CFS: If we won’t learn from history, we’ll just repeat it

(Jaylene Sanderson-Redhead)
(Jaylene Sanderson-Redhead)

“The reality has been that regardless of the political party in power, there has never been a concerted effort to look at the full requirements to make a child-welfare system that can at least reduce the problems. This should not be a partisan issue, but any (even partial) solutions take more time than the next election date, and hence are not sexy enough to warrant full commitment.” Dr. Keith Black, op-ed in WFP 05/01/2013

When someone as insightful and experienced as Winnipeg’s Keith Black*** speaks on Manitoba’s beleaguered child-welfare (CFS) system, why is it nobody with the power to change it appears to be listening?

Black’s article today speaks for itself, and I encourage all to read it closely.

Its pessimistic tone is perhaps justified coming from someone of his background: a veteran social worker and community leader who believes there’s a better way to do things — or at least, he says, if there’s a will, there’s a way.

The problem, Black pretty plainly states, is the will only exists to ‘fix’ CFS to the point that it won’t cost political points in a future election. He’s careful to note that this isn’t an NDP issue, but instead one that afflicts the political system as a whole.

Black references how in the ’60s he took flak from all sides for helping pen an article describing Manitoba’s child-welfare was in chaos (the exact words from the Manitoba Association of Social Workers at the time were ‘in a chaotic state,’ as far as my trip through the FP archives at the downtown library show me, and it may have been the early 70s — but I couldn’t find the specific article of which he speaks, only references to it):

Screen Shot 2013-01-05 at 3.21.06 PMLook closely at what the article says, right up top:

“I would agree to the extent that there are unmet needs, inadequate procedures and systems to meet those needs, insufficient co-ordination between the various sectors in the child welfare field,” Mitchell C. Neiman said on Dec. 1, 1971. (41923151)

The MASW, according to FP reporter Wally Dennison, had echoed virtually the same issues in its brief to a minister of the minority NDP government, headed by Ed Schreyer at the time. It was also calling for standards of child welfare to be set, as it appears there were virtually none in place.

It’s curious because a lack of inter-agency co-operation and failure and inability to adhere to standards are very much live issues in the investigations into the Phoenix Sinclair case (2000-2006) and in the Jaylene Redhead case (2007-2009), decades after the MASW’s warning.

Less than a year later, in 1972, another Dennison article speaks to the government’s plans for CFS: namely, taking over the responsibility for child welfare and doing away with the Children’s Aid Society for good. The reaction to this from workers appeared extremely negative, for a number of reasons.

Notably, the article states:

Screen Shot 2013-01-05 at 3.33.07 PM“These skeptics note that the department proceeded with its reorganization while ignoring the experiences gained by People’s Opportunity Services at 600 Main Street — A $250,000 federally-financed demonstration project initiated in 1967 and which used 21 former welfare workers as case aides to offer a series of innovative services in Winnipeg’s core area. When the Project ended March 31, it was nothing more than a regional office of government and the case aides were now in “safe” jobs throughout the departmental bureaucracy, the critics contend. A successful experiment in social service delivery had been ignored because the Manitoba government already has made up its mind about how services are to be delivered.” (44827139 PDF)

Which brings me to my first point: It may be impossible to ‘fix’ anything about CFS if politics is allowed to trump solid and intelligent policy to fuel its actions.

Sadly, we see evidence of this happening often in Manitoba.

Political/ideological interference in essential services, be they policing, corrections, education or child-welfare/family services prevents solid, evidence-based policy from being the starting point from which services flow.

While I’m not an advocate of privatization of the CFS system, I do believe there has to be a way to ‘divorce’ such services from the whims of government and insulate them from short-term tinkering [if not complete overhauls].

Critics of devolution – which at root is a well-meaning scheme to create greater fairness and client buy-in in the CFS system — will be first in line to hammer the government based on the above. The real criticism I have of it is how it appears it was rammed into place come hell or high water regardless of the internal chaos and confusion the new policy and its practicalities created.

Anyhow. I want to come back to where we started off: When Keith Black speaks, why don’t we seem to listen?

About 18 months after Phoenix Sinclair was born and not long after the NDP again took power, Black again penned an op-ed for the Winnipeg Free Press.

