The retroactive release of all Special Investigations Unit directors? reports ? including censored details related to the death of Andrew Loku ? looms as part of a new review of police oversight, Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur said Monday.
Under fire from critics outraged that only nine of 34 pages were made public from the SIU probe of Loku?s shooting by Toronto police last July, Meilleur said Monday that more information will be forthcoming.
That could include the release of the thousands of secret reports prepared by SIU directors since the civilian watchdog was created in 1990 ? including the 138 fatal police shootings the agency has probed.
But critics say the release of the reports is meaningless if key information, such as evidence provided by witnesses, is kept secret.
In an interview Monday, Meilleur said her ministry has asked Justice Michael Tulloch, the judge appointed to review all Ontario police oversight bodies, to make the release of past and future SIU director?s reports among the first issues he tackles.
Tulloch will be empowered to release any SIU reports even before his final report is completed, Meilleur said.
?He will also prioritize looking at whether past SIU reports should be made public, and the form this information would take,? Meilleur said.
To the families of those killed by police, there is relief in knowing they may soon learn more about the investigation into their relative?s death.
But they will not accept heavily censored documents such as the Loku report released Friday, said Karyn Greenwood-Graham, who runs a support group for families of those killed by police.
That report, written by SIU director Tony Loparco, omitted the names of the officer who shot Loku, the names of 24 police and civilian witnesses, and all of the evidence they provided.
?We need the full report ? the who, what, where, when and how,? said Greenwood-Graham, whose son Trevor was killed by Waterloo Regional Police in 2007.
Former Information and Privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian said releasing past and future SIU reports in the same restricted fashion as in the Loku case could not be considered an accomplishment for transparency and accountability.
It could in fact create the perception that important details are being concealed, she said.
?The point of releasing the reports is to enhance openness and transparency associated with what transpires in these investigations. So it just strikes me that it would defeat the purpose of releasing them by reporting information in the words of the SIU as opposed to the words of the actual witnesses,? she said.
Cavoukian supports the public release of the names of subject and witness officers, as well as the accounts of civilian witnesses without any identifying information. She recommends that the government first give consideration to releasing the actual words of the witnesses in the Loku case, and then applying the same procedure retroactively to previous reports.
When releasing the Loku report last week, the government explained that the omission of civilian accounts is due to an undertaking given to witnesses by the SIU that their identities and accounts will be kept confidential unless the case ends up in court or a coroner?s inquest.
?That?s the question that we have asked the judge (Tulloch) to give us advice on and we believe we will have an answer before March 31, 2017 (when Tulloch?s report is due),? she said.
Former SIU director and Crown attorney Howard Morton believes the government could already get a legal opinion from lawyers at the Ministry of the Attorney General on the release of the SIU reports, rather than wait for Tulloch to weigh in, which Morton said appears to be a stall tactic.
?The only issue once they decide if it?s legal to release them is whether it?s politically wise to do so, and that?s a decision they don?t need Michael Tulloch for,? he said.
The partial release of the SIU director?s report into Loku?s death ? the first director?s report ever released since the watchdog?s creation ? also drew criticism in the legislature Monday.
NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh accused the Liberal government of dragging its heels on Loku?s death.
?First, the attorney general took 30 days to read a report that only she could read. Then, while the Premier (Kathleen Wynne) made some promising remarks about perhaps releasing this report, the attorney general said ?no? four times in response to media questions about the release of this report,? Singh told the legislature.
?Now, finally, when the government releases the report, they release it late on a Friday. They release only ten out of 34 pages ? and one of those ten pages is blank. The pages that are released are heavily redacted,? he said.
Singh, who praised Friday?s appointment of Tulloch to review SIU, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, said the public shouldn?t have to wait for additional answers.
?While New Democrats welcome this commission and welcome the appointment of Justice Tulloch, that doesn?t answer the question of transparency,? he said.
Loku, a 45-year-old father of five from South Sudan, was shot dead when officers were called to an apartment building ? leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association to tenants with mental health challenges ? at 502 Gilbert Ave. last July, after reports he was threatening a woman inside with a hammer.
Loparco?s report said Loku was advancing on the officers with a hammer raised above his head and the unnamed shooter fired in self-defence, to thwart an imminent hammer attack.
As revealed in the report, Loku had a blood-alcohol level was 247 mg/100 mL of blood, three times the legal driving limit.
The SIU director wrote there "was no indication" Loku's mental health was the reason he was aggressive towards his neighbours or the police, though it?s not clear whether this issue is addressed in any of the witness statements to the watchdog or additional evidence it collected.
Loparco wrote it was as likely that Loku?s intoxication, as his mental illness, that caused him to be aggressive toward police.
