A Special Report on Policing Matters

Federal Policing, National Security, Complex Crimes, and Major Organized Crime

On November 7th, 2023, the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (The Committee) published a 101-page special report titled, “Special Report on the Federal Policing Mandate of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police”.  The study was initiated at the start of 2021 and concluded in the second half of 2023, and it set out three objectives.  The first was to examine the Federal Policing Mandate’s programs, activities, structures, authorities, and accountabilities, including to distinguish them from the RCMP’s wider mandate.  The second was to examine the capabilities and results of the Mandate’s programs and activities, including thorough data analysis and case studies of how the RCMP prioritizes and conducts federal criminal investigations.  The third was to examine the role played by key domestic and international partnerships.

The report has seven chapters.  The first explores key threats and their implications for federal policing including violent extremism, transnational and serious organized crime, financial crimes, espionage, and cybercrime.  The second explores the complexities of the RCMP serving as a federal policing agency while also having detachments that are involved in providing municipal and provincial policing services and how that complicates things.  The third and fourth chapters explored federal investigations and federal policing partnerships, including domestic and international partnerships.  The fifth and sixth chapters explored police accountability and governance and the role of Public Safety Ministers as well as thematic issues around finances and human resources and recruiting strategies.  The Committee’s assessment of all the findings are then presented in the last chapter, followed by a conclusion and recommendations.

Things that stick out in the report

The report acknowledges that transnational and serious organized crime remains a pervasive threat to national security, public safety and the integrity of our financial system and economy.  Organized crime networks are mentioned for their ruthlessness in their pursuit of criminal profit by any means necessary and that they are responsible for more deaths in Canada than any other security threat.  Europol’s comments are cited about how cross-cutting criminal threats like document fraud, money laundering, and the online trade in illicit goods and services are the engines of organized crime, and that they help facilitate most, if not all, other types of serious and organized crime.

The Committee stated that serious and transnational organized crime is included in its definition of national security, but that most organized crime networks in Canada do not pose a national security threat.  There was also reference to a 2022 report on organized crime put out by Criminal Intelligence Service Canada (CISC) and how there were over 3,000 crime groups in Canada, and 647 of those groups were deserving of an assessment by CISC. Additionally, the focus of the 647 groups was on the 14 considered to be high-level threats, and how they were focused on maintaining associations with other organized crime groups, infiltrating police and security agencies, and working across provincial or national borders.

Another study that was referenced in the report was the Operational Improvement Review, an independent review conducted by defence attorney Anil Kapoor.  Mr.  Kapoor looked into national security investigations and the cooperative practices between different public safety stakeholders and made 76 recommendations on how procedures and protocols could be more effective.  He made the shocking acknowledgement  that it was necessary to accept that a criminal prosecution was no longer the “gold standard” in national security investigations.

As to Federal Policing, the report described the current state of the RCMP as not being effective, efficient, flexible, or as accountable as it needed to be to protect Canada and Canadians from the most significant national security and criminal threats, and the government needed to act to ensure these matters got resolved.  Some of the issues raised included problems with data integrity and information management undermining effective decision-making and support to operations, ineffective governance systems that lacked standardized methods or approaches for data analytics, the information that existed including many incomplete records, outdated reporting, inconsistencies, incorrect data, and missing information.  It was noted compliance capabilities among Federal Policing units with a direction to address these problems was near zero.  Overall, the shortcomings were identified as undermining Federal Policing’s ability to prioritize its work, attribute actual costs to investigations, and enable its intelligence units to make linkages among investigations or identify emerging issues.

Throughout the report, the common thread was that Canada was changing. The Canadian landscape that once was is no longer, and public safety stakeholders were playing catch up.  There were also lesser concerns about the intersecting threat between things like individuals involved in complex crimes and domestic political interference.  This mix has somewhat paved the path for the irrational idea of there being a “deep state”, and it does not help that the report suggested that criminal prosecutions should no longer be viewed as the “gold standard” for matters relating to national security.

Over the past few years, violent extremism is the threat that the RCMP has listed as the top priority and as having the potential to pose the greatest threat to Canadians, but that might be changing with everything that has been making national news headlines.  Whether it was the shooting of a community leader at a place of worship, the foreign policing stations operating covertly to terrorize ethnic Canadians, the international car theft rings, drug trafficking rings, election interference and disinformation campaigns, or individuals shooting at homes and uploading the  videos of it to TikTok, there is a lot of chaos across Canada.  Different people are likely to have different perspectives and a different order of what they consider as the greatest threats to Canada.  Personally, I believe that organized crime poses the greatest threat to our institutions, but also to our democracy because of unintended consequences – and it is without a close second.

