Archive for December, 2011

Wrongful convictions have been a part of the Canadian criminal justice system for decades. Yet very few criminologists or legal scholars have been looking into the topic. We have only recently begun looking at previous criminal convictions which may have been the result of a wrongful conviction. A situation where an individual is found to be legally guilty of a crime he or she did not commit; and the actual perpetrator is out free in the world. For a variety of reasons a person may be wrongfully convicted of a crime he or she did not commit, and the only way to prove his or her innocence is in a court of law. The various research that has been conducted on this topic primarily focuses on the phenomenon of tunnel vision, which Margaret Beare defines in her scholarly article Shouting Innocence from the Highest Rooftop as: “the single-minded and overly narrow focus on an investigation or prosecutorial theory so as to unreasonably color the evaluation of information received and one’s conduct in response to the information”(2008, p.21). Put differently, tunnel vision is the presumption that an individual suspect is guilty at an early stage of the investigation and proceeding with that focus firmly in mind. But Beare and her colleagues have determined that while tunnel vision is definitely a factor in wrongful convictions, it is the end result. A variety of other factors including faulty investigatory procedures, police deviance and corruption, and systemic, structural, and individual factors, all play a huge role in adding up to the final step, of tunnel vision. Various inquiries have been held to determine the root causes of these wrongful convictions but the recommendations stemming from these extremely time-consuming follow ups are not being followed or understood, and more wrongful convictions are occurring. These recommendations are not being understood by the police officers, and more importantly the individual police agencies are failing to accept this guidance. They are not doing enough in regards to re-training of officers or training of new ones in order to help combat this problem. Noble cause corruption is another phenomenon which leads to wrongful convictions. It is a mindset or sub-culture which fosters a belief that the ends justify the means. Also various other factors have come to light including invalid expert testimony given by so called experts in the field, which has later proven to be incorrect.
An interesting theme that is apparent to the broader literature is the use of DNA testing to exonerate hundreds of wrongfully convicted individuals. A majority of wrongful conviction articles look at cases in the United States of America; this is not surprising in the sense that the U.S. has a much larger criminal justice system in comparison to its neighbor, Canada. Also Leo and Gould give other factors in wrongful convictions, included in their article Studying Wrongful Convictions: Learning from Social Science, which are “eyewitness misidentifications, false confessions, informant perjury, junk science, tunnel vision, police, and prosecutorial error”(2009, p.18). Many of these are in direct relation to the police. Police deviance has been an ongoing issue for decades now, and lately has become more and more prominent due to the advancements in technology, and the media attention it receives. Leo and Gould highlight the fact that in the late 1980′s DNA testing is what launched the inquiries into wrongful convictions, and since then more than 230 individuals have been exonerated of their wrongful sentences. We must not forget that there are currently hundreds of applications for inquiries into cases, but due to the lengthy time it takes for the cases to proceed, innocent individuals remain stripped of their liberties and freedoms.
Margaret Beare makes a very interesting point in regards to police officers assuming innocence until proven guilty. When one is working for weeks, months, and in some cases years to prove the guilt of an individual it is extremely difficult for him to build his guilty case by assuming innocence. She points out an apparent theme in many of these wrongful conviction cases to be “that justice is a game that you wrap to fit your preference, or your unconscious biases. Therefore “shop around” and select evidence, experts, and judges based on your specific agenda”(2008, p.33). Erroneous errors in police investigations have been one of the most common causes of wrongful convictions. Officers wanting to get the guy they “know” to be guilty and forgetting about other possible suspects, which leads to their instincts being false. This has been repeated time and time again in several wrongful convictions such as the case of Donald Marshall Jr.
Beare argues that wrongful convictions are caused by other issues such as systemic problems within the criminal justice system itself. She goes on to say these are “problems that won’t be fixed as long as the miscarriage of justice is treated as an isolated even…wrongful convictions don’t occur in a vacuum. There are systemic reasons they go wrong”(2008, p.29). She stresses the fact that just saying it is a systemic problem does not cure the fact that it continues to go on. In relation to this I have noticed that many of the articles published make various realizations such as, this is a problem with the criminal justice system, or a structural problem within a specific organization, but they make no suggestions in regards to solving these issues. We must ask ourselves how big of an actual problem is this, that it is taking this long to solve? Agreeing with Bears belief, Punch suggests that police corruption and deviance should be looked at through a systemic viewpoint, and many instances of deviance are due to organizational problems.
The idea of noble cause corruption is also something to ponder in the sense that the “justice officials – in the name of getting a conviction – are prepared to violate laws, Charter protections, and any number of ethical considerations”(Beare, 2008, p.33). According to Maurice Punch in his text Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing, noble cause as an officer doing what he had to do in order to “get a result, achieve convictions and see justice done.”(2009, p.107). He believes that an officer is guilty of the noble cause corruption syndrome when said officer is willing to do anything within his means to achieve a conviction. The officer strongly believes that a guilty person will get away with a crime unless he or she does something about it. Whether this means putting someone they suspect of committing a crime behind bars, instead of having solid proof, then so be it. Many officers work on cases and investigations for months at a time only to be left with the uncertainty of whether the suspect will get convicted. Many officers take it upon themselves to ensure that ‘justice is served’, and feel that they are doing it for the good of the community and in some cases, the country.

Some Wrongful Conviction Victims in Canada
Some Canadian wrongful conviction victims: Donald Marshall Jr., James Driskell, David Milgaard, William Mullins-Johnson, Steven Truscott, Kyle Unger

Various wrongful conviction inquiries have been made in the past several decades, many of which have gathered vast media attention. One of the major ones that made headlines around the globe was the wrongful conviction of Steven Truscott. He was sentenced to hanging in 1969, at the age of 14 for a schoolmates murder. After spending several months as Canada’s youngest inmate on death row, his sentence was changed to life imprisonment. After spending almost his entire life in prison the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2007 overturned his conviction declaring the case “a miscarriage of justice that must be quashed”. He was awarded compensation for the mistake but that does not come close to the years of mental and physical anguish he had to endure while imprisoned. This was due to a number of factors, such as police laying down charges too quickly, and completely ignoring other potential suspects. Such as a sexual offender living nearby, and an electrician with a rape conviction; both were ignored by police, the obvious question being, why was this?(CBC, June 7/08).
Another interesting inquiry was made into the case of Donald Marshall Jr. where he was convicted of murdering his friend. It gives an example where police officers conceived a predetermined notion that he was the killer. Since he was already known to police they focused the investigation onto him. After his sentence had been overturned an inquiry commission determined that “systemic racism had contributed to his conviction”(CBC, Oct 14/10). Margaret Beare mentioned in her article that race was a prominent factor in many of the wrongful conviction cases in Canada; but even when the race factor was absent, the individuals were stereotyped by police and deemed to be weird or unordinary. She gives the example of Guy Paul Morin who was a beekeeper, a musician, and a gardener, and the police paid particular attention to him because of these “unusual” characteristics.

Just recently a man has filed a lawsuit against the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench last month in regards to a wrongful conviction sentence he served of 14 years. Kyle Unger was convicted in a murder of a teenage girl, but after serving part of his sentence, his charges were withdrawn thanks once again to there being no DNA evidence linking him to the crime(CBC, Sept 27/11).

Some Causes of Wrongful Convictions
Chart From:

Many issues have arisen stemming from the research conducted into the topic of wrongful convictions. Numerous scholars have claimed that there are many factors that are important which when combined together, can lead to a wrongful conviction. One of main factors that lead can lead to a wrongful conviction is mistaken identity, whereas the identity of an individual is mistaken as being the suspect. This can come from a number of different avenues, a witness may just want to help “solve” a crime, and point out an individual that had similarities between the suspect they saw and the individual standing before them in a police line-up. The police will then just “run with it” and focus their attention on getting the conviction without thinking about the error of eye-witnesses.

Another key factor in wrongful convictions is expert testimony; experts come into our judicial system to provide their opinion on a matter, well as history has shown, at times their opinion is wrong. For example with the William Mullins-Johnson case an expert pathologist was called in to testify. Charles Randal Smith was an expert pathologist that testified and played a major role in determining the time of death of the victim and whether she had been sexually assaulted or not. Eleven years after the initial trial it was determined by three other pathologists, that there was no evidence that the girl had been sexually assaulted, and Mr. Mullins-Johnson was acquitted.

An interesting study by Garrett & Neufield, Invalid Forensic Science Testimony and Wrongful Convictions claims that of the 82 cases or 60% of the bulk of trials looked at in regards to testimony by 72 forensic analysts called by the prosecution, were invalid. Also noting that defense counsel rarely obtains experts of their own and fails to cross-examine the “experts” brought in by the crown. This leads me to an earlier point made by Beare “that justice is a game that you wrap to fit your preference, or your unconscious biases. Therefore “shop around” and select evidence, experts, and judges based on your specific agenda.” I understand that humans make mistakes, we all do it, but when an individual’s life is in jeopardy; the criminal justice system should do more in order to confirm these opinion statements given in court, not just rely on them because they were given by experts.

