Sunday, November 08, 2009

More RCMP dryrot

It had somehow escaped my notice, but RCMP Superintendent Mike Cabana--notorious for his involvement in the Maher Arar affair--subsequently received a promotion. He's now an RCMP assistant commissioner. That's how that discredited organization operates.

This sort of thing gives you the measure of the man:

Cabana remains unrepentant for his role in supplying American security officials with information on Arar, without securing protective assurances.


RCMP Supt. Mike Cabana who headed up the investigation in the Ottawa area said Canadian officials were concerned Arar was being abused early in his captivity in Syria, but they exchanged intelligence anyway.

"As appalling as it may sound to you, part of our duties in Canada, in trying to protect the Canadian public, means that from time to time we have to deal with countries that don't necessarily have the same record as we do. And don't necessarily treat their prisoners the same as we do.

"And I would submit to you that if we didn't consider dealing with these countries, the security of Canadians would be greatly at risk," he told the inquiry.


"If all my supervisors around the table and all my seniors, people more senior than me, think that it's my mandate and protecting the Canadian public, I will go forward and share the information."

What's a little torture in the grand scheme of things? And, after all, he was just following orders.

Well, Cabana is back in the news today.

It seems that the RCMP is about to kick one of their prized informants out of the Witness Protection Program for doing radio interviews for a "true crime" book. He's a marked man: you don't play a pivotal role in jailing full-patch Hell's Angels and their pals and get forgiven.

But there may be more to this than radio interviews. It seems that, while he was an informant, he gave the RCMP a warning that a hit was about to take place. But despite providing more and more specifics, the RCMP didn't return his calls, and the hit went ahead.

One of his handlers was Mike Cabana. And he certainly had his priorities straight:

Should this matter proceed to court, this information will likely be disclosed, thereby tarnishing the Force's reputation, not to mention any civil liability that might flow from this situation.

Now, for all I know, Cabana is a delightful individual on a personal level. But what we see here, as in the Arar affair, is classic institution-speak, the utterances of a "good company man," the quintessential Weberian bureaucrat who does what he is told and questions nothing.

After Dziekanski, the corporate culture of the RCMP has come in for a lot of scrutiny. It is a defensive organization in which the first rule is unthinking loyalty and the second is to close ranks when mistakes are made--particularly lethal ones. It is an institution pathologically unable to reflect on, much less take responsibility for, the actions of the individuals within it.

Cabana's voiced attitude, replicated endlessly within the force, sums up everything that is wrong with the RCMP today. It is cavalier about the human tragedies that it causes, blasé about civil liberties, and concerned above all with protecting the RCMP image and avoiding liability. But this attitude indicates, above all, a fear of accountability--an accountability, however, that
in a democracy, every police service must have to those whom they are charged to serve and protect.

A complete top-to-bottom independent institutional audit of the RCMP is more than overdue. Cabana's perspective on things, in fairness, is a symptom, not the disease itself. But the question in my mind, there for some time now after Arar and the Bush and Dziekanski killings, is--can this organization actually be cured?

Or do we need to build another national police force from the ground up, inoculate it with appropriate values, and build a new corporate culture under functional independent oversight?

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