So, whose privacy are they protecting? On Dec. 2, 2008, an RCMP constable shot and killed John Andrew Simon, a member of Cape Breton’s Wagmatcook First Nation.
Simon, everyone agrees, was alone inside his house, drunk and suicidal at the time he was killed. According to what police reportedly told Simon’s family, he was unarmed, sitting on the toilet and smoking a cigarette when Const. Jeremy Frenette first entered the house. They claim Simon then fled to the kitchen where he grabbed his shotgun. Frenette fired three times, killing Simon.
What was Frenette doing inside the house without a warrant? And without backup? Especially considering that Simon, at that point, was no threat to anyone except himself.
The Halifax Regional Police, who led what was supposed to be an arm’s-length investigation into the shooting, concluded he only fired “after reasonably perceiving that John Simon posed a threat of grievous bodily harm or death and believing that he could not otherwise preserve himself from grievous bodily harm other than by using deadly force.”
Simon’s widow and members of the local band council would beg to disagree.
But that’s not the issue here.
Why are the Mounties now refusing to release the report into the incident? Just as importantly, why is it even the RCMP’s call whether to release this supposedly independent review? RCMP Chief Supt. Blair McKnight told reporters in December the Mounties weren’t “permitted” to release the report under Canada’s privacy laws.
Whose privacy is being protected here? Simon is dead. His widow and the local band council — which contract the RCMP to police their reserve — both say they want to read a copy of the report.
Others have seen it. Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister, Ross Landry, for example — a former RCMP officer — told reporters this week he has read the report and believes the band council should, too, before he makes his decision on their request for a public inquiry into Simon’s death. His office, in fact, is trying to help the band get a copy.
But RCMP brass seem happy to hide the report behind the privacy veil.
Little wonder the Wagmatcook band council has decided to replace the RCMP when its policing contract expires at the end of next month. Little wonder, too, the council has called for a public inquiry to determine why “policing hasn’t changed in our First Nation territories” in the two decades since the Marshall Inquiry report.
Stephen Kimber, the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of Kings College, is the author of eight books.