The SNC Lavalin Affair

Written by Harold McNeill on August 17th, 2019. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials


The Greens, NDP, and Liberals hold the keys to our fight on climate change. They can either turn those keys together or they will turn our future over to those who have no interest in making the hard decisions that must be made. 

SNC Lavalin and the Future of Canada

Opinions have flowed like water over Niagara Falls following the recent Ethics Commissioner’s ruling on the SNC Lavalin. As expected, opposition parties are rubbing their hands with glee, while the Prime Minister and Liberals consider the best course of action as we march towards the next election. Such is life in the arena of politics.

While there is plenty of room to criticize all parties and politicians, few take the time to consider the issues in the broader context of how things get done in a democracy. To those politicians, I suggest, “don’t rush to judgment,” on the SNC Lavalin affair or any other for that matter, you to could one day be sitting in the hot seat. Heaven knows, our former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, sat in that hot seat often enough and, in his own way, he was pretty good even if I didn’t like him or most of his “fight everything with harsh new laws,” stance. (1)

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Changing the way police do business (Part I)

Written by Harold McNeill on July 19th, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


I don’t think anything demonstrates the solidarity of police officers more than when attending the funeral of a comrade killed in the line of duty. This photo, taken in Moncton in 2014, captures the essence as officers from across Canada and around the world bid farewell to Constables Fabrice Georges Gevaudan, 45, David Joseph Ross, 32, and Douglas James Larche, 40, killed during a shooting spree.

The shields of Central Saanich, Oak Bay, RCMP, Saanich, and Victoria represent the ideals of comrades in arms.

Introduction to Series

Part II, Comparing differing police cultures
Part III, The past as a guide to the future
Part IV The integration of police services

Link to CBC Podcast: Policing in the CRD

Contact: Harold@mcneillifestories.com

This series of posts will explore some of the past, present, and possible future directions of policing within the Capital Region. It will include discussions about differing police cultures, how they clash and how they work together; and, of course, thoughts about amalgamation, a topic frequently thrust into the public eye.

The Victoria/Esquimalt joint force will be singled out for additional scrutiny, as over the past sixteen years the debate about that merger is also kept in the public eye. While the administrators of the joint force often use the challenges they face as a bargaining chip, it is also used by others to advance an ideological purpose as in a recent letter penned by the President of the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce. (1)

Although the post will deal with sensitive areas of police work and police personality, I steadfastly maintain police officers in the CRD and across Canada, are among the very best in the world.  Corruption is not a part of our police culture and while it was present in the last century, it was rooted out and systems put in place to ensure it did not return.

When Canadian police officers swear their Oath of Office, they take that oath to heart.  What is sometimes lacking is solid, independent oversight of the sort that provides an unbiased assessment of police actions when those actions are called into question be they external or internal.

Also, in press articles, when references are made to ‘dysfunction’ or ‘a broken system’ by the press or others, they are overstating their case.  While the challenges to be addressed are difficult, those challenges do not stop our police officers from maintaining an even-handed approach in enforcing the law and helping citizens within our largely peaceful communities.

Part 1:   Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation

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Changing the way police do business (Part II)

Written by Harold McNeill on July 24th, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


As in society, diversity within the police is all about being Canadian. The opportunities provided by working together in a common purpose, while recognizing and encouraging individuality, far exceeds any gains that might be made by forcing everyone to follow the same path.

Introduction to Series

Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation.
Part III, The past as a guide to the future
Part IV The integration of police services

Link to CBC Podcast: Policing in the CRD

Contact: Harold@mcneillifestories.com

(When reading this series it is recommended you start with Part I as each part builds towards the next.)

PART II  Comparing Differing Police Cultures

Originally, I intended to move directly to the process of implementing change within and between police departments but decided it was first necessary to compare and contrast the differing organizational philosophies that underpin each.

In Part I, it was posited that over their history, Oak Bay, Saanich, and Central Saanich have come to share a similar policing style. Victoria and Esquimalt, even before the merger in 2003, developed a very different style. The RCMP in the West Shore, North Saanich, and Sidney, being part of a national organization, have followed a path quite distinct from their municipal counterparts.

This part of the series will delve into the historical specifics of those differences as well as the positive and negative effects this has on each agency in the present day.

The history and process of implementing change will now be set over to Part III.

