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Tell Me This Can’t Be So! MPPAC Is An Answer!

Jun 23

I. The Question

G’day, everyone! Boutcha?” That’s to make your esteemed leader feel at home. Please forgive me for my absence. I had computer issues and was called out on a matter of some concern. However, I have returned and have a little something for you to read and ponder. I may have mentioned to you at some time in the past that my father Commander Charles “Charlie” Webster was an Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy. He skippered R.C.N. Corvettes (P.T. Boats) in the North Atlantic during WWII. When I was old enough to understand and appreciate what he was saying he would regale me with “war stories” and political opinion. I recall sitting in our kitchen, of an evening, for hours on end listening to his sagas and opinions regarding Hitler and Mussolini’s politics (and teasing my Italian mother about the latter).

I’ve thought about this topic for awhile and want to run it past you. It may be a bit of a stretch, but I’d like you to throw in with the Commander and me; I’m keen to hear what you think? (Just to keep everything in perspective whenever I mention Mussolini keep his Canadian equivalent in mind). And if I mention the police, remember there were two principle organizations; the tradition conscious Federal Carabinieri (with its’ roots in the military) and the Pubblica Sicurezza (kind of like a Provincial Police). Not unlike Canada’s setup.

So to begin, it is widely believed that Benito Mussolini was the first leader of a successful terrorist organization. There is some controversy around his “march” on Rome but much agreement that he came to power as a result of his use of illegal political violence to frighten his ideological opponents into submission (e.g. Seton-Watson, 1967).

Since it is the police, in most societies that would have first responsibility to defend against a “terrorist” type attack (e.g. recall the police response to Patrice Vincent and Nathan Cirillo), we could assume that they would have the responsibility to investigate and arrest those involved.

And in the recent case of Mr. Zehaf-Bibeau it might be considered that the government had, if not a “hidden” agenda, at the very least an “obscure” one. Moreover, it seemed as if our National Police Service and its’ assistants, the “internal security forces”, on the hill, reacted with varying levels of efficiency. Recall the very detailed video of Mr. Zehaf-Bebeau’s comings and goings and yet little response from security forces; and what about the terrified mother (wheeling her infant in a carriage) who had much of the evidence at her finger-tips almost immediately but wasn’t interviewed until many weeks later?

Please remember I say what is to follow with some trepidation, however I believe it must be said. Historically it has been alleged that some of Britain’s large police services have at times been slow to move against “terrorist” groups due to being sympathetic with the “cause” or having ulterior motives (e.g. Beloff, 1985). It may be that in some cases the police are reticent to arrest a member of a terrorist group as they are either in favour of the cause or could use the incident to further their own ends. There has been discussion of several hypotheses including; the police holding racist sympathies with the policies of the terrorist group or perhaps sharing private opposition to, for example, equality of the sexes within their own profession, or the act of abortion (Hern, 1984).

Moreover, if a group that has engaged in “terrorist” activities portrays itself as patriotic and supporting “national” ideals, law enforcement may show some reluctance to act against them. There have been examples, south of the border where some hardline white supremist groups have openly acquired weapons, engaged in paramilitary training, and predicted a time when defending “freedom” with (armed) violence may become necessary. Such groups seem to operate basking in the benevolent gaze of local law enforcement; whereas, the militant black groups of the late 50’s and early 60’s were brutally crushed by the FBI and other “internal security organizations” (don’t forget the new powers bequeathed upon C.S.I.S. Canada’s equivalent to the U.S’s Federal Bureau of Investigation).

OK, the stage is set, here is where we tend to tread softly and read between the lines. Mussolini’s fascist movement (do we not have what appears to be a similar entity?) seems to fit best in the murky area of semi-legal (therefore semi-tolerated) “terrorist” movements and the reaction of the Italian Police (read the Canadian equivalent here) to the challenge of fascism was neither strong nor successful. In his “power grab” Il Duce and his cronies kept a high profile, and weren’t shy to push a law enforcement agenda with increased powers (yet a decreased budget) for law enforcement, and decreased freedoms for the citizens. Il Duce’s colleagues were always in the public eye and while some of them were occasionally arrested there was no well organized effort to put the ministers of this revolutionary “terrorist” group behind bars. (The Canadian Senate Scandal?).

It would be overly simplistic to suggest that Mr. Harper is following in Il Duce’s footsteps while surrendering our liberal democracy to the principles of fascism. There must be something else going on? How and why has our once proud National Police Service allowed itself to be seduced by what appears to be nothing more nor less than fascism.

II. An Answer

Using the Italian example, it seems clear that the Italian police could have stopped the fascist movement at any time prior to Mussolini’s march on Rome. They didn’t!

