The Daily GRRR! Oct 30, 2014: A Bad October.

HEADLINES for October 30, 2014

An overview of the shooting frenzy in Canada this past month

1. Peter de Groot, his death and his family’s reaction

Peter de Groot who was shot by police near Slocan BC after a 4 day man hunt. De Groot, 45, allegedly fired on police after they showed up at his cabin to investigate a dispute. Three RCMP officers, in three separate vehicles drove onto the property and created a blockade. They stayed behind their cars and got out their guns. De Groot fled into the woods. In the midst of the search, police used armoured tanks, undercover police, helicopters, tracking dogs, infrared technology and mountain guides. The police statement said
''There was an interaction between the subject of the ongoing search and the two emergency response team members,"
which I suppose is code for shoot-out
A few days later, de Groot`s sister Danna said her brother had been "executed". She described how police refused both her and her family members attempts to help find her brother, the frustration she felt at misinformation being spread about him and the apparent lack of interest shown in bringing about a peaceful conclusion. De Groot had had a workplace accident in 1994 and 3 years later, a massive brain aneurysm. He had several grand malseizures but did not have PTSD, schizophrenia, or take drugs or drink alcohol

2. Martin Couture-Rouleau runs down soldiers, killed by police in PQ

Martin Couture-Rouleau ran down two Canadian Forces members, killing Patrice Vincent, in Saint-Jean sur-Richelieu. After hitting the soldiers, Rouleau was chased by police which ended when he lost control of his vehicle and it rolled into a ditch and came to rest on its roof.
The suspect allegedly crawled out a window with a long knife and an eyewitness said the man charged at a woman police officer.
“I heard them (police) shout several times, ‘Get out of the car, get out of the car and raise your hands,’” the woman said. “The man got out and charged towards the policewoman. Then that’s when we heard seven gunshots, then the man was on the ground.”

3. Mental Health Commission of Canada report

Headlines 1 and 2 are two examples in as many weeks of police over-reaction in Canada and the reluctance to engage in de-escalation. There are many other examples of this that I don’t have the time to list, but this past August but a new report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada stated some police academy instructors in Canada still teach police that the use of force is “almost inevitable, and even recommended” when dealing with an “irrational” person. This is not the first report or spilled ink on this topic, there are reams of this stuff, media reports of police shootings, subsequent reports, prevention guides, police training manuals among others. In Feb of this year and in response to the shootings of Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Sylvia Klibingaitis and Michael Eligon who were all gunned down after approaching officers with knives or scissors a coroner’s inquest jury recommended Police should “maximize emphasis on verbal de-escalation techniques” in their training. The Toronto police maintain they do use de-escalation, but either that doesn’t carry over to other police forces (not true, the BC force has taken the lead on de-escalation training in Canada) or perhaps there is an operational definition problem. Certainly the recent authorisation of expanded deployment of Tasers in Ontario doesn’t sit with the police forces’ comment.

4. The Irish response to a lone gunman (example of de-escalation)
De-escalation is not an unusual strategy in the rest of the world, I know through my own experience in Ireland that there are standard operation procedures with specific terms of conduct stemming from memorandums of understanding between healthcare organisations and the police, and it does work. Last week in Ireland a seven-hour standoff between armed police and a man ended without incident.
The Irish police had revoked the man’s licence for a shotgun following an incident, and initial approaches last week by the police to ask the man to hand over the weapon were met with a refusal. A party of garda went to the man's house after obtaining a court warrant in order to confiscate the shotgun, but the man refused to admit them to the property. Gardaí were forced to retreat from the vicinity of the house when the man – who was alone in the house at the time – fired a shot from an upstairs window. Gardaí requested back-up and two trained negotiators arrived at the scene along with armed members of the Regional Support Unit. In the early evening, Gardaí observed him in the porch of the farmhouse without a weapon and members of the RSU burst through the door and subdued him and quickly escorted him from the building. The man was not arrested. He was assessed by a local doctor and returned home accompanied by family members who had gone to the scene to assist.

Now policing in Ireland is very different than in Canada, first most police, at least those you see on the street, do not carry guns. But d remember Ireland has had a civil war on it’s island for the best part of the last century. Ireland has lots of it’s own problems, but here is a situation similar to the Peter De Groot case in BC, in the sense that the shooter was contained in a house, but with a very different outcome.

5. The attack on Parliament Hill
On Wednesday last, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed a soldier standing on guard at the war memorial in Ottaw. Bibeau then proceeded to force his way into the Parliament building and was shot and killed in an exchange of gunfire with Hill security and police. This is sort of open and shut case, Bibeau was unstable, he must have had a death wish because you don’t shoot up a country’s legislature without expecting this kind of response.

6. 'Shooter’s life marked by estrangement,’ Les Perreaux, Ingrid Pertiz, and Robyn Doolittle, The Globe and Mail, Saturday October 25, 2014
But the papers had interesting analysis. In last Saturday’s Globe and Mail Les Perreaux, Ingrid Pertiz, and Robyn Doolittle had an article entitled ‘Shooter’s life marked by estrangement’ documenting Bibeau’s life. Accompanying the article was a picture, the picture used exclusively now where – he looks clearly nuts – he is looking up slightly at the camera with big brown doe-eyes marked by dark circles underneath, his hair is dishevelled, he has a beard and he’s grinning slightly. I can see the journalists trolling through his images and when they get to this one they all yell out in celebration in some sort of bingo chorus. The article starts by detailing his family life. His mother is a workaholic (high up in the government nonetheless) and his father is a business man, likes a party and is originally from North Africa. After we are supposed to be thoroughly disgusted with his parents, the article moves on to describe Bibeau’s instability, his drug use and the trouble he courted. In 2011, he attempted to rob a McDonalds with a pointy stick and then pleaded with the judge to put him in prison so he could clean up. But he was denied.

7. ‘What to do about the Islamic State fanboys,’ Margaret Wente, The Globe and Mail, Saturday October 25, 2014
The Globe Focus section was dedicated entirely to the idea of the Lone Wolf. Margaret Wente’s column ‘What to do about the Islamic State Fanboys’ considers what the appeal of jihad is. But in doing so she rides roughshed over the mental health issue
“Some people are going to argue that the killers –especailly Bibeau were really mental health threats than terrorism threats and that by labelling them terrorists we are misdiagnosing the real problem. But no matter how sane they were, both were deadly.” She then asks ‘why the jihadi cause is such a magnet for the troubled, the lost and the unhinged.”
This is a good question, but in her path to the asking she avoids and even slightly negates the mental health aspect of this case. As swiftly as this is done she goes after Glenn Greenwald for his piece in The Intercept entitled ‘Canada, At War For 13 Years, Shocked That ‘A Terrorist’ Attacked Its Soldiers and several others who argued ‘the Chickens have come home to roost.’ Wente surmises that by Greenwald’s reasoning half the countries in the world should be awash with terrorism. I think Ms. Wente mistakes Greenwald’s argument. Greenwald isn’t making the jump in reasoning that she is and she’s attacking him for a hypothetical situation as opposed to what he’s actually arguing.

Babiou’s story is desperately sad. He was entranced by ISIL for some reason, but more important, this is a man who clearly couldn’t help himself. He asked the courts to put him into jail. He knew he had to help himself but he didn’t know how. When the system didn’t help him maybe he found something consoling in ISIL. His actions are opprobrious and the murder of Nathan Cirrilo is abominable, and all the more so when it turns out he was a good man, god knows we’re in short supply. Despite what Margaret Wente in the Globe says, mental health is the issue here as it was in the de Groot, the Rouleau and the Irish cases. Whether or not the epidemic of mental health disorders is due to a lack of funding or some sort of weird postcolonial repression, it isn’t a Canada specific problem, it’s a problem of modern life. Another ideas here is that years of funding cuts to services and the neoliberal agenda of Harper and governments before him have hurt the Canadian people, especially the most vulnerable among us. And those funding cuts and removal of services have all been passed into law in the very House that Bibeau attempted to attack. Maybe the guy didn’t do it for ISIL, maybe he did it as revenge.

So we have a rise of disenfranchised men alongside we also have an increasingly nervous and jittery police service which is quick to react, and reluctance to de-escalate. I understand this has been a particularly bad year for attacks on the police in Canada. Obviously there are people who feel marginalised and victimised by police and who want to act out from that place, which is obviously wrong but desperation drives people to do terrible things. The only discussions we seem to be having is about force and surveillance, how to control these people. We say they are out of their mind, but we can’t talk to them, how do we know. The first few days of Justin Bourque’s trial (the young man who killed three Mounties in June) this week have really only shown that disenfranchisement, if not that he was a megalomaniac.
The general response to these attacks on the police is one of more regulation and control. Which seems counter intuitive, especially if these people are struggling. Laozi in the Tao Te Ching, said that regulation and control were the opposites of any idea that you should bring to any problem.
This policing turn seems more reminiscent of an American policing strategy –than a Canadian one. We are walking on tenuous ground

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