Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Getting Their Man?

Its been a bad stretch for the RCMP. The beleaguered icon of Canadian policing has been taking it on the chin ever since former Commissioner Zaccardelli was forced to resign after allegations of lying to a parliamentary committee over the mishandling of the Maher Arar affair. Next up - allegations of corruption through the highest ranks of RCMP officers.

And ongoing is the Air India inquiry. It seems that witnesses are almost daily revealing the depth and the history of incompetence and mismanagement within the RCMP. The latest shocking testimony is from Serge Carignan a veteran member of the RCMP canine unit. On the night of the Air India bombing, he had been summoned to Mirabel airport to inspect the ill-fated flight with his bomb sniffing dog. He was shocked to see that when he arived, the flight had already been allowed to leave. In the intervening years, both the RCMP and the Ministry of Transport had provided written assurances that the plane and its contents had been inspected by a bomb-sniffing dog prior to departure. These "assurances" are now known to have been false. You can read about the litany of investigative travesties here.

I don't know how the bright light of exposure will affect the fate of this historic institution. Many believe that the RCMP has been decaying for years, its mandate squeezed between CSIS and Provincial and local police forces. I tend to agree with this. But as unpalatable as it is to hear, the airing of the RCMP's dirty laundry is a necessary first step to understanding what went wrong on that fateful night in 1985. On a personal level, it will allow some closure for the victims' families. And on a policy level, it will play an important role in determining what role if any the RCMP will have in the future policing of this nation.

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