The report also revealed Loparco criticized the conduct of one Toronto officer immediately after Loku?s death. That unnamed officer, who did not arrive on scene until after the shooting, ?improperly? attempted to review and download surveillance video of the shooting.
Loparco said that contravenes the Police Services Act, which clearly states the SIU is the lead investigator.
?This case is another example in which the post-incident conduct of some officers threatened to publicly compromise the credibility of the SIU?s investigation,? Loparco wrote.
But in a statement Monday Toronto police chief Mark Saunders said his officers have the ?legal onus,? also set out in the Police Act, to fulfil the responsibility to secure the scene before the SIU investigators arrive and take charge.
?My officers attempted to locate and secure the video. Due to technical difficulties, they were unable to do so. They did not review the video, nor did they download the video. An officer was posted to secure the scene until technical assistance could be contacted. The SIU, in fact, downloaded the video at a later time. The SIU?s forensic examination states that no tampering took place,? Saunders said.
Saunders added that at no point did SIU investigators on scene ?question, contradict or prevent my officers from carrying out this responsibility.?
Wendy Gillis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction - May 4, 2016: This article was edited from a previous version that said SIU director Tony Loparco concluded it was likely that Loku?s intoxication, and not his mental illness, caused him to be aggressive toward police. While Loparco states that there "was no indication" Loku's mental health was the reason he was aggressive towards his neighbours or the police, he wrote it was as likely that Loku?s intoxication caused him to be aggressive toward police.
OTTAWA—The RCMP says it expects to soon get its hands on the so-called Panama Papers revealing offshore companies and bank accounts around the world, though it was coy about how it intends to obtain the documents.
Yet asked if people who are deliberately hiding their money to evade taxes could be in trouble, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said “I’d like to think so.”
Paulson appeared with several of his top deputies at the Senate standing committee on national security and defence Monday and outlined challenges the force faces in trying to obtain evidence abroad to pursue charges when it comes to terrorist financing.
But when Conservative Sen. Claude Carignan asked about the Panama Papers, RCMP deputy commissioner Mike Cabana, in charge of federal policing, said the RCMP moved quickly after their publication.
“As soon as we learned of the existence of those documents we started discussions with our foreign partners in order to get our hands on copies of those documents. Those discussions are still underway; we have received confirmation that we are going to receive the documents in their entirety,” Cabana said.
Cabana said the RCMP is working with “domestic partners here in Canada” including FINTRAC, the agency that tracks money-laundering and other suspicious financial transactions, “so that once we get all of the documents we will be able to quickly analyze” them.
“I didn’t say we had them,” Paulson said later. “We are trying to get them. We’re interested in getting our hands on them and what criminality they may represent, and what investigations we should pursue, we’re in partnership with a number of people.”
Asked if he is seeking judicial warrants to seize data or documentation from the International Consortium of Journalists or media involved in the reporting, Paulson dodged a direct answer. He said he was “uncomfortable” discussing details of what actions the RCMP might take around the documents.
“There’s a broad understanding of what they represent and there is a tremendous suggestions (sic) of criminality and we’re going to have to proceed very carefully. Typically when we do investigations of these types we like to have some discretion, the ability to manage that,” Paulson said.
On May 9, the International Consortium of Journalists has scheduled a partial release of corporation names and associated names, but not individual records, data, documents or passports associated with its trove.
Reporter Rob Cribb, who has led the Star’s reporting on the documents as a partner in the media consortium, said nobody in the RCMP has contacted the Star, but nearly two dozen national tax authorities around the world, including the Canada Revenue Agency, have made formal requests of media involved.
The Star and the CBC have declined to turn over the documents to the CRA.
Cabana said the RCMP has 57 officers deployed in 30 countries who work either as liaison officers or analysts with other agencies on investigations of interest to Canada, or to promote information-sharing.
Paulson said the RCMP faces “huge challenges” in pursuing terrorist financing cases related to the difficulty of gathering evidence abroad.
The RCMP managers also outlined how the force is “living within” its budget while building a case for more funds to juggle national security investigations along with other investigative operations.
Never one to miss an opportunity to do a push-up in public, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the latest international sporting rivalry to sweep the globe: the Invictus Games.
Not to be outdone by videos released by the Obamas and the Royal Family, Trudeau released his own video on social media showing just how tough Canadians can be on Monday afternoon. The prime minister had earlier met with Prince Harry to launch Invictus 2017, which will be hosted in Toronto.
In the video, Trudeau is seen flanked by members of Team Canada for the 2016 Invictus Games in Orlando, Fla.
“Oh hey, I just thought I’d show our friends in the U.S. and the U.K. how Canada brings it,” he said before doing a pushup and dropping an imaginary mic.