Hundreds of cases of wrongful convictions have surfaced in North America alone over the past several decades, thanks to an increase in new technology, more and more individuals are being released from their prisons due to various inquires being conducted. Unfortunately these inquires should not have been necessary in order to allow free individuals to enjoy their liberties and not have been made to face the conditions they did. Several factors including police misconduct, systemic racism, tunnel vision, erroneous eye witness testimony as well as incorrect expert testimony have all lead to wrongful convictions over the last several decades. The question arises, what can we as a society to do help combat wrongful convictions? Can we do anything in regards to police training, and ensuring expert testimony is credible or are these issues going to remain regardless?


Beare, M. (2008). “Shouting Innocence from the Highest Rooftop”, in M. Beare (ed.) Honouring Social Justice. Toronto: University of Toronto Press: 17-54.

Punch, M. (2009). Police corruption: deviance, accountability and reform in policing. UK: Willan Publishing.

In the past few years there have been a number of cases involving the RCMP that have caused a bit of an uproar in the public. These cases have mainly involved RCMP officers assaulting or wrongfully arresting citizens. Some examples of these cases are the Camilla McGuire case, in which an RCMP officer struck the victim 53 years old in the face. Another case occurred in Alberta in which an RCMP officer assaulted a male (Eric Oullette) while in custody. Technology has made sure that some of these acts have been captured on camera and used as evidence to hold the RCMP accountable. So what is RCMP accountability? RCMP accountability can best be defined as the responsibility that the RCMP has in regards to their duty to protect. RCMP officers have the duty to ensure the safety of the citizens of Canada. RCMP officers are supposed to uphold numerous laws such as arrests, discrimination and many more. However when an officer does something wrong then whom do we hold accountable? Obviously the officer(s) who commits the act is one of the parties who should be responsible, but we can also include the RCMP as a whole as having some responsibility.). If an officer does something he or she is not supposed to while on duty, citizens can report this act using a complaint mechanism. Complaint mechanisms allow a person to bring to light any unethical or unprofessional act committed by members of the RCMP. There are also a number of measures taken to ensure that the RCMP can be held accountable as an organization, these can be found on the following link Organizational accountability.The following link provides a more detailed look into the topics of accountability and complaints mechanisms RCMP Accountability and Complaints mechanisms

The issue of RCMP accountability and complaints mechanisms is of major concern to the public because the RCMP are in charge of the safety of the citizens in their respective society, and if those who are sworn to protect us abuse their powers then the concept of public safety goes out the window.  When there are situations in which the RCMP act in a manner that goes against their job description then that act is considered to be a form of police deviance, and the officer(s) who commit(s) that act must be held accountable. For example this video shows us an incident that can be considered deviant. According to Maurice Punch (2009, p 91) accountability is essential to policing because it make police work legitimate which in turn is absolutely necessary in a democratic society. However many people believe that the amount of accountability placed on RCMP officers is not enough. For example Dennis O’Connor suggests that the accountability mechanisms are having difficulty keeping up with the transformation of the policing organization into a high police organization, “ existing accountability and review mechanisms for the RCMP’s national security activities are not adequate in large part because of the evolution and increased importance of that national security role.” (Dennis O’Connor). This is just one reason that RCMP accountability is being scrutinized by the public. Here are two articles that illustrate some of this issue RCMP accountability a longstanding issue and Shoddy policing and accountability show RCMP in B.C have learned very little. Another major aspect of accountability is the complaints mechanisms, which allow the public to hold certain officers accountable.

Complaint mechanisms are what the public uses to launch complaints against officers who have violated any of the rights or freedoms that belong to a citizen or citizens. These complaint mechanisms are important in regards to police deviance because they give an outlet to the public to launch their complaints, and thus make sure that the complaints are heard. One example of a complaint mechanism available to the public is the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. The form of accountability has changed in the last several years, going from a form of internal accountability, which belonged to the police, to an external form of accountability, which is now in the hands of the general public (Punch: 204). However; these complaint mechanisms are not perfect, there is still room for improvement. One way to improve these complaint mechanisms is to increase the public awareness of mechanisms. By improving complaint mechanisms we may see the faith in the agency begin to slowly be restored.

Over the past few years there have been a number of incidents that have added fuel to the fire of police corruption and deviance. Some of these examples are better known than others. Perrott and Kelloway (2010 p. 123) mention some of these cases in their article, which include the “pension scandal” in which an officer was concerned about the mismanagement of the police force pension. The commissioner dismissed this claim, which resulted in a field day for the media, eventually evidence suggested there had been mismanagement of funds and this resulted in criticism of the senior members of the RCMP. As a result a Task force was created to strengthen RCMP accountability, it was referred to as the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP. Another case mentioned by Perrott and Kelloway occurred on October 14, 2007, which involved 4 police officers using what most people would consider an unreasonable amount of force to take down a disgruntled man by the name or Robert Dziekanski who had just arrived in Canada. The officer’s tasered Dziekanski a minimum of 4 times, who eventually died as a result. This incident brought the RCMP under heavy fire internationally. Another case not mentioned in the article is the McGuire case. These incidents are only some of the contributing factors in the public’s distrust of law enforcement agencies.

Perrott and Kelloway also conducted a study of workplace violence, which included the RCMP and municipal police forces. The study used a questionnaire to collect the data. The questionnaires were distributed in small groups and were mailed out. They also used anonymity in regards to the identity of the officer answering the questionnaire. The results of this survey showed that the RCMP showed lower levels of perceived control and workplace autonomy compared to municipal police. It also should that female officers showed they received more support from the courts compared to their male counterparts. In regards to psychological strain, the study revealed that RCMP officers feel more psychological strain compared to municipal officers (129). Lastly in the category of psychosomatic symptoms the study shows RCMP officers “reported more physically based symptoms” compared to municipal officers. This study is important because it may help us better understand the reasoning behind police deviance. Any one or all of the numerous findings listed in the study could factor into this, whether it be lack of support from courts and superiors, lower levels of commitment in male officers, and feeling of lack of control in the work environment.

In a report written by Peter Van Loan (Minister of Public Safety) on the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP , Van Loans report ( 2008 – 2009 p.12) suggests that there has been a 34.5% increase in the amount of reports that are received and handled by CPC (Commission for Public Complaints) in the past few years. Van Loan states that all complaints launched against the RCMP made by the public are handled by the CPC. The report also indicates that the CPC has also improved not only the effectiveness of complaints and review units, but also the efficiency they work in. Van Loan argues that in order to have an effective complaint mechanism the public needs to be made more aware of these mechanisms and the CPC. Although there has been a slight improvement in the complaints mechanisms there is still lots of room for improvement, the public needs to be more aware of these mechanisms in order for them to be effective. The 34.5% increase in reports received and handled by the CPC, and the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP are steps in the right direction in restoring the publics faith in the RCMP.

In addition there has also been new key issues as ongoing debates as to whether the CPC should be a reactive or proactive. In my opinion the CPC should be proactive because it may result in keeping officer in check about abusing their powers by being able to look into incidents whenever there is some suspicion in regards to the RCMP, where the reactive approach only allows the CPC to respond to incidents after the incident has already occurred. Another question that is being discussed is whether or not the CPC should have full access to the RCMP records or would it be limited? In my opinion the information should be available for the most part, with certain high profile cases being only accessible through permission from higher-ranking authority (government).

The concept of RCMP accountability and complaints mechanisms is a significant issue not only for criminologists, but for members of the general public as well. In order to assure that our rights and freedoms don’t get violated by RCMP and police officers the public needs to be assured that the members of these agencies have limits placed on their powers and if these powers are abused, they can be held accountable. Complaints mechanisms are also an important part of police accountability because they are what makes the process of holding officers accountable actually work. Yet, too many citizens are unaware as to how to use them or of the fact that they even exist, therefore there needs to be an increase in the public awareness of complaint mechanisms.

By increasing public awareness of complaints mechanisms we as a society will feel a lot safer and perhaps be able to trust the police because we will be able to report any unethical behaviour. As discussed above, a proactive CPC may also help reduce the amount of RCMP deviance because of the constant threat of the CPC investigating members of the RCMP who are believed to be engaging in forms of misconduct. Not only with this benefit the citizen, but the RCMP may also find that with the trust that they may gain from the public (due to the higher accountability), they may be able to improve the communication with the public and be able to get help when dealing with issues such as gangs and drug trafficking. The more cooperative the members of the public are with the RCMP, the easier the officers jobs will become, and perhaps the officers will become less cynical towards the public. The following link goes on to further discuss how to help the RCMP in criminal matters

The government has also taken steps to increase the effectiveness of complaints mechanisms against the RCMP. For example a new bill was introduced by Public Safety Minister Toews titled Bill C-38 or “An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts”. Bill C-38 can be seen as a result of two key models that have been discussed since the years 2006 and 2007. These two key models are the Connor Commission and the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP. The latter which is was implemented by by Minister of Public Safety, who announced the creation of five-member Task Force to provide advice on strengthening the accountability and governance of the RCMP. The Main objectives of the task force were to provide recommendations addressing issues identified in the independent investigator’s report and also look at RCMP management structure, accountability and oversight, as well as clarifying workplace disclosure and disciplinary policies.

Even if some sort of cooperative relationship is formed between the RCMP and the general public, one must ask how long can this relationship last? If there continues to be the occasional case of police deviance, will this relationship be able to withstand the repercussions or will it completely crumble and send things back to square one. If the latter happens, one can assume that there will be a need to readdress the current complaints mechanisms. Perhaps one of the main issues that the complaints mechanisms will be put up against is the need to continuously change and adapt to the changes in society. Like any other product or law, complaint mechanisms must be kept up to date and modified in an effort to improve them and allow them to be effectively used by the members of a society.

