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 Forced Entry of Homes & Firearms Seizures
Reference is being made to my previous letters dated August 12 and August 27, 2013. Since I last wrote, we have further information that may be of assistance to your investigation.
On September 5th, Danielle Smith, MLA for the community of High River and Leader of the Official Opposition in the Alberta Legislature held a Town Hall meeting. I have sent you e-mails with the text and links to the media coverage since the meeting. I was invited by Ms. Smith to speak to the audience. During the meeting and after, Ms. Smith invited the more than three hundred citizens present to fill out a two-page form documenting how their homes and property were damaged during the raids and detailing property that was taken from their homes by the RCMP. Ms. Smith told the audience that she would be sending their reports to you. I have attached an example of this form provide to me by Don and Jane White. The audio file and transcript for the entire meeting would be very helpful to you and your investigators and both are available from Ms. Smith’s office. You can reach her at her constituency office: 403-995-5488.
KEY QUESTIONS THAT NEED TO BE ANSWERED BY YOUR INVESTIGATION:
(1) Who ordered the raids on homes in High River and why didn’t these orders extend to homes in other flooded communities in Alberta? We hear rumours that the RCMP Inspector in charge of the operation was recently promoted and at the time of the High River RCMP search and seizures he was still carrying business cards saying he was a Sgt. in the Calgary Major Crimes section. We also hear rumours that the RCMP applied for a General Warrant before the raids commenced on the High River homes but the Calgary judge denied the warrant. A copy of this application for the warrant would be very helpful in determining the RCMP’s rationale for the entire High River operation.
(2) Why did the RCMP kick in doors and seize guns from High River homes that weren’t flooded? We have High River citizens that will testify that their unflooded homes were searched and properly secured firearms were unlawfully taken.
(3) I have attached four pages of evidence provided by Don and Jane White of High River. These documents include two photocopied pages of the RCMP Constable’s notes taken at the time he broke and entered the White’s home and seized his eleven long guns. It’s clear from the Constable’s notes that this was a targeted search – not a search conducted going door-to-door. This evidence also shows that the RCMP ransacked the White’s home looking for his handguns that were never found. The Whites also informed me that their long guns were seriously damaged while being “secured”. Contrary to the RCMP’s claims that they were protecting property, the RCMP were in fact damaging property and reducing the value of the White’s firearms by their illegal search and seizure.
(4) In a letter to the Albert Property Rights Advocate dated August 16, 2013, the Commanding Officer for K Division, D.N. Dale McGowan stated: “The provisions of the Emergency Management Act (EMA Section 19) provided us with additional authorities under the state of emergencies. By way of the EMA we were authorized to enter into buildings, businesses and private homes, for the purposes of preserving life and protecting property.” This is not correct. Section 19(h) of the Emergency Management Act states: ” authorize the entry into any building or on any land, without warrant, by any person in the course of implementing an emergency plan or program;” Two well known Alberta lawyers advised that “building” in any Act does not mean the same as a “dwelling house.” Nor does this provincial act override Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
(5) In the same letter noted above, the K Division Commanding Officer stated: “While we were engaged in these residential searches for stranded occupants we came across situations where firearms had been left unsecured inside the home.” While this may be true in some instances, it is not true in all instances. We have been provided with testimony proving that the RCMP targeted the homes of specific gun owners and seized guns that were in locked closets, locked in cabinets complete with trigger locks. Why did they target these homes and how did they know the number and types of guns that were held in these targeted homes? As I noted in my last letter, it appears the RCMP had access to a bootlegged copy of the gun registry that was ordered destroyed by an Act of Parliament, Bill C-19.
(6) In the same letter, as noted in Item (4), the K Division Commanding Officer stated: “Again, based on the premise that police are subject to a common law duty to protect life and the exigent circumstances which existed at the time of this flooding disaster, in addition to the authorities derived by the declaration of the state of local emergency, RCMP officers entered businesses and private residences in High River( without a search warrant) to search for occupants who may be at risk or harm.” The High River search took place over many days and according to the Commanding Officer involved 4,000 homes. They had plenty of time to get a warrant so why didn’t they? Or is the truth as mentioned in Item (1), the RCMP applied for a General Warrant but were denied.