He had just retired.

Screen Shot 2013-01-05 at 4.11.45 PMOn Dec. 4, 2001 he wrote (I can’t link to it directly, sorry, there’s no way to do it):

“IN the 1960s, the Manitoba Association of Social Workers wrote an article that suggested that the child welfare system in Winnipeg was in “chaos.” All hell broke loose, and there were angry denials and counter-arguments.

After 40 years of working in and around children’s services in Winnipeg, until my recent retirement, I have seen nothing to suggest that MASW was wrong then or would be wrong now. And the chaos is much wider than the specific Child and Family Services system.

… For decades the structural debates have hidden the real problem; namely that child welfare is a political rather than a therapeutic or service issue. The increase in training, understanding, even technology has been implemented, and the poor line workers struggle against immense odds just to understand their role and get through the day without anyone getting hurt. The people with whom other agencies and forces are not co-operating have doomed any of the structures to failure.

…Winnipeg is blessed with competent, hard working and dedicated people serving children and families. The shame is that their efforts have been diminished because of the distrust, suspicion, dislike or fear that lies behind the superficial smiles and handshakes at receptions, workshops and annual meetings. And as long as political agendas determine how services are to be organized, and we steadfastly refuse to learn how to work together – political left and political right and all colours – we will simply repeat the pattern of chaos that is the real world of service to Winnipeg’s most vulnerable and needy citizens.”

It’s curious to me how much of what he had to say 12 years ago mirrors nearly exactly what he told us again today.

I wish, as I’m sure he does, that we had listened or would at least begin to.

Because it appears nearly half a century has passed and a very real problem we have to tackle hasn’t gone away, maybe even isn’t seen as worth dealing with, when really, it’s fundamental.


*** In addition to his experience as a social worker and social-work official with the MASW and MIRSW, Black is a noted community leader, in 2004, the University conferred on him an honorary degree, saying:

  • Keith Black, BA, BSW, MSW (Class of 1960), will receive an Honorary Doctor of Laws. Over a career spanning more than 40 years, Black was a social worker at the Children’s Aid Society, Executive Director of Knowles School for Boys, and Director of the Child Guidance Clinic of Winnipeg. He was a valued member of The University of Winnipeg Board of Regents for 13 years and served as chair from 1996-98.

Estimate this: Tidbits on Manitoba’s justice system

(Winnipeg Sun file)

Information unreported in the media from the ‘leg Justice Estimates debates that concluded Monday after three days.

Full debates here if you care.




In bullet points [no order]:

  •  Average length of jail stay for sentenced adult offenders in Manitoba: 65 days. Youth: 187 days.
  •  Average length of remand custody for adults: 49 days. Youth: 34 days.
  •  There are six levels of inmates pay within the Manitoba corrections system, based on the work they do: lowest (level one) is $2.20 a day, the highest (level six) is $4.70 a day.
  •  Amount jurors paid to hear trials: $0 for first 10 days, afterwards $30 a day.

 Minister Andrew Swan: 280 persons actually performed jury duty in Winnipeg, including alternates. Forty-two persons performed jury duty in the regions. So the total number of jurors was 322. There were 21 jury trials in Winnipeg and three in the regions for a total of 24.

Minister Swan: The guidelines are that the accused must suffer from a severe and pervasive DSM-IV access one mental disorder. That includes, but is not limited to, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, anxiety disorders and severe depression … I can advise that individuals suffering from personality disorders, from organic brain issues such as dementia associated with Alzheimer’s, or an FASD who don’t suffer from an access one disorder, aren’t candidates for the mental health court.

