Recent allegations of political interference and a code of conduct investigation of the RCMP commissioner, Canadians must ask: Just how much influence does the Prime Minister’s office have over the RCMP?
By: Greg Staley
Written On: 2022-07-18
Justin Trudeau has sought to normalize relations with Iran dating back to before he became Prime Minister. In light of recent allegations of political interference in Nova Scotia involving the RCMP commissioner, and a pending code of conduct investigation into her refusal to open a criminal investigation into the downing of flight PS752, we know that Canadians must question the relationship between the RCMP and the Prime Minister’s Office. One such question being: Just how much influence does the Prime Minister’s Office have over the RCMP commissioner?
It was enough according to multiple sources (Scanlan and Campbell) to potentially jeopardize an ongoing investigation into Canada’s deadliest mass murder – would it be enough to prevent the RCMP from launching a criminal investigation into the downing of Flight PS752? This flight had 55 Canadian citizens on board, 30 permanent residents and 138 people with connections to Canada in total – why wouldn’t the RCMP want to launch a Canadian led criminal investigation into this atrocity?
RCMP Commissioner Lucki’s letter to the families of the victims of PS752
In a letter to the families of the victims of PS752, the flight shot down by missiles launched by Iran, the Commissioner said that “the RCMP is not conducting its own domestic criminal investigation into the downing.” Touching on whether the decision to not commence a criminal investigation in Canada was an RCMP decision the Commissioner had some interesting words to say.
“A question was also raised on whether the decision to not commence or lead a domestic criminal investigation in Canada was an RCMP decision. It is indeed our responsibility to make these decisions, though we consult with legal counsel and other advisors on the potential viability of obtaining physical evidence, access to witnesses and consider related issues. In this case it was the RCMP that decided Ukraine was the most competent authority to lead a criminal investigation into the downing. This is because Ukraine had greater rights to access the crash site, to the wreckage, and to witnesses and victims in other countries.”
There are several questions this raises:
Who are the other advisors that the RCMP is consulting with that Commissioner Lucki is referring to? Why did the RCMP commissioner say that “in this case” it was the RCMP that made the decision? Are there cases where the RCMP doesn’t make the decision? What were the “related issues” discussed with these “other advisors”? Why couldn’t the Commissioner be more forthcoming in her answer? Why not simply say, in plain language, that yes it was the RCMP’s decision to make – why bring up legal counsel and other advisors consulting with you about access to witnesses, evidence and other “related issues”?
To be clear, Canada has jurisdiction to pursue a criminal investigation into the downing of PS752 in the Canadian Criminal Code. For instance, section (3.75) of the Criminal Code of Canada says that everyone who commits an act or omission outside of Canada that if committed in Canada would be an indictable defense and constitute terrorist activity is deemed to have committed that act or omission in Canada if a Canadian citizen(s) is involved. This applies to the case of PS752 as 55 Canadian citizens lost their lives in what an Ontario Court has constituted as “terrorist activity.”
This is not, however, the only grounds for pursuing charges against the Iranian government – nor would a good investigator put all of their eggs in one basket. According to retired RCMP officer Andy Brooke, there are other grounds to pursue criminal charges. The first would be Conspiracy to Commit the Detonation of an Explosive or other Lethal Device (section 431.2 of Criminal Code) and the second would be Conspiracy to Commit Murder, (Section 229/Section 465(1) Criminal Code). Both of these sentences can carry up to life imprisonment if found guilty.
Needless to say, Commissioner Lucki’s decision to place this investigation in the hands of Ukraine is concerning. The RCMP commissioner said that the reason to leave the investigation in the hands of Ukraine is that “Ukraine had greater rights to access the crash site, to the wreckage, and to witnesses and victims in other countries.” However, there are serious issues with that statement. The Prosecutor General’s Office in Ukraine has essentially rebuked these remarks in their document titled “Boeing-737 PS 752 Fact Investigation”.
In that document the Ukraine Prosecutor General’s Office wrote “The investigation of this crime is carried out in absolute conditions of extraterritoriality, without having access to the remnants of the plane wreckage and without the possibility of questioning the witnesses and other persons in the case in the territory of Iran. At the same time, all that did not become a hindrance to the advancement of the investigation toward establishing the objective truth.”
The RCMP commissioner’s reasoning for not taking responsibility to investigate the loss of Canadian citizens was that the Ukraine had the greater ability to investigate, while Ukraine themselves have said that they don’t have access to the wreckage, witnesses or other persons in the case in the territory of Iran but nonetheless say that this did not become a hindrance to the advancement of their investigation. So why didn’t the RCMP open a criminal investigation? Why was there no desire to investigate this atrocity by the RCMP but instead a willingness to slough this off onto Ukraine?
Is it possible that perhaps these “related issues” that were discussed by the RCMP commissioner could be in relation to the Trudeau governments desire to normalize relations with Iran? This has been a stated goal of Prime Minister Trudeau since before he became elected although there was a toothless motion that the Liberals agreed to in June of 2018. We know that the motion was without teeth because one of the tenants of the motion was to place the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps on the designated terrorist entity list; something Trudeau has failed to do up to this day. Instead, many of the IRGC’s subsidiary organizations are listed but the IRGC has somehow evaded the terrorist entity label. It has been 4 years since Trudeau agreed to the motion and still he has not shown any intention of listing the IRGC as a terrorist entity.
Trudeau’s history advocating for normalized relations with Iran
On the 23rd of June, 2015, Justin Trudeau told the CBC that he hoped that Canada could reopen its mission in Iran. This goal was part of Trudeau’s campaign to become Prime Minister and he put a great deal of emphasis on this point as if to signal to the world and to Canadians that he would be much different than Prime Minister Harper.
