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Facta, non verba

The country’s news media are in a froth over the lurid, gory details of a bizarre murder case, certainly one of the most sensational in recent times. Luka Rocco Magnotta (a.k.a. Eric Clinton Newman), a 29-year old man from Scarborough, has apparently killed and dismembered 33-year-old Lin Jun, of Wuhan, China. Magnotta is alleged to have stabbed Jun with an ice pick, mutilated and sexually assaulted the cadaver, and then mailed bits of it to the headquarters of the federal Conservative and Liberal parties. Somehow a video of the murder and desecration ended up on a website specialising in “gore”; the site is owned by an Edmonton man, Mark Marek, but its servers are based in the United States.

I won’t bore you, dear readers, with a recitation of the litany one can find all over the internet and television; but in the churning torrents of spilled ink arrive a few tantalising bits of data that beg for elaboration.

The first is the tale of an American lawyer who claims to have seen the snuff video, notified both US and Canadian police about its contents, and been rebuffed. The lawyer was so affected by having seen the video that he attempted to contact every jurisdiction where Magnotta’s social media profiles indicated he had been, and Toronto was one such location. Our local police dispute the lawyer’s account of his efforts to notify them, and believe they acted appropriately based on the information they had at the time.

“Knowing what we do know now, perhaps we could have done more,” said [Kevin] Masterman. “But at the time, knowing what we knew then, we were satisfied with the response of the call taker.” […]

“He was trying to let us know about the video,” conceded Masterman, a Toronto police media and communications co-ordinator, who said Renville’s call came in at 10:30 p.m. Sunday.

But Masterman insisted “the call was quite vague at the time.” A police switchboard operator spoke to Renville, recorded the call, and referred Renville to Crimestoppers, but did not transfer him to a police officer, said Masterman. He added police would not release any recording of the conversation.


Renville called Miami police (Magnotta appears in online photos in Miami), Denver FBI and police (Magnotta was believed to be a former roommate of a convicted prostitute killer in that city) and the national FBI crime and terrorism tip lines and got either no response, or bewildered responses. He admits it must have sounded like a “crazy report.”

He called Toronto police Sunday and says a woman took the call and transferred him to a man whom he understood to be an officer. “He suggested the video I saw must be a fake, it must be good special effects. It just didn’t make any sense for a fellow to videotape himself committing his crime, then load it on the Internet,” said Renville.

“I asked him to give me an email address to which I could send a link to the video and he said ‘no,’ they wouldn’t be needing a link to the video.”

Masterman denied Renville asked for an email address or offered to send the video link via email, suggesting Renville had spoken to so many others that he may be “confused” about details of his interaction with a Metro Toronto Police Services switchboard operator.

Masterman said Toronto police communications officials are “satisfied” with how the incident was handled, adding “in hindsight, there could have been other options, but knowing what they did at the time they’re satisfied with the response.”

— MacCharles, Tonda. “Luka Magnotta: Toronto police admit they “could have done more” when U.S. lawyer flagged disturbing video.” Toronto Star, 31 May 2012.

Optimistically, it may have been a missed opportunity; but apparently Mr. Renville did not express himself eloquently enough (nor provide enough probable cause) for the police to begin to connect the dots. It would not, in any event, have changed the outcome for the unfortunate victim, Lin Jun. But the really fascinating admission from police comes in the latter half of the Star article; and it’s interesting not because it relates specifically to this case, but to the future of policing and how the public interacts with them.

“We prefer that people call us. We don’t want to receive reports of crime over the Internet. We want to respond to reports right away. We don’t want the Internet as an alternate (sic) to 911.”

Masterman said the police service’s Facebook page is not monitored 24 hours a day seven days a week, and so if people try to report a crime in progress, “there’s no one there to talk to you right away.”

Renville says he also spoke to a receptionist at the Toronto Sun and emailed a Globe and Mail reporter, again to no avail.

“Frustrated, discouraged and distressed” by his inability to get it “on the radar of people who could do something about it,” Renville says he gave up Monday evening at his wife’s insistence, after three days.