  •  Nintendo Wii units are used at the women’s correctional centre for fitness and exercise. Nintendo DS systems at the youth jail in Portage la Prairie and a Playstation at Headingley jail. They are purchased through the inmate’s trust fund.
  •  “There is some value” in considering using provincial inmates to do public works like parks cleanup, Swan says.
  •  An inmate emailed Justice critic Kelvin Goertzen about watching porn in prisons: “We was watching porn back in October when they installed new cable boxes through Westman Cable; we watched numerous porns, even rented the Diaz v. Condit UFC fight, numerous pay-per-view movies,” he said of the contents of the email.
  •  There is no program for tattoo removal within Manitoba Corrections. Swan said they are looking at one to see if it’s worthy.
  •  There has been one (although some are adamant two) accidental releases of prisoners from Manitoba jails so far this year.
  •  An accidental-release review commissioned by the province last year from an Alberta consultant cost $12,000.
  • Work on the 3rd floor floor of the “new” law courts complex will begin this year. For at least three years, the floor has been ripped up and taped off like a crime scene. [Note: it’s really embarrassing it’s been that way for so long. Tile problems were the apparent issue. Not sure why proper tiles are so hard to find.]
  • Funding for an additional Court of Appeal researcher has been added for this year. Many decisions — despite there being fewer requested in recent years — are more complex and take longer. Many cases take between 6-7 months to be decided. The national standard from the Canadian Judicial Council is six months.
  •  It can take two years to get a preliminary hearing date in Thompson. [It’s not much different in Winnipeg for multi-day prelims.]
  •  Crown attorneys will deal with an expected 154 constitutional challenges this year. Three-quarters of them relate to criminal cases.
  •  As of last Monday, not one gang has been listed as a criminal organization under the Manitoba Evidence Act. This crime-fighting tool was announced in April 2010
  •  Criminal justice budget [adopted] $166,204,000
  • Civil justice budget [adopted] $35,535,000
  • Corrections budget [adopted] $196,965,000
  • Courts budget (adopted] $53,620,000

311 in 2011 — a breakdown of sorts

(Map of 311 service calls tied to addresses in 2011, by electoral ward. Click on a ward for more info)

Who calls 311?

What kind of workload is your city councillor facing every day?

Which areas of the city appear to need the most help in terms of access to services?

Can we accurately say that 311 calls suggest anything about a councillor’s workload?

These are questions I began to ask myself after a recent story about City Hall changing rules for adding new electoral wards.

Some say population growth should determine where any possible new wards should go. And, judging by the city’s own administration, population is the yardstick by which they go on to figure this out.

But others, including Coun. Harvey Smith, say that population alone doesn’t indicate who’s calling for services.

From my Jan. 13 story (it didn’t make it online for some reason…)

Smith provided the Winnipeg Sun with a list of 311 service calls from the month of December to illustrate his point.
The city-wide list shows that people living in the oldest — and poorest — wards made roughly three times the number of calls to 311 than those living in the wealthiest.
In that month, residents of the Mynarski and Daniel McIntyre wards (these include the St. Johns, William Whyte and West End areas) called 829 and 715 times respectively. The averaged average income between the two wards is $24,201.
People living in the relatively affluent Charleswood-Tuxedo and St. Charles areas made a respective 234 and 218 calls — the fewest in the city. Here, the averaged average income between the two areas is $42,892.

As it turns out, these findings weren’t just a blip on the December radar — they were consistent throughout the year, sometimes alarmingly so.

Over 2011 — calls for 311 service associated with a property broke down like this:

Mynarski and Daniel Mac (combined) = 30,250

Charles-Tuxedo and St. Charles (combined) = 10,852

That’s a nearly 3:1 ratio of call disparity between the poorest and most affluent areas of the city.

As well, I find it interesting to look at the number of “overdue” calls  to 311 left over from the year.

One thing that can’t be said (based on the above data) is the poorer wards don’t get their calls answered to.

Mynarski, Daniel Mac and Point Douglas boast very low numbers of “overdue” calls.

St. Boniface and St. Vital have the highest (although still a very low number based on overall numbers)

What’s above is basically all the data I was able to get from the city. What I have doesn’t break down the kind of calls for service they are, but for that, we can head to Servicestat to break this down a bit. (Let’s take Mynarski and St. Charles — poor and rich — as an example)

In Mynarski, the top three 311 calls were based around overflowing AutoBins, potholes and graffiti. (1,932 calls combined)

In St. Charles, the most calls were for potholes, snow clearing from roads and missed garbage collection. (735 calls combined)

It’s simplistic, and completely unscientific, but the near 3:1 ratio again applies.

More later when I’ve had time to think on this a bit more.

Let me know what you think.

