Mr. Ian McPhail, Q.C., Interim Chair
Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP
National Intake Office
P.O. Box 88689,
Dear Mr. McPhail:
RE: HIGH RIVER – WHY DIDN’T THE RCMP TELL REPORTERS THE WHOLE TRUTH?
Thanks again for your help to report the whole truth of what went so terribly wrong in High River during the flood and immediately after. Please let us know if we can be of any help with your investigation of these human rights violations.
Below are a number of quotes made by RCMP personnel during and after the High River Flood door-kicking and firearms and ammunition search and seizure operation. It appears these spokespersons either did not know what was actually happening on the ground or in the water in High River or they failed to tell reporters the full story, for whatever reason, no one knows. Everyone hopes that your investigation of this fiasco will be able to address this concern as well as answer the many other questions sent to you by Danielle Smith, Leader of the Official Opposition in Alberta, her fifty-some constituents and the ones I have asked in my three previous letters and my ten Access to Information Act requests filed with the RCMP.
The NFA and I strongly support the RCMP. But we do not think it is or should be above criticism. Hiding the truth about what happened in High River will only undermine the trust we have in the Force more than it already is. I am an ex-member of the RCMP and a member of the Calgary RCMP Veterans Association. We are proud of our service to Canada, but many of us don’t like what we see happening to the RCMP. A thorough investigation, a public airing of all the facts and answers to everyone’s questions and concerns, about what really happened in High River, is desperately needed so we can start rebuilding the trust in the RCMP before the next community has to call a state of emergency.
RCMP Sergeant Patricia Neely told the Globe and Mail, “Firearms that were unsafely stored in plain sight were seized for safekeeping,” (see link to news clipping below) NOT TRUE: Several High River residents have reported having firearms seized that were properly stored and not in “plain sight”!
Inspector Garrett Woolsey told the Calgary Herald, “During the course of those operations, naturally, our officers do encounter firearms. “And that’s the bottom line in a case like this. We secured the firearms only for public safety reasons.” (see link to news clipping below) NOT TRUE: We have documented proof that some High River homes were specifically targeted because they owned firearms, the search and seizure was not as a result of a door-to-door search and the owners had previously reported to the authorities that they were safe and not at home!https://www.calgaryherald.com/Transcript+High+River+press+conference+floods+guns+getting+back+home/8594914/story.html
Sgt. Brian Topham told the National Post, “People have a significant amount of money invested in firearms … so we put them in a place that we control and that they’re safe.”(see link to news clipping below)
NOT TRUE: Several High River residents report having their valuable firearms damaged during the RCMP seizures and still wonder who will pay for the damage done to their firearms!
Const. Francine Hennelly told the Calgary Herald, “We seized any firearms that were noted that were in plain view,” she said. “We seized what we saw that could potentially be a hazard.” “Anything properly stored in gun lockers were left.” (see link to news clipping below) NOT TRUE: Several High River residents report that their guns were seized from safe storage including gun lockers!
Assistant Commissioner Marianne Ryan, Criminal Operations “K” Division RCMP said in an RCMP news release, “The last thing any gun owner wants is to have their guns fall into the wrong hands. Residents of High River can be assured that firearms now in possession of the RCMP are in safe hands, and will be returned to them as soon as is practically possible. Gun owners will also be provided the option of having the RCMP keep the guns until they are able to store them safely.” (see link to news release below) NOT TRUE:Several High River gun owners have said their firearms seized by the RCMP were stored safely, in accordance with federal firearms regulations and/or well hidden and were in no danger of “falling into the wrong hands”! Many firearms seized by the RCMP were returned damaged – the exact opposite of “safe hands”!
Sgt. Brian Topham told the Calgary Herald that the forced entry into the homes and the seizure of the firearms was both a favor to the residents and a way to ensure the safety of the public during the deluge. “We just want to make sure that all of those things are in a spot that we control, simply because of what they are,” Topham added. “People have a significant amount of money invested in firearms … so we put them in a place that we control and that they’re safe,” Topham added. (see link to news clipping below)
SAY WHAT? A “favour to residents” – how many of the 1,900 owners of the homes they damaged in High River considered it a “favor? AND ALSO NOT TRUE: Many residents report their firearms were damaged during the seizures thereby decreasing the value of their property!
