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Using Canadian C-17 Globemaster III’s to fight wildfires

Today I’m thinking about the wildfires raging in British Columbia. And how to increase our capacity to respond. One resource worth considering is that Canada has five C-17 Globemaster III aircraft. This research paper was presented at the 16th Australian International Aerospace Congress, in 2015. It says the C-17 could (in theory) temporarily become a 50,000 litre air tanker. Here’s the abstract:

Australian summers are hot and dry and bushfires are a significant risk to life and property. The worst ever recorded natural disaster were the Victorian Black Saturday Bushfires in 2009, where 173 people lost their lives. To limit bushfire damage, an effective firefighting capability is essential. This project investigated the feasibility of using existing military assets and converting them to firefighting/control capability on an as required basis. This paper presents a conceptual design of a RAAF C-17 Globemaster III conversion to a temporary firefighting platform that provides three support roles: water drop, in-flight refill of standard firefighting aircraft and in-situ surveillance, command and control. Provisions were made for quick conversion with minor structural modifications to allow return to military status.

C17 Cargo Drop, FA2012-1007

In the Canadian Forces, these aircraft are designated as the CC-177 Globemaster III. This plane can travel very long distances and carry extremely heavy payloads. And it can operate from short runways in difficult environments all over the world.

There have been calls to bring the Martin Mars water bomber back into service.  However the Martin Mars “only” holds 27,276 litres of water (compared to 50,000 litres, potentially, for the C-17). The Martin Mars has been in service since 1944.  Over seventy years!  Not a lot of aircraft that have been in operational for that long.  The C-17 Globemaster III entered service in 1995, so that’s a fifty year difference in aircraft technology.

Obviously this is not something that could be used right now, but perhaps it is worth exploring for the future.

Too few police officers in the North

There is short staffed, which every police agency is to various degrees. And then there is short staffed. I never realized how few police officers were in the Yukon until I saw this article:

RCMP workload in Yukon ‘not sustainable’, says superintendent

The Yukon RCMP’s superintendent says he’s thankful for outside help, but says the current situation is “not sustainable” when it comes to the territory’s policing.

The force is dealing with several homicide investigations, and has called for support from other jurisdictions.

Brian Jones, the officer in charge of criminal operations in Yukon, says about ten officers flew in from Alberta last weekend. They provided help sweeping for evidence and conducting interviews.

Now they’ve gone home.

Jones says the help was appreciated especially because rapid response is important in homicide investigations.

“Those investigators that have come up from Alberta and other places — they’re busy with their full-time jobs as well,” he says.

This is not the first time the territory’s police force has called for outside help. And Jones thinks it suggests a larger problem with workload.

Yukon’s seven-person Major Crimes Unit has been involved in eight homicide investigations since last summer.

“Long term, that type of energy and effort isn’t sustainable for our people,” Jones said.

In 2016, the Yukon had 138 police officers to cover 482,443 sq km.

The Northwest Territories had 199 police officers to cover 1,346,106 sq km.

And Nunavut had 131 police officers to cover 2,038,722 sq km.

By comparison, British Columbia had 8761 police officers to cover 944,735 sq km.

When you consider the time required to travel large distances from one call to another, plus the extreme weather, it becomes clear that officers in the North faces some big challenges.

Criminal harassment and the word “repeatedly”

A creepy guy stalks the same woman for thirty minutes every day for three days in a row.

A creepy guy stalks a woman for ninety minutes continuously on a single day.

Which scenario – if any – constitutes criminal harassment?  Section 264(1) of the Criminal Code describes a range of harassing behaviour:

264 (1) No person shall, without lawful authority and knowing that another person is harassed or recklessly as to whether the other person is harassed, engage in conduct referred to in subsection (2) that causes that other person reasonably, in all the circumstances, to fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them.

Prohibited conduct

(2) The conduct mentioned in subsection (1) consists of
(a) repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them;
(b) repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone known to them;
(c) besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person, or anyone known to them, resides, works, carries on business or happens to be; or
(d) engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.

So what does the word “repeatedly” mean in the context of criminal harassment? Does it mean at least twice?  Three times?  Well, in R. v. Venn, 2014 ABPC 284, the Court expressed a more nuanced view:

[26] The Ontario Court of Justice (General Division) in R. v. Belcher (1998 CarswellOnt 192), 50 O.T.C. 189, considered the nature of the ‘following’ that is required to found the charge under the subsection in question. At paragraph 20 the court summarized the authorities stating that the repeated ‘following’ contemplated by the section describes conduct that occurs more than once.

[27] However, the ‘following’ need not occur over and over again separated by any particular amount of time. Rather, the meaning in the criminal law context means “persistently” following. The court stated that focussing on persistent following “which demonstrates resolve to do so”, would help avoid criminalizing innocuously following another person even if annoying or prolonged.