Note: thanks to the good folks at for providing an “open data” section on their still-functioning site. I was able to download the council ward data mask into Google maps and have the above map built in about 10 minutes. Invaluable. 

Thanks as well to Steve West from the city.

A wish for 2012


This may be my last post for 2011, and I’m going to keep it short.

I have a wish for the city in 2012, which quickly approaches.

There’s been tons of furor, chatter, theorizing and even anger about photo radar enforcement in recent days. Links here, here and here for example.

The contract with ACS comes up for renewal late next year. Many, including city alderman Scott Fielding, want the program to die a quick death.

I say no. I say keep it. On a few conditions.

Those being:

1. That there be an admission by powers that be that the program exists to create revenue, with safety effects a contributing factor, as well, the contract with ACS should also be made public.

2. That the city divorce the administration of the program from the Winnipeg Police Service.

3. Following 2, that as the city mulls setting up a Transportation Authority as its currently doing, the photo enforcement program be controlled and administered by same.

This authority should also have an ombudsman position to arbitrate public complaints about the use of photo radar.

The biggest problem I personally have with the program is that it tarnishes the reputation of the police service, especially when the service itself has not much to do with the administration of the program. it ain’t cops sitting in those mobile radar cars, folks.

Quite frankly, it’s just embarrassing for the cops to be called on the carpet each time there’s public outcry about the tactics employed.

As well, divorcing the responsibility from the police would help cure old wounds that photo radar takes, in some way, a boni fide policing job away from the police.

The three measures listed, I believe, would increase accountability around the program and it’s uses.

It would also diminish the damage it’s done to the reputation of the police service over time.


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.


For the Record: Fort Rouge arson-prevention meeting

(Staff Sgt. Kelly Dennison is a supervisor in District 6, and a former Public Information Officer for the Winnipeg Police Service)

About 100 Fort Rouge residents gathered Wednesday night to her presentations from fire officials and police about the rash of arsons in the area.

Bill Clark from the WFPS gave a great and concise presentation, as did one officer from the Fire Commissioner’s Office who’s name I didn’t catch.

But, as I suspected would happen, it was the police district representative, Staff Sgt. Kelly Dennison, who was on his feet the most to respond to people’s concerns during the Q and A portion.

And, I might add, there was much buzz in the Twitterverse about how cadets are used in the city based on reported comments by Dennison in the Free Press at a separate meeting the night before. Specifically, the implication was there in the story that the province and police service wouldn’t allow the blue-shirts to work anywhere but downtown. Some were upset there was no follow up to clarify this statement because cadets have appeared in many places in the city.

I didn’t make that meeting, but I did the next night. What’s presented below are Dennison’s comments to two questions, reprinted verbatim. Any questions about accuracy and I’ll post the audio on

I won’t make any comments regarding what Dennison says below.

But I wonder if the service knew how popular the Cadet program was to be when it dreamed it up a few years back.

People in the area clearly appear to be pondering lately the level of police service they’re able to access.


Question: “This question is for District 6 (Dennison)  — are you using bicycle patrols and or cadets in the wee hours to patrol? [Inaudible] fires have been set between 2 and 4 a.m. Are you using that [inaudible]?”

Dennison: “The Winnipeg Police Service does have a very small bicycle unit. The District 6 police, themselves, they do not. Our Community Support officers are not deployed on bicycles in your area — in this area at this time. So I guess the easy answer to that is, ‘no, we don’t have police officers on bicycles — full time — here in District 6.

We do have the opportunity and ability to import officers that do ride bicycles. We have a small unit of those officers that, upon request from myself or a division commander, we can ask for those officers to come in to our division and help us with some patrols.

As far as the cadets go — I don’t know if you guys are all aware — cadets were very active in this last investigation, very active in assisting us in this community. They were here, they spent countless hours walking in our community and up and down the streets.

They’re basically, as you know, the eyes and ears for the police officers that are out there, so they have been here. I can tell you that the Cadet program is something that — as you all know already — is relatively new to the Winnipeg Police Service. It’s not a program that’s been around for a long time. It does have some growing pains, and it is expanding. This program is expanding.

Those officers, currently, are being deployed by the police service, basically, for efficiency and operational needs. And you have to understand that it’s one unit, and the police service, our service, has to take a look at the entire city.