Domestic political interference and the irrational idea of a “deep state”.

Often the trends that occur in the U.S. make their way over to Canada a short time later.  Currently in the U.S., there are major figures who are calling for the release of information related to how many plain clothed police personnel were around the vicinity of government buildings that were full of elected representatives and the events that unfolded on January 6.  They suggest that the information around this request may be the reason as to why the time has come to disband what might be the world’s greatest police force, the FBI.  Somehow, identifying how many plain clothed police personnel were in the vicinity of government buildings and in the crowds is being treated like a novel idea, almost as if having plain clothed police personnel in crowds to ensure for safety was something new, when it was the furthest thing from it.  By sharing how many plain clothed police personnel attend political events like inaugurations it becomes a security vulnerability and the science behind keeping the president safe, as well as other important figures, becomes less sound in a country where guns are the norm.  However, with no voices addressing the common-sense thinking and reason behind such information remaining private, major figures have managed to contribute to the irrational idea of a “deep state”: it has been equated that not knowing data about plain clothed police personnel is an attack on freedom.

Perhaps there is no way to change a person’s mind when they are dead set in their position after hearing major figures in the U.S.  speak on the issue.  However, back when 4/20 was a thing and marijuana was still criminalized, Ottawa’s Parliament Hill would get flooded by modern-day hippies, but one would be mistaken to think that there were no plain clothed police personnel making sure things did not escalate or that a riot did not break out.  The same is true for other mass gatherings like national celebrations like Canada Day or major protests related to overseas wars.  Even the University of Ottawa was flooded with plain clothed personnel when all of the Embassies and Ambassadors located in Ottawa had gathered at the university to attend the diplomatic awards ceremony meant to honor foreign missions and the work they do.  Sensible people would consider this prudence, not proof of a deep state.

As it relates to domestic political interference, it is a loose term being used to describe domestic actors that attempt to wedge themselves into political settings to rub elbows with individuals who have institutional powers or some form of authoritative powers, and with the hope that videos or photos are taken.  The most common ways that domestic interference plays out includes people tagging along to events that might have elected officials and others with institutional powers, paying to attend political fundraisers, but also with a combination of making a political contribution and hosting a fundraiser.  Individuals with established businesses and who are involved in more complex organized crimes, where the dirty little secret is tolerated, could easily contribute to a political campaign or offer to organize a no-cost or low-cost fundraiser at their business.

But the act of making a financial contribution or hosting a fundraiser is not the main issue. What makes the act problematic is that the photos or videos that may betaken.  Subsequently, for individuals involved in complex organized crime, like the ones mentioned in the report, they can exploit photos or videos and leverage them as “proof” that they are connected to some of Canada’s most powerful figures.  Forget that there is no truth to any of claims that these criminals have such connections, seeing is believing, and that is what photos and videos are for.

Domestic political interference, complex crimes, and foreign political interference.

When it comes to “foreign political interference”, many people might fail to see how it connects with “domestic political interference” and “complex crimes”.  Perhaps the best example of the interconnected nature of these three threats can be better understood with the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent press release about how one Iranian and two Canadians involved in organized crime were indicted in a murder-for-hire scheme. So, while the news cycle has been full of stories discussing foreign political interference, nobody seemed to be reporting on domestic political interference. The RCMP was the only place to get answers as to what was being done to protect Canada’s elected officials from both foreign political interference and domestic political interference.

The RCMP’s response, in short, was that much of the protective measures were intelligence-led and based on risk and threat assessments, ongoing security considerations, and a number of other factors.  Understandably, the RCMP was limited on the information they could disclose related to protective measures, nor could they confirm individuals who may receive protections. Not surprisingly, the finite resources of the RCMP and the limitation of not being able to be everywhere at all times is how an extremely popular MP ended up speaking at an event hosted by the same individuals who had exploited members of my ethnic community and had even offered to provide me with an account to be able to make bets in the Summer of 2018. All of it paints a picture of democracy as being fragile and in need of protecting.