In March of 2016, Trudeau’s Foreign Minister Stephone Dion wrote in Maclean’s that “Canada’s severing of ties with Iran had no positive consequences for anyone: not for Canadians, not for the people of Iran, not for Israel, and not for global security.” If one were to ask me, that seems a rather pointed opinion coming from the Prime Minister’s Foreign Affairs Minister – but I digress.
Dion continued, “Canada’s embassy in Iran has been closed for over three years. With which results? Is it right to need to count on Italy to protect our interests in this country?” He added that “Today, Canada must return to Iran to play a useful role in that region of the world, while remaining vigilant about embassy security issues in Tehran and elsewhere. We are being asked by all sides to reengage, and we are doing so.”
Clearly, in 2016 the issue of normalizing relations with Iran was of high importance for the Trudeau government. It translates to essentially this: the relationship was important enough to focus on locating an embassy in an area that would require us to be “vigilant about embassy security issues.”
This history of advocating for normalized relations with Iran by the Trudeau government becomes especially interesting when considering the Prime Minister’s language around flight PS752. In the Yaworski report on the downing of PS752, Trudeau wrote that “only Iran has full access to the evidence, crash site, and witnesses. The onus is on Iran to provide definitive answers about all aspects of this tragedy.“ This line implies that Canada is helpless to get to the answers about this atrocity ourselves. The wording choice of “tragedy” also implies that it was an accident rather than intentional.
The Prime Minister also alluded to the flight being shot down by accident when he stated in the Yaworski report that “Flight PS752 was shot down due to their recklessness, incompetence, and wanton disregard for human life.”
This kind of language could be signaling to the Iranian government that they’re in the clear and that no criminal charges will be coming. After all, the RCMP commissioner has already said there won’t be an investigation and the Yaworski report stated that they “found no information to indicate that the downing of Flight PS752 was premeditated.” Add into the mix a Prime Minister who says that only Iran can provide the definitive answers as to what happened, and I suspect the Iranian government isn’t very worried about criminal charges coming their way, or accountability of any kind.
Alas, as the story unfolds, it appears more likely that accountability is not a value prioritized in Canada’s current political climate. Canadians deserve better.
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Some of the references/ideas used during the writing and research of this article are listed below for our readers:
Foreign Affairs Minister says PS752 downing not “human error” reported on CBC Dec. 15, 2020 – Champagne told host Vassy Kapelos he does not believe the destruction of Flight PS752 can be blamed on human error — but he refused to say what he believes caused the disaster.
Financial Tribune – According to Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Bahram Qasemi “after Trudea’s government came to power in 2015, Iran conducted several rounds of negotiations both in Tehran and a third country to reopen consular offices.” However, the process was disrupted by an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling last year to uphold the seizure of $1.7 billion in private Iranian assets by a group of American plaintiffs whose relatives were killed in terrorist attacks that they alleged were linked to the Iranian government.”
“It’s shameful that it’s been over three years and the Trudeau Liberals have failed to list the IRGC as a terrorist organization. The IRGC is not only the largest sponsor of terrorism in the world, it’s responsible for the killing of 138 individuals with ties to Canada with the downing of flight PS752” – Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs, the party’s public safety critic, CBC June 25th, 2021
“Canada’s relations with Iran have been a point of interest for Conservative parliamentarians over the last several years. During the 2019 election, the CPC consistently opposed relations with Iran. Additionally, then CPC leader, Andrew Scheer, committed to designating the IRGC a terrorist organization if elected. In 2018, the CPC introduced a motion condemning Iran and urging the government to continue keeping diplomatic relations severed. The CPC opposed the Iran Nuclear Deal (JCPOA) and criticized the government for adhering to the agreement and lifting Canada’s sanctions on Iran after the JCPOA was signed. Most recently, CPC MP Garnett Genuis raised concerns regarding Iran’s election to the United Nations (UN) Commission on the Status of Women, and CPC MP Peter Kent noted that, “the Liberals once again have failed Canadians, failing to fully ban Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.” Additionally, concerns about clandestine foreign influence operations on behalf of Iran have been raised at the Standing Committee on Public Safety (SECU).
In direct opposition to the CPC, the NDP has consistently supported the re-establishment of relations with Iran. The NDP supported the Iran Nuclear Deal and were the only party to vote against the CPC motion calling on the government to abandon bilateral relations with Iran. Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the NDP, supported the re-opening of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa and Canadian embassy in Tehran. Generally, the NDP believes that Canadian interests are best served by a foreign policy based on human rights, multilateralism, and the forwarding of peace and security. Additionally, the NDP believes the first step in improving relations between Canada and Iran is the resumption of diplomatic relations so dialogue and engagement between the two countries can take place, and so Canadian and Iranian citizens can receive consular support from their respective governments.” – Minister of Foreign Affairs appearance before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities (TRAN) on the Government’s Response to PS752 – Briefing material
“The Forensic Team found no evidence that the downing of Flight PS752 was premeditated, this in no way absolves Iran of its responsibility for the death of 176 innocent people. Iran is ultimately responsible for the actions it took – or failed to take – which led to the shoot-down.” – The Yaworski Forensic report
Flight PS752 was shot down due to their recklessness, incompetence, and wanton disregard for human life.” (Paragraph 2/ Forward from the Prime Minister to the families in the Yaworski Report. These are the words of civil negligence. This could clear the way for this government to seek monetary reparations.
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