Thursday, December 7, 2006

When will the other shoe drop?

I just wanted to talk this morning about the resignation of Giuliano Zaccardelli as Commissioner of the RCMP -- essentially Canada's top cop.

I think it's just the first shoe dropping. I don't think we've quite heard all the answers quite yet from the whole Maher Arar affair and there are still people left in both the Liberals and the Conservatives who have to answer for what happened to him. The fact is, though, the Mounties have the most to answer for, especially the senior management of "The Force," as the RCMP calls itself. They are not just a symbol but our national police force and militia, with major roles in fighting organized crime and running counterintelligence, and in most provinces they are the highway patrol as well. They are a part of the fabric of Canadian life far beyond the Musical Ride. That goes without saying of course, but the twenty-one thousand women and men who wear the Red Serge deserve far better leadership than what we've gotten the last six years under Zaccardelli.

Why do they deserve better? Simply put, Canadians see those who have been invited to join The Force as the best of the best. We expect the Mounties to live up to the highest moral and ethical standards. That's true of all cops, but for some reason (maybe because of the stereotypes Hollywood has played out) we think they are a cut above. Slipping erroneous or misleading information about Maher Arar was not just a mere slip-up but a serious lack of judgement. In the private sector, such actions would lead to dismissal. In self-regulated professions like the law or accounting, being outcast and certainly public humiliation.

But the public service? The rules seem to be different for them, as we all found out from the Gomery Report.

There has been talk the last few days that the Mounties may need someone from the outside to step in and clean up the image of The Force. Maybe the real solution is to do below the Deputy Commisioner level and find a man or a woman -- and at this stage, I'm kind of hoping it will be a woman -- who's been on the front lines all these years and who's actually handled all the bric-a-brac they do rather than just been sitting behind a desk pushing paper. If it was a Deputy, I think the other shoe would drop very quickly if he or she had even the slightest hint of taint in the Arar scandal or anything else of disrepute.

We can't have democracy without law and order, which the Mounties normally exemplify. Zaccardelli's leaving is the first step. The question that must ultimately be asked is, what did both Irwin Cotler and Stockwell Day know, and when did they know it?

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