In R. v. Ohenhen, 2005 CanLII 34564 (ON CA), the Court of Appeal for Ontario found that sending two letters over the span of 18 months constituted “repeatedly communicating”. In examining past case law, the Court rejected suggestions that “repeatedly” meant three or more:

[17] I do not interpret these reasons to say anything other than that in the circumstances of that case the three incidents which were the subject of the charge were sufficient to meet the charge of “repeatedly communicating”. The statement that “three communications would seem to be the minimum number sufficient to justify being described as ‘repeatedly'” was nothing more than a Crown submission and was not specifically adopted by the court.

The Court went on to examine Belcher and other cases in a detailed manner, and ultimately reached this conclusion:

[31] In my view, the dictionary definitions of the words “repeat” and “repeated”, from which the adverbial form “repeatedly” is derived, lead me to conclude that conduct which occurs more than once can, depending on the circumstances of the case, constitute “repeated” conduct or conduct which is “repeatedly” done and the section is met. In my view, it is unnecessary that there be a minimum of three events or communications. “Repeatedly” obviously means more than once but not necessarily more than twice.

[32] While one instance of unwanted conduct can be sufficient to satisfy s. 264(2)(c) and (d), it will not be sufficient to satisfy s. 264(2)(b). More than one instance of unwanted conduct will be necessary to meet paragraph (b); however, in my view, there is not and should not be any minimum number of instances of unwanted conduct beyond this to trigger these subsections. Provided the conduct occurs more than once, in my view, the actus reus can be made out. It will be a question of fact for the trier in each case whether there has been repeated conduct. The approach is a contextual one. The trier will consider the conduct that is the subject of the charge against the background of the relationship and/or history between the complainant and accused. It is in this context that a determination will be made as to whether there has been repeated communication. On the facts of this case, it was clear that neither of the communications could be characterized as i nnocuous or accidental. In the context in which they were made, these two communications would be [page581] sufficient to constitute “repeatedly” communicating as set out in s. 264(2) (b). In my view, it was entirely appropriate for the trial judge to use the standard charge language on this point.

[33] Although not in issue on the facts of this case, trial judges should be cautious in using the standard charge language in all cases. It seems to me that defining “repeatedly” as being more than one communication is not always appropriate. In some cases, the jury will have to consider the context in which the communications were made, the intent of the accused and possibly other factors to determine whether the communications were repeatedly made or were innocuous or accidental. Perhaps a more appropriate instruction would be to advise the jury that communication that occurs more than once can constitute repeated communications depending on the context and circumstances in which they were made.

The Court of Appeal for Ontario upheld the conviction for criminal harassment and found the sentence to be appropriate:

[41] Lastly, the appellant requests leave to appeal his sentence and if leave is granted, appeals on the basis that in all the circumstances, his sentence is overly harsh. Counsel advised the court that he has served his sentence.

[42] The appellant was sentenced, in effect, to three years’ imprisonment. After being given credit for the time he spent in pre-trial custody, he was required to serve a further 18 months. The sentence was to be followed by two years’ probation. The appellant has an extensive record dating back to 1990; it includes weapons offences, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon and at least four convictions for uttering threats. In my view, the sentence was manifestly fit in all the circumstances and I would not interfere with it. In view of the fact, however, that the sentence has been served, I would deny leave to appeal sentence.

My takeaway from all of this? There is no magic number of incidents required for criminal harassment to have occurred.  Victims do not have to be followed for a minimum of three separate times. Nor do there have to be a minimum of three separate communications.

Open Letter to the Mayor of Victoria

I saw this in the newspaper yesterday. It’s an open letter to the Mayor of Victoria, Lisa Helps, from a group of almost fifty residents of Lower Burnside-Gorge. Please note that I didn’t write this and I’m not involved with this group. The letter was published as a paid advertisement in the Times-Colonist:

Open Letter to the Mayor of Victoria

OPEN LETTER TO THE MAYOR OF VICTORIA

From a collective of 49 Lower Burnside-Gorge Residents

Submitted to the Mayor on June 12th, 2017

Dear Mayor Lisa Helps:

Victoria is growing fast, and with that growth comes homelessness, despair and higher on-the-street drug use. In response, Rock Bay Landing, the Super 8, the facility on Queens, the Tally Ho, et cetera – within the Lower Burnside-Gorge area – have been re-purposed to deal with the homelessness problem. Is it the city’s intent to tacitly agree to have the Lower Burnside-Gorge area serve as a de facto ghetto in order to insulate other neighbourhoods from issues that arise from this homelessness – similar to what has happened in Vancouver with the notorious Downtown Eastside? If not, then now is the time to take action.