3. Introduction:

Within the CRD, a large part of the difference between departments is revealed in the historical events that shaped each.  From the early 1960s to the present day leadership made all the difference. If leaders nurtured the development of other leaders, they progressed, if they tended towards a command and control style, progress was slowed.

While there are a time and place for Command and control leaders (times of crisis, etc.) they do tend to favour subordinates who follow rather than lead. Innovative, forward-thinking leaders, on the other hand, tend to encourage subordinates to take on leadership roles, the type of person willing to explore new ways of doing things. Until the 1960s, most police departments followed the Military/RCMP model of command and control, but over the decades since, many have moved towards a more progressive style.

It is also clear, the larger a police force becomes, the further leadership is removed from contact with the rank and file. In a heavily weighted, top-down system, leadership can lose sight of what is happening within the lower ranks. This is clearly a large part of the challenge faced by the RCMP in the current day and one reason behind that recent billion-dollar settlement with rank and file members.

To gain a better understanding of how we reached this point, and why some of the challenges seem intractable, take a few minutes to read Footnote (1), A Short History of Policing in the Capital Region.  While reading, give some thought to the challenge of merging police forces that have evolved different leadership styles?  Then, take a moment to think about private sector mergers and takeovers.

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Changing the way police do business (Part III)

Written by Harold McNeill on August 2nd, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


Chief Del Manak, VicPD. A good man caught between a department with a problematic past, and a future filled with uncertainty.  One thing is certain, the future will be filled with change whether it comes by choice, by chance, or by force. All police agencies have a choice, they can either resist or they can embrace!

Introduction to Series

Part I, Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation.
Part II, Comparing differing police cultures
Part IV The integration of police services

Link to CBC Podcast: Policing in the CRD

Contact: harold@mcneillifestories.com

(When reading this series it is recommended you start with Part I as each part builds towards the next.)

Part III   The past as a guide to the future

4. Introduction.

No matter what the future brings, in police budget discussions money is seldom the real issue. In this, you can rest assured every medium and large department across Canada fritter away hundreds of millions of dollars each year. They do so by maintaining enforcement regimes that are next to useless in terms of utilizing the full value of highly trained and experienced police officers.  What should stay, and what should go? These are the hard decisions that every police administrator must make and this can best be done by embracing the conflicts that come with change.

For small municipal departments and RCMP detachments, the issues are less critical as police members are generalists and, as such, their duties encompass the full spectrum of policing. They embrace the very essence of the Peelian Principles, where the Chief of the department might well end up on an emergency call with a Constable. However, the reality is, as departments grow in size through population expansion (e.g. the West Shore) or through amalgamation (e.g. Victoria/Esquimalt), the roles coalesce into increasingly specialized fields (e.g. patrol, traffic, administration, emergency response teams, detectives, with special units in fraud, homicide, robbery, cybercrimes, etc.).

Go to Toronto or look at their org chart, to get some sense of just how specialized they have become. Where is there room left to stay connected to Torontonians? (Toronto Org Chart, page 18ff). Scan the left two-thirds of the chart (Administrative and Corporate) then consider how much of the force is gobbled up by services that never touch the street!  There is considerable literature indicating there is good evidence to suggest that “medium-sized police services (i.e. those policing about 50,000 inhabitants) are more successful in dealing with crime and operational costs than much larger regional services.”  (link)

As discussed in an earlier part of this series, the efficiencies of size top out when departments service populations of around 50,000.  What gets lost in the process of growing beyond that point is the ability to find the ways and means of staying connected to the community in positive ways (e.g. the quintessential beat cop, school and community liaison, etc.).

While some argue merging forces will reduce costs and improve efficiencies, all you need do is make a quick estimate of the current costs of policing in the city and municipal forces across Canada (large and small) to see that isn’t true.

You can do a rough check by multiplying the number of sworn members by $200,000. By doing that, you will arrive at a number that is within +/- 10%, of the posted budget of every police department, in Canada. The $200,000 figure was taken from the GTA (Greater Toronto PD) as that is one of the largest city amalgamations of police in Canada and if amalgamation produces efficiencies of scale, Toronto should be the most efficient and cost-effective in Canada. It is far from being either.  Their budget is now $1 billion for 5000 sworn officers. Of course, there will be outliers in these figures, as that is true on every bell curve of many samples. Footnote 1, provides the calculations for policing budgets in BC and select cities across Canada.