The War on Drugs and police corruption on their own are both controversial and important topics; but are they related? Is the War on Drugs tempting our police officers to be more corrupt?  Many would argue that it does in fact do that and in turn the War on Drugs does not fight or deter crime, it promotes it.

In 2002, 41 Tijuana officers were arrested for allegedly working with drug traffickers, protecting shipments of drugs, taking bribes and even for executions (Preston Preet, 2002).  Generally police officers are under paid for the services that they provide and it can be easy for them to fall victim to the criminal life because of the large sums of easy money it provides.  As Maurice Punch (2009) describes in his book “Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing” cops are just like any other normal person and can just as easily be lured into the temptation of easy money as a criminal could.

For many officers that are dealing with the War on Drugs it could become very frustrating seeing so many drug-dealers get arrested and go to prison to have the same amount come back out on the street the next day.  While the officers are trying to fight the War on Drugs they could feel that they, no matter what their efforts, are consistently being beaten.  This could eventually lead an officer to live a vigilante like life.  The officer might fabricate evidence or lie under oath just to try to put as many suspected drug-dealers away as her could – while his intentions are for the greater good, it is still a form of police corruption.

The debate on whether or not drugs should be decriminalized in North America has been an extremely controversial subject since the start of the War on Drugs. Many North Americans believe that the War on Drugs has failed and even most politicians, despite what most of them might say in public, would agree.  Recently the Global Commission released a report stating “Political leaders and public figures should have the courage to articulate publicly what many of them acknowledge privately: that the evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that repressive strategies will not solve the drug problem, and that the war on drugs has not, and cannot, be won” (CBC New, 2011).  The Global Commission proposes that the United States decriminalizes drugs, especially marijuana, as it will weaken organized crime and corruption within the government and police force (CBC News, 2011).  Follow the link to watch the full report from CBC

The reason much of society claims that the War on Drugs is not working is because drug use is increasing as well as corruption (CBC News, 2011).  In comparison to countries such as the Netherlands, where drugs are decriminalized the United States has a higher percentage in drug use (Chambliss, 1995).  With more corruption and higher drug use in the United States than in countries where they do not fight drugs it is hard to believe that the War on Drugs is in fact effective.

Corruption is a big part of why the War on Drugs needs to be reconsidered.  It is difficult for police officers to not fall to temptation of the drug trade because of the exposed opportunities (Sullivan, 2008).  Cops are just like any other people and are subject to temptation by large sums of money (Punch, 2009).  The reason that this becomes difficult for them is because criminals and cops begin to share the same environment and same surroundings; the police may even become friends with criminals (Punch, 2009).  It is not uncommon for an undercover officer to go to the other side because of the environment they become accustomed too (Punch, 2009).  Drug unit officers are most likely the ones to fall victim to temptation because of the large seizures of drugs and money they are consistently around (Sullivan, 2008).  Corruption within the drug unit usually consists of stealing drugs and selling them for profit, stealing money, as well as illegal searches and seizures (Sullivan, 2008).  Drug enforcement officers are typically the most vulnerable to bribes because of the large amounts of money involved (Sullivan, 2008).  By way of illustration in 1995 in the state of Washington there were 77 officers with charges against them for drug offences (Sullivan, 2008).  That is a substantial amount of a police force to have charges laid against; however, these are the ones that were caught, never mind the amount that managed to stay under the radar.  Ultimately, the War on Drugs makes it inevitable that some officers to accept bribes (Sullivan, 2008).

When police were protecting drug dealers there would be less murder and assaults and this led the community to believe that the police were doing a good job at protecting the streets from crime and that there was no drug market in their neighbourhood (Sullivan, 2008).  The ironic thing about this assumption is that they were preventing more violent crime by protecting the dealers.  The ultimately gave them a license to deal (Sullivan, 2008).

The War on Drugs leads to many different types of police deviance.  One of the most serious ones is the use of SWAT in house raids.  This is considered an extremely serious one because of the innocent people that end up frightened and sometimes killed because of them.  The SWAT will go into a house based on a “tip” they received from a neighbour suspecting drugs in the house (Balko, 2006).  The police deviance that results from these cases is the in proper procedure that is followed.  For example, in the raid on a young man’s home in Florida the warrant was a “knock and announce” which states that the police must knock and announce that it is the police before knocking down the door.  In this particular raid there is evidence that suggests that the police did not follow this procedure and it ended in the young man taking ten bullets (Balko, 2006).  This is only one of many examples of police misconduct in relation to raids.

One of the typologies commonly used to describe officers that go looking for opportunity in regards to corruption are called meat-eaters (Punch, 2009).  One of the first places that a meat-eater may go to look for an opportunity is the drug unit.  With the amount of opportunity the War on Drugs gives to the meat-eaters it would hard for them not to go there first when seeking out a potential gain.  There are many different ways that they could gain from it.  They could cooperate with the drug dealers in exchange for money, they could steal drugs and sell them for profit, they could steal money from seizures and that is just to name a few.

Sullivan (2008) notes that the current drug policies lead to corruption of our police departments and government officials and the CIA cooperated with the Medallion drug cartel in 1993 that was responsible for shipping one ton of cocaine into the United States; the most disturbing part is that the whole thing was swept underneath the rug and no CIA officials were charged.  There are many reported incidents of the CIA cooperating in the drug trade.  There is overwhelming evidence that suggests cooperation during the Vietnam War allowed the shipment and trade of opiate drugs.

The amount of money paid to fund the War on Drugs is outrageous and the time and effort spent by our law enforcement could be spent towards preventing and enforcing other laws.  For example, in 1992 68% of arrests in the United States were for drug offences and 36% of all prisoners for drug offences were for low level offences and had no previous record (Sullivan, 2008).  It seems as though many people of the public are against drugs and support the War on Drugs, hence why no president has put decriminalization into action; however 50% of incarcerations are for crimes that the public deems “not very serious” (Sullivan, 2008).  It is easier for politicians to convince the public that fighting drugs will keep their community safer than giving up on the fight and trying a different alternative.  Many see giving up on the War on Drugs as supporting crime even though this is not the case.

Statistics have shown that places like ‘Insight’ or regulated ‘needle parks’ reduce the spread of AIDS and Hepatitis among addicts (Sullivan, 2008).  If these parks are helping prevent disease and most of our incarcerations are for low level drug offences is it safe to say that the War on Drugs is not helping? With all the corruption from the cops and all the organized crime going on one could say that it is only making situations worse and that countries are losing thousands of people in this endless fight.

Whether or not to decriminalize drugs will always be a controversial issue.  Even though many statistics show that it would be in our society’s best interest to make the change people are afraid of just that.  Tens of thousands of people die every year because of drugs, whether it is overdoses because the drug injections are not regulated the drug dealers and gang members fighting over their turf or the police officers that are just trying to enforce the law.  What we do know is that too many people die because of drugs and something needs to change.  Millions of dollars goes toward funding the War on Drugs that could be used for other things such as health care for Americans or the prevention of serious crimes such as murder, rape and robbery.  Corruption is a huge indictor as well that this is not the outcome that we hope for.  Corruption and drugs go hand in hand as does organized crime and drugs.  If we were to decriminalize drugs we would ultimately be solving the problem of corruption and organized crime.  The old saying goes “if it aite broke don’t fix it”.  Well what if it is broken? Should we not do what we can to try and fix the problem? If we have been fighting drugs for decades and it has not improved then we should try something new or the outcome will be the same – “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.

There are many people and organizations that benefit from the War on Drugs and it’s a wonder that they are not the reason why it is continuing.  First and probably the most obvious are drug dealers.  They buy product in bulk for very little money and flip it for an enormous profit, while the consequences if busted can be intense, many do not mind taking the risk for the extreme amounts of cash that are involved.  Second would be law enforcement.  Corrupt cops benefit from the War on Drugs by becoming a part of the criminal acts the take place.  As mentioned above, police involved in the drug trade can become corrupt due to the opportunities for large sums of money.  Third would be politicians.  Politicians benefit in a different way.  They use the War on Drugs as a way to increase their campaign.  The community is more likely to elect someone that wants to fight drugs and crime and make them feel safe in their community.  Society doesn’t generally elect someone that “condones” crime and/or drugs (which is the way it may seem if they did not support the fight against drugs).  Lastly, would be private prisons.  Private prisons receive funding per inmate.  So if the incarceration rate goes up – so does their funding.  It is easy to see why any of the above would and do benefit from the war, but what about the rest of society that does not.

The fact of the matter is, when you look at the facts and at the history of the War on Drugs, it is potentially causing society more harm than good.  Not only is it striping our community of money to fund the endless fight but it is killing millions of people, some completely innocent of crimes, in the process.

The money that is spent annually towards funding the War on Drugs could be used towards other things such as health care.  Can anyone really agree that the War on Drugs is more important than the health of our community?  I think it is safe to assume that most would agree that the health of the child is more important than whether the teenager down the block gets busted for smoking a joint? Yes this may be a harsh example, but it is the bare naked truth.  President Nixon said the Drugs were America’s number one enemy?