One major criticism involved the organizational defects in the law enforcement structure, that had been long suspect but never addressed. Canada, not unlike Italy, at the time has police services that are over-stretched and have difficulty cooperating with one and other. Disliking and mistrusting each other, as is often the case with the RCMP and it’s Provincial and Municipal counterparts( this opinion is based upon personal observation after working for over 40 years in Canadian law enforcement) may lead to competition in an attempt to gain favour with a government hurtling toward fascism, rather than combining to oppose what may prove to be a common enemy. As occurred in Italy, one police organization in Canada (the RCMP) motivated by the belief that it is the best, can do the best, and is ‘Canada’s Police Force’, may accept promises from the ‘hurtling’ government, mentioned previously, that could come true and incur a debt; or not come true and find themselves replaced by something resembling Mussolini’s ‘Black-Shirts’ militia ( recall a couple of articles ago something on the growing power of ‘private police’ in North America ).

Once again, as in Italy , the Federal Police ( RCMP ) have been badly treated by the government (e.g. constantly be asked to do more with less). This of course presents no incentive to demonstrate loyalty to a more democratic government within the parliamentary system. This type of mistreatment, as in the Italian example, is largely economic, and economic issues are of importance to a National Police Service that is embarrassingly unpaid.

Moreover, general duty police persons learned that they couldn’t rely on their own senior executive, let alone their political masters, to support them when they executed distasteful orders. (Recall how RCMP senior executives abandoned the YVR four, when the former realized they had been duped by Taser International). It is not uncommon for politicians or senior police executives to give ‘wishy-washy’ orders to the ‘grunts’ and then criticize or ‘can’ them if there were negative consequences. (Remember the ‘Surrey Six fiasco). If police investigators come to view themselves as pieces on some righteous chessboard being used in an endless series of political manoeuvres or worse yet abandoned by their political masters; anything can happen.

At the heart of it all, these once well motivated police persons become alienated from the public they once served. So now being shunned by both the public and their senior executive and having developed a mistrust of their own political masters…..a sense of abandonment develops. In the Italian example, Il Duce and his ‘consiglieri’ became adept at manipulating this sense of isolation; offering favours to those who cooperated and punishment to those who didn’t (Bill C-51).

In this article I am not suggesting that Canada is following in lock-step with pre-WWII Italy; only that there are some important things to keep in mind from the Italian experience, for example:

1) The RCMP must never be allowed to become isolated from the community that it serves. Each RCMP member must be assisted in retaining pride in what he does and that she is an integral part of the society that he polices. A fair and competitive salary is an important part of self respect. Police salaries have always been an easy target for budget cuts. However it could backfire if the government impoverishes the RCMP just when they are needed to protect the country against a threat.

2) The RCMP’s mandate must be to enforce the law equitably. This mandate will be in question as long as the RCMP Commissioner holds the position of a Deputy Minister in the government of the day. In essence the possibility exists for the RCMP to be used as the Prime Minister’s private police service (remember the Italian experience). The RCMP must never be put in a position where it even has the appearance of being a pawn in government business. The equitable enforcement of the law must never take a back seat to government ‘wheeling and dealing’ that may not be understood by the rank and file.

3) It appears that throughout history terrorist movements tend to start small. Moreover, there seems to be unanimity of agreement that domestic police services meet with more success in the early stages of combatting a terrorist threat than either combat troops or specialized (e.g. ERT) units (Wardlaw, 1982). As the police will likely always be the first line of defense of an open society’s response to a terrorist threat, it may be of some advantage to generate a body of empirical research on this point.

As prefaced in the title of this piece, one of the best methods of keeping the members of a bargaining unit strong, united, autonomous, healthy, free from vulnerabilities, and thinking straight is a union or association. There is a very good chance that history could have been written differently if many combatants in many wars had been represented by strong bargaining units. That’s right this is another plug for MPPAC!! Like I told you last time we spoke, YOU ARE EITHER PART OF THE SOLUTION OR YOU’RE PART OF THE PROBLEM!!! I’ll add something this time, GET ON BOARD OR GET OUT OF THE WAY, IT’S COMIN’!!!!!


Beloff, Max, and Peele, Gillian. The Government of the U.K: Political Authority in a Changing Society. 2nd Edition. London: Norton, 1985.

Hern, Warren. The Anti-Abortion Vigilantes. The New York Times, 21 December, 1984:35.

Seton-Watson, C. Italy from Liberalism to Fascism. London: Methuen,1967.

Wardlaw, Grant. Political Terrorism: Theory, Tactics, and Counter-Measures. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1982.


Dr. Mike Webster
Reg’d Psych



From → Other

One Comment
  1. thekraaken permalink

    Yes our national police force needs a union. One that is ready to sign up people from coast to coast. One with the ability to put in place stewards immediately. One that has trained negotiators. One that is a national union. The national police force does not need a bunch of amateurs taking several years to get up to speed but will still be light years behind unions everywhere.

    What the RCMP needs to do is join the Teamsters. International union. Ready to organize. Decades of negotiating experience. A union with clout.


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