Staff Sgt. Brian Jones told the Sun News Network that there was no order given to seize guns. “Everything we did followed from the Alberta Emergency Measures Act,” Jones said. “Within that, powers are given to enter businesses and residences to make sure people are safe, to see whether they need assistance. “Through checking residences, firearms were located and secured.” (see link to news clipping below)
NOT TRUE: There had to be an “order given to seize guns” – especially ones that were properly stored, trigger locked, in locked closets or gun lockers! The one thing the RCMP and the Military do is follow orders – if they don’t they get into trouble! The Alberta Emergency Management Act says nothing about giving authority to police to seize firearms and ammunition that are legally and safely stored.
Sun News Columnist Lorne Gunter reported on August 10, 2013, “Consider the explanation Friday from RCMP Sgt. Josee Valiquette. She told Sun News that a gun stored in a closet is in plain sight if it can be seen once the door to the closet is opened.” (see link to news clipping below)
NOTE TRUE: As Lorne Gunter went on to explain, “But even that mind-stretching definition does not cover Kvisle’s guns. His guns were so not “in plain sight” that Mounties missed on their first two searches of his home.”
Deputy Commissioner D.N. (Dale) McGowan, Commanding Officer of K Divisionwrote a letter to the Alberta Property Rights Advocate stating: ” . . . we did not take operational direction from any elected officials or public service employees to enter in private homes and remove personal property. By way of overview, during this period, while searching over 4000 residences and businesses or offices did on just over 100 instances, come across firearms which were not properly and lawfully secured. In those instances the weapons were seized under the authorities provide for within the Criminal Code of Canada and made secure until they could be returned to their owners.” (see link to letter below)
NOT TRUE: Several High River residents have reported having firearms seized that were “properly and lawfully secured”!
Deputy Commissioner D.N. (Dale) McGowan, Commanding Officer of K Division
It is clear from the K Division Commanding Officer’s comments, “we did not take operational direction from any elected officials or public service employees,” that either he or officers under his command gave all the orders to the RCMP and the military to kick in at least 1,900 doors and seize property and; therefore, must take full responsibility for:
- The repeated violation of section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms which protects everyone’s right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure by entering homes without a warrant and seizing property without a warrant when there was ample time to obtain a warrant;
- All the damages done to homes and property caused by breaking into at least 1,900 homes and searching more than 4000 homes and businesses;
- All the mental anguish and feelings of being violated the High River homeowners felt by having strangers enter their homes and search through their private and personal belongings;
- All the High River homes the RCMP broke into that were not flooded;
- All the High River doors the RCMP kicked in that weren’t even locked;
- All the firearms the RCMP seized that were lawfully secured and all damages done to those firearms while they were purportedly protecting valuable property;
- All the High River homes the RCMP broke into more than once to find firearms that were supposedly in “plain view”;
- Seizing and destroying 7,500 pounds of ammunition as reported by RCMP Staff Sergeant Ian Shardlow at the Town Hall meeting on September 5th;
- The unintended consequences of the RCMP’s actions the next time there is a flood, fire or other emergency in an Alberta community when hundreds of citizens refuse to evacuate because they no longer trust the RCMP to do the right thing if they leave their homes unattended; and finally,
- Launching a full investigation into the actions of RCMP personnel who acted illegally or inappropriately during the High River operation (i.e. High-fiving each other after kicking in doors) and making sure the appropriate disciplinary measures are handed out and communicated to the public.
Thanks again, Mr. McPhail. We look forward to reading your report.
Dennis R. Young
Alberta, NWT & International Director
Canada’s National Firearms Association
1330 Ravenswood Drive SE
Airdrie, Alberta T4A 0P8
cc The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson