The ‘legal authorities paper’ the RCMP and Alberta Justice don’t want you to see
On June 25, 2013, Alberta Justice Minister Jonathan Denis asked his Deputy Minister, Tim Grant this question: ‘What legal authority do the police rely upon to forcibly enter private property in the flood stricken area?’ Deputy Minister Grant forwarded Minister Denis’ question to newly appointed Assistant Deputy Minister and Director of Law Enforcement, Bill Sweeney (retired RCMP Commanding Officer for ‘E’ Division, the Province of Alberta).
ADM Sweeney then sent an e-mail to RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marianne Ryan asking her to answer Minister Denis’ question adding: ‘This was in relation to High River and breaking into homes to look for casualties. The Minister was aware that firearms that have not been properly stored were seized during the (sic) these searches and also anticipates that some residents will ask this question later.’ Note: This was three days before the media and the public were made aware that firearms were being seized in High River.
RCMP Assistant Commissioner Marianne Ryan (soon to be promoted to the ‘E’ Division Commanding Officer) sent this reply to Alberta Justice ADM Sweeney: ‘You do raise a good point on communicating what legal authorities we are using and on that point, we will get something on paper from Crown counsel tomorrow morning to give to our folks speaking to the media for their reference and confidence in speaking to this issue to the public.’ Note: Click on the link above to read the complete text of this e-mail obtained through Access to Information Act request from the RCMP.
Any reasonable person reading this e-mail exchange would expect that Alberta Justice Minister Denis asked the ‘legal authorities’ question fully intending to use the answer to respond to High River residents and, further, that RCMP Asst. Commissioner Ryan intended release the results of the ‘Crown counsel’ paper to the ‘media’ and ‘the public’. Here we are more than four years later and both the RCMP and Alberta Justice are going to great lengths to keep this ‘legal authorities paper’ out of the public domain.
Here’s the latest I received from Alberta Justice and Solicitor General on Thursday, August 3, 2017 in response to my Freedom of Information Act (FOIP) request. ‘There were a total of four (4) pages responsive to your request. Unfortunately access to these records is refused under the following section of the FOIP Act. Section 27(1)(a)—Privileged information.’
In April of this year, the RCMP refused to release this same paper advising the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada, ‘…the RCMP are adamant that release of the Crown council paper would negatively affect the court proceedings.’ Here is a copy of my letter of complaint to the Information Commissioner.
A follow-up query by the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada to the RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa revealed that the RCMP did in fact have a copy of the High River Forced Entries ‘Crown counsel paper’ requested by Minister Denis; however, they claimed they were unable to release it without the consent of the Alberta Government. The RCMP were also kind enough to provide the title of the document: ‘The Local State of Emergency-Mandatory Evacuation Order Police Officer Authorities’‘ written by Peter Mackenzie.’
The thousands of residents of High River who had their doors kicked in, homes damaged, privacy invaded and homes searched without warrant must be asking:
- Why has this important legal document been kept a state secret for so long by the two successive Alberta Governments—the Progressive Conservative Government from 2013 to 2015 and by the NDP Government for the last two years? What are they hiding and what difference would it make if this four-year-old document were released? Could it be the bureaucrats responsible for the screw-ups in High River now oversee the forced entries file—not the Premier and her Ministers?
- Why is this ‘legal authorities’ document still being held as a closely guarded secret from the public and the media when it was specifically ordered by Justice Minister Dennis so he could reply to questions from the public?
- Why wasn’t this ‘legal authorities’ document uncovered and cited by the two-year investigation by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP?
And here are some of the reasons why the Commission’s investigation came up so short and failed to re-build trust in the RCMP among High River residents.
- What is in this ‘legal authorities’ document that is so damaging that the RCMP believe it would negatively affect the class action law suit brought against them by High River firearms owners?
- Why wasn’t the recommendation by Alberta Property Rights Advocate implemented to ensure the rights of residents under a state of emergency in the future don’t have their doors kicked in by police without lawful authority? “Specifically, it is recommended that section 19 of the Act be amended to confirm that a natural disaster does not create licence to disregard the property rights of individual Albertans, nor does it absolve the authorities from a responsibility to follow the due process of law (including the need to obtain Ministerial authorization) if any encroachments do become necessary as an emergency response.”
- Why wasn’t ‘Ministerial authorization’ obtained by the RCMP to forcibly enter High River homes as the Alberta Property Rights Advocate stated in his 2013 report was required by the Alberta Emergency Management Act?
- Justice Minister Jonathan Denis wrote to me saying: ‘At no time did the Government of Alberta support, endorse or direct this to happen.’ If no one in the Government of Alberta approved the High River forced entries, who authorized RCMP to make warrantless entries into High River homes during the 2013 flood?
- Why is there not one politician, federal or provincial, in all of Alberta willing to help restore the trust in the RCMP for High River residents?
- And finally, why didn’t the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protect the homes of High River residents from the 2.3 million-dollar RCMP door-kicking spree?
JANUARY 2, 2015 – LETTER TO ALBERTA JUSTICE MINISTER JONATHAN DENIS—MY SEVEN QUESTIONS REMAIN UNANSWERED RE: HIGH RIVER FORCED ENTRIES
JUNE 9th & 25th, 2015 – LETTERS TO NEW ALBERTA MINISTER OF JUSTICE, KATHLEEN GANLEY ASKING FOR ANSWERS TO THE HIGH RIVER QUESTIONS POSED TO MINISTER DENIS
SEPTEMBER 4, 2015 – NEW ALBERTA JUSTICE MINISTER ALSO REFUSES TO DIG ANY DEEPER INTO HIGH RIVER FORCED ENTRIES
TRYING TO GET THE TRUTH ABOUT HIGH RIVER WITH FOIP REQUESTS
January 15, 2017 – Missing Records Complaint to Alberta Information Commissioner
JUSTICE AND SOLGEN FOIP FILE: 2014-G-0335 – My File: 005
December 27, 2016—Non-Responsive Records Complaint to Alberta Information Commissioner – JUSTICE AND SOLGEN FOIP FILE: 2016-G-0268 – My File: 010
December 5, 2016—No Response Complaint to Alberta Information Commissioner
MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS FOIP FILE: 2016-G-0098 – My File: 017
NOTE: Some of the computer links to the NFA website in the above documents may produce an error message. If you wish to see the document in question please contact me by e-mail: email@example.com