“Boom!” he said.
The smack-talk is the latest escalation of an international sporting rivalry, begun when U.S. President Barack Obama imperiously attempted to drop-the-mike on Prince Harry, who founded the Games.
“Hey, Prince Harry, remember when you told us to bring it at the Invictus Games?” Michelle Obama asked on camera, standing beside her husband and flanked by members of the military.
“Be careful what you wish for!” Obama adds, before one of the soldiers drops an imaginary mike.
“Boom!” the soldier says.
Once that gauntlet waslaid down, Kensington Palace had to respond in kind.
“Boom? Really? Please!” says the Queen, flanked by Prince Harry, throwing the most regal shade ever in her video response.
Now that Canada has weighed in, it looks like the 2016 Invictus Games could very-well spark an international rap battle the likes of which the world has never seen . . . Angela Merkel, you’re next.
The skirl of bagpipes and screams of excitement welcomed Prince Harry to Toronto on Monday, as he arrived with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in tow to announce the launch of next year’s Invictus Games.
The third international paralympic-style competition for injured members of the armed forces is coming to Toronto in September 2017, a Canadian debut that the prince predicts will be “the biggest and best Invictus Games yet.”
Introduced to an audience at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel as “His Royal Highness Prince Henry of Wales,” Harry said the Games will offer Canadians a chance “to salute those who put themselves in harm’s way so you will not have to.”
The 31-year-old royal and fifth in line to the throne is the architect and patron of the Games, an international sporting competition for wounded, injured and sick troops whose inaugural event was held in London in 2014.
Harry explained how sport can inspire mental and physical recovery among injured servicemen and servicewomen as well as offer a sense of purpose.
“We showed that veterans don’t need our sympathy,” the prince said, “just the opportunity to play a meaningful role in society once again.”
“Sport could help these guys fix their lives.”
The prince recalled his own military tours serving as an officer in the British Army on the front lines in Afghanistan. He was forced to leave in February 2008 to protect fellow military personnel after his role in the war was leaked to the press.
On the flight home, he said he shared space with a coffin containing the body of a Danish soldier.
In midflight, he described how he “stuck his head behind some curtains” where he saw “three young lads in induced comas, wrapped in plastic with tubes coming out of them everywhere.”
“It struck me that this flight was one of many where lives had been changed forever . . . and put me on the path to the Invictus Games.”
Flanked by members of Team Canada, Trudeau said the games give him an opportunity to reflect on memories of his grandfather, former MP Jimmy Sinclair who served with the Royal Canadian Air Force in the Western Sahara during the Second World War.
“He remains an inspiration to me,” Trudeau said. “It’s just a nice occasion for me to say, ‘Thank you grandpa for your service as well.’
“As the poem Invictus suggests, these servicemen and women are “unconquerable,” added Trudeau, commending the prince for creating the games. “Without his vision, the Invictus Games would not be what they are today.”
Also in attendance was Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne, who announced a provincial contribution of $10 million will go towards the event.
Later on Monday afternoon, nearly 2,000 schoolchildren screamed — and squealed — at the mere sight of Canada’s commander-in-chief and Britain’s red-headed royal at Ryerson University’s Mattamy Athletic Centre. Joined by Toronto Mayor John Tory, the three took in a friendly game of sledge hockey.
The highly physical sport has each player strapped to a two-bladed sledge that allows the puck to pass underneath. It will make its Invictus debut at the Toronto iteration of the Games next year.
“Everything happens on ice, doesn’t it?” the royal highness joked, the delighted crowd cheering in return.
Prior to the matches’ start, hosts Cabbie Richards and Melissa Grelo led the crowd in a thunderous cheer: “I am strong. I am proud. I am unconquered. Invictus!”
Members of Team Canada were also present to watch the game, including Master Cpl. Mark Hoogendoorn, a combat engineer who lost his leg in Afghanistan after stepping on an improvised explosive device.
Today, the 30-year-old is counting down the days until Sunday when the second-ever Games is scheduled to begin in Orlando, Fla. There, Hoogendoorn will compete in power lifting, rowing and shot put events.
“To know that our county is behind us helps a lot,” he said. “Hopefully, we can bring home some medals.”
Following the short stop in Toronto, the prince is expected in Florida later this week. More than 600 military athletes from 16 nations will compete in events such as archery, road cycling, wheelchair basketball and power lifting.
Some 65 years ago, American microbiologist Elizabeth King peered into a microscope and discovered the “glistening, gray-white” organism that would eventually bear her name.
In the ensuing decades, the bacterium — renamed Elizabethkingia in 2005 — would fall into relative obscurity, causing only sporadic cases and the rare hospital outbreak. But late last year, something strange started happening in the state of Wisconsin.