— MacCharles, Tonda. “Luka Magnotta: Toronto police admit they “could have done more” when U.S. lawyer flagged disturbing video.” Toronto Star, 31 May 2012. [Emphasis mine]

The bolded part of the quotation is revealing, and not in a good way; it is nonsensical. Toronto police didn’t receive notification of the murder over the Internet, they received it via a good old-fashioned telephone call—which is, according to spokesman Masterman, their preferred avenue. Moreover, Mr. Masterman was being intentionally obtuse or disingenuous in his characterisation; Mr. Renville was not attempting to use the Internet as an alternate to 911. He was attempting to direct the police’s attention to the electronic record of a violent crime, not summon emergency services to intervene and save the victim’s life in the nick of time. Call me dense, but I think the police would be upset if you used 911 as your personal conduit for relaying evidence. Everything our emergency services have ever told us indicates that they’d like 911 to be reserved for cases where they might usefully respond to a real and present crisis, not an after-the-fact examination and dissection of evidence. This is exactly why the police fobbed off Mr. Renville on Crime Stoppers instead of 911; because they recognised that there was no emergency within their jurisdiction to be dispatched to.

The broader problem is that this particular case—featuring internet-based evidence of a violent crime—did not add up to something that smelled like probable cause, and that lack of cause suffocated any desire to spring into even modest investigative action. I understand the police’s attitude on this, and halfway agree that procuring good Net-derived evidence as the basis of probable cause can be fraught with frustration, delay and complication. Sifting through server and network activity logs, then coordinating your investigation with ISPs and IT staff at a dozen other nodes spread out across the country (and all its time zones) can be a giant pain in the ass. Add another layer of complexity if you have to deal with a foreign jurisdiction, its law enforcement entities and their dissimilar statutes and legal requirements. Add to that another significant hurdle; most law enforcement officers (and an overwhelming majority of their superiors) are not even remotely computer-savvy, so even a relatively modest challenge can appear to be as daunting as scaling Everest or K2.

But it’s a cold, hard fact that an increasing amount of our communication, commerce, productivity and entertainment takes place in the electronic ether—and that, dear friends in blue, will mean an increasing variety and volume of crimes whose evidence will have to be sourced from the net.

Now Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and a million other social media sites might exist as long as IBM, or they might fold up shop and cease to exist within a decade. But what is inarguable is that the basic concept of social media (i.e. interacting with a global audience in near-real-time on the net) is here to stay; and net-connected mobile computing on small handheld platforms doesn’t seem like it is likely to vanish anytime soon, either. One cannot help but ask whether the police ought to be taking a head-in-the-sand approach to social media; surely adapting with the times is a strategy more likely to pay dividends.

I understand the reliance on tried-and-true infrastructure like telephones. They’re highly regulated, generally tied to a single individual (or at least a discrete physical location), and our emergency services infrastructure is designed to take advantage of this. If the call is from a traditional land line, the address/location of the caller will appear to 911 dispatchers, whether or not the caller volunteers that information. This gives first responders a certain degree of confidence that they are headed to the right vicinity where an apparent emergency is underway, and if the call is false or spurious, it can also be billed or fined accordingly. But even this has changed, and phone lines are certainly not immune to spoofing; an enterprising gadfly with modest telecom knowledge, access to a VOIP service and proxies can impersonate another telephone number without significant difficulty. This is why we now have the phenomenon of SWATting; making a spurious call to police that results in the dispatch of a tactical team to a residence whose innocent occupants pose no risk to public safety, and are unaware that their domicile has been reported as the scene of a violent crime. This potentially life-threatening prank has already occurred in Toronto and Langley, BC. Phones are not the be-all and end-all of citizen contact with police.

It seems to me that as the volume and variety of our net-based activity increases, the need for police to be able to conduct meaningful interaction (incident reporting, patrols, investigation and evidence collection) there will also increase. If I were a chief of police or senior superintendent, I would start to plan for that eventuality now—instead of trying to force the public back into the comfortable old way of doing things. Believe me when I say I am a curmudgeon and skeptic of every hare-brained “the internet will make life magic” scheme. It won’t. But in the developed world, the internet is to the 21st century as the telephone was to the 20th—essential, integral; woven into the fabric of daily life. Maybe it’s time that our police learned how to use it.

Category: Culpae Poenae Par Esto, Web/Tech  Tags:  Comments off

So, how do they feel about it now?

