I have sent this letter to the Globe and Mail in response to a letter by the deputy commissioner, federal policing, of the RCMP. In his letter, he says that Mr. Big is staying because there are now safeguards in place that didn’t exist seven years ago. What happens to all those people convicted without safeguards?
Open letter to Michael Cabana, deputy commissioner, RCMP
On Tuesday, September 29th, you wrote a letter to the Globe and Mail entitled “Mr. Big is staying.” You were responding to the newspaper’s editorial of September 23rd, “It’s time to take down Mr. Big.” One of the points you made was that a case they referred to took place “seven years ago, when the undercover technique used was not as developed as it is today, nor held to the same standard of scrutiny.” This admission is startling to say the least. How many potentially wrongly convicted people are languishing in prison today because the current safeguards were absent? I know that the RCMP believes they have never had a wrongful conviction with the use of Mr. Big, but that is a fanciful distortion of the truth. Kyle Unger is the first name that comes to mind, but others, Jason Dix, Clayton George Mentuck, Andy Rose, Wade Skiffington, Nelson Hart, to name just a few, were also victims of this wrongheaded scheme. Because people have not been exonerated does not mean that their trial verdicts were legitimate. False confessions appear in 25% of all DNA exonerations. The denial of the right against self-incrimination and the prejudicial inducement to commit crimes argues in favour of the position taken by this newspaper.
The most appalling of these cases concerns Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, two youths from West Vancouver who were convicted of the ghastly murders of the Rafay family in Bellevue, Washington in 1994. Although the judge in the trial mentioned a “mountain of circumstantial evidence”, no such mountain existed and no forensic evidence existed either. Rafay and Burns are serving three consecutive 99 year sentences for a crime they most assuredly could not have committed. The responsibility for this conviction lies with the RCMP and the Mr. Big sting. No matter how comfortable the force is with this grave injustice, the truth in this case is not a matter of opinion. Truth is never a matter of opinion. Something happened here, something bad; some day the truth will be known.
Not only has the Mr. Big scheme resulted in horrific injustice, it has also further marred the reputation and the crime fighting ability of the RCMP. The organization has always had trouble with definitions. The killing of Robert Dziekanski in front of a cell phone camera resulted in a perjury conviction; the closed door murder of Ian Bush with a shot to the back of his head was a case self-defense; the serial sexual harassment of female recruits is a morale problem.
But it’s small wonder that these crimes take place. To quote the late Rubin Carter: “If a police officer looks like a criminal, talks like a criminal and acts like a criminal, where does one draw the line between police activity and criminal behavior?” Mr. Big is an expensive and elaborate dress up game utilizing macho and sexist stereotypes and, therefore, inherently suspect. It is no substitute for scientific police work, even with so-called ‘safeguards’.
Director, Innocence International