“From the end of December to the beginning of January, we got reports from hospitals of six cases of Elizabethkingia infections,” said Karen McKeown, Wisconsin’s state health officer.
“We knew right away that it was unusual.”
That cluster was the beginning of what is now considered the United States’ largest-known outbreak of Elizabethkingia, a bacterium rarely seen in humans — and four months into their investigation, disease detectives still have no idea what could be linking these cases.
Wisconsin typically sees between two and four Elizabethkingia infections in a year but since Nov. 1, health officials have identified 59 cases, with another six suspected or under investigation. Single cases have also been confirmed in nearby Michigan and Illinois and at least 20 deaths have been linked to the outbreak.
At blame is a species called Elizabethkingia anophelis, which is particularly rare in human infections — in Canada, the public health agency is aware of just one case, reported three years ago in Quebec.
Further deepening the mystery, Illinois recently identified another 10 people who had been infected by Elizabethkingia anophelis over the last year and a half — but these cases are genetically unrelated to the Wisconsin strain.
And last week, a children’s hospital announced Wisconsin’s latest case of Elizabethkingia anophelis in an infant, though health officials are still determining whether it was caused by the outbreak strain or an unrelated one, like in Illinois. Either way, it is just the latest curveball in an outbreak that has left health officials utterly and maddeningly stumped.
“It ranks right up there (in terms of tough cases), with the mystery and the level of frustration,” said Dr. Christopher Braden, a medical epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “There are a lot of questions that we need to answer.”
Elizabethkingia is a genus of bacteria that grows ubiquitously in the environment, with four known species. At first, investigators assumed they were dealing with Elizabethkingia meningoseptica, which has popped up in hospital outbreaks before, including a 2012 outbreak involving 30 patients at critical care unit in London, England.
But CDC investigators confirmed it was actually Elizabethkingia anophelis, a species first discovered in 2011 inside the gut of a mosquito. Elizabethkingia is particularly abundant in the “midgut” of these insects, accounting for 50 per cent of the entire microbial community living in certain mosquitoes, according to Dr. Shicheng Chen, a microbiologist with Michigan State University, who studies Elizabethkingia.
Scientists still don’t know whether mosquitoes can transmit the bacterium to humans, though this was never entertained as a possibility in the Wisconsin outbreak, which started in the dead of winter.
They do know, however, that Elizabethkingia anophelis thrives in blood — and while Elizabethkingia can infect joints or the respiratory tract, most people affected by the current outbreak have suffered bloodstream infections.
“This bacterium likes animal blood cells,” Chen said. “They utilize the nutrients from blood cells and grow so quickly.”
While treatable if caught early, Elizabethkingia is also highly drug-resistant, he added. “More than 20 antibiotic resistance genes have been identified.”
For disease detectives, their first hypothesis was that this outbreak was hospital related. Most patients are over 65 and suffer from serious illnesses already — a detail that has complicated efforts to determine whether deaths are actually caused by Elizabethkingia or the patient’s underlying conditions.
But so far, that’s been a dead end. Cases have cropped up at several hospitals in scattered locations, and some patients had no interaction with health care facilities whatsoever. At least one person infected somewhere in the community had no underlying conditions, said Dr. Nasia Safdar, director of infection control at the University of Wisconsin Hospital.
Another hypothesis is that the outbreak could be linked by a contaminated health care product. “That’s something that we want to act fast on,” Braden said. “A health care product could be widely distributed.”
Investigators combed through patients’ medical records to catalogue the numerous drugs and treatments people were exposed to in the week before getting infected. When that turned up nothing, they searched even further back to a month.
“All the flu vaccines, the intravenous medicines, even the alcohol wipes or iodine wipes that you use … we went through all of those ideas,” Braden said, adding that common water sources were also checked and ruled out.
Health officials are now casting a much wider net, looking at everything from ice and skin creams to food items, with investigators tracking down restaurant receipts and hospital food invoices.
Investigators may need to start “rethinking how this bug genetically behaves,” Braden said, noting that some bacterial infections, like tuberculosis, are known to go dormant for years or even decades.
Less obvious “stealth vehicles” are also being considered. Here’s a hypothetical situation: maybe it’s not the skin cream that’s contaminated but the bottles; perhaps several brands are affected after being shipped together by a common distributor. Health officials are hopeful that the outbreak is finally tapering off, but no one will be surprised to see more cases. Braden acknowledges that it could be weeks, months or even years could pass before the mystery is solved — if it ever gets solved at all.
“There are outbreaks that we just don’t figure out and we know that,” Braden said. “This may be one of them.”
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