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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.