In the dying days of the summer of 1978, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police were united in opposition to certain provisions of the Canadian Human Rights Act (1977), and the planned tabling of a freedom of information act (which did not pass the federal legislature until 1985, as the Access to Information Act).

Toronto Star, page A5, 2 September 1978. Click to enlarge image.

There are many knee-slapping howlers in this Canadian Press wire piece, but these are amongst my favourites:

The chiefs urged the government yesterday to increase, not decrease, protection of confidential police information, saying American police have virtually been put out of the terrorist-fighting business because of the Freedom of Information Act in the United States.

Yes, the territory formerly known as the United States of America collapsed into violence and anarchy less than a decade after the US Congress overrode President Lyndon Johnson’s veto of the Freedom of Information Act in 1966.  A series of UN missions have tried in vain to keep the peace between the various American warlords and breakaway states ever since.

The association said 85 per cent (7,700 cases) of requests for police information under the Human Rights Act have come from convicted criminals.

Sure.  Because law-abiding citizens have no business trying to keep the coercive power of the state out of their lives.

Somehow I doubt that official attitudes have changed very much in the intervening years.

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La gloire de la France

National Post columnist Kelly McParland on IMF chief (and French presidential contender) Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s bizarre sex assault charge, and the French reaction to it:

3. Roman Polanski angle Has anyone else noticed how quickly all of France has concluded Strauss-Kahn is a filthy dirtbag, and deserves whatever he gets? Fine with me, but isn’t this the same country that insisted Roman Polanski was a brilliant director persecuted by ignorant American philistines just because he had a taste for raping 13-year-olds? So, France has two levels of justice (not to mention morality), one for film directors and another for boring old IMF directors?

— McParland, Kelly. “Full Comment: Some weird theories on Dominique Strauss-Kahn.” National Post, 16 May 2011.

(Via the Tiger on Politics.)

Category: Culpae Poenae Par Esto, Foreign Affairs  Tags:  Comments off

Poisoned environment

The story of Lara Logan’s sexual assault in Tahrir Square is a sad footnote to democratic triumphalism following President Hosni Mubarak’s resignation.  Logan is a CBS correspondent who was—just days earlier—detained (along with her crew) by Egyptian security forces as a supposed spy.  After her release, she and her crew returned to Cairo to continue covering the story, and there they were set upon by evildoers in the crowd.

On Friday, Feb. 11, the day Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down, CBS chief foreign correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a “60 Minutes” story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.

In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning. She is currently in the hospital recovering.

There will be no further comment from CBS News and correspondent Logan and her family respectfully request privacy at this time.

— “CBS News’ Lara Logan assaulted during Egypt protests.” CBS News, 15 February 2011.

As always, the traditional bromides apply:  extrapolation is unwise, and blame should not be attributed beyond this isolated group of individuals, et cetera.  But it’s worth noting that even before this, Egypt (and Cairo in particular) had gained some notoriety in recent years for horrifying attacks on women during the days of Eid.  The perceived increase in harassment was feared to have a chilling effect on tourism, and a particularly shocking case of sexual assault had even been noted by the United Nations’ humanitarian news agency IRIN:

CAIRO, 19 February 2008 (IRIN) – Egypt was scandalised last summer when an 11-year-old girl named Hend Farghali was allegedly raped by a 21-year-old man. Petrified, the girl did not tell anyone until she was five months pregnant.

Such extreme cases involving children may be beginning to change attitudes to rape in general which, though illegal, has traditionally been seen as more of a family misfortune rather than a crime.

…”We want to change traditions, but it is not easy,” Rania Hamid, manager of the family counselling unit at the Centre for Egyptian Women’s Legal Assistance (CEWLA), said. “These traditions are not 20 years old, they’re ancient. You have to change them bit by bit.”

Hend is one of 20,000 women or girls raped every year, according to Egypt’s Interior Ministry, a figure which implies that an average of about 55 women are raped every day. However, owing to the fear of social disgrace, victims are reluctant to report cases, and experts say the number may be much higher.

— “Egypt: Are attitudes to rape beginning to change?”  Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) / UNHCR, 19 February 2008.