While most police dollars are effectively spent, you need only explore traffic law enforcement to see how waste is built into the system. In general, police forces across Canada typically over-enforce traffic laws in ineffective ways and under-enforce in effective ways.  While some provinces, cities, and towns are taking steps to correct this anomaly, progress is slow. The challenge of traffic enforcement will be more fully explored later in this article.

Part of the reason for the slow progress lies in the ideological, but the major portion remains in the form of resistance to change as exhibited by police administrators and unions alike. Medium and large police forces, like every other large enforcement agency (e.g. CSIS, CBSA, RCMP), work hard at building the size of their organization as the prime means of meeting challenges, rather than looking for effective ways of making them smaller and more effective.

This part of the series explores these matters both historically and in the present day. While the focus will be on the CRD and British Columbia, similar considerations apply across Canada.

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Changing the way police do business (Part IV)

Written by Harold McNeill on August 15th, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Editorials, Policing Reforms


Your police forces work cooperatively to provide the best service possible.  Locally, across the nation, and around the world integration is the best model to follow in terms of bringing together the disparate parts of policing in common purpose.

Introduction to Series

Part I. Police solidarity and the push for amalgamation
Part II, Comparing differing police cultures
Part III, The past as a guide to the future

Link to CBC Podcast: Policing in the CRD

Part IV: Integration vs Amalgamation

1.  Introduction

By the time you’ve reached this part, and assuming you read the first three parts, you may understand why amalgamating police forces is likely the biggest mistake that could be made in terms of addressing modern-day policing challenges in the Capital Region. While amalgamation seems intuitively reasonable, those who promote the idea do not take into account the powerful forces at play even in organizations as similar as the police agencies within the Captial Region.

Take the banking system as an example. Would anyone think it reasonable to merge banks into one as serving the best interests of the people in Greater Victoria? In terms of function, the police are no different than a bank, in that they perform an essential public service within an ever-expanding circle from local to national and international.

To function at their best, each constituent part must work at integrating their system into the whole, one that maximizes not only their ability to solve internal challenges but, at the same time, expanding their ability to work together in common purpose. That is were integration outpaces amalgamation.

Even a partial merger, say that of Victoria and Saanich, would be immensely difficult and extremely damaging to both forces. While VicPD may gain an increase in staffing levels, as they did in with Esquimalt merger, the underlying issues facing VicPD could very well be exacerbated. You might simply have a larger force with the same problems. In side-discussions with persons whose opinions I trust, I rather think that has happened in areas where moderate and large scale amalgamations have taken place.

The beautiful thing about integration is that it allows each police agency to maintain an individual identity, while at the same time fully participating and cooperating as a part of the whole.

Across the Capital Region, throughout B.C., and across Canada, integration has become the modern, forward-looking way of bringing disparate police forces, as well as other emergency service providers and community groups, together in common purpose. By doing this, no one group dominates the whole.

The contrary happens with amalgamation. First, you amalgamate, then you must try to divide the whole into equitable parts. That is what the former Victoria Chief Constable (Jamie Graham) proposed with his “Four District” plan as outlined in Part II of this series (Section 6).  The likely outcome? Only one culture would survive and that particular culture may not be the best.  Perhaps, many discerned that in the VicPD/Esquimalt merger as expressed in this article in the Victoria News on March 13, 2019: Local powers say a regionalized police force needed for Greater Victoria: VicPD, Victoria, Esquimalt, and Grumpy Taxpayer$ argue for police amalgamation

This part of the series will explore the nature of integration in the Captial Region and how that integration is changing the face of policing as it was often practiced through much of the last century.  It is a form of police merger the selects best practices and expands them to the entire region on a voluntary basis.  For those who choose to withdraw and go it alone, it’s at their peril.

2. The Methods of Integration

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First Nations Policing

Written by Harold McNeill on June 26th, 2019. Posted in Police Notebook, Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials


On June 24, 2019, a feature-length article appeared in the Globe and Mail,
No Weapons, No Charges: A Yukon First Nation’s solution for keeping the peace.

This excerpt: “In Whitehorse, colonialism and crime have damaged the people of the Kwanlin Dun’s relationships with the RCMP and one another. Now, a pilot project is trying to do policing differently – earning trust and respect in the community, as well as national international attention.”