In saying that, however, there are bright things in the future for that program, I can tell you that. And we are hoping that more cadets are coming online and we do anticipate seeing cadets in your community in the future.

Please don’t ask me a date or time for that, sorry, I can’t do that for you. That’s basically where we stand with that.


Question: Paul Hesse, Liberal candidate in upcoming provincial election: Some of the things we heard last night [at a meeting at a Stafford Street church] was that community support officers in this area have been redeployed out of the area. So one question I have is: Can we ever expect community support officers to remain deployed here, or is there just a shortage of officers throughout the city and more resources needed? Also, there has been a safety plan developed downtown, I understand there hasn’t been a formal safety plan developed in the Osborne Village or Fort Rouge areas [inaudible] create one? My third question is there has been [inaudible] for more foot patrols, especially in the Osborne Village area, and also we’re hearing that request in this area, [inaudible] expansion of the cadet program — what would be needed to make that happen


Dennison: Ok, I’ll try and go through that as best I can. Yes it is true that the community support unit that is in your area has been redeployed downtown. That redeployment came as a result of very, very serious incidents that we’re all probably aware of here in the City of Winnipeg.

Those officers and their skill set and expertise was required in a different part of the city to deal with some very, very serious crimes that we have going on right now. I hope you can all please understand that — and I’m sure you do — that when we have serious crime in the City of Winnipeg, as a police service, it’s incumbent on us to deal with that crime as a whole no matter where it happens in the City of Winnipeg.

I’m lucky — I’m one of the lucky guys — who gets to work out in this beautiful part of town, but we’re not all that lucky. So our officers do have to be redeployed. And as a service we do our best to redeploy our officers where the need arises and where it’s most efficient and [inaudible] operational.

And that is something that the police service takes very seriously, because it’s never easy, pulling an officer out of one area and into another. I can tell you as a commander out here in District 6, I look forward to having my officers back, and I’m sure you all want them back as well.

I can’t tell you that they’ll be back tomorrow, I can tell you two of them came back today [laughter from crowd].

So the community support unit is something that all of you rely on whether you know it or not. In this room, you do rely on your community support unit very much and we as police officers rely on them quite extensively as well

We do have [inaudible] of officers. They’re the ones that come out into the community and talk with you, they’re the ones that deal with community complaints, and of course we don’t have enough. You know, of course not.

Will we ever have enough, probably not. That’s the nature of policing, and that’s the nature of the growth of our city — that’s the nature of the demographics of the city we live in.

As far as deployment goes, however, I do have to stress that the police service does take that very seriously having to redeploy officers from other areas of the city to deal with emergent criminal activity.

As far as the downtown safety plan and has one been developed for Osborne Village? Yes, one has been developed in Osborne Village. We developed it at the start of the summer. It was developed by two extremely talented officers out here in District 6, It obviously [inaudible] — has started to be put in place, when serious crime happened here in Winnipeg.

We had some gang issues, as you all know, our officers had to be redeployed and deal with some of that. A safety plan has been put in place, an action plan — we call it an action plan — that’s what we term it as — I guess it’s kind of, where you’re going — We call it an action plan here in District 6 because it helps us plan our day to be out in the community with you, have our officers out there and involved.

That action plan hasn’t fully come to fruition. Basically because of the circumstances and situations we here in Winnipeg find ourselves in everyday. I don’t know if that helps or not?

As far as the Cadets … is there an expansion of the Cadet program?

Again [inaudible], I’m not the expert. And everyone seems to think I’m the expert on the cadet program. I’m not. I run District 6. The Cadet program is the program that is just [inaudible] — it’s a growing program. It’s still growing within the City of Winnipeg.

More Cadets are being hired. And those Cadets are the eyes and ears of the Winnipeg Police Service. And they go out into the community — those are the young men and women that you see walking up and down the street. And I know for myself, I love seeing them out there, and I know you must love seeing them out there too, it gives you a sense of security that somebody’s out there watching on your behalf.

They have a very strict mandate. And they follow that mandate basically to the letter. Because they’re not peace officers.

A lot of young cadets are very energetic and are great young people. And a lot of the reason they join the Cadet program is they want to further their career in law-enforcement someday. So we hire cadets, we train the cadets, they get the experience and the next thing you know, we hire them as police officers and we have to hire more cadets.

