So much for our ‘official’ activists,
the B.C. Civil Liberties Association

The BCCLA co-operate with corrupt bigshots and support
the BC Liberal con job on police accountability

Dec. 3, 2011


BCCLA spokesmen David Eby, Jason Gratl and Robert Holmes:
They repeatedly congratulate the government for propping up the cop status quo.


The B.C. Civil Liberties Association say they’ve spent 15 years calling for police reform. Maybe BCCLA activists were sincere 15 years ago, but they’re not now. That’s not to say they won’t criticize the police. But they won’t challenge the system that supports police misconduct, or the people who sustain it. Even worse, the BCCLA show signs of actually supporting the police status quo. As a result, I now take a darker view of the organization than expressed in a previous, more ambivalent post.

The group’s sins are a combination of omission and commission. They haven’t even tried to enlighten the media, and therefore the public, about what’s wrong with our system of police accountability. So there’s little informed discussion about how it might be improved. Even worse, they’ve repeatedly congratulated the provincial government, even though it’s circumventing police reform. Furthermore they’re granting legitimacy to some corrupt characters who take part in police cover-ups.

The BCCLA are in an ideal position to educate the public. The media listen to them. In fact, the media have granted them a near-monopoly on critical comment about this issue. But the BCCLA say little about how to actually achieve accountability, except that police shouldn’t investigate police.

Here’s just one possible approach that they might take.

If the BCCLA did anything remotely similar, the media and public would be better informed. As a result, the government wouldn’t find it so easy to prop up the status quo.

Instead, the BCCLA continually lets our media misinform the public. Twice last month, for example, dozens of media outlets across the province repeated the fallacy that B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner investigates cops. Had the BCCLA only told them, they would have published corrections. In addition, journalists would be less likely to make that oft-repeated mistake again. The BCCLA didn’t bother.

This seriously inaccurate public discourse only plays into the hands of the police status quo.

The previous month, and hardly for the first time, the BCCLA let the BC Liberals hoodwink our gullible media. This time the government spun a yarn about how special prosecutors will supposedly enhance police accountability. When asked for his comment, BCCLA executive director David Eby switched the topic to services for addicts. I don’t know whether he did that deliberately or he just wasn’t thinking. But, in doing so, he avoided responding to the BC Liberals’ false assurances, thereby helping them con the media and the public.

That’s what the BCCLA have been doing for a long time, sometimes deliberately. On June 18, 2010 BCCLA president Robert Holmes publicly congratulated then-Solicitor General Mike de Jong and the BC Liberals for their “historic and courageous step” in supposedly ending the practice of cops investigating cops. Three days later the BCCLA issued a press release with this headline:

“BCCLA celebrates the end of police self investigation”

Unfortunately the government hadn’t done any such thing. Nor was there any justification for the group’s premature congratulations:

“We simply cannot improve on Commissioner Braidwood’s recommendations and we are thrilled that the province will move to implement them in the next year,” said Robert Holmes, President of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “We offer our congratulations to the province for taking this historic step, as well as our support and assistance in ensuring that the new body is as robust and independent as Commissioner Braidwood clearly hopes it will be.”

But the government announcement that brought about Holmes’ praise had already fallen short of Braidwood’s recommendations. I pointed this out, as did a UBC law professor. Nevertheless the BCCLA ignored us, which suggests they ignore anything, including important factual information, that comes from outside their little circle of insiders and clients.

With no objections from the BCCLA, the government stalled for nearly a year before finally announcing its legislation, Bill 12. Then, as the law professor and I feared, it wasn’t nearly what Braidwood recommended and compares poorly to the Ontario model that B.C. was supposedly following. Yet here’s the headline from the May 17, 2011 BCCLA press release:

“BCCLA welcomes end of police self investigation in B.C.”

Sound familiar?