Back in the 1970s or 80s, while in the early mid-stage of my police career, I became heavily involved in promoting ‘community policing’ efforts both in Oak Bay and around the Province. At one point, I participated in several community policing workshops involving persons with various backgrounds searching for and promoting new ideas for policing. One idea that had surfaced, and seemed to hold considerable promise, became known as the “Indian Constable System”.

Following the seminar, I spent a few weeks researching the subject, then writing and distributing a paper summarizing the program. Because my interests weren’t directly related to policing First Nations lands, I never ended up doing any follow-up work. However, I did occasionally communicate with a few people who were involved, including one or two First Nations individuals who became police officers on their home reserves. Over the years, I simply lost track of how the program progressed until I read the above article in the Globe and Mail yesterday.  The Globe article suggested this was a new concept.

In fact, the program in Whitehorse is almost an exact summary of that which was being researched and promoted back in the sixties and seventies. A Google search suggests that early impetus in community policing on First Nations lands and by First Nations members fell by the wayside. Neither did the search reveal any in depth information on the subject other than this summary from a BC Government Web Page:

The province provides policing services in First Nations communities in rural areas or in First Nations communities in municipalities with populations up to 5,000. Municipalities with populations greater than 5,000 provide policing to First Nations located in their boundaries.

The Stl’atl’imx (Stat-la-mic) Tribal Police Service is the only First Nations administered police force in British Columbia. The Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service is a designated policing unit under the Police Act. It is like an independent municipal police department and has a police board comprised of community members.

Stl’atl’imx police are experienced officers or graduates of the Justice Institute of British Columbia. Its officers are appointed under the Police Act.

The First Nations Community Policing Services (FNCPS) program provides many First Nations communities across the province with police services. This enhanced local police service is provided by additional RCMP members who are familiar with First Nations’ cultures and traditions.

See First Nations Policing for more information.

This lack of information on Google suggests a program that held out great promise back in the mid-late part of the last century simply fell by the wayside.   I wonder what happened that forty years later, we are now again just looking at this as being a program with great promise.  I find it most perplexing and shall try and dig out that old paper and see what was actually being promoted so many years ago.

Harold McNeill
Oak Bay Police
Det/Sgt (retired – 1994)

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Canada: That Which Makes us One

Written by Harold McNeill on January 7th, 2019. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials


Diversity in Canada Has The Capacity to Inspire The World

Celebrating at a Ukrainian Christmas (1) dinner gave me pause to think about how these cultural
celebrations help to define Canada – that which makes us one. One dinner you ask? Well, it goes much deeper as it also includes coffee breaks at Tim Hortons, restaurants and the Canadian Soccer teams. It all fits into the fabric of our national identity.

1. A Ukrainian Dinner Celebration

On Sunday, January 6, 2019, Lynn and I went to dinner on the eve of Ukrainian Christmas at the home of one of my former police partners. We both retired twenty-five years ago and for years our families lived a stone’s throw from one another in West Saanich. Ukrainian Christmas was, and is, always a big celebration in their home (1). In addition to Al and Mary and their immediate family, three other couples, also long retired police members and their wives, were at the table of eighteen.

As we dined, surrounded by that uniquely Ukrainian bounty, we were not just celebrating a special event in the Gregorian calendar year, we were celebrating what it means to be Canadian. That feast and those friends served to remind us of how fortunate we are to live at peace in a mix of cultures, languages, traditions, religions, and varieties of food types that is unprecedented in the world. It is a mix that accompanies us every day, not just on special occasions.

Photo (Web source).  This table represents about half the set for our special meal. All items were prepared at home and served piping hot. 

2. Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s:  The coffee crowd

Earlier in the day (Sunday), I made a couple of visits to Tim Hortons at the Royal Oak Shopping Centre (2). It was, as usual, overflowing. I grabbed a seat beside an acquaintance from Syria. He and his delightful family are making their way in a new country they now call home. When he left for an appointment, I struck up a conversation with the man on my right, a person I did not know.

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The Changing Landscape of Politics in Canada

Written by Harold McNeill on August 24th, 2018. Posted in Tim Hortons Morning Posts, Editorials


Screen Shot 2018-06-13 at 8.14.26 PM

The Changing Landscape of Politics in Canada:

August 24, 2018: With the bombshell just dropped by Maxime Bernier, this post, which I began researching and writing a couple of months back, has taken on new significance.  There seems little doubt that at least some of the unseemly tactics that plagued the recent Ontario election will also mark the next federal election.  The question asked, and which I try to answer is, “to what extent will the effective use of social media define the winners and losers?”