Thanks to groups like the Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights (ECWR), in-country attitudes toward sexual harassment were highlighted in media reports (such as this one from the BBC).  The ECWR report (Clouds in Egypt’s Sky, 2008) measured a sample of 2,020 Egyptian participants (half male, half female) and 109 foreign women living and travelling in Egypt; it paints a rather dreary picture, some of which I will excerpt here.  Any emphasis [in bold] is mine.  I believe the report is valuable because it illustrates my contention (previously outlined in this post) that Egyptians may want the efficiency, accountability and transparency of liberal democracy, but they are a long way from desiring significant social liberalism.

First we have a sample image of various women, differently attired.  Survey respondents were asked to identify the clothing choices they perceived as most vulnerable to harassment, while researchers noted the actual type of clothing they were wearing when surveyed.  I have added some survey results directly to the image, although the report’s original imagery does not:

General appearance of women who get sexually harassed: what women wear. (Clouds in Egypt's Sky—Sexual Harassment: from Verbal Harassment to Rape, 2008)

Participants’ views on the most important features of a victim of sexual harassment:

48.4% of Egyptian and 51.4% of foreign women that women of all ages are subjected to sexual harassment. However, the majority of the male sample 62.2% indicated that women in the age groups 19 – 25 years old are most susceptible to sexual harassment. This difference in the views of women and men may be due to the experiences that women have had with sexual harassment. If it happens to them, they are likely to believe that any woman at any age could be vulnerable to harassment, that it is not confined to young women and girls.

In terms of general appearance of the victim, 62.5% of the Egyptian women and 65.3% of men involved in the study stated that Figure 2 (see above) is the most common appearance of women vulnerable to harassment. 44% of foreign women rejected this notion, suggesting, rather, that all women are commonly harassed. They think that the female in Figure 2 will be subject to harassment, but they also thought that the women in Figures 5 or 6 were also likely to be harassed. Generally, foreign women agreed that a woman’s appearance is not a determinant of harassment.

These two points are interesting because they indicate a male-female divergence of perception (males thinking that only young women typically get harassed) and a domestic-foreign divergence as well.

Views  of  the  public  on  the  most  important features of a harasser:

Public opinion research showed that most harassers are young males, between 19-24 years old.

In terms of occupation, the study showed that male microbus and taxi drivers are the most likely to be harassers. However, the vast majority of foreign women emphasized that police and security personnel are the most likely to engage in sexual harassment.

The reaction of foreign women is notable because, of course, some of those uniformed worthies will be the very people now running “democratic” Egypt.

Manifestations  of  exposure  to  sexual harassment:

Results of the study found high rates of exposure to sexual harassment. 83% of Egyptian women reported exposure to harassment, while 98% of foreign women stated they had been sexually harassed while in Egypt.

Results also revealed that 46.1% of Egyptian women and 52.3% of foreign women are subjected to harassment on a daily basis.

According to the results of the study, 91.5% of Egyptian women and 96.3% of foreign women faced sexual harassment on the street and public transportation most often. Second most common were tourist destinations and foreign educational institutions.

This ought to be a major concern of the Interior Ministry and all of Egypt’s tourism/hospitality industries.  The convergence of police and security doing the harassing—with tourist destinations and expat universities being some of the likely areas for it to occur—ought to be an economic blight waiting to erupt.

General  appearance  of women who  get  sexually harassed: what women wear

31.9% of women who reported sexual harassment were dressed like figure 1, wearing a blouse, long skirt and veil. 21.0% of women were wearing a longer blouse, pants, and veil like figure 3. Figure 4 was third, where women were wearing a cloak and veil (20 %), then figure 6 (19.6%). These results disprove the belief that sexual harassment is linked to the way women dress (women are sexually harassed when dressed ?indecently? or are not veiled ? in the words of some participants), since 72.5% of victims surveyed were veiled.

…Participants believed that figures 2 and 4 would get harassed more than the others because these figures were not wearing the veil and were wearing short clothes, but the results prove that this is mistaken, as the majority of women we interviewed were dressed like the figures 1, 3, 4 and 5 – but still experienced sexual harassment.

How  the  Victim,  Witness and  Security  Officers  Deal  with  the Problem of Sexual Harassment:

…Only 2.4% of Egyptian women and 7.5% of foreign women reported the crime.  …Some police officers the mock these women or harass them as well. The vast majority of women – 96.7% of Egyptian women and 86.9% of foreign women – did not seek police assistance because they didn’?t think it was important or because no one would help them. …The vast majority of foreigners confirmed that many times the harasser was himself a police officer – further deterring them from requesting assistance.

