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"Impeccable journalism; vivid narrative; Curt Petrovich takes us behind the scenes in a ten year legal saga to reveal how the justice system can abandon basic principles of justice when political and bureaucratic interests are on the line."

Linden MacIntyre, journalist, author, The Bishop's Man

  • Writer's pictureCurt Petrovich

If you don't know what you're talking about...Maybe sit this one out

Bill Bentley at graduation from Depot

The past couple of weeks, I’ve thought long and hard about whether I should sit once more at the keyboard I used to construct Blamed and Broken. When the book was finished and I finally pushed myself away from it, I thought I typed all that needed to be written for anyone capable of reading to understand how four RCMP officers spent more than a decade defending themselves against personal and professional ruin. I was diligent and meticulous in documenting and deconstructing the false narratives that framed them as liars and killers. In more than one hundred thousand words I laid bare the corrosive assumptions of their guilt fueled by bias, sloppy journalism and agendas that had little, if anything, to do with justice. I was both relieved and elated when Blamed and Broken became a best seller, and those who picked it up have by and large come away from it, shaking their heads at how it could have dragged on for more than a decade. I knew, or at least expected, that the story wasn’t over: as I lay out in the book, each of the four men involved in Robert Dziekanski’s death filed civil claims against the RCMP and by extension, federal government. Each alleged they’d been subjected to personal and professional ruin as the result of actions and inactions of the RCMP and a number of its personnel and managers. I won’t go into all the claims here. You can look them up. Better yet, buy Blamed and Broken to understand the cases each of the men made for compensation.

So I wasn’t surprised when I learned Department of Justice lawyers were interested in settling at least some of the claims. In the interest of full disclosure, when Constable Gerry Rundel was approached by federal lawyers to mediate a settlement, he asked me if I would be interested in sitting in on the process. After some discussion, I declined when DOJ lawyers insisted I sign a legal document that might have been used to prevent me from ever writing anything about this case again, under penalty of being found summarily liable – without a trial - to pay back whatever settlement money had been awarded. It may sound draconian, but having sat through the trials, appeals and the Supreme Court of Canada hearing in this case, I can tell you I wasn’t shocked.

In the interim, the DOJ moved to mediate a settlement with Constable Bill Bentley, too. Since both Rundel and Bentley had been fully acquitted of the single count of perjury each had faced, it’s not hard to understand why the DOJ began dealing with the cases that would be the most embarrassing and, from a public relations point of view, the worst to weather if they went to trial. Don’t believe me? Read the damn book. The legal team working for the Government of Canada did. It’s why they didn’t want me in the room or even in the same building when these secret mediation sessions were being conducted.

When I learned recently that Bill Bentley had reached a deal to drop his lawsuit in exchange for an unspecified settlement, I knew what it meant. The language of the settlement may stipulate that neither the RCMP nor any other party admits fault for what happened to Bill Bentley, but that’s just a bargaining point in negotiations. It is obvious to anyone that you don’t settle a claim like this if you think it has no merits. You settle because having it all play out in court costs more than money, and if you lose you’re on the hook for a lot more.

When the media got wind of the settlement, Bill Bentley was predictably cautious when commenting.

“I am relieved that I can now move on with my life after 12 years of devastation," Bentley told the CBC via email.

Former RCMP Corporal Monty Robinson, never one to mince words, described the settlement as “hush money”. He’s not wrong. Bill Bentley is legally prohibited from discussing the settlement and I suspect you won’t hear him discuss the past 12 years in any great detail going forward. Who can blame him? It turns out, quite a few people.

I made the mistake of reading some of the online “Comments” about Bill Bentley’s settlement.

“They mess up, they kill someone, and they lie about it, now they want money for it. Only in Canada”, writes one.

“They lied…” is a common theme among the uninformed, apparently illiterate or just plain lazy.

There are also those who still harbour the same vigilante vindictiveness that infected the pursuit of justice from the beginning.

“I certainly hope he did not get anything significant in terms of a settlement. All of these officers should have been charged with murder.”

And it never ceases to surprise me how self-assured people are to offer an opinion.

“There needs to be a permanent memorial to Robert Dziekanski at the site of the attrocity.(sic)”

There is. It’s a bench with a plaque right outside the International Terminal where he died.

“So at the End it all came down to Lying. Dziekanski was Forgotten.”

If by forgotten, you mean a public inquiry that lasted two years, a public apology from the

RCMP, a 1.1 million dollar settlement for his mother, and criminal trials for perjury against all four officers spanning more than five years at which Dziekanski’s mother was permitted to supply victim impact statements, then I think we disagree.

I realize that on-line Comment sections are questionable as a reliable source for taking the public’s temperature on an issue. But the fact that people still misunderstand what happened the night Robert Dziekanski died, and appear wilfully ignorant about the facts, is disheartening as someone who spent more than a decade trying to get it right. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be the subject of such ignorant scorn. I think the DOJ can, and that’s why they settled with Bill Bentley.

Bentley, however, never had to endure one particularly troubling strategy brought forward by the Special Prosecutor in the criminal trials. Bentley had already been acquitted when a witness was brought forward to appear at the trials of the other three to testify that all four of the officers involved in Dziekanski’s death met secretly at her house prior to their appearance at the Inquiry into what happened. If the story was true, it would have meant all four had lied when they told the Inquiry they had not met prior to giving their testimony.

But the tale told by Janice Norgard was false. Had the Special Prosecutor or even the Vancouver Police who were asked to investigate Norgard’s claim actually tested it, they would have been forced to conclude it was useless as evidence. Instead, it was allowed to play out in court, in three separate trials, in what can only be described as a strategy to “get them on something”. It was important to me to document in detail how it was that Norgard was used to try to skew the cases against all four of the Mounties, and to send Bill Bentley and Gerry Rundel to prison. You can read all about it in Blamed and Broken. Starting on page 229, you’ll read how it was Wally Oppal, the former Attorney General of B.C., and retired judge, who personally took Norgard to the Special Prosecutor. You’ll discover how, in an extraordinary occurrence, Oppal was allowed to sit in on Norgard’s interview with the Prosecutor, and with the Police, while Norgard was questioned about her story.

The other RCMP story the media predictably reported on this week, was the appointment of members to the new civilian advisory board. The board is Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale’s response to a long, documented disturbing history in the Force of harassment and sexual abuse.

Goodale called the board "the biggest, single innovation in the management of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 145 years.”

The media was provided with the government news release listing the 13 members. Wally Oppal is one of them. Of the lot, Goodale said they were “carefully selected, based on their experience, knowledge, expertise and background.”

I’ve yet to read any comments, let alone a story, that examines that claim beyond simply reprinting it from a government news release. Then again, lots of people haven’t read Blamed and Broken, either.

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1 commentaire

28 juil. 2022

I can't believe that I missed this typo before: "It was important to me to document in detail how it was that Norgard was used to try to skew the cases against all four of the Mounties, and to send Bill Bentley and Gerry Rundel to prison". In fact, it was the other two: Robinson and Millington, who were convicted of perjury and incarcerated.

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