So, the cadet program is expanding, and I can tell you I know there have been beats identified in the Osborne Village for the cadet program, but I can’t stand here today and give you a definitive answer as to when you can all look out your window and see a cadet walk by.  [Laughter from crowd]

I’d love to be able to tell you they’ll be there tonight when you get home. But that’s just simply not the case and I just hope you can understand that it’s resource-driven, that it’s efficiency driven and it’s operationally driven by the Winnipeg Police Service.


Other questions included:

Why don’t police release mug shots of suspects upon their arrest (one man wanted to know if an encounter he had in his garage was with Brandon Sutyla, the suspected serial arsonist police have charged with 18 of the Fort Rouge fires)

Another woman asked why we have a helicopter but police keep talking about having not enough bodies to service neighbourhoods (Gerbasi handled this, assuring her she tells WPS Chief Keith McCaskill her concerns every time she sees him).

At this point, I was on my way out the door when a young man got up and asked the panel (but really, the police representatives) a question along the lines of: ‘You tell us you don’t have enough. What can we do to see that you get what you need?

The mic was passed to MLA Jennifer Howard, who spoke of “investments” made in policing by the province — but I had to write to deadline so I had to leave.


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.


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:


“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.


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?


The silence is deafening

Let’s say for the sake of argument I’m a city councillor in Point Douglas, Old Kildonan or the Mynarski ward in Winnipeg.

Let’s also say that once a month or so, I’m responsible for sitting on a committee at city hall where people come forward to present problems, update me on situations and make presentations to me — giving me the chance to ask for feedback and to probe deeper into what’s actually going on in my ward.

Sometimes, even police officials turn up to talk about crime and what the Winnipeg Police Service is doing about it.

Given the high-profile nature of crime in the area in recent weeks, what with three unsolved slayings and four unsolved “random” sexual assaults, a handful of home invasions and other assorted mayhem— in the Mynarski ward especially — I’d likely have some questions about police enforcement, right?

Well, no — at least not in Winnipeg, it seems.

Today, the man in charge of policing the crime-riddled North End — Insp. Brian Cyncora — appeared before the Lord Selkirk community committee to present on — and answer questions about — the area’s crime issues.

I’m sure he came in wondering if his head would be pounding by the time he was done.

He need not have worried.

Not one of the three councillors on the committee had a substantive question for the veteran, well-educated officer, despite the recent mayhem — and despite the fact that if anyone knows anything about crime in the North End, he’d be the guy who likely knows and should be able to offer an answer.

Cyncora realistically talked about the “significant challenges” police in the area face (and stated have faced over the last two years), along with the local citizenry’s historical lack of trust of the WPS that he’s been trying to win back.

“I’m out there in the front,” he said. “Historically, we’ve lost a lot of trust in the community,” he said.

He talked about the efforts the department has been making to bolster “crime prevention through social development.”

Cyncora talked about the merits and expansion of a hockey program for inner-city youth that the WPS has undertaken. He also spoke of reaching out to other area social leaders in hopes of expanding crime-prevention plans. No specifics.

He talked about enforcement: about the fact that there are three unsolved homicides (he used the word murders) — two that sparked a massive police response — and said that a special detail, dubbed Project Guardian, has been set up to gather leads and tips and follow up on them in relation to the killings.

Cyncora didn’t elaborate on the nature of the project or offer much insight into how successful it’s been so far.

But then, nobody in a position to ask, asked.

The investigation has uncovered many tips, he said, but there’s been nothing conclusive.

“We need them, we need the community to help us,” he said.

Not one of the councillors asked Cyncora to elaborate on a single word he said.

Not one of the three asked about the recent sexual assaults or Tuesday’s home invasion. Not one asked if there was something they could do to further police efforts, or how the force is measuring its progress in the area.

What were the recently (re) elected area councillors’ major concerns, you may ask?

Cyncora was asked only about the incoming police cadets, and whether they’d be used in his district.

Officially, they’re just fresh into field training and are being supervised by a senior officer.

However, The WPS brass hasn’t yet shared the deployment plans for the new, blue-shirted cadets in terms of how they’ll fit into North End, Cyncora said.