Here’s a key excerpt from that press release:

“We are very pleased to hear that the province is acting on these critically important recommendations,” said Jason Gratl, Vice-President of the BCCLA. “We hope that this legislation is crafted to meet the Braidwood Inquiry recommendations exactly, because anything short of that will fail to meet our shared goal of restoring public confidence in the police.” [Emphasis added.]

Well the legislation fell very far short of Braidwood’s recommendations, as I’ve pointed out here, here and here. What has the BCCLA said about it? Nothing.

Strangely, that BCCLA press release was issued hours before the government announcement. Why didn’t the BCCLA wait until they’d seen the announcement before responding?

Here’s what I think happened. The BCCLA guessed or were tipped off (an advantage to having establishment contacts) that the government was going to gut Braidwood’s recommendations. They wanted to suck up to the government to further their establishment ambitions. So they congratulated the government in advance while avoiding any response to its actual legislation.

And they’ve been avoiding that ever since.

Another problem — the BCCLA co-operates with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, thereby granting legitimacy to a corrupt organization. The OPCC does give special consideration to cases backed by the BCCLA. But in other cases OPCC staff rubber-stamp cop-on-cop investigations and even collude in police cover-ups.

In his previous job as a Crown attorney, police complaint commissioner Stan Lowe took part in the decision to clear the four Mounties involved in Robert Dziekanski’s death, stating emphatically that the five Taser shocks and other brutal treatment inflicted on him were “reasonable and necessary.” One week later Lowe was appointed head of the OPCC, an outrageous development that drew no response from the BCCLA.

Lowe’s second-in-command, deputy police complaint commissioner Rollie Woods, is a proven liar who makes up the Criminal Code as he goes along. While heading Vancouver Police Professional Standards, Woods conducted dishonest investigations to clear his fellow officers of wrongdoing.

It’s bad enough that Lowe hired this corrupt cop in the first place. But Lowe promoted him to be his second-in-command, thereby ensuring a dishonest police culture would prevail at the OPCC.

All Eby had to say was that he had no concern about Woods, only about the “perception” caused by employing ex-cops in that position. Would it be a matter of mere “perception” if B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth hired a known pedophile? The analogy is strong, but justified.

Two sides of the BCCLA came out following Vancouver police constable Taylor Robinson’s gratuitous assault on a handicapped woman, Sandy Davidsen. It was the BCCLA that brought the assault to light. But they didn’t criticize the six-week VPD cover-up. Lowe knows there was a cover-up but refuses to act on it. Most likely, he was personally involved, possibly Woods too. The BCCLA won’t challenge the OPCC on this or anything else. While cops make relatively easy targets, no one with establishment ambitions criticizes the OPCC.

And that’s what I think drives the BCCLA — establishment ambitions.

There are some minor exceptions. The BCCLA did criticize the Solicitor General for hiring two highly paid retired Mounties to advise the government on Bill 12. That’s a good point, although it’s hardly news that the SG’s department employs ex-cops in senior positions. And, when it comes to Bill 12, the BCCLA should be addressing the bigger issue — that the new Independent Investigations Office will be everything the police status quo could have asked for.

Just recently the BCCLA has criticized the enormous investigative delays that help thwart RCMP accountability, as if that’s a newly discovered problem. But the RCMP are supposedly coming under the IIO’s jurisdiction, at least where the most serious incidents are involved. And the IIO is designed to fail. That’s where the BCCLA should be focusing its attention.

Again, given the BCCLA’s establishment ambitions, it’s not surprising they ignored the RCMP shooting death of Jeff Hughes. It’s probably the most disturbing case of B.C. police brutality I’ve heard about since taking on this project. The BCCLA has said nothing about it, surrendering principle to political correctness.

These guys are B.C.’s “official” activists, to whom the media listen and the government sometimes responds. But they’re so badly compromised that they’re part of the problem themselves.

There’s no indication that British Columbia will ever achieve a reasonable degree of police accountability. For that we can thank, in part, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

Read more about the BCCLA’s campaign against police accountability
Read more about B.C.’s inadequate Independent Investigations Office
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