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Canada's political police?

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Bob Paulson, the Commissioner of the RCMP, disgraces himself in a letter to the Ottawa Citizen today, going after journalist Stephen Maher for his very mild comments on the RCMP's decision not to proceed with charges against Nigel Wright. Besides being ridiculously self-serving, it appears to be a attempt to intimidate Maher for daring to say out loud what Canadians from coast to coast are thinking.

Let's recap. Wright wrote a personal cheque for $90K to disgraced Senator Mike Duffy. There was a quid pro quo: in exchange for this money, which was to cover inappropriately-claimed expenses, Duffy would be “whitewashed” by a Senate committee investigating his expense claims. By so doing, the PMO would get both itself and Duffy out of a serious jam. Effectively, the $90K was to buy Duffy’s silence, extricating him from a damning Deloitte audit that was going on at the time. Thereafter, in fact, Duffy ceased cooperating with the auditors.

In case readers need reminding, here is the relevant section of the Parliament of Canada Act:

16. (1) No member of the Senate shall receive or agree to receive any compensation, directly or indirectly, for services rendered or to be rendered to any person, either by the member or another person,

(a) in relation to any bill, proceeding, contract, claim, controversy, charge, accusation, arrest or other matter before the Senate or the House of Commons or a committee of either House; or

(b) for the purpose of influencing or attempting to influence any member of either House.

And here’s the relevant section of the Criminal Code:

119. (1) Every one is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years who

(a) being the holder of a judicial office, or being a member of Parliament or of the legislature of a province, directly or indirectly, corruptly accepts, obtains, agrees to accept or attempts to obtain, for themselves or another person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by them in their official capacity, or

(b) directly or indirectly, corruptly gives or offers to a person mentioned in paragraph (a), or to anyone for the benefit of that person, any money, valuable consideration, office, place or employment in respect of anything done or omitted or to be done or omitted by that person in their official capacity.

I’m almost embarrassed to quote this stuff. It's so clear-cut that only the RCMP could find room to wiggle. But wiggle they did.

iPolitics journalist Michael Harris asks all of the right questions, and also sets a bit of context. This isn't the first time by any means that the RCMP has shown an apparent political side in its work. From blocking reporters from asking Harper questions on the 2008 campaign trail, to throwing young people out of a Conservative rally during the 2011 election campaign because they had been identified with other parties, to intimidating ordinary citizens for daring to question the Prime Minister's pro-pipeline stance, the RCMP has been acting more like Harper's Praetorian guard than an independent national police force.

When a plane hired by my former union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, flew an anti-Harper banner in Ottawa, the RCMP grounded it, claiming (falsely) that it had entered restricted airspace, and then telling the pilot that the airborne message ("Harper Hates Me" in French) could be construed as "hate speech." To use Paulson's own words in his letter today, "Come on."

Not should we forget the dutiful Commissioner's order last year that senior RCMP officers would have to get clearance from him if they were to meet with MPs or Senators, stating in an email that such meetings "can have unintended and/or negative consequences for the organization and the government." [emphasis added]

The RCMP: independent or political? You decide.

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