In all due respect President Nixon but I would have to disagree and say that cancer and other deadly illnesses may be more of a threat to American’s than a choice to use or sell drugs.  If half the money was spent on cancer research as it has been to fight the War on Drugs thousands of lives may have been saved – someone may not have lost their child to leukemia at the age of 5, someone may not have lost their mother or father, brother or sister… instead people have lost their families in a War that may never end.

What can we do?

What are the alternatives to the War on Drugs?  Are there any? Have they been successful?  As a matter of fact there are alternatives and other countries have paved the way by demonstrating how successful these alternatives can be.  The Netherlands, for example, has been a leader in the search for alternatives.  Switzerland has experimented with alternatives to police enforced prohibition and there have been established “needle parks” where addicts can safely and legally purchase drugs.  In Vancouver there is a safe injection site known as “Insite” which is North America’s first legal supervised injection site

The sad truth about drugs is that people will do what they want and making it legally available is not going to make that decision for them… only they can do that, the least we can do is make sure they do it safely.

Punch (2009) always talks about the bad apple or bad orchard theory… If it is in fact a bad orchard what we as a society can do to prevent that orchard from growing and infecting more of the community is by stopping the source of their corruption – the War on Drugs.  No War on Drugs = no drug dealers and no drug-related corruption… it’s really that simple – if an orchard is producing bad apples it is up to us to stop watering the trees.

References Cited

Balko, Radley. (2006). Overkill: The Rise of Paramilitary Police Raids in America. Washington, D.C.. Retrieved on November 3, 2011 from

CBC News. (2011). News Cast. Retrieved from web on October 25th 2011 from

CBC News. (2011). War on Drugs on Bust: Commission. Retrieved from web on October 25th 2011 from

Chambliss, William J. (1995). Another lost war: The costs and consequences of drug prohibition. Proquest. Social Justice. San Francisco. Vol. 22, Iss. 2. Pg. 101.

Lee Sullivan. Sheriff. (2008). Drug Unit Corruption: Stopping the Scandal Before it Starts. Proquest. Alexandria. Vol. 60, Iss. 1; pg. 27, 3 pgs.

Punch, Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Portland, Oregon: Willan Publishing.

Brief Overview: Police brutality against group protest is a growing issue for the criminal justice system across Canada. In Ontario, the infamous Ipperwash incident highlighted the ongoing struggle between the First Nations and the Government. The events at Ipperwash were about a dispute over land claim and the Aboriginal citizens engaged in a peaceful protest resulted in the killing of one protester, by the Ontario Provincial Police (Fennel, 1995). Such unfortunate outcome often increases tension between the First Nation, the Government, and the police. Over the past twenty years, incidents involving police brutality have led to a negative perception of the police by groups who demonstrate their dissatisfaction with public policy (de Lint, 2009). Events such as the highly publicize Ipperwash crisis in Ontario led to community allegation of a police state, whereas the political elites interfere in police operations (de Lint, 2009).

Background: The Ipperwash crisis is about an ongoing dispte between the Stony Point Ojibway and the Canadian Government.  The Stony Point Ojibway are a First Nation band who lived in Ipperwash, Ontario.  During the World War 2, the Canadian government wanted built a military base in Ipperwash, regardless of the fact that this land was already occupied by the first nation. At first, the government made an offered to buy the land but the First Nation refused it because the land contained burial ground and was a sacred site for them. Afterward, under the War Measure Act, the government orders the band to clear out Ipperwash so a military base can be built on the site. The government promises to return the land to the first nation when the war was over. When the war finally came to an end, no process was taken in order to return the land and the military was still occupying the site in 1990. For more than 40 years, the tension builds up between the First Nation and the Federal Government. In 1993, the Stony Point First Nation went back to Ipperwash and occupied the site even though it was still use for military purposes. Numerous first nation families were there to retake their land because it had a deep cultural meaning. They did not want to cause any arm or any sort of violence. Unfortunately, the Federal Government did not respect the promises to return the land after the war. He wanted the First Nation to go settle somewhere else, so the military base could stay in Ipperwash Camp.  In September 1995, more First Nation came to occupy Ipperwash and the military left the base. One night the then Prime Minister of Ontario, Mike Harris, order the Ontario Provincial Police to step in and remove the First Nation from the site. As a result of the raid, Dudley George, who was an Ojibway, was shot and died on his way to the hospital. Dudley George was unarmed.
Sentencing & Inquiry: In 1997, the officer who shot Dudley George was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death. Not long after the final verdict, the accused resign from the O.P.P. A public inquiry for the Ipperwash crisis began in 2003, 8 years after the events. In 2007, 12 years after the death of the unarm protester, the inquiry conclude that the O.P.P, the Federal and the Provincial Government are all responsible for the death of Dudley George. The inquiry also found out that the OPP used racist comment and inappropriate use of force. One video from cbc showed one police officer saying “Just a great big fat fuck Indian”.  This conversation was recorded one day before the murder of Dudley George.  It was released during the course of the investigation, in order to provide a better understanding of why the police opened fire on the unarmed protester.  As a result of the inquiry, the Ontario Provincial Government had to return the land to the First Nation as well as money compensation for the Stony Point First Nation members. The inquiry mentioned that that in order to address the issue of policing, more recruit with Aboriginal cultural background are need in the police force. However, the dynamic within the police culture needs to be change in order to ameliorate the relationship between the community and the police. Many groups such as Amnesty International condemn the improper action taken by the Canadian and Ontario Government. First Nation groups from all over America were concerned by this event.

– How the events at Ipperwash fit into the history of Canadian police / First Nations relations-The events at Ipperwash are not isolated. Similar events occurred many times in the past and are against law, since the Government and the police should operate independently. However, the reality makes me believe of the emergence of a police state. The Gustafson Lake Crisis, for istence, is another major event that involved struggle over land claim and confrontation between Natives and Police.  Similar to Ipperwash, this case also involved violence, racism and harsh feeling between the groups. Unfortunate events like this demonstrate that police assumes that protesters are criminals, which is wrong. Police need more strict rules so those who attend such events do not need to fear to be the victim of police brutality. Police greatest concern should be about the rights of the citizens and not the will of the Canadian Government. Therefore, the issue of police brutality as well as criminal injustice toward the First Nation seems to be taken up in an individualistic or “rotten apples” approach. However, it is a much more of a systematic problem embodied in the police culture.  The relation of distrust between the police, the criminal justice agencies and the First Nations is shaped by a long history of racism and colonialism. For instance in recent years, the Starlight tour phenomena is an example of systematic racism toward the Native and cannot be explain with the “Rotten Apple” approach. A Starlight tour occurs during the cold winter period and involves the police taking an Aboriginal person into their car and then abandoning them on the side of the road, far away from the city. The freezing cold weather may ultimately lead to the person’s death. It involves the complicity of more than one officer so it can only be explain with a rotten barrel or even rotten orchard approach.

What impact does the history or “legacy” of police forces in colonial relations have on contemporary relationships between indigenous peoples and the police?  Both the Ipperwash crisis and the starlight tours phenomena involved systematic racism by the police and the Government officials against the Aboriginal people.  Racist behavior seems to take its roots back to the European colonial era. From the past colonial time to present days, Aboriginal people in Canada have been the victim of a criminal justice system which over-represented them in the carceral system. According to Susan Dion (2005) “Canadians «refuse to know» that the racism that fueled colonization was a result of a system which benefits all non-Aboriginal people, not just the European settlers of long ago”.  Therefore, the Canadian Government and the police are the dominant group who use their power to control, shape and even erase any forms of Aboriginal culture and religion. Dion (2005) explain that the police force in Canada are in majority from white European background and are predispose to discriminate against First Nation groups since “the police have consistently manipulated the image of Aboriginal people, constructing meaning to serve their needs at different times and in different situations” (Dion, 2005). Therefore, Aboriginal are label as criminal and this has led them to be arrested and incarcerated at higher rate than white people. When looking at the incarceration rate, First Nation are about 2% of the total population in Canada, however, they comprise 10% of the prison population. The First Nation’s cultural values are misunderstood by the police, which result a relationship of distrust between Aboriginal communities and the law enforcement agencies such as the RCMP. Furthermore, the police tend to have more patrol in areas where cultural values differ from the dominant group. Other areas where the values fit the police officer’s believes are far less patrol and therefore less people are arrested.  Furthermore, white people who commit the very same crime are far less likely to be arrested and charged. As a result, Aboriginal people are over-represented in the Canadian Criminal Justice System since they are discriminate against by the police who enforce the values of the dominant group. Furthermore, according to Rudin (2005), Aboriginal who are asking for police help are often ignore because they are seen as less worthy victims. Similarly, the Government behaved in similar fashion when they ignore the land claimed by the Natives and made them waiting for more than 50 years, which was a central issue at Ipperwash.