Despite the fact there’s no plan in place yet to say how they’ll be used in his area, rookie Coun. Ross Eadie pondered aloud about the possibility the cadets may be too “aggressive” in the conduct of their duties in the most hard-core crime area of town.

He wondered if the cadets would have enough life experience to be able to handle what they’d see and do working in the area.

But, Cyncora said, they won’t be viewed as police officers, and will “not be confrontational or aggressive.”

He struck me as a police official who was kind of hoping someone would ask him a question that mattered.

Too bad not one of the area councillors could be bothered to do so.

Full audio of Cyncora’s statements to the committee below.


[ADDENDUM] John Dobbin writes:

“At the very least, councillors should have been asking if the forensic evidence led them to conclude there was three shooters or just one. Or is that giving away too much?”

Good question, John, how about also:

“What is the status of the mobile command unit? Is it still present in the area?”

“You talk about ‘significant challenges’ — what exactly does that mean?”

“Why do you single out the last two years as being particularly challenging for police in the North End?”

“What are some things we, as councillors, could be doing that may make a difference to the WPS’ efforts?”

[ADDENDUM 2] More questions left unasked are posed in the most recent post on the A Day in The Hood blog:

I went for a walk today, on my own. This was the first time I have ventured more than a block from my home on foot alone since the shootings in October. The shootings are no longer a topic of news, and are drifting from peoples memories.
I have tried to get back to normal, but things kept happening.
A few days after the murders, there was the sound of a shot gun coming from behind my house, somewhere in the back lane, or very close. Then I watched a person steal a car, right in front of my window. And there were the other actions occurring within view of my house. Then last week I had an unfortunate encounter with a person on a bicycle. I have been looking at bicycles along the side streets of the North End in a different light since the murders. I remember the Police said the individual or individuals doing the shootings were seen traveling by bicycle.


The Kick FM website is currently featuring this posting

I don’t know why, and very little about how it happened, but Marty Gold’s Great Canadian Talk Show on Winnipeg’s 92.9 Kick FM [Red River College’s campus station] is not longer.

You can read far more about the demise of the show here, or here. If you believe the whole RRC “kills freedom of speech” spin, you can go here to participate.

I’ve been a quiet fan of the show for some time now, for the sole reason that regardless of one’s feelings about its host, it was information about Winnipeg that you just couldn’t get anywhere else.

In my view, the show’s recent coverage of the civic election was must-listen radio for those interested in civic issues. Each Friday afternoon [my day off] for the last few months now, I would grab a good cup of coffee and go through the archive of the week’s shows

I wrote recently about the 10 things from the civic election campaign I was going to miss.

Number one in the list was how the alternative media had a unifying theme that gave way to a lot of good debate and discussion about the city, its future and the quality of our leadership.

Well, thinking about this again this morning, I realize now what a huge part TGCTS played in fuelling the debate.

In addition to presenting long-form sit downs with the mayoral and councillor candidates, Marty Gold featured the best of local bloggers and other civic-minded guests on a number of occasions and engaged them in discussions that were insightful and interesting.

On a number of occasions, the show broke stories about civic issues that the MSM was forced to play catch up with. If that’s not a marker of good, engaging radio that people would enjoy, I don’t know what would be.

However, one recent moment stands out in my mind, and I’m still thinking about it today in how it may have been a portent for the show’s future.

Former Katz adviser turned policy blogger and author Brian Kelcey was on as a feature guest, and at one point, he offered Gold a small piece of advice.

“Push, don’t point,” he said, in reference to the host’s predilection to name names and call out officials for their various behaviours and perceived wrongdoings — one of the things that made the show special, if not downright jarring on some days.

Push, don’t point.

Like I said, I don’t know why the show was cut.

It could be that the new president of RRC couldn’t understand why her school’s flagship radio show was run by a person who didn’t attend classes there. It could be because the school was threatened with legal action. It could be because a provincial election is on the way. It could be because it was just time for it to be done.

It could be because Gold pointed at the wrong person where he should have pushed.

I don’t know.

What I do know is that as citizens, we’re worse off for its demise.

And I have to find another Friday afternoon tradition.