And, this post will also outline why I think, in a four-party system, it is possible that 65% of Canadians who split the vote between three parties, could hand a majority to 35% who didn’t vote for one of those three.  It is also a process by which a man such as Doug Ford could, in the federal election following the next, become the Prime Minister of Canada.  (2008 Federal election split)  (2011 Federal election split)

1. Party Platforms, where did they go?

In the past, party platforms were meant to draw voters to a particular set of principles developed by a party over months and years (1). They were the centrepiece of every election campaign and, there was plenty of room for debate at all candidate meetings from the party leaders to grassroots.  However, in this new age, winning or losing seems to be based more on who best controls the message and who owns the most effective means of smearing an opponent or idea (2). If you followed the leadup to the Brexit vote or the last US election, the winning sides resorted almost exclusively to messages of fear and hate, mixed with a good measure of fake news.

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Comments

  • Harold McNeill

    October 18, 2021 |

    This email from Pal Slavid in Norway received October 10

    I simply must tell the following story; before a flight from Aberdeen to Bergen/Norway (it must have been around 2005), I had purchased a couple of “Pilot’s Notes” in a bookshop in Aberdeen. Among these one for the Mosquito. At the flight I was reading some pages in the biography of Douglas Bader (Reach for the Sky), and suddenly this elderly gentleman sitting beside me points to the book and says: “I knew this guy”. This gentleman turned out to be Mr. Bert Ramsden, and I was fortunate enough that he shared some of his story with me on this flight. And when I was able to pick up from my bag, a copy of the Pilot Notes which he had used during his training, we read it more or less together, and he commented with great knowledge. As an WWII aviator geek, this flight became a great memory for me, and I even got his signature on the Pilot Notes.
    With great respect,
    Pål

  • McNeill Life Stories Protecting Canada's Health Care - McNeill Life Stories

    September 20, 2021 |

    […] One of the many defining features of Canada is our Public Health Care system. While the system continues to provide high-quality care to a broad cross-section of Canadians (rich and poor), funding cuts have led to longer wait times and other shortfalls in service. This has become particularly evident during the current pandemic as Covid19 patients fill beds normally be set aside for ongoing treatments. (What is happening in our hospitals) […]

  • Harold McNeill

    July 25, 2021 |

    Glad you enjoyed Craig. It was fun researching and writing that particular post. It seems I was in school many years before you, the 1950s to be more precise. Cheers, Harold

  • Craig Patterson

    July 18, 2021 |

    Thank you for sharing this. I grew up in Cold Lake (former town of Grand Centre) and we’d heard many stories over the years. Today I was talking to my Mom about the Kinosoo and I came to this article when I was searching images of the fish — I recall when I was in school in the 80s where was a photo supposedly taken (I think it’s the one of the ice fisherman above).

  • Harold McNeill

    January 15, 2021 |

    Wow, Graham, I was taken by surprise (but then again that’s not too hard). Having all you fine folks (my children by other fathers and mothers) would have been great. I’m hopeful that sometime in the not too distant future, we can reprise that trip. Perhaps we’ll just set aside a time for someone else’s landmark day, and we can surprise them. Love to you two. Harold

  • Graham and Nazanin

    January 15, 2021 |

    How could we miss this historic event my friend!!!
    Nazy and I were booked for that cruise Harold, we were looking so forward to it.
    We will be together soon! We both wish that continued unconditional love you receive from everyone to continue as you are that special someone that makes a difference in this world.
    Happy birthday sir, cheers!

  • Harold McNeill

    January 7, 2021 |

    Glad you found the site and that Dorthy enjoyed. I’ve added a lot of school photos in other locations linked to the High School Years stories. Cheers, Harold

  • Shelley Hamaliuk

    January 2, 2021 |

    Hi there, I am Dorothy Marshall’s (nee Hartman) daughter. Mom was quite excited when she discovered this site while surfing the net yesterday, so excited that she told me to have a look! She quite enjoyed taking a trip down memory and seeing old pictures of herself.Keep up the great work!

  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.