Men and sexual harassment:

Results show that the vast majority – 62.4% of the male audience surveyed – confirmed that they have perpetrated and/or continue to perpetrate one or more of the forms of harassment. 49.8% being ogling women’s bodies, 27.7% whistling and shouting comments, 15.9% shouting sexually explicit comments, 15.4% phone harassment, 13.4 unwanted touching of women?s bodies, 12.2% following and stalking, 4.3% exposed or pointed out his penis.

The vast preponderance of inappropriate ogling is to be expected, as it is the easiest to execute without fear of significant consequences.  I am a little bit surprised by the non-trivial numbers of people engaging in phone harassment (97 out of 1012), groping (84), and whipping out the wang (27).

Results indicate that 53.8% of men blame men’s sexual harassment of women on the women. They interpret the cause of sexual harassment primarily as a result of women dressing indecently (unveiled). However, our study shows that most victims of harassment wear headscarves, illustrating the falseness of this claim. 42.4% of men also attributed harassment to women’s beauty.

88% of the sample saw someone harassing a woman. …The reactions of these to seeing such incidents where negative, but that 61.4% ignored the issue completely and failed to provide any assistance to the victim or separate the harasser from her. 29.4% sympathized with the victim and only 0.1% reported trying to help the victim (verbally, physically, or by helping the victim to file a police report).

Reasons that most of the sample ignored harassment and refused to help the victim included: 47.8% indicated that they don’t care, others said that women enjoy harassment, and others replied that since they harass women themselves, they have no right to prevent others from doing the same.

Blaming the Victim:

Most Egyptian women interviewed agreed that it is wrong for a woman to go to the police station to report harassment or to talk about being harassed. Some men in the sample both agreed and disagreed with these ideas.

Most of the Egyptian women and men agreed that women should be at home by 8 p.m.

As for the foreign women participants, we find that the vast majority rejected all these views. They do not provide excuses for the harasser to commit these behaviors, and reject blaming women for being harassed.

The Egyptian government’s own efforts to curb sexual harassment are of course mired in the belief that prevention and self-restraint are the duty of the woman—not the men that wish to pester her.  No image can convey this astonishing attitude as effectively as their own poster campaign:

2008's "Veil Your Lollipop" campaign. Poster text reads "You can't stop them, but you can protect yourself."

ECWR’s study ought to put paid to such notions, since it clearly demonstrates that modest dress is no protection from lascivious conduct.   But the myth persists and it’s not uncommon, both in the West and abroad.  I’ve encountered it in emails and comments discussing previous posts on Islam and the role of women, and the best response is probably that delivered by Susan Carland writing at AltMuslimah:

And as long as Muslims try to make the argument that hijab is the magical protection against sexual harassment and rape, then they continue to place the blame on the victim/survivor and are buying into the “she was asking for it by dressing like that” argument, and not where it squarely belongs: on the man.

— Carland, Susan.  “Sexual harassment, Egypt and the hijab.”  AltMuslimah.com, 15 February 2011.

Abdication of Responsibility

When a state refuses to enforce its monopoly on violence—allowing others to arrogate that prerogative to themselves—that negligence destroys public confidence in its institutions.  This is precisely what has happened at Caledonia’s Douglas Creek Estates; whether the land belongs to the natives or developers and homeowners ought to have been a question of law and torts; instead it has given rise to a de facto dual standard in law enforcement.

Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings has two excellent posts on the subject, the first being a lengthy and meticulous précis of the Caledonia affair, and the second delving into former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino’s failings as both a peace officer and the Conservative “law and order” candidate.

The Ontario government has created a precedent whereby it has tacitly accepted the right of certain ethnocultural groups to take up arms and oppose the Crown, which hardly seems like a long-term recipe for peace and amity in a province whose heterogeneity is steadily increasing.

The Khadrs

The National Post has done yeoman work by assembling a timeline of the Khadr family‘s activities. Some incidents stand out as noteworthy, when viewed in hindsight. The first is the December 1995 arrest of patriarch Ahmed Said Khadr, for his alleged participation in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan. The second is the January 1996 intervention of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (really no more than a request for proper habeas corpus), resulting in the elder Khadr’s release.