With the concentration of facilities to house the homeless building up around the Lower Burnside-Gorge, a ghetto-scenario is being created. Investors are unlikely to choose to invest in this neighbourhood if such a ghetto-scenario occurs. The Douglas Corridor will miss out on condos as envisioned in the new Neighbourhood Plan and the creation of a vibrant core of restaurants, retail and grocery stores will be curtailed.

If the city does not believe that the Lower Burnside-Gorge is becoming the de facto concentration area for homelessness, poverty, open-air drug trade, mental illness, sex work and ultimately, crime, then we ask that the city’s planning department conduct a mapping exercise showing the capacity and location of all facilities being developed to address homelessness. We would like to see the data for ourselves, to determine if an even distribution is being deployed.

BC Housing indicated at a public meeting that they are cognizant of the saturation point of social housing in a community. So we ask: when will the Lower Burnside-Gorge be at this point of saturation? We believe Lower Burnside-Gorge has already reached this point.

The operations of Rock Bay Landing by the Cool Aid Society clearly shows that such social housing, if inadequately managed or used over capacity, overflows onto the streets surrounding the facility causing disruptions and leaving behind garbage and used needles.

The Portland Hotel Society (PHS) has shown that a facility can be managed well and so far the Super 8 has not had the high number of incidents seen elsewhere. That being said, the PHS was announced to the public through the Times Colonist and – without any public consultation, was renovated and occupied. It currently does not have the proper zoning and it is operating in violation of the zoning bylaw. Only after it was well established did the residents get a briefing at a community meeting on its progress. At this meeting the residents asked for regular community meetings to get updates. At the update meeting we heard that BC housing is suggesting that the former liquor store at the Super 8 be turned into a shelter.

BC Housing has now made known to the public through the Times Colonist that the Tally Ho is going to be a housing facility operated by the Cool Aid Society. Cool Aid does not have a very good reputation of managing facilities and if past history is any indication, it is likely that this social housing project will cause problems for neighbours. Many residents have made lifetime investments only to see the city put the drug and homeless problem directly into the centre of the community without consultation or input. Rock Bay Shelter, PHS’s Douglas Community, Cool Aid’s Tally Ho and the Queen Street facility are all within a few blocks of each other and unless proper planning is done, residential streets and back alleys will become travel corridors and injection sites creating a security nightmare for residents.

We need the backend of the Tally-Ho to be blocked off, forcing traffic to enter and exit through Douglas Street. If not the back alley directly across from the Tally Ho will become an ad-hoc injection site for the facility’s resident “guests”… both wanted and unwanted. The fastest point between the Rock Bay Shelter and the Tally Ho will be through the residential community if a barrier is not created behind the Tally Ho. Residents MUST have input into the development of the Tally Ho before any permits are issued and before it is renovated and occupied.

The city’s consultation record for the Lower Burnside-Gorge has been bleak. For example our park was taken to build the Rock Bay Shelter with ‘fait accompli’ consultation.

It is our expectation that the city responds to the questions directly and implicitly stated in this letter, namely:

  1. What steps is the city taking to stop the Lower Burnside-Gorge area from turning into a de facto ghetto?
  2. Will the city’s planning department conduct a mapping exercise showing the capacity and location of all facilities being developed to address homelessness within the city and make this data publicly available?
  3. When will the Lower Burnside-Gorge be at a point of saturation, where the city will stop further social housing developments?
  4. How is the city addressing overcapacity, garbage and overflow onto the streets surrounding the Rock Bay shelter?
  5. Why does the city allow a facility to move forward without proper zoning?
  6. Will the city allow approve another shelter if BC Housing requests to have the former liquor store at the Super 8 turned into a shelter?
  7. Will the city force the Cool Aid Society to consult with the neighbourhood on how the backend of the Tally-Ho will be designed before the project can move forward?

Yours truly,

Residents of the Lower Burnside-Gorge

Canadian Police College Library

Last week I was in Ottawa for a conference. I stayed at the Canadian Police College and I had a chance to visit their library.

If you like police hats, this is the place to be:

Canadian Police College Library in Ottawa

Canadian Police College Library in Ottawa

The library had all the Criminal Codes, dating back almost 40 years. Look at how things have changed between 1979 to 2017.  The page count of Martin’s Annual Criminal Code has doubled.  And the text is more dense.  Today the law is more complex and there is more case law:

Criminal Code from 2017 vs 1979

Criminal Code from 2017 vs 1979

The Criminal Code has doubled in size over the past 38 years

The Criminal Code has doubled in size over the past 38 years

Before leaving Ottawa I paid my respects at the RCMP National Memorial Cemetery:

RCMP National Memorial Cemetery

RCMP National Memorial Cemetery