(7) Criminal Code of Canada section 487.11 states: Exigent circumstances only exist “. . . if the conditions for obtaining a warrant exist but by reason of exigent circumstances it would be impracticable to obtain a warrant.” What were the “conditions for obtaining the warrant” for the High River search and seizures? And why, was it “impracticable” for the RCMP to obtain a warrant? What “conditions” existed in High River that weren’t present in the other flooded communities in Alberta?
(8) In the same letter, the K Division Commanding Officer stated that the RCMP had searched over 4000 residences. Staff Sgt. RCMP Staff Sgt. Ian Shardlow, newly appointed NCO in charge of the High River Detachment stated that he had received 1,900 damage claims and that it would probably top out at 2,000 claims. Were there no damages done to the other 2,000 homes that were entered? This is hard to believe.
(9) On September 9th, the High River Times reported: “We have destroyed approximately 5,000 pounds of ammunition and we have 2,500 pounds here that will be destroyed as well,” said RCMP Staff Sergeant Ian Shardlow. Why did they seize ammunition at all? It wasn’t a danger to anyone as the RCMP already had the guns. Why destroy the ammunition? Why not just give this valuable property back to the owners with all their firearms? And how did they FIND the ammunition? Ammunition is very, very rarely left in “plain view”. They must have rifled dresser drawers, closets and cupboards, and locked storage cases. To add insult to injury the RCMP seized and destroyed tens of thousands of dollars of ammunition right in prime time Alberta hunting season!
(10) At the public meeting in High River on September 5th, I heard the following claims made by residents of the community. Many residences felt intimidated by both uniformed and plain clothes officers in the audience.
A. Residents reported that military helicopters had thermographic or infrared technology that was able to detect people and pets in High River homes from the air. If your investigation proves this to be true, why did the RCMP have to kick in any doors to homes?
B. One resident said the homes of two Mounties were the only doors on the street that weren’t broken into. RCMP S/Sgt. Ian Shardlow countered saying two of his members had their homes broken into and their guns seized.
C. One resident reported RCMP cutting wire in a farmer’s fence and chasing horses around on their quads.
D. Two residents reported that their doors were kicked in and their homes were high-and-dry.
E. A number of residents reported that their doors were kicked in even though the RCMP could have easily broken the window beside the door and unlocked the door.
F. Another resident reported that all three doors to her house were kicked in and two of the doors were unlocked.
G. A NFA member told me he had asked an RCMP officer how they knew where the guns were when the registry was supposed to be destroyed and the RCMP officer said, “We have our ways.”
H. Another resident confronted a RCMP officer she knew and asked him why they kicked in the doors and he responded, “”Les, there’s no better feeling than booting in a door.”
I. Another resident reported that his house was entered three times before they found his guns.
J. One resident showed me pictures of his house and said the Mounties had to wade through waist- deep water to get to his closet where his guns were stored. So much for all the firearms seized being in “plain view.”
K. Another man told me he was arrested for having an illegal clip/magazine (even though the clip wouldn’t fit any of his firearms. He said he was jailed for two days and then they took him handcuffed to several ATMs to get his bail money.
L. Finally, there were several residents reported RCMP officers were seen high-fiving each other after kicking in the doors to private dwellings.
Here is the text of two more of my Access to Information Act requests:
RCMP – OTTAWA HQ, K DIVISION & HIGH RIVER DETACHMENT
Details regarding the information being sought: For the period from June 20, 2013 to present, please provide copies of all overtime claims and all expense claims submitted by each and every member of the RCMP who worked in the community of High River, Alberta.
Details regarding the information being sought: For the period from June 20, 2013 to present, please provide copies all notes taken by officers “securing” firearms and other valuables from homes in High River, Alberta during the flood.
Thanks again for your help to find out the truth. Please let us know if we can be of any assistance in your investigation of these rights violations.
Dennis R. Young
Alberta, NWT & International Director
Canada’s National Firearms Association
1330 Ravenswood Drive SE
Airdrie, Alberta T4A 0P8