Reasonable people can disagree on Omar Khadr’s combatant status and treatment. For my part, I believe he was indoctrinated as a child into a hateful ideology, but also that that ideology is highly resistant to rehabilitation and now renders him a security risk to the nation.

What seems to be beyond dispute is that from 1996 onward, Ahmed Said Khadr and his wife Maha Elsamnah took some pains to move their family into close proximity with al-Qaeda leadership, and to have their young brood trained to fight.

One potential timeline item that is notable for its absence is any hint of prosecution or child welfare action against Maha Elsamnah. Surely a parent who encourages their minority-aged children to be trained as combatants in a treasonous cause ought, at the very least, to be considered unfit. How is it that none of the other Khadr brood were taken from their warped mother’s care?

G20 Festivities

To Serve & Protect, originally uploaded by jen takes pictures.

Like many, I was a little bit cheesed off about the secretive way in which the provincial government expanded police search and detain powers prior to the G20 summit.  But now I am wondering why they didn’t also throw in a few billion bucks for a secret law enforcement project, like a platoon of ED-209s or a Blue Thunder prototype.  Something that might actually be useful downtown right about now.

Category: Culpae Poenae Par Esto  Tags: , ,  Comments off

Passengers behaving badly: Hon. Helena Guergis, PC, MP

Helen Guergis (right), Minister of state for Status of Women, stands beside Lisa Raitt, Minister of Natural Resources, as they take part in a Walk For The Cure event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept. 17, 2009. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

On February 19th, junior minister Helena Guergis lost her cool after she arrived late for her flight, and was directed through the usual gamut of security screenings.  She proceeded to throw a tantrum, treating security screeners and airline personnel in an abrasive manner that would have had her barred from the flight, if she were anything other than a Minister of the Crown.  The details were unveiled in an anonymous fax sent to Prince Edward Island MP Wayne Easter (Liberal-Malpeque).

(I apologise in advance for quoting its entirety, but the letter ought to be read to be fully grasped.  No media account I have seen thus far manages to convey all of the details as soberly as the original author does.)

On February 19th at the Charlottetown Airport, Air Canada Jazz staff was informed via telephone that a certain “V.I.P.” would be late arriving for Air Canada Flight #7677 to Montreal.  The flight was scheduled to be in the air at 1725hrs with a flight load of thirty two passengers.

At 1720 hrs thirty of the thirty two passengers had already boarded the plane.  The two remaining passengers, Conservative MP and Minister of State for the Status of Women Hon. Helena Guergis and her aide Emily Goucher were at the Air Canada counter being so difficult and rude to Air Canada representative Alan Bagley that he almost refused to allow them to board to spite their “V.I.P.” status.  They berated him loudly and treated him in a most condescending manner after he told them some of their excessive bags were too large to be carry-on and should be checked.  At one point the Hon. Helena Guergis told Mr. Bagley that she “….knew Ron McKinley”. Apparently she wasn’t aware that as Minister of Transportation Mr. McKinley was not in charge of carry-on baggage, more’s the pity.

At 1720 hrs. inside the preboard screening area, five minutes before the time when the flight was scheduled to be in the air, Air Canada representative Sonja MacMillan paged both Hon. Helena Guergis and Ms. Goucher over the P.A. and after having waited considerably for them already, proceeded to the aircraft with her paperwork.

At 1725 hrs., flight time, Hon. Helena Guergis and Ms. Goucher started into the preboard area to be screened by the security staff.  When asked to remove her overcoat she compiled, but refused to remove her blazer, and when informed that her footwear might set off the walk through metal detector, she refused to remove them as well.  After proceeding through the metal detector, she alarmed it and was screened by Screening Officer Melissa Murnaghan.  She was asked to sit down and remove her footwear at this point due to the fact that they had caused the alarm.  At this point the Hon. Helena Guergis took a seat and huffily started to remove her footwear, upon their removal she slammed her boots into the bin provided by Ms. Murnaghan and then the Minister of State for the Status of Women said to Ms. Murnaghan, a single mother working to support herself and her son, “Happy Fucking Birthday to me!  I guess I’m stuck on this hell hole!”  Ms. Murnaghan, in a credit to her professionalism, did not reply to this comment, nor did the other screening staff on duty; Donald Wood, John Birt, Andrew MacEwan, Wanda Chinery, or Andrew Williams.  Ms. Murnaghan then put the footwear through the X-ray machine.

As the footwear cleared the X-ray conveyor, Hon. Helena Guergis then shouted at her aide Ms. Goucher to “Get those for me! I’m not walking around here in sock feet!.”

Having then cleared mandatory security screening without further incident, and having been handed her boots by her personal servant Ms. Goucher, Hon. Helena Guergis then attempted to force open the locked door that separates the preboard seating area from the apron, upon which Air Canada flight #7677 continued to wait.  Screening Officer MacEwan, closest to her, informed her that the door was indeed locked and that she would have to wait for the Air Canada representative (Sonja MacMillan) to return.  Hon. Helena Guergis then shouted across preboard to Mr. MacEwan “Well, can’t you call her or something!?”  Mr. MacEwan replied that no, he had no way of contacting the Air Canada representative while she was airside and that she would have to wait.  He also told her that passengers were normally requested to be at the airport at least two hours before flight time.  The Hon. Helena Guergis then shouted back across preboard to Mr. MacEwan “I don’t need to be lectured about flight time by you! I’ve been down here working my ass off for you people.”  Taken aback by this unnecessarily venomous response, Mr. MacEwan decided to end the conversation on his part.

Hon. Helena Guergis and her aide Ms. Goucher then decided that the best course of action would be to go to the eastern end of the preboard screening area and attempt to get Ms. MacMillan’s attention by screaming and hammering on the sound proof tinted glass that separates preboard from airside.

At this point, Sonja MacMillan returned from the plane, and being unaware of the commotion caused by the Hon. Helena Guergis and her aide Ms. Goucher, she processed them without further incident and allowed them to board Air Canada Flight #7677 to Montreal.  As they were being processed and allowed to board, Air Canada representative Alan Bagley entered preboard to see what the yelling he had heard way out at the counter was about.  Screening Officer Andrew Williams, during a security sweep of preboard, discovered two passports and tickets belonging to Ms. Goucher and Hon. Helena Guergis and gave them to Mr. Bagley who then returned them to Ms. Goucher and the Hon. Helena Guergis as they were finally headed towards their flight.

It is most unlikely anyone involved in this incident will be able to give statements or interviews “on the record”.

Due to the likely termination of current employment; Anonymous

— Anonymous letter to MP Wayne Easter.  Attached to report by O’Malley, Kady. “Helena Guergis’s Adventures on Prince Edward Island.” CBC News, 25 February 2010.

Mrs. Guergis has since realised what poison this is for her reputation, and apologised to Air Canada staff in particular and the people of PEI in general.  Take note that in her apology and public statements, she has not contested the details of the account.  Opposition MPs and assorted outraged citizens are calling upon Mrs. Guergis to resign, while the Prime Minister has said that he is satisfied with her apology, and that ends the matter.  Knowing the Prime Minister, however, I am sure the matter is not ended; he remembers it when people fail spectacularly—hello, Maxime Bernier!  No doubt the PM will recall this incident at the next Cabinet shuffle, and out will go Mrs. Guergis.

I’m not particularly upset over her behaviour unbecoming a minister, as it is a role with almost no substance whatsoever.  Before being granted the “Minister” nomenclature, it was known as Secretary of State (Status of Women), and the office-holder was in essence a glorified Parliamentary Secretary—neither sitting in Cabinet nor being a member of the Cabinet’s real centre of gravity, the far more influential Treasury Board.  This so-called “junior minister” portfolio carries with it the whopping bureaucracy of three staff, and no executive authority beyond that of a normal MP.  And as we have seen, it doesn’t even exempt one from having to go through the same meaningless security theatre as the plebs.

I understand that people will lose their cool every now and then; this is human nature.  But neither do I condone an absence of consequences.  If the Hon. Helena Guergis were an ordinary citizen, she would have been bounced from her flight, possibly detained by airport security, and (if they had any sense at all) informed by Air Canada that her business was no longer welcome, and they would be refusing any subsequent bookings by her.  Alas, the time for the first has passed, although there may still be time to file petty charges and have the airline declare her persona non grata.

If I were the Prime Minister, however, I would make it clear that Mrs. Guergis would indeed keep her job, but since she could not be relied upon to conduct herself appropriately at an airport, she must be relieved of the burden of going through airport security screening.  For the remainder of the government’s term of office, therefore, she would be placed on Transport Canada’s Specified Persons List and prohibited from setting foot aboard any kind of aircraft, civil or military.  In order to travel to her engagements, Mrs. Guergis could enjoy the leisurely pace of the railroad or—to go where the rails do not—Greyhound bus.

I’m sure my approval rating would skyrocket overnight.

But alas, I cannot think of any Prime Minister of the Dominion who would ever have the guts to do it.


A Nova Scotian court has finally answered the question “How many drunk driving convictions does it take to permanently lose your licence?”

Those of you still on your third or fourth conviction, rejoice!  You’ve got another 30-odd years of driving ahead of you.

Category: Culpae Poenae Par Esto  Tags:  Comments off

Ne probrum castis, labem integris, infamiam bonis inferat

Lest he should defame the good, reproach the chaste, and disgrace the honest

The commanding officer of 8 Wing, CFB Trenton—Colonel D. Russell Williams, CD—faces a plethora of criminal charges related to the deaths of two women and the sexual assaults of two others.  On Monday, Ontario Provincial Police charged Colonel Williams, 46, with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of forcible confinement, two counts of breaking and entering and two counts of sexual assault.

8 Wing is undoubtedly the busiest air wing in the Canadian Forces.  Its sub-units are responsible for search and rescue, VIP transport, strategic and tactical airlift,  and aerial refueling.  It is literally the linchpin of of air mobility for the entire Canadian Forces.  There are other wings with airlift (and SAR) components, certainly, but no other wing encompasses the CF’s entire range of air mobility missions and platforms.

The colonel has been removed from his command while the investigation proceeds; according to this Belleville Intelligencer report, many base personnel learned of their boss’ arrest like everyone else—through media reports.  No doubt townspeople in the Quinte area are shocked and dismayed as well.  CFB Trenton enjoys an enviable relationship with the civil communities near the base; the facility and its personnel are almost always mentioned favourably in local media outlets.

I’m glad to see Trenton’s mayor, John Williams—who was in touch with Col. Williams frequently—reinforcing his support for the base with a message of reassurance:

“Put it this way, our community and CFB Trenton are interwoven. I know he’s innocent until proven guilty, but nonetheless this is unbelievable. It’s shocking,” said Williams. “I feel for the base personnel and I want them to know the arrest does not change the city’s relationship with the base.

— Kuglin, Ernst and Emily Mountenay.  “Trenton in shock after base commander charged with two counts of first degree murder.” Belleville Intelligencer, 8 February 2010. [Emphasis mine]

If the charges are accurate, Colonel Williams has violated not just the public’s trust in its armed forces, but the enlisted force’s trust in its officer leadership.  Raping and slaying one of the non-commissioned personnel he was charged to keep “in good Order and Discipline” goes against every core tenet of the officer corps—self-sacrifice, loyalty, knowledge, integrity and courage.

In light of the incalculable damage caused in the lives of four young women, the morale of the men and women under his command, and the public trust in its uniformed personnel, whatever sentence such an officer ends up receiving—no matter how severe—will not be nearly enough.  It is a dereliction of staggering proportions.

RELATED: An interesting clue at the end of this CityNews story:

“Williams became brought to the attention of police as a result of information gathered during a roadside canvas on highway 37 on the night of Feb. 4,” revealed Det. Insp. Chris Nicholas.

— CityNews.ca staff.  “Missing Belleville Woman Found Dead, CFB Trenton Commander Charged.” CityNews.ca, 8 February 2010.

UPDATE 091048Z FEB 10: TheSpec.com provides some elaboration (although not much) from OPP Detective Inspector Chris Nicholas:

The charges came “due to a singularity in those incidents,” Nicholas said. “We linked those crimes to a single suspect.”

— Black, Debra, Lesley Ciarula Taylor, and Jesse McLean.  “CFB Trenton chief accused of killing two women.” TheSpec.com, 8 February 2010.

UPDATE 091911Z FEB 10: The singularity was the colonel’s unique tire tracks.

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