City of Hamilton & Hamilton Police Service – Freedom of Information abused

foiOn March 20th, 2014 twenty-one of my Hamilton Police Service (HPS) brothers and sisters attended my residence with a search warrant for a ‘grow operation’. I wasn’t astonished, predicting some form of retaliation, my wife and I having only days before sent a ‘notice of intent’ to sue HPS for years of ill treatment. We were separated and detained without caution; my repeated requests to speak with legal counsel were refused without just cause, making our detention a Charter Violation. They searched the fridge, freezer, cupboards and even emptied my children’s toy box on the floor. Not traditional places you find concealed grow operations, indicating perhaps that wasn’t the true motive behind their warrant. During the search notebooks were appropriated that related to our lawsuit and in email correspondence after the fact the HPS Lawyer copiously acknowledged the service took the same. Later, and in an act that can only be described as depraved spoliation HPS would deny removing anything from my property, stating the email admitting the removal of property simply a faux pas.

I was surprised however that the HPS Drugs and Vice Unit were able to obtain a search warrant; grow operations traditional displaying very physical evidence like a ‘heat reading’, smells of marijuana or excessively high hydro bills. This evidence was clearly not present at the time of the warrant, or at the time of swearing to the warrant. These facts paired with current circumstances of litigation, my ‘whistleblowing’ and the small factor that I was not, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be a drug dealer would make it extremely difficult for HPS to evidence how they obtained a warrant without lying to the Magistrate when swearing to it. Therefore, with proper discover and disclosure secured using ‘Freedom of Information’ (FOI) legislation I could demonstrate not only this ‘warrant’ was motivated by a political and personal agenda but prove the criminality attached to fabricating such evidence in order to secure unlawfully entry to my abode.

Having never filed an FOI request I ventured into what I would quickly discover is a ‘Spartan-esque’ fray with what can only be described as a one-sided and easily corruptible system. The current process is frustrating and makes the applicant feel helpless. Freedom of Information is essentially and rightly an extension of the fundamental human right, ‘Freedom of Speech’. Over 70 countries have implemented legislation covering not only a citizen’s right to know what information government entities have but access to that information and the providing of copies of the same information in its original format.  Some countries have taken it a step further and cause private organization to be subject to the same legislation, although notably not Canada or the United States.

I acquiesce this legislation is a burden on public institutions. Dedicated staff have to be paid, subsequently chasing other members of staff for documents or spending time themselves collating the information to attempt to meet the 30 day deadline. Many requests are frivolous or submitted for vexatious reasons, or just out of idle curiosity, and not based on a moralistic ideology. Further costs occur when lawyers become involved, providing advice on what should and should not be released. Organizations have to maintain massive archives of information, again at further expense. I understand the complexities behind it, I truly do. However currently the majority of request; are responded to briefly and incompletely (when offering no liability to the provider), ignored, or circumvented with lame, borderline malfeasant type excuses.

Attending my own Police Headquarters after such blatant human rights and charter violations was surreal. I knew the FOI coordinator, and submitted the FOI through her with ease.  I told her what had occurred and she verbally expressed her dissatisfaction with our Services corruptibility and unaccountability, it occurring to me her position probably made her privy to more wrongdoing than most. I knew a lot of the documents I requested, they would refuse immediately and rely on the fact they were ‘police sensitive’, ignoring the fact that not only am I privy to most covert policing techniques but in the 90’s I was instrumental in the continued development of the same. I’m not saying I should receive preferential treatment because of my past employment, I’m saying the reason for refusal should be valid, and not generic. I also requested over 30 officer’s personal notes including those of the then Chief of Police Glenn DeCaire.

The 30 day deadline came and passed as I expected it would, but again in all fairness I was asking the FOI office to collate an incredible amount of information. Almost two months after filing my submission I was contacted and told the documents were available to collect. Only 13 officer’s notes were included in the package and nothing else. Those notes were heavily redacted, with what I can only assume important pages missing out of the notes provided by the officer who wrote the warrant. Some notes, of which I had already obtained the originals through other sources, had now changed, meaning they had been fabricated after my request, a Criminal Code offence. I was told Deputy Chief Girt and Deputy Chief Leendertse made no notes during the Senior Management meeting where they discussed raiding my home , even though HPS Policy & Procedure explicitly addresses note taking and states ‘no one’ in the service has dispensation from this rule. Even after repeated request to clarify no explanation was given for the missing notes, or the fabrications and no resolution to their flagrant lack of cooperation offered.

DeCaires notes had been typed, not pen written, again at odds with Service Policy & Procedure. At first the Service told me they had been typed out by the HPS Lawyer, in order to properly vet his notes and I was not allowed access to the originals. I challenged this, as access is spoken to directly in the ‘Access to Information Act’. What can only be described as a ‘tired’ message came back from the HPS Lawyer that DeCaire ‘only makes electronic notes’, completely at odds with what I had been told days prior. I again challenged knowing this new version of events to differ from the truth. I had attended numerous parades where DeCaire was present on not once did I see him use a laptop, but a black, leather binder. I highlighted numerous online photos of DeCaire at meetings exist and none show him using a laptop, but the same binder.  I advised passing off a document as an original, when it’s know not to be the same, and knowing full well that document may be used in future judicial proceeding is an offence of ‘Fabricate Evidence’. Rather than challenge my allegations of criminality, the FOI office ended all lines of communication referring me to go and get a ‘subpoena’ for the information I was requesting.

At the 2016 Canadian Association of Journalist convention, CAJ President Mary Agnes Welch stated “Canada used to be a global model of openness, and now were backsliding into the dark ages of government secrecy, obfuscation and denial.” Histrionic and wounding words, but it would appear statistically precise. A 2008 report by Stanley L. Tromp, ‘Fallen Behind: Canada’s Access to Information Act in the World Context’, commissioned by the UN Security Council showed Canada failing on a number of key issues. Canada has tumbled way below the international standard placing it firmly in the global ranking behind countries such as India, Pakistan and China, and we’ve not improved. The ‘Freedom of Information audit’ continuously rates the City of Hamilton as poor even by Canadian standards, and in 2014 the municipality’s performance was so dismal it went ungraded.

Fortunately, the Canadian Government have recognized the same issue and not wanting to be ‘back of the pack’ in May this year ordered several reforms to gain immediate access to information. My circumstances are less unique than you think, and I hear terror story from influential members of the media and others who should have relatively unfettered access. I could appeal HPS’s blatant wrongdoing and disregard for the Act to ‘The Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada’. They would receive my complaint, taking months to investigate and at the end of that investigation may find in my favor. If the Commission find in favor of the complainant they may issue recommendations to release the information being requesting. The problem there; the Commission doesn’t have the teeth required to make that order binding. Subsequently, they could request a judicial review if its recommendations are not met, but that would stretch the months into years. When negative behavior and complete disregard for current legislation goes unpunished, people will happily continue to do the wrong thing.

My view is your personal information doesn’t belong to the government, it belongs to you. Your information should be available by default; the onus should be on Government entities to apply to restrict access.




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