running for the NDP in Winnipeg North

The A4-A5 spread in Friday’s Winnipeg Free Press is worth reading, and re-reading, and then reading again.

First, with the civic election now over, the focus now shifts to the upcoming federal byelection in Winnipeg North.

As it was in the municipal contest, crime appears to lead the debate in the area, just in a more oblique and less tangible way. The recent shootings that claimed two lives is the hook.

Crime top-of-mind in Winnipeg North

Mia Rabson quotes CrimeStat stats that state in the last month alone (taken to mean Sept 29 to Oct 29 2010) the riding has been “the site of at least three slayings, more than a dozen sexual assaults, several shootings and countless robberies and assaults.”

Winnipeg North Riding, C/O Elections Canada

Remember: the Winnipeg North riding is not the same as the electoral ward of Mynarski or North Point Douglas. [Map provided, click to enlarge] Crime Stat won’t measure by anything other than police district, electoral ward or precise neighbourhood. Neither does the public view of CrimeStat denote assaults.

The federal catchment area is huge, much larger than what we’d consider the North End.

“The riding includes the neighbourhoods of Jefferson North, Mandalay West, Maple Glen, Garden City, Jefferson, St. John’s, Inkster Faraday, William Whyte, Dufferin, North End, Burrows Central, Robertson, Selkirk, Mynarski, Northwood,Shaughnessy Heights, Lord, Tyndall Park, Garden Grove, Oak Point, Inkster Gardens, Luxton, the south part of The Maples and the north part of Logan CPR in the City of Winnipeg.”‘

But for the purposes of this article, we’ll tabulate the available police-provided stats (homicides, shootings, sex assaults, robberies) from the following defined neighbourhoods: St John’s, Burrows Central, Lord Selkirk Park, Inkster Faraday and William Whyte.

These make up the big bad North End most people would refer to in terms of the “crime-riddled North End.”

The 30 days of data that was available to people via CrimeStat for the last month from today stemmed from Sept. 28 to Oct. 27, 2010.

  • St. Johns: 1 homicide, 7 robberies, 3 sex assaults, 0 shootings
  • William Whyte: 1 homicide, 10 robberies, 1 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Robertson: 0 homicides, 1 robbery, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Burrows Central: 0 homicides, 3 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 0 shootings
  • Lord Selkirk Park: 0 homicides, 3 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 1 shooting
  • Inkster Faraday: 0 homicides, 4 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 1 shooting

Total: 2 homicides (Beardy and MacDonald), 28 robberies, 4 sex assaults, 2 shootings

A year earlier, same period:

  • St. Johns: 0 homicides, 2 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • William Whyte: 0 homicides, 13 robberies, 0 sex assaults, 5 shootings
  • Robertson: 0 homicides, 2 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Burrows Central: 0 homicides, 0 robberies, 0 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Lord Selkirk Park: 0 homicides, 7 robberies, 1 sex assault, 0 shootings
  • Inkster Faraday: 0, 0, 0, 0 in all categories

Total: 0 homicides, 25 robberies, 1 sex assault, 5 shootings

So, from this, we see that for this 30-day period, crime appears slightly up year over year, but realistically, not up by much. Shootings are down; robberies are statistically at the same level. The rise in sexual assaults, however, is concerning.

Saturday Shootings map

So, we have a scary scenario that plays out last Saturday. Three shootings — two fatal— happen within about a 35 minute span. The assumption being made (see page A5 of today’s WFP) is that a single individual (either masked or in a ninja costume) was behind all three.

Police haven’t said as much and are wisely keeping their options open.

Anyhow, despite a jarring and unprecedented warning from the WPS for people in the area to remain in their homes and not answer their doors to strangers directly after the shootings, police quickly locked down the crime scenes and flooded the area with officers.

A mobile command centre is set up in the area a day and half later.

Over the next few days — continuing as I write this — there are scores of police officers in the North End proper, either shaking down potential suspects, scouring for leads in the shootings or otherwise keeping a lid on things.

So, naturally, given the heightened level of police presence and vigilance [more officers = greater safety, remember ; ) ] My eyebrows raised up when I read, re-read and read again the remarks made by would-be NDP MP Kevin Chief in Rabson’s article:

Chief knows first-hand what crime has done to the neighbourhoods of Winnipeg North, where he has lived all his life.

“I live three streets over from one of the (shootings),” he said.

Chief and his wife welcomed their first child three weeks ago, but despite some pleasant weather since, they haven’t taken their son out in the stroller for a walk.

There is no way we’re taking our son for a walk in these circumstances,” said Chief.

Chief said there are things that can be done immediately, like improved street lighting and a heightened police presence.

For a week, police have been crawling all over the area. On the scanner, every two seconds they seem to be spot-checking people, responding to calls.

Chief says he has lived in the area all his life.

