By Mike Archer. Once again Abbotsford’s police chief seems to have taken the law into his own hands – APD Ignores Supreme Court, Recommends Bawdy House Charges – and chosen a path for his police force (our police force) which demonstrates a singular inability to draw within the lines when it comes to such inconvenient matters as the criminal code, the Charter of Rights, the UN Declaration of Human Rights or the Canadian Supreme Court.
No matter where you stand on the issue of prostitution, the law is clearly in limbo and even the federal government has come up with guidelines for police chiefs to use when presented with this exact issue.
In case Bob wants to argue the political point that he is actually trying to help the sex workers, Canada’s sex workers have been quite clear in their denunciation of what the federal Conservatives and Bob Rich appear to be doing.
Any semblance or pretense that this is an argument for continuing to criminalize an un-criminal act in order to protect the men and women in the sex trade can be dismissed. This is nothing more than a moral battle using the law as a method of enforcing personal and political beliefs.
While other police chiefs across the country seem content with enforcing and obeying the law, Bob seems to have a bigger agenda in mind.
In a piece in the George Straight penned by founder and publisher Charlie Smith, the legal landscape on this issue was well laid out:
Last December’s Supreme Court of Canada ruling striking down the bawdy-house prohibition won’t take effect for a year.
This gives the federal government time to bring in new laws that don’t violate sex workers’ charter rights.
Bill C-36 has been introduced in Parliament in response to the court ruling, but the legislation has not yet been scrutinized by the Commons justice committee. It’s still a long way from receiving royal assent.
Meanwhile, there are provisions on the books for addressing the issues of concern to Abbotsford police. The Department of Justice website notes that section 279 of the Criminal Code offers a comprehensive response to human trafficking, with penalties ranging up to 14 years in prison.
In addition, section 212.4 of the Criminal Code makes it illegal to communicate with anyone under the age of 18 for the purpose of prostitution. This carries a maximum sentence of five years.
So the question remains: why would Abbotsford police recommend a charge of keeping a common-bawdy house when it could recommend these other charges? Is it for a lack of evidence?
Politics And Policing Shouldn’t Mix
Bob Rich’s seeming preponderance for choosing the particular sections of the law the APD enforces (as demonstrated in his apparent obsession with running Tim Felger out of town – the only charge which has stuck against Felger is one of possession), and his declaration of such inhumane and possibly illegal policies as his “displace and disperse” method of dealing with the social problems which lead to homelessness are well-documented.
The manner in which Rich and his political masters have systematically made the homeless crisis in Downtown Abbotsford (and Abbotsford in general) worse than when Councillor John Smith announced to the national media that he had instructed the APD to resolve the homeless situation in downtown Abbotsford, has already cost taxpayers millions; helped significantly in ruining Abbotsford’s worldwide reputation; led directly to a number of court cases and human rights complaints against the City of Abbotsford and the APD, and helped to establish the appearance of a City where those who rule it, including the chief of police, decide on what is and isn’t legal in ‘their’ city.
When the criminal code, the Constitution, the Charter of Rights, the Supreme Court are at odds with the beliefs of our city fathers, it appears the views of our city fathers have held more weight than the rules of the country in which we live.
Let’s Look At The Record
The Abbotsford Police Department, under Rich’s leadership has had more than it’s share of bad publicity and has had a hard time shaking a reputation for being unable to understand that people who are disabled, suffer from mental illness, are drug or alcohol dependent or simply poor and homeless, deserve, at the very least, the same kind of treatment any other citizen of the community is entitled to under the law.
Let’s look at the part of the record we know about:
- Judge calls Abbotsford police ‘a place time forgot’, CBC News, December 5, 2013
- Abbotsford police take steps to reclaim respect, Vancouver Sun, Dec 6, 2013
- Denying a paraplegic his wheelchair, his medication or the ability to go to the bathroom
- Using pepper spray on the tents of homeless people
- Destroying property belonging to homeless people
- Using a ‘displace and disperse’ policy to deal with the homeless and the addicted
- Charges being thrown out of court due to improperly collected evidence
- Accusations of professional misconduct
- Demeaning and derogatory emails discussing the homeless and the June 4, 2013 Abbotsford Chicken Manure incident
- Video Shows Roy Roberts Screaming ‘What Did I Do’ As APD Shoot Him Repeatedly
Here are a few of the words from Justice Kathleen Ker of the BC Supreme Court about Bob Rich’s APD:
- “The Abbotsford Police Department is a place time forgot”
- The APD showed “blatant disregard for human dignity”
- The APD’s arrest and detention of Ryan Moonie was “abhorrent and humiliating”
“This should never have happened in a developed democracy like Canada,” Justice Ker said of the Ryan Moonie case. Wait until a judge hears the testimony in the court cases against the City and its police force later this year*.
*The City of Abbotsford is trying desperately to have those court cases moved back until 2015 in order, presumably, to allow for an election where incumbents don’t have to explain themselves on these issues and/or allow enough time for the City to appear to be ‘doing something’ about the homeless crisis.
At a roundtable discussion about human trafficking held at MLA Darryl Plecas’ office in May, Rich waxed eloquent about his years working on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. He took pride in introducing a strategy which involved using Canada’s (now unconstitutional) prostitution laws to arrest prostitutes and use the occasion to try to help them get off the streets.
He admitted the strategy had been an abject failure, but nonetheless told the roundtable he saw a lot of value in using just such a strategy in Abbotsford.
That political roundtable was led by Conservative MP Joy Smith who is the Harper government’s point person in its political strategy to link our unconstitutional laws on prostitution with human trafficking and thereby do an end-run on the Supreme Court.
Is this what he’s doing?
Is Bob playing politics with the lives of the men and women in the sex trade?
If so someone should tell him that sort of policing went out of fashion years ago.
Have the abject failures of both his Downtown Eastside arrest-and-counsel strategy and his Abbotsford displace-and-disperse strategy not been enough of a wake-up call for Bob to make him understand that using the law to enforce one’s personal or political beliefs is really not something a cop ought to be doing?
The Abbotsford Police Board should be asking these questions of a police chief who, more and more, seems to be demonstrating behaviour which is out of control and outside of his mandate.
What Do You Think?
Should a police chief manage his police force to selectively enforce the law according to political or personal beliefs?
Should police departments reflect the political or personal beliefs of its chief?
Should politics or beliefs play any role at all in the enforcement of the law?
Is Abbotsford’s police force, and its track record of criminalizing issues such as homelessness, drug addiction, alcohol dependence and mental illness, enforcing Canadian laws or the political and personal beliefs of its chief and a select group of community leaders according to some other criteria than the law and the constitution?
Use the comments box below or send us an email at email@example.com