Police Misconduct is Embodied in the Police Institution: According to Punch (2011) “even when the rule of law is ostensibly  in place it can be that states representatives faced with an acute treat, resorts to illicit force (Punch: 4) .”  Prior to Dudley George killing, the then Ontario premier Mike Harris issued an order to operate a night time raid in order to remove the protesters from the park.  Furthermore, the event was highly covered by the media all across Canada. As a result, during the events at Ipperwash, the OPP had a tremendous amount of pressure for productivity, from the public and the police organization itself. In order to answer expectation sfrom the public, media and their management, the police are likely to use extra-legal methods in order to solve the issue. In the book “Police Deviance”, the author Maurice Punch mentioned that the use of extra-legal methods is embodied in the police institution and is also an occupational requirement.  It is legal and legitimate for the police to use force in circumstances whereas there are threats to the victim’s life or the officer’s life. However, in case such as Ipperwash, the protester who was killed by the police was not a threat to anyone, neither he had any weapon on his person.  The officer who opened fire did not have any legitimate reason to justify his action. Therefore, the killing of Dudley George at Ipperwash camp was a crude act of police brutality.

Dirty Harry” Problem is a Feature of Police Culture: Maurice Punch, explain that the Dirty Harry phenomena is when the police use extra-legal methods such as violence in order to arrest the criminal. It occurred when the police continue to use extreme force even though the suspect is not a threat. The police who use Dirty Harry methods see themselves as correct officers because bending the rules is essential for achieving their goals. Therefore, the use of extreme force is an occupational requirement for the police. The Police officers who took part of the night raid at Ipperwash did use “Dirty Harry” methods so they can “get the job done”. The unfortunate end result was the homicide of unarm man who was not a treat to anyone safety.

Rotten Apple vs Rotten Orchard: The events at Ipperwash had little to do with one police officer who decides to pull the trigger on a protestant. It is the result of social, institutional, and cultural pressure that pushed the officer to commit the ultimate act. In other words, social pressure has to do with the relationship between the society, the media and the police; institutional pressure has to do with organizational structure; cultural pressure has to do with the police culture, brotherhood and code of silence (Punch, 2009). The police officer who shot and killed the protester was convicted of criminal negligence causing death after the court ruled that the accused officer did not have the “reasonable belief” the protester was armed and dangerous.  As a result of the commission that investigated the police behavior at Ipperwash Park, only two officers were own accountable for their racist comment. One was sent to sensitivity training as disciplinary measure and he later resign from the Ontario Police Force while the other officer who was guilty of criminal negligence was laid off. The commissions address the police wrongdoing as an individual failure, but did not address any issue regarding the institutional failure. In other word, the commission analyzed the Ipperwash incident by maintaining the hypothesis of “bad apple” and disregards anything related with the police institution. According to Punch (2009), there is a cycle to police scandals and reforms. The chain of event begins when the police wrongdoing is enlightened by the media, which draw social and political attention. Then, a commission investigates the events and results in special measures that are believed to remove the issue for good. However, similar events with a similar commissions and results with similar measures reoccurred as time passed. The problem of police misconduct is not address properly by the commission, who still make use of the “bad apple theory”, and unfortunate events such as the death of an unarm civilian is the result of such misconception.

-Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchmen?) There is concern about the police and the government transparency and accountability when policing event such as Ipperwash or any other form of protest. According to Punch, “policing, in order to be effective, must be based on consent across the community (Punch, 2009).” He also argued that the concept of accountability is “the formal obligation within a democracy; notion of good governance; of being transparent to the public and other stakeholder on policies and conduct; and of internally generated norms of professional accountability (Punch,  2009). At Ipperwash in 1995, pressure from then Prime Minister Mike Harris government on the police may have urged the officers to remove the protesters. As a result of the government extensive pressure, the police use deadly force even though no one’s life was in jeopardize. Similarly, more recently, the former Prime Minister Jean Chretien was involved in the 1997 Asia Pacific Economic Community conference in University of British Columbia and the protesters were again the victim of police brutality (de lint, 2009).  According to the Ipperwash final inquiry report (p.74), transparency in decision making will enhance police accountability and facilitate communication between the police and the community. In the context of Aboriginal protest over land claim, transparency will address the issue of distrust between the government and the police vis-a-vis Aboriginal communities.

Why the Ipperwash Crisis need to not be forgotten? Following the Ipperwash Crisis, the Canadian Government wanted to decrease the Aboriginal overrepresentation in the Criminal Justice System. For instance, s. 718.2(e) of the Crminal Code implores judges to look at alternatives to incarceration. In the late 1990, the Federal and the Ontario Provincial Government created a justice system specifically for Aboriginal offenders, with a system administered by Aboriginal people. However, the number of First Nation people incarcerated across Canada did not drastically decrease for the past 15 years despite the number of positive programs seeking to help First Nation Offenders.  According to Rudin (2005), “In order for these programs to make a difference, Crown Attorneys must be willing to have matters that would otherwise result in jail sentences referred to these programs.” Therefore, the Crown must accept the pertinence of an Aboriginal justice system that emphasis on rehabilitation and restorative justice instead of relying ultimately on incarceration.

Conclusion: Troughout the Canadian history, Aboriginal occupations and protests shape the relationship between the Natives and the police. Too often, Aboriginal in Canada were left in the dark and rejected by the dominant group. However, the unfortunate Ipperwash event, which cost the life of Dudley George by the O.P.P, fueled the debate about Aboriginal rights in Canada. As a result, there is light of collaboration and mutual respect between Aboriginal communities and the police forces. It is a positive sign of brighter days ahead of us, where discrimination and systematic racism against Natives will become inexistent.



CBC News. (2007). The Ipperwash Inquiry. (

De Lint, W. Hall, A.(2009). Intelligent Control: Developments in Public Order Policing in Canada. Toronto, CAN: University of Toronto Press.

Dion, S. (2005). Aboriginal People and Stories of Canadian History: Investigating Barriers to Transforming Relationships.” Possibilities and Limitations: Multicultural Programs and Policies in Canada. 34-57. ed. Carl E. James.  Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

Fennel, T. (1995). Deadly Confrontation on an Ontario Reserve. Maclean`s. 108(38). 22-24.

Punch, M. (2009). Police Corruption. Deviance, accountability and reform in policing.  Portland, Or:Willan Publishing.

Punch, M. (2011). Police accountability, firearm, and fatal force. Portland, Or: The Policy Press.

Rudin, J. (2005). Aboriginal Peoples and the Criminal Justice System: A Background Paper Prepared for the Ipperwash Inquiry.  Ipperwash Inquiry Paper-Draft.


The 1997 APEC summit was known as the biggest and most-expensive private meeting in Canadian history. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) (Link: is a forum for 21 countries that want to advocate free trade and economic cooperation throughout the Asia Pacific area. APEC was created in 1989 responding to the expanding interdependence of Asia-Pacific economies and the advent of regional economic allied groups like the European Union in other parts of the world. APEC works to raise living standards and education levels through sustainable economic growth and to make a sense of community and show interests among Asia-Pacific countries. Members account for approximately 40% of the world’s population, 54% of the world’s gross domestic product, and 44% of world trade.(Wikipedia, Link)

If people at work started taking orders from their loved ones at home, of how to do their job, nothing would ever get done right. Not only that, but this would be totally wrong in itself. Well, believe it or not, this is exactly what happened during the 1997 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vancouver. These aren’t any type of workers were talking about; we are specifically talking about the federal police force in Canada, specifically the Royal Canadian Mounted Police(RCMP). Now, the RCMP did not follow the fundamental principle of police independence. There was the big question of government interference. This is one of the key issues associated with the 1997 APEC incident. The RCMP came into violation of this fundamental principle.

There was lots of tension in Vancouver that was being built at this time. Politicians from around the world were all meeting at Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Conference. This meeting was held on the grounds of University of British Columbia, where many students were carrying protest signs, angry that the issue of human rights wasn’t on the APEC meeting. The RCMP was trying to clear the area but chaos arose.  The protesters tore down a fence and pepper spray was shot into the crowds. (CBC Achieve, Link)

Protesters and members of the UBC community alleged that they were targets of police harassment before and during the event. It was end of the year in 1997 the world media eyes were on Vancouver to cover the APEC summit. Basically all the news that was on headlines was not much to do with APEC but rather towards police response to the crowds and protesters. The least that could be said was that the police response was out of the ordinary and shocking. “A crowd of students was pepper-sprayed, along with a CBC cameraman. The dramatic video footage of the incident that appeared on the evening news”(Pue, 2000) and everyone saw. The use of pepper spray to attack non-violent protesters is unusual and brings the ministry of justice into disrepute. All over the web there is a picture of the “pepper spray sergeant” using a huge canister of pepper spray and going all-out on the non-violent crowd.

Accoring to Pue(2000) APEC raised some serious questions about constitutional principle, the role of police in a democratic society, public accountability, and the effects of globalization on rights and politics. So how much power do the politicians really have?  Some of the authors, such as Gerald Morin, chair of the first RCMP Public Complaints Commission, and famous CBC journalist Terry Milewski, had a direct connection with the APEC situation that occurred. This was more than just a case of abuse of power and authority over a non-violent crowd by the use of pepper spray.

Surely enough there had been some special orders given to the police during the 1997 APEC summit. This is evident from the behavior of the police . The RCMP was really worried about making sure the leaders were protected, which was fine, but to an extent. The whole process of how it was done was really out of the ordinary. The police went about proactively arresting protesters and even taking down sings that protesters put up. The police went to the extent of using pepper spray on the non-violent protesters, this was really an outrage. This is a breach of individual’s rights to exercise their freedom of speech. When individuals were arrested (for no proper reason) there was special bail conditions, they had to sign bail papers with conditions such as “we will only release you if you promise not to go back and protest in the UBC area until such and such time”. There is no way the police were acting this way without special orders given to them.

