Editorial: RCMP Disconnect

Trent Ernst, Editor


On Thursday, July 16, I went to Dawson Creek for a couple of reasons.

One of those reasons was to stop by the Dawson Creek Jail and Bail, a fundraiser for the Tour de North ride, where a group of RCMP officers were faux-arresting people from about the town and tossing them in “prison” (a wooden cage in the Lake View parking lot) until they were able to drum up enough support to be let out of jail. Charges included things like “too many weekends off in a row.”

It was all in fun and for a great cause, but the day was marred by an event that happened a couple hours later.

At 6:30 that evening, officers responded to a report of a disruption at a Site C open house at Fixx Urban Grill, near the Encana Events Centre in Dawson Creek.

A man in a mask and wielding a knife was shot by RCMP officers.

The cognitive dissonance between these two events was further exacerbated a few days later, when I went down to Camp Goodtimes in Maple Ridge.

Camp Goodtimes is a camp run by the Canadian Cancer Society. I was down as part of my duties as media rider for the Tour de North.

There were about 30 other people there, a mix of riders from Tour de North and Tour de Rock. After a tour around the camp facilities, the riders were taken down to a tent beside the stage. “Pick out your costume for the carnival” said the camp director.

So thirty RCMP officers, auxiliary officers, ambulance members and hangers on went digging through buckets of pink dresses, purple dinosaur outfits, sailor costumes to get dressed up to run the carnival.

Let that bounce around your head for a few minutes. At the same time as Anonymous is releasing videos calling down the RCMP as having “mercilessly shot a masked Anon without provocation or cause,” I’m hanging out with a group of RCMP members who, at best look like they should be performing in a Village People cover band, and at worst look like rejects from a low budget Canadian kids show, in order to go play with a group of kids undergoing cancer treatment. Who, in a month and a half, will be taking a week off to go out and raise money for these kids.

And the two seem tough to reconcile. Tough, but not impossible. Because the RCMP is not a single entity, but an organization built on a variety of members. I’ve met RCMP officers who were always laughing, and RCMP officers who wouldn’t know a joke if it walked up to them and said; “Hello, I’m a Joke. Pleased to meet you.”

I know RCMP officers who are more militant than members of the military I’ve met, and I know RCMP officers who are probably bigger nerds than these Anonymous fellows.

So yes, it is conceivable that the RCMP officer who shot James McIntyre was the sort of person who was inclined to violence.

But I expect it is training. Under sections 25 and 26 of the Criminal Code of Canada, a police officer is allowed to pull and fire his weapon if “he believes on reasonable grounds that the force is necessary for the purpose of protecting the peace officer.”

Years ago, officers would fire warning shots. But it was found these warning shots would often damage property and sometimes hit innocent bystanders.

These days, officers are trained to aim their weapon at the subject’s centre of mass and continue firing until there is no longer a threat to the public or to the officer.

In this case, a man wearing a mask and brandishing what is thought to have been a knife refused to drop the knife. And so the officer did what they are trained to do. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the officer probably didn’t want to shoot anyone that day, but he was trained to assess the threat and chose, rightly or wrongly, to engage in the use of force. And that officer will have to live with that decision for the rest of their life.