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RCMP reform would prevent political interference, criminologists say

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another criminologist disagrees that parliamentary accountability is the answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The inquiry will resume hearings Tuesday.

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

 

Sarah Ritchie, The Canadian Press

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Hockey Canada trying to ‘salvage’ World Juniors amid scandal, low ticket sales – Global News

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Amid low tickets sales, a flight of sponsors and a national scandal of sexual assault allegations, Hockey Canada appears to be trying to “salvage” its World Juniors championship, says one expert.

The tournament got underway on Tuesday in Edmonton, Alta., with thousands of tickets still available. It was postponed  late last year as a result of the Omicron variant surge.

In the months since, the national organization has become embroiled in condemnation and controversy over its handling of the allegations. As a result, regional tourism body Explore Edmonton, told Global News, it paused promotion of the tournament in July.

“As the host city for the upcoming tournament, we continue to have discussions with Hockey Canada officials about their plans to address the need for change,” said Traci Bednard, CEO of Explore Edmonton.


Click to play video: 'Thousands of tickets still up for grabs for World Juniors Championship games in Edmonton'



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Thousands of tickets still up for grabs for World Juniors Championship games in Edmonton


Thousands of tickets still up for grabs for World Juniors Championship games in Edmonton

For sports culture expert Dan Mason, that’s not a huge surprise.

“Hockey Canada is hurting because they’re lacking sponsorship and the usual promotion that they get. I don’t think it’s necessarily something that they would really want to be doing anyway, given the circumstances that they’re in,” said Mason, a professor of sport management at the University of Alberta.

“I think they’re just trying to salvage this opportunity to have some player development.”

Read more:

As Hockey Canada re-opens alleged sex assault probe, here’s what 2018 players say so far

The World Juniors is the international championship for players aged 20 or younger competing for spots on teams run by the national hockey league.

It is run by the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF), which confirmed last week it is now among the growing number of official bodies investigating Hockey Canada over its handling of sexual assault allegations. The Zurich, Switzerland-based world governing body for ice hockey said it wants more information amid a continued storm of criticism and condemnation, which has rocked Hockey Canada to its core.

“These are deeply troubling incidents that the IIHF takes extremely seriously,” the organization told Global News on Aug. 1.

Read more:

International Ice Hockey Federation probing Hockey Canada over alleged sex assault

TSN first reported in May that Hockey Canada had settled a lawsuit in which a young woman, “E.M.”, alleged she was sexually assaulted by eight hockey players including members of the 2018 Canadian World Juniors team following a gala organized by the organization.

In the months since, Hockey Canada has been engulfed in scrutiny including: three parliamentary committee meetings focusing on the matter, a funding freeze ordered by the federal sports minister, a financial audit, a renewed criminal investigation by police in London, Ont., and an NHL probe.

The organization has lost multiple major sponsors for the World Juniors tournament including Tim Hortons, Telus, Canadian Tire and Scotiabank, and faced a revolt from provincial hockey organizations vowing to withhold funding. The chair of the board of directors is gone — though the president Scott Smith remains. Former Supreme Court justice Thomas Cromwell is leading a governance review due in November.

Whether Smith will remain in the role after that review remains uncertain.

Meanwhile, Canadian parents are furious, particularly over the revelations of a slush fund used to pay out sexual assault claimants using registration fees paid by parents for their children to play what Stompin’ Tom Connors once called “the good ol’ hockey game.”


Click to play video: 'Abuse survivors react to Hockey Canada executives’ testimony'



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Abuse survivors react to Hockey Canada executives’ testimony


Abuse survivors react to Hockey Canada executives’ testimony – Jul 28, 2022

Mason said he expects the impact of the revelations will play out in youth enrolment numbers.

At the same time, some locals who planned to attend the World Juniors said they trust that the problems in the organization are being taken care of and don’t want to penalize the players.

Randy Thompson spoke to Global News outside the Rogers Centre in Edmonton. He said he plans to catch a few games, and after years of COVID-19 disruption watching the World Juniors feels like a return to a “nice tradition.”

“I think it’s on all of our minds and we hope that there’s a positive resolution to that,” he said of the allegations and the outcry facing Hockey Canada.

“But hockey still is what it is and we shouldn’t let that affect us too too much. I think we need to stay true to our hockey culture or hockey tradition, and I know that the right people will take care of things.”


Click to play video: '‘More diversity’ needed at Hockey Canada following Brind’Amour resignation'



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‘More diversity’ needed at Hockey Canada following Brind’Amour resignation


‘More diversity’ needed at Hockey Canada following Brind’Amour resignation

The Canadian team is set to face off against Latvia on Wednesday in their first game of the tournament.

Team Canada’s head coach André Tourigny said leaders have been emphasizing to players that they are under the spotlight, but kept his remarks to the media brief about the outcry facing Hockey Canada.

“We’ve addressed that. We recognize that there’s steps to be taken,” said Tourigny earlier this week. “We did a sexual violence thing, we did a code of conduct thing.”

Read more:

Sex abuse ‘code of silence’ still runs deep in Canadian sports, says former league head

Brenda Andress, who was commissioner of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League for 12 years, told Global News she still sees a “code of silence” in Canadian sports when it comes to sex abuse and sexual allegations.

She said in an interview last week that many still have trouble wrapping their heads around the extent of the problem.

“Being in the sports world as long as I have been, there is a code of silence. There’s a culture that we have created, and I think most of us can’t handle the truth that’s out there — that’s really going on in our sports world,” Andress said.