Pue goes on to say APEC raise serious questions about constitutional principle, the role of police in a democratic society, public accountability, and the effects of globalization on rights and politics. So how much power do the politicians really have?  Some of the authors, such as Gerald Morin, chair of the first RCMP Public Complaints Commission, and CBC journalist Terry Milewski, had a direct connection with the APEC situation that occurred. This was more than just a case of abuse of power and authority over a non-violent crowd by the use of pepper spray. There must have been some special orders given to the police for this day.

Many law professors that wrote to Prime Minister Chrétien to report that a number of serious constitutional violations that had taken place on UBC campus during this ‘incident’. Later, an unapologetic Prime Minister Chrétien brushes away the pepper spray incident, saying “For me, pepper, I put it on my plate”(Link). This really makes no sense especially when according to Pue: there was a protester held by police extremely long period of time for just displaying a sign that said “Free Speech”. Furthermore, this initiated many legal proceedings with this case and more. “The Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Canadian government were named as defendants in these cases, and a public inquiry was launched. A central issue was whether the Prime Minister’s officials gave orders of a political nature to the police that resulted in law-abiding citizens being assaulted and arrested.”(Pue, 2000)

Another important finding while conducting my research was that when a Search was conducted on Google –“Vancouver 1997 APEC Summit”, the first page consisted of one link from Wikipedia and many news articles of the 1997 APEC Summit. However, the best information came from the UBC Achieves. The news articles from the search only talk about the pepper spray incident. On Wikipedia it is more formal in the sense that it talks about solely about the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and does wonders for explaining what it is and its history, purpose and goals, criticism, and expansion. The UBC Achieves had information about everything. Surprisingly there was no government websites talking about the incident or the inquiry.

The concept of police independence from government goes deep and can be confusing; it indulges on what has been referred to as a special delicate balance (Wiseman 2008). Contrastingly, the rule of law would be breeched if anyone told an RCMP officer that they must investigate or lay charges against a certain person or group. For example like during the APEC if officers were told to use force against protesters to make them stop. This kind of direction to the police comes in the way of police investigations and the course of justice. These kinds of directions bring the administration of justice into disrepute.

Then again, the RCMP, like others in the government, must be accountable to superiors and ultimately to responsible Ministers and through them to other people. Entire downright independence “would run the risk of creating another type of police state, one in which the police would not be answerable to anyone.”(Wiseman 2008) Police independence from interference in individual investigations is definitely important, but so is the ability for the government to provide general direction to the whole police force and be accountable for police conduct.

In the book “Police Corruption Deviance, accountability and reform in policing” by Maurice Punch (2009), he talks about something called state domination corruption. He says it is when police are linked to state or local politicians and their illicit aims, with sometimes clandestine units, death squads and violence against political opponents and rivals in criminal enterprises and against out-groups such as terrorists, street children, and journalists. Well what happened during APEC was exactly this, because police were guided by political influence and there was no “police independence” that day. There is lots of evidence in the RCMP PCC exhibits which is about 1.3m of text records. It consisted of documents compiled by many government agencies and witnesses for display during the RCMP Public Complaints Commission. There was so much evidence of statements from police and witnesses, pictures, videos(about 80), and other relevant material.

An important testimony was provided by Annette Muttray from the UBC Library Archive (Link) . Muttray was a graduate student at UBC and became a target to police on that Nov, 25, 1997. She was arrested while looking for her friend Jamie Douchette during the protest, but he was already arrested himself. She was taken to the Richmond Police Detention Facility, where many other APEC protesters were. She, like all other females was subjected to a strip search by the police. In the end, Muttray’s allegations that her arrest had been inappropriate, and that her bicycle and backpack had been left unattended by police were rejected by the PCC Commissioner. In addition, while the strip search of female prisoners was, in general, deemed inappropriate by the Commissioner, he agreed that Muttray had been legally and rightfully arrested and that her strip search was, therefore, not unlawful. In a similar case another UBC student represent himself at the RCMP Public Complaints Commission hearings and was a vocal critic of the process insisting that it could have no lasting effect due to its inability to call then Prime Minister Jean Chretien to account for decisions made in and around the protests at UBC.

Annette’s story brings me to my point of the police and politicians using techniques of neutralization (Punch, 2009), which are accounts and rhetorical devices employed to neutralize the moral bind of law. Accounts are employed both before and after an act, in order to justify or excuse it. This is basically a form of denial. The RCMP officers that day at APEC could have been thinking to themselves sayings “these orders were given by our prime minister, so were only doing our job”. These are just ways of minimizing wrong things and making them justifiable. Another good example of this is when Prime Minister Chrétien brushes away the pepper spray incident, saying “For me, pepper, I put it on my plate”.(Link) Punch would say this technique of neutralization is the denial of responsibility from the Prime Minister.

In the Charter of Rights and Freedoms it guarantees some rights to everyone. Some of those rights in the Charter are the right to freedom of thought and expression, the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association. During the 1997 Vancouver APEC summit, these fundamental freedoms which are guaranteed by the Charter were nowhere to be found. Special orders given to the police were in breach of these fundamental rights during their dealings with demonstrators. The demonstrators just wanted to be heard and issues about human rights to be discussed in the APEC agenda.

For some reason Canadian politicians promised the Indonesian and Chinese head of states that they would stop protests that were directed at them. They expressed their concerns to Canada that they didn’t want their leaders to be publicly embarrassed by protests at the Vancouver APEC summit.  RCMP Staff Sergeant Peter Montague reports that he too did make promises that they would try their hardest to stay away from protest routes and protestors. Clearly our very own Government and the federal police force of Canada took the head of states from China and Indonesia’s embarrassment more important than the very own rights and safety of their own citizens.

The final recommendations of the inquiry (link) from Judge Ted Hughes, he mentioned a few things like how the federal government exercised improper influence on security arrangements for the 1997 APEC summit and the RCMP displayed “inappropriate police conduct” during the raucous event, concludes a highly anticipated inquiry report. The interim report of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, put together by former judge Ted Hughes, pointed a finger at federal officials for unwarranted “influence and intrusion” in the pepper-spraying and arrests of students camped on the summit grounds at UBC.

The three main recommendations were:

1. Policing public order events

— “Generous opportunity” must be allowed for peaceful protests.

— University campuses are the wrong places for events where “delegates are to be sequestered and protected from visible and audible signs of dissent.”

— Mounties need to improve approaches to command structures, training, planning, Quick Response teams, and record keeping.

— The national police force needs to work with the leaders of protest groups before protests occur. Adequate warnings need to be issued if physical confrontation is possible.

— Decisions on body searches should be made taking into account the kind of protest and risks involved. Police, when releasing prisoners from custody, should consider whether it is late at night and a long ways from the place of arrest.

2. Public complaints procedure– The APEC inquiry was “lengthy, complex and expensive.” As things stand, any member of the public personally affected or not, is able to make complaints and have their expenses covered. There should be a way to streamline the process — British Columbia’s approach being a good example.

3. Relations with Canadian government– The Mounties should request “statutory codification” stating how they are independent from the federal government. The force’s officers need to know they must “brook no intrusion or interference whatever” in carrying out their duties.

All in all, it doesn’t matter if you naturalize your actions or not because they are wrong in themselves. The police should not use methods of neutralization and make themselves think it was okay for them to act unlawfully because they were given orders from politicians. Rather, the police should just do their job normally and independently and away from any influence let alone a political one. Now how often will officers go out and break their little rule of silence and go yapping “we were told to do this because of so and so”. The answer is never, but even without the police telling us directly, it’s not hard to put the pieces of the puzzle together of what happened that day during Vancouver APEC Summit 1997.

The war on drugs can be defined as the use of the criminal justice system to prohibit possession, use, production, sale, import, and export of certain drugs. The term “war on drugs” was first used by president Richard Nixon in 1971. Drug abuse, said the president, was public enemy number one. Nixon’s use of the word “war” was no accident. From the outset, Washington’s approach to the problems of drug use and addiction has been overtly militaristic in nature. The US government has given local SWAT units access to highly sophisticated equipment, encouraging its use in an ever-more aggressive war on drugs. Beginning with the Military Cooperation and Law Enforcement Act of 1981, the Pentagon gave local and state police access to surplus military equipment for purposes of drug interdiction. By 1997, local police departments around the US had purchased 1.2 million pieces of gear, including thousands of military-style M-16 automatic rifles, body armour, helmets, grenade launchers, night vision goggles, even armoured personnel carriers and helicopters. There are more than 50,000 police paramilitary raids in the United States each year – more than 130 every day. Virtually all are for prosecution of drug warrants, the vast majority involving marijuana. Many jurisdictions use SWAT teams for execution of every search warrant for drugs.

In Canada, the war on drugs has given rise to a number of anti-drug campaigns such as “Drugsnot4me”. The Government of Canada has committed approximately $102 million in new funding over five years to implement the Enforcement Action Plan. This Plan provides funding to the RCMP so they can expand their anti-drug teams to investigate organizations involved in the production and distribution of illegal substances.