Is it a surprise to him that statistically, the level of crime hasn’t changed in two years — and it could even be said it’s dropped in terms of the number of shootings.

But a man who wants to be an elected member of the federal government — wants to lead and represent people who live in a very troubled area — says the current “circumstances” are keeping him and his family indoors. He wouldn’t dare head outside.

To me, that’s got me scratching my head.

The message from leaders, (would-be or elected) should be:

We’re not going to let the thugs, the degenerates and the reprobates keep us cowering inside or homes. We’re going to rise up and start calling police, the powerline  — whatever — if we’re seeing suspicious stuff or crimes taking place.

‘The police are doing their part, now we can do ours,‘ is what I’d be expecting to hear if I was voter in the area.

The last lines of the article also had me scratching my head, but a slight smile on my lips.

Conservative candidate Julie Javier was canvassing Thursday and could not be reached for an interview.

Nice to know not everyone’s afraid to go outside.

Chief’s right about the lighting, tho.

‘Work to do’ + ‘right direction’

“I think you have to look at what we are doing…We have LiveSafe programs, we have SPIN [?] programs … we have more young people participating in sports to make sure they’re off the streets. Uh, we’re working with the WPS. We’ve just added a police helicopter to, you, know, fight crime. We just added a cadet program…

“And as a matter of fact, we’re no longer uhh, the uhh, how they used to say it – the auto theft capital of Canada. So it just goes to show that some of the programs we’ve implemented are working, but by the same token, we still have a great deal of work to do, but we certainly are moving in the right direction.”

—-Mayor Sam Katz responding to criminologist Rick Linden’s assertion the city needs to do more about crime prevention in the wake of a large rise in violent crime severity reported by the WPS in 2009.

‘Work to do’

“I know it’s not going to be easy. I know we have a lot of work to do” Katz, Jan 2, 2004, Winnipeg Sun.

“We have some hard work to do here at City Hall.” Katz, Mar. 27, 2005, Winnipeg Sun.

“People have to realize that as the mayor, you have a lot of work to do every day.” Katz, Aug. 4, 2006. Sun.

“We still have a lot of work to do, there’s no question about that…”Katz,  Feb 29, 2008. WFP

“You’ve got Higgins, you have the Louise Bridge, you have the Disraeli. We have so much work to do and unfortunately we were never given the opportunity — and they’re all linked together.” Katz, June 24, 2008. WFP

“The bottom line for me as mayor is that we have work to do.” Katz, Mar. 6, 2009. WFP

“We still have much more work to do.” Katz, July 22, 2009

“We have a lot of work to do in organics and recycling, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.” Katz, Feb, 18, 2010.

‘Right direction’

“…our downtown is moving in the right direction.” Katz, June 26. 2004 WFP

“I believe that rapid transit will be yet another positive step in the right direction to further revitalize downtown…” Katz, July 12, 2004 [in a 2003 letter to then-mayor Glen Murray.] WFP

“It’s a step in the right direction.” Katz, Nov. 23 2004. WFP

“… very small half-steps in the right direction” Katz, May 17, 2005 WFP

“If you’re heading in the right direction — keep walking.” Nov. 19, 2005 WFP

“We are still facing a $1-billion infrastructure deficit, but we are moving in the right direction.” Katz [self-authored Winnipeg Sun column] Dec. 24, 2005

“That’s also in the right direction…But at least we know we’re in the right direction,” Katz, Dec. 31, 2005, Winnipeg Sun.

“Today’s groundbreaking of the Strand is another step in the right direction.” Katz, April 11, 2006 WFP

“We’re moving in the right direction. We need to do more.” June 6, 2006 Winnipeg Sun

“Will it stop street racing in our city? Probably not entirely. But it is moving in the right direction.” Katz, June 9, 2006. WFP

“Last year’s budget increase was “a positive step in the right direction while trying to balance competing priorities with limited financial resources,” a spokesman for the mayor said.” Katz [via spokesman] Sept. 26, 2006. WFP

“There are a lot of steps going in the right direction,” Katz spokesman Salyn March 14, 2007.  WFP

“We’re going in the right direction. Before, we were going nowhere,” Katz, Mar. 14, 2007. Winnipeg Sun

“There’s so much more to do,” he said. “It just gratifying that others acknowledge we’re moving in the right direction.” Katz, Mar 21 2007 WFP

“I believed I could build consensus among council and get our city moving in the right direction. This budget shows we can accomplish this.” Katz, March 25, 2007, Winnipeg Sun column.

“Winnipeggers gave me a strong mandate to get Winnipeg moving in the right direction.” June 24, 2007, Sun column.

“There’s no secret we need change. We just want to make sure we change in the right direction.” Katz, Sept. 27, 2007 WFP

“I think we’re moving in the right direction,” Katz, Feb 18, 2010 WFP

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