“It’s time that we take a look at it in a lot deeper avenue than we’re currently doing.”

— With files from Global Edmonton’s Morgan Black.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Sask. woman, accused of faking own death, says she had 'no choice' but to flee – CBC.ca

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The Saskatoon woman accused of staging the disappearance of herself and her son has issued a statement to CBC News from an Oregon jail.

Dawn Walker, 48, was the subject of an extensive missing persons search after she disappeared with her son about two weeks ago. She was found and arrested in Oregon City on Friday and has been detained in the U.S. since.

“I left Saskatoon because I feared for my safety and that of my son,” Walker said in a written statement to CBC News. She didn’t name the person she said she fears, but Walker has previously made domestic violence allegations against her ex, who is the father of her seven-year-old son. 

Police have said the domestic violence allegations were investigated, but no evidence was found to support them. 

Walker’s friend, Eleanore Sunchild, recorded Walker’s statement during a visit at the Multnomah County Jail in Portland on Monday. 

Walker is charged in the U.S. with aggravated identity theft, which, if convicted, would lead to a minimum prison sentence of two years. She has also been criminally charged with parental abduction and public mischief in Canada. 

U.S. prosecutors allege that Walker faked her and her son’s deaths as part of an elaborate scheme that involved stolen identities and a fraudulent bank account. Police were able to locate Walker and her son last Friday by following bank transactions for gas, food, Netflix and Airbnb rentals. 

Walker says justice system failed 

Walker said she was “failed by the Saskatchewan Justice system, the family law system and child protection.”

She said she previously filed domestic abuse reports with Saskatoon police and RCMP and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The police services did nothing to assist me. I reported my concerns to the child protection authorities and again nothing was done. I am fighting systems that continuously fail to protect me as an Indigenous woman and protect non-Indigenous men,” Walker said.

“So many women and children before us have had to run for their lives to protect their children. The SPS and RCMP only cared when they thought I was dead and the pressure they were under because of their blatant failures.”

Before Walker was located by police, her friends and family suggested foul play or interpersonal violence could be involved in her disappearance. Saskatoon police were asked Monday about the allegations. 

“Any potential or any previous allegations made by Dawn Walker were thoroughly investigated and no charges resulted as a result of those investigations,” Saskatoon police Deputy Chief Randy Huisman said. 

The allegations of domestic abuse were also put directly to her ex, the father of the seven-year-old, by CKOM before Walker and her son were found. 

Andrew Jansen told CKOM he “would never hurt Dawn or [her son]. There’s no truth to any of that, and that’s all I can say.” CBC News contacted Jansen about the allegations. He declined to comment, saying he is taking time to focus on his son and family. 

After Walker was arrested, agents found and reviewed a series of notebooks with handwritten notes she possessed. Within those materials agents ‘found the defendant’s check list for how to stage her death and disappearance,’ according to the court documents. (United States Attorney District of Oregon)

Walker says she had ‘no choice’

In her statement, Walker had a message for the dozens of family members, friends and others who prayed and searched for her in the days after she was declared missing.

“I apologize to anyone I hurt. I was left with no choice. No one heard me. I love my son so very much. He is my only child…I was motivated out of my immense love for [him],” she said.

She said she witnessed something involving the boy “that scared me to the core,” but did not elaborate.

“More will come out as I further tell my story upon my return to our Treaty lands,” she said.

Sunchild and Walker’s family also emailed written statements to CBC News. They are pressing for Walker’s extradition to Canada and encouraging others to do the same. 

“We, her supporters, urge the Canadian and Saskatchewan governments to commence extradition proceedings immediately so Dawn can return to Canada to deal with her matters there,” said Sunchild, a Cree lawyer in Saskatchewan who is in the U.S. supporting Walker as a friend.

The family said Walker “deserves our compassion and understanding.… It’s not easy being an Indigenous woman in Saskatchewan. All she wanted to do was raise her son in peace.” 

Saskatoon police said the criminal investigation into Walker — and those who may have helped her — is ongoing. They said there could be more criminal charges laid depending on the outcome.

A rally is being held Tuesday evening at the Legislature building in Regina in support of Walker, who appears back in court next month.

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Stable weather allows fire crews to focus on containment of B.C. wildfires

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Crews battling the wildfire that has forced the evacuation of more than 500 properties in British Columbia’s southern Okanagan are taking advantage of calm winds and stable conditions to bolster fire lines.

The BC Wildfire Service says the the wildfire covers 68 square kilometres southwest of Penticton, with most of the recent growth due to planned ignitions needed to create the control lines.

An update from the wildfire service says newly created control lines are “holding well.”

It says a key objective is to continue mop-up work along Highway 3A in an effort to reopen the route connecting Keremeos and the evacuated community of Olalla with towns further north.

Crews are keeping a close eye on weather conditions as a storm approaches from Washington state, bringing showers later this week and possible lightning strikes on Wednesday.

The wildfire service has recorded 564 blazes since the season began, 58 of them in the last seven days, and lists the fire danger rating as high to extreme on Vancouver Island, the entire B.C. coast and across the southern quarter of the province.

Of the eight wildfires of note currently burning in the Kamloops and Southeast fire centres, only the blaze near Penticton continues to keep residents out of their homes.

None of the other seven have grown significantly in recent days and the wildfire service website says the roughly three-square-kilometre fire in grasslands northwest of Kamloops is now listed as “being held,” allowing crews to finish building control lines.

Wildfires of note are either highly visible or pose a threat to people or properties.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.

 

The Canadian Press

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