However, current drug policies also lead to the corruption of governmental officials and police departments. In 1998, the United Nations Drug Control Program predicted the inventible risk of drug-related police corruption. The report suggested that “wherever there is a well-organized, illegal drug industry, there is also the danger of police corruption”. According to Maurice Punch (2009), police corruption relates to abuse of power and trust. Corruption can occur in a small groups or even throughout the entire organization. Punch (2009) emphasizes that in some forms of police corruption there is no financial gain.

Research demonstrates that the war on drugs has institutionalized racism in law enforcement, created the wholesale corruption of government officials and police departments, increased violence, and criminalized the poor (Chambliss, 1995; Oscapella 2001; Skolnick, 1992). Several investigations of drug-related police corruption found on-duty police officers engaged in selling drugs, protecting drug operations and providing false testimonies. Although material gain was found to be a motive common to drug-related police corruption, New York City’s Mollen Commission identified power and vigilante justice as two additional motives for drug-related police corruption.

In the article “Another lost war: The cost and consequences of drug prohibition”, William Chambliss argues that current drug policies have not worked because the incidence of drug use and the availability of drugs have not changed significantly since the war on drugs was instituted. Current drug policies make it inevitable that individual police will be tempted to accept bribes. Equally important, however, is the organizational pressure on police units to cooperate with drug dealers. Maurice Punch (2009:1) writes: “It is sociologically unsound to speak of ‘individuals’ in organizations, for there are none”. It is important to consider that the nature of police work, organization, and culture can conspire to encourage the diverse forms of police deviance.

Eugenne Oscapella claims that mass demand for prohibited drugs creates a black market that feeds organized crime, increases violence, corrupts enforcement and wastes police recourses. Oscapella (2001) argues that the War on Drugs is a political war, waged not by scientists and doctors, but by police officers and politicians. William Chambliss (1995) suggests that crime and drugs have been used as the weapon by conservative governments to gain political advantage. Chambliss (1995:9) notes that, “crime and drugs were joined on the political agenda, thus making it nearly impossible to argue for decriminalizing drugs without appearing to support crime”. Therefore, the war on drugs has been one of the biggest winners in political history for politicians.

A number of studies demonstrates that the war on drugs increases incarceration rates and creates economies that are drug dependent (Oscapella 2001; Skolnick 1992). Chambliss (1995) notes that the war on drugs in America is a war between the police and minority youth from the “ghetto underclass”. African American, Latino and Aboriginal people are particularly hard hit by the systematic racism inherent in the enforcement of drug laws. Drug arrests and incarcerations are the major contributor to the unprecedented number of people in prison. For instance, in 1992, 58% of the US inmates in federal prisons and over 30% of state prisoners were sentenced for drug offences (Chambliss, 1995). Approximately one-third of these were sentenced for marijuana, with another two-thirds for heroin and cocaine.

There is almost universal agreement that the war on drugs has failed.The article ” The War on Drugs is a failure” notes that this is an ineffective strategy that has to be replaced with more humane and efficient drug policies. Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy argues that the war against drugs violates human rights, damages environments and fills prisons with drug users. War on drugs takes away police time from pursuing “real” criminals and requires the police officers to treat addicts as criminals.

William Chambliss (1995) states that prohibitionist policies based criminalization of consumption have not worked. The author suggests to it is time to replace an ineffective strategy with more humane and efficient drug policies. According to Chambliss (1995), the Netherlands has been a leader in the search for alternatives for policing as a solution to social problems associated with the use of drugs. The Netherlands decriminalized possession, use, and sale of marijuana and other drugs. The main rule that governs police enforcement of anti-drugs laws is that the police are a bridge between drug addicts and treatment services (Chambliss, 1995:2). Research conducted by the Public Health and National Police in the Netherlands found that decriminalization of the use, sale, and possession of some amounts of drugs has not led to any increase in usage and has decreased the amount of crime.

Insite is North America’s first legal supervised injection site. It is located on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. This is a safe, health-focused place where people inject drugs and connect to health care services. Research shows that fatal overdoses within 500 metres of Insite decreased by 35% after the facility opened compared to a decrease of 9% in the rest of Vancouver; Insite, clients develop trusting relationships with health care and social workers, making them more likely to pursue withdrawal management, addiction counselling and other addiction treatment services.

These data from experiments with the decriminalization of drugs and safe injection sites suggest that alternative policies less dependent upon prohibitionist methods are likely to prove more effective.




Chambliss, W.J “Another lost war: The cost and consequences of drug prohibition” , 1995, Social Justice, Vol. 22, p 1-15

Oscapella E. “Witch Hunts and Chemical McCarthyism. The Criminal Law and Twentieth-Century Canadian Drug Policy”, 2001, Fraser Institute Digital Publication, p.1 -26

Punch, M. Police Corruption: Deviance, Accountability and Reform in Policing, 2009. Devon: Willan Publishing.

Skolnick J.K. “Rethinking the Drug Problem”, 1992, Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

The Ipperwash Incident: Event and Aftermath

Posted: December 5, 2011 by jsg91 in Uncategorized

Dudley George was the killed by Sergeant Ken Dean of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) in September, 1995. He died in the midst of a land claims protest that took place at Ipperwash Provincial Park in Ontario. Prior to the death of George, no Aboriginal person had been killed in a land rights dispute since the 19th century. The park was being occupied by the Aboriginals because it was an ancient burial site. The land was taken by the federal government with promise of return in 1942 under the War Measures Act because World War II was happening at the time. In 1995 the Stoney Point Ojibway occupied the park in protest because the promise of return had not been followed through after fifty years. The peaceful protest took a violent turn when an altercation between the protesters, the OPP, the Crowd Management Unit and the Tactical Response Unit occurred at the Sandy Parking area of the park. It was in this altercation that Dudley George was shot from long range by Sergeant Ken Deane. In 1997 Sergeant Deane was convicted of criminal negligence causing death because the judge found that there was no way that the officer could have found “reasonable belief” that George was carrying a weapon in the situation. Sergeant Deane also resigned from his position in 2003. After significant public pressure especially from the Dudley family, an inquiry was launched to look into the events that transpired at Ipperwash. The results of the inquiry unearthed some shocking statements, attitudes, and errors on the part of the OPP and the Provincial Government lead by Then Prime Minister Mike Harris. Audio tapes were presented to the inquiry. In these tapes then Premier Mike Harris was caught expressing his frustration with the Aboriginal protesters at Ipperwash and that he wanted them removed from the park immediately. In voicing his frustration, Harris was also recorded making racist statements. There were similar audio recordings presented to the inquiry in which high ranking officers dealing directly with the Ipperwash protest were caught making racist remarks. The events at Ipperwash brought to light several problems, such as police deviance and police negligence. Also, the events gave insight into the broader issues such as the nature of the relationship between the government and the Aboriginals, as well as how Aboriginal land rights claims should be dealt with.

The first key issue to arise from the events at Ipperwash Provincial Park was the questionable tactics used by the police. The first error made was the hasty dispatching of the Tactical Response Unit(TRU) and the Crowd Management Unit(CMU). The problem with the pre-emptive dispatching of the TRU and CMU to this protest was that it was treated as if it was a violent protest that needed to be handled with such a response. The treatment of the response in such a way seemed to echo the frustrations of then Premier Mike Harris. The dispatching of these units in addition to the OPP already being on the scene seemed to heighten the tension in the area causing things to escalate to the point where an altercation occurred and unfortunately Dudley George was shot and killed. The inquiry stated that the protest was handled as if it was a sports protest because the TRU and CMU are usually dispatched to protests that have a tendency to turn violent. Therefore, the dispatching of the CMU and TRU can be considered as deviance on the behalf of the police because the response aimed to simply remove the protesters from the land and it failed to respect and comprehend the historical and cultural context that drove the protest. Another error was the failure to set up an effective channel of communication with the protesters which has shown be quite effective in protests regarding Aboriginal rights. Inspector John Carson who was an OPP commander at overseeing the events at Ipperwash admitted that that they did not exhaust all options to negotiate with the tribe and band leaders before taking more aggressive action. This statement shows blatant deviance because the statement of this Inspector shows that the OPP policy was not followed. The policy explicitly states that all efforts be made to come to a peaceful resolution unless a situation arises where someone health and safety is at risk. Instead of following official policy, Inspector Carson made efforts to help the Ministry of Natural Resources obtain an injunction so that the police would have “political cover” in the case that force would be used. The method of setting up a line of communication proved to be effective in a similar protest which had to do with Aboriginal fishing rights. In Burnt Church, New Brunswick a dispute took place between Aboriginals and commercial fisherman regarding the times and seasons that the Aboriginals were allowed to fish in. In this case, the police first educated the police officers as much as they could about the nature of the dispute and the historical and cultural context behind it. They then employed the liason policing approach. In this approach the aim is to solve the protest in a peaceful way and divert people from entering the criminal justice system. For example, many weapons were present during the dispute, but the police did not charge the people in the interest of the greater picture which was solving the dispute. In the end both sides mediated to a peaceful solution in Burnt Church. However, the dispute cost the tax payers of New Brunswick $17 million dollars and it took close to three years resolve.

