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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

The Rabbit Hole

I can’t remember when it first occurred to me the film, The Matrix, wasn’t really science-fiction. It’s an allegory for truth and transformation. On one level at least, it’s about demanding the truth even when it disrupts the comfort of ignorance or the status quo. The character of Morpheus has some of the best lines:

“You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes...”

This really resonates with me as a journalist. Actor Laurence Fishburne delivers the line dispassionately, making the choice of whether to take the blue or red pill an independent one. I’ve also made a career out of exploring metaphoric rabbit holes. Some of them have been deep. Some have been little more than divots in the dirt that take little time to peruse. One of those is the town of Eastbourne, England.

Today I learned that the seaside resort community on the English Channel was once home to some fascinating individuals as varied as the notorious occultist Aleister Crowley, and the comedic actress Prunella Scales who played Cybil, the foil to John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty. Also, the nearby towering white chalky cliffs known as The Seven Sisters were used as a backdrop in the film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Until today I never knew that. Just like I never knew that the Ontario Provincial Police randomly names its major investigations after cities and villages in England. But it does. And because the latest one is called Project Eastbourne, I was simply curious.

Project Eastbourne is the moniker the OPP has given to its independent investigation into allegations of obstruction against senior leaders in the RCMP lodged by former Mountie Monty Robinson and constable Gerry Rundel. I’ve written previously about their complaints and how they believe the Force withheld exculpatory documents and assistance as they and two fellow officers were put through more than a decade of public and criminal proceedings over the death of Robert Dziekanski. If you haven’t read it already, I urge you to pick up my book on the subject: Blamed and Broken. I was pleased to learn that RCMP Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs, who engaged the OPP to look into these criminal complaints, and OPP Detective Inspector Daniel Nadeau who’s leading Project Eastbourne, already have.

It will still be weeks before the OPP has a full team together and is in a position to begin the interviews that form the basis of any investigation of this sort. There are literally thousands of pages of documents Nadeau’s team will need to access. Establishing the foundation of Robinson’s and Rundel’s complaints will require pinning down some very senior RCMP officers about who knew what, and when. These include a few key figures who’ve retired as well as the current Commissioner herself Brenda Lucki. It will take many months. At a minimum.

Make no mistake, it is remarkable that the RCMP, via Assistant Commissioner Eric Stubbs, is voluntarily submitting its chain of command to such a high-level criminal examination. This is either because of supreme confidence that the conduct Robinson and Rundel allege doesn’t rise to anything criminal, or because the RCMP has simply run out of options to clean up a stain that began spreading thirteen years ago. All four Mounties involved in Dziekanski’s death sued the RCMP over how they were treated. Bill Bentley and Kwesi Millington reached settlements. The department of Justice appears uninterested in reaching a deal with Robinson who went to jail, or Rundel who was fully acquitted. It could be that the approval of this investigation is a gamble intended to produce an independent report absolving the bosses of any criminal wrongdoing. That might make it much harder for Robinson and Rundel to leverage any compensation from the RCMP. But knowing as much as I do about the case, I find it hard to believe that a thorough investigation won’t at least confirm some of what’s in Blamed and Broken, or in Monty Robinson’s uniquely acerbic and blunt emails he regularly issues on the matter. “Nadeau may be doing the right thing and Stubbs did the right thing”, Robinson wrote recently, “but I do not expect the obstruction to stop by people above them. I made that clear to both.”

But without a doubt, with the launch of Project Eastbourne the rabbit hole just got a littler deeper.

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