The second key issue to arise from the events at Ipperwash is the treaty rights of Aboriginal people and the government’s obligation to uphold them. The land had significance to the Stoney Point Ojibway occupying it because it was a sacred burial ground. This issue intersects with the history of Canada and its history of colonialism. Also the broader issue of the relationship or lack thereof between the Aboriginals and the State becomes pertinent to the discussion. The Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) much like the OPP failed either to comprehend or respect the historical and cultural importance of this land. “When the injunction was applied for to evict the Aboriginal occupiers, the MNR did not mention that Ipperwash Provincial Park was indeed being claimed as a burial ground”(De Lint, W & Hall, A, 2009, p.226). Actions such as this indicate that the situation was not handled as a serious lands claim by people with legitimate grievances but more like an eviction of people trespassing for no reason. The inquiry suggested that an official land claims be created because one did not exist at the time of this dispute. The Stoney Point Ojibway much like other Aboriginal land claim protestors base their protests on the fact that they have “title” to the land they are occupying, but the issue that arises is that the charter does not refer to “Aboriginal title” in any way. “(Section 35) does not refer to Aboriginal title at all. Instead, it recognizes and affirms existing “Aboriginal and treaty rights.” Aboriginal rights are those possessed by Canadian First Nation people by virtue of their Aboriginality, including but not limited to-rights in land.”(Nadasdy,2002,p.248). Future issues would greatly benefit from the elimination of the legal gray area that currently exists in regards to these issues. Another point of consideration is that the treaty rights may not have been respected by provincial police because they are not well equipped to handle such an issue. In regards to a similar occurrence in Caledonia, Ontario in 2006 OPP Commissioner Fantino said “It has to be a federal response here. These are federal issues that go back to treaties”(De Lint, W & Hall, A, 2009, p.231).Land claims protests are prevalent throughout Canada because Aboriginal treaty rights are protected under our charter and those rights should at the very least be acknowledged if not honoured so that events similar to those at Ipperwash Provincial Park can be avoided in the future.
The third key issue to come out of the Ipperwash crisis is the discussion of whether race played a factor in the actions taken against the protesters which ultimately lead to the death of Dudley George. Systemic racism appears to be prevalent throughout Canada seeing as that Aboriginal people are heavily overrepresented in the criminal justice system in proportion to their population in Canada. It is quite plausible that such attitudes could have influenced the decisions and actions taken at Ipperwash Park. Mike Harris who was Premier of Ontario at the time made a controversial statement in regards to the crisis when he said “I want the fucking Indians out of the park”. This statement is powerful not only because it highlights the racist attitudes of Mike Harris, but because it highlights the racist attitudes of a person in a position of power. These attitudes were not only held within the office of Premier Harris, Stan Korosec who was in charge of the OPP emergency response team was also quoted as saying “We want to amass a fucking army. A real fucking army and do this. Do these fuckers big-time.” This statement is also significant because Korosec is also a person in a position of power and in his statement he clearly diverts from the official OPP policy that guides these land claim situations which emphasizes coming to a peaceful resolution in favour of a more militaristic and violent response. Race could have also played a positive role in this issue but it did not. In acknowledging this issue as a solely Aboriginal issue those officers in charge as well as the Premier Harris should have also acknowledged the legitimacy of the protest as well as the charter rights the Aboriginal people are were and still are entitled to. With attitudes such as those and those held by Harris and Korosec it gives the impression that death or serious injury was an inevitable outcome because the police deviated from the official policy and they were encouraged to do so by the government who disregarded the treaty rights of the Aboriginal people and pursued an injunction. The issue of race in terms of Ipperwash and Aboriginal people involved in the Criminal Justice System in general seems to be embedded within its organisational structure because individualistic explanations cannot effectively explain why events like Ipperwash occurred and continue to occur presently across Canada.

The events at Ipperwash are significant because they expose some deeper issues. The issues between the Aboriginal people of Canada and the state can be traced all the way back to colonialism. Colonialism is when one country takes control over a dependant country, territory or people. “Canada was created through a process of acquiring control over lands occupied by other nations”. For example, in 1878 many treaties were signed between then Prime Minister John A. Macdonald and the Aboriginal people to acquire any Aboriginal land that was in the way of the building of a proposed transcontinental railroad. Treaty disputes rage on today throughout Canada and the one at Ipperwash Provincial Park served as a tragic example of what could happen. These treaty protests have the potential to also affect non-Aboriginals. Though it was not the case at Ipperwash, if a person’s home is on a disputed land they could face the possibility of being displaced of their homes in the case that the government failed to uphold treaty rights. Another issue of note is that the attitudes and actions of the police significantly depart from the basic principles of policing which is something that all citizens should be concerned about even if they are not directly affected. Sir Robert Peel proposed nine basic principles for policing in the 19th century that still apply to policing today. An example of a failed principle in the Ipperwash case would be “police only use force to the extent necessary to secure observance of the law or to restore only when exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient”. This protest garnered significant media coverage which can have a negative effect. Media coverage can lead to public pressure on the police because the public may believe that the police are not doing dealing with the situation in a timely manner. The public watch shows like COPS where the case is solved within one half hour episode and expect the real life police to operate with the same efficiency.”…Media cops hardly compare to their real-world counterparts. And when the real police do not act like their media portraits, the unrealistic public expectations generate real-world dissatisfaction with law enforcement” (Surette,2011,p.97). The Ontario provincial government may have taken such pre-emptive actions at Ipperwash because of fear of the aforementioned media effect. The events at Ipperwash and the many other prior and ongoing Aboriginal land claims disputes implicate what Maurice Punch refers to as “System Failure” corruption in his text. The system failure in this case would be the racist attitudes of the commanding officers. This is of concern because people in positions of power are making decisions with racial bias and those decisions are followed through by officers attending the scene. The pressure of following the orders of a superior may explain why the police may have used excessive force in handling the situation. This event could also be classified as what he calls “System failure with societal impact”. ”This is when a scandal goes beyond the criminal justice system, sponsoring demands for fundamental reform of the system but also raising demands to change the manner in which the state itself is governed”. In this case the demands lead to the calling of an inquiry which came up with recommendations for change. The main theme behind the recommendations of the inquiry was to establish communication between the Ontario Provincial Police and the Aboriginal people.

There are still ongoing issues in regards to Aboriginal Land Claims disputes today. In 2006 First Nations people took control of a patch of land in Caledonia Ontario claiming it as theirs. This protest was another where a treaty was not upheld and they were trying to block the building of a subdivision on the land. When the occupiers stayed on the land past a court mandated deadline for vacation the OPP was sent in. In this raid it was alleged that OPP officers conducted a raid armed with high power assault rifles and they used gratuitous force “.A spokeswoman for the protesters said one female protester was “beaten by five OPP officers”(De Lint, W & Hall, A, 2009, p.230). This is just one example of the countless ongoing land claims disputes in Canada. The fact that there are still disputes of this nature and reports of police using excessive force even after the tragic events at Ipperwash indicate that there are issues that need to be addressed that are allowing such things to reoccur. One such issue that I believe allows police deviance to occur in these cases is the monetary issue. The Burnt Church crisis is a model example of how to properly deal with Aboriginal treaty rights without the police having to resort to more aggressive tactics. At Burnt Church they used the liaison policing approach to essentially broker a deal between the two sides. However, the reality is that the Burnt Church crisis was very costly and time consuming. The cost is one that most police detachments cannot afford to take on which leads to them having to remove the occupiers with force and in some cases that force has turned out to be excessive or even fatal. Also the fact that the Burnt Church Crisis took a long time would not work in a lot of cases because if a situation gained enough steam from the media then the police would be pressured into handling the situation in a more proactive way rather than from a liaison approach. In relation to the topic of cost and time, I think that the issue of police deviance and accountability would greatly benefit if the recommendations of the long and costly inquiries became more mandatory. As stated earlier, the recommendations followed a theme of communication and reconciliation. Pursuing these goals would not only minimize deviance but improve the relationship with the Aboriginal people of Canada and the state with the police being representatives of the state. The Aboriginal people have faced great adversity and there are many examples throughout history. The amount of Aboriginal people in jail in proportion to their percentage of the total population would be an example of this adversity. This overrepresentation could suggest another form of police deviance known as “tunnel vision” which would be classed a systemic factor. Another example would be the fact that the last residential school did not close its doors until 1996. A residential school was essentially a special boarding school where Aboriginal children were sent to learn to be more “Western” and forget their traditions and culture. These schools were The most disturbing part of this marginalization was that it was regulated by the Canadian government. I also think that addressing the legal grey area that exists in regards to the protection of Aboriginal treaty rights but not “title” would minimize if not erase issue of Aboriginal land claims disputes. The events that transpired at Ipperwash Provincial Park in Ontario as well as the countless other land claims disputes that have been protested and continue to be protest show cases of police deviance and simultaneously shed light on ongoing issues regarding the relationship between the Aboriginal people of Canada and the country itself.

De Lint, W & Hall, A. (2009). Intelligent Control: Developments in Public Order Policing in Canada. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

The Ipperwash Inquiry (2007). (

Nadasdy, Paul, (2002). “Property” and Aboriginal Land Claims in the Canadian Subarctic: some Theoretical
Considerations. American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 104. No1

Punch,Maurice. (2009). Police Corruption: Deviance, accountability and reform in policing. Portland: Willan Publishing

Surette, Ray. (2011). Media, Crime and Criminal Justice: Images Realities and Policies. Belmont,CA: Cengage Learning