Rebuttal of an Accusatory Article in the Toronto Star

Under the headline "RCMP displays 'pure cruelty' in charging shooter's wife", she proceeds to state the RCMP, “arguably the meanest and most incompetent police force in Canada, really outdid itself before, during and after the mass slaughter of 22 people". (Why?) "That's because it's Nova Scotia, a have-not Province where it's easier to disdain the population you police and get away with it".

Toronto Star

Office of the Editor

While reading the December 9th edition of the Toronto Star I came upon an article concerning the RCMP in the Opinion Section written by current affairs reporter Heather Mallick.  This reporter has written on many topics in the past and for the most part her articles seemed professionally written and balanced.  This one however I found disturbing.

Under the headline “RCMP displays ‘pure cruelty’ in charging shooter’s wife”, she proceeds to state the RCMP, “arguably the meanest and most incompetent police force in Canada, really outdid itself before, during and after the mass slaughter of 22 people”.  (Why?)  “That’s because it’s Nova Scotia, a have-not Province where it’s easier to disdain the population you police and get away with it”.  

In parts of the article, she writes:

  •  NS politicians “are cemented in place, there are fewer journalists to make a noise”
  • RCMP actions (were/are) “duplicitous and cowardly”
  • (suggests) The RCMP has an “always punish the woman first” attitude
  • The RCMP “knew how dangerous Wortman was, always had over the years”
  • The RCMP “knew he had said he wanted to kill a cop, that he was stockpiling weapons, beating Banfield and terrorizing his neighbours”
  • (question) “did he have some kind of pull with the RCMP that made them turn a blind eye to his presence in the drug trade?”
  • “Everyone attached to this police catastrophe has to come clean. Here in Ontario, where we are well acquainted with brutal and incompetent policing, we expect no less”.

This article went on and outlined other complaints which have been mentioned before, on how the RCMP acted during and after the incident. However, I believe it went beyond the bounds of ‘opinion’ when she includes unsubstantiated innuendo and dangerous assumptions along with criticism which appeared to be directed at everyone associated with the RCMP.

As an entity the RCMP is under a microscope and is taking a lot of heat these days and yes, where criticism is warranted it should be acknowledged and dealt with.  However, when this or any criticism is directed at every member and every employee it is not responsible journalism. The Force may not be perfect but to condemn the entire membership for every shortcoming, real or imagined, is blatantly unfair and should not be tolerated. 

The RCMP as a community is composed of Uniformed and Plain Clothes Members, Civilian Members, Special Constable Members, Temporary Civilian Employees, Public Service and Municipal employees. It includes Reserve Constables, Auxiliary Members and ordinary citizen volunteers.  Together they provide a wide range of duties and services and are found in offices and Detachments from Coast to Coast to Coast. Not everyone is mean or cruel, Not everyone is incompetent, Not everyone is duplicitous or cowardly, Not everyone turns a blind eye or disregards policy and procedures. Most are just hard-working individuals trying to do their best.  They are also parents, sons and daughters, community volunteers, coaches and your neighbours.  They are also people who deserve an apology.

After 37 years of service with the RCMP I will readily admit the Force is not perfect.  I will also state with confidence that the majority of those I worked or otherwise interacted with, were dedicated members and employees who competently and properly did their jobs. They also included those who stood up for themselves or stood up for others, challenged management, and helped bring about change.  Although retired for 10 years I still have contact with serving members and my opinion in this regard has not changed.

The average member is someone who wants to serve the public as best as they can.  They deserve an apology for criticisms directed at them on issues they were not part of or had any control over.  They also deserve your respect for faithfully carrying out their duties despite negative publicity, despite the general social justice anti-police sentiment, and despite the uncertainties they face because of the COVID pandemic. 

Regards,

S.R. (Steve) Semenchuk

RCMP Veterans’ Association
Toronto Division 

L’association des vétérans de la GRC
Division de Toronto


7 Comments

  1. Avatar MURRAY TATARYN-URBSHOTT says:

    Thank you for outlining very accurately the bias view of this one person who is using her position for a “breaking major event”. This woman needs a reality check before she paints all police officers across Canada with a tainted brush! Perhaps legal counsel could consider a joint lawsuit against her in order to be more aware of the slander we are facing from her statements which now can and will effect us and our families for the future. Did this journalist loose sight of the fact that one of our own female officers sacrificed her life trying to protect the people in her community only to be assassinated by a mentally unstable criminal. Shame on this reporter who is to be accurate and report the truth as it is. Personnel bias has no place in any report in the media field. I respectfully suggest that this matter should be addressed either with a heart felt apology or some legal correction to this person and all police departments.. Sure we aren’t perfect but what this bias person do if she were at the scene ducking bullets or driving through the extreme physical and mental drama at the time. Thank you for your observations and fine report to us. God Bless and have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  2. Avatar Frank Korycan says:

    All I can say is BRAVO !!!! to Steve for coming to the defense ot all of us who
    served with honour and distinction.

  3. Avatar Sandy McGibbon says:

    My response to the Star is already on its way. I had another issue with the Star and the emergence of Mallick’s diatribe with Steve Mills commentary just added fuel to my fire. You will receive my material on Dec 21/22. I suggested via email that we (Association) boycott the Star; not purchasing, unsubscribing with public notice along with identifying who we are in the boycott. My question is: are we strong enough to carry this off? I told the President of the Star that I was advocating for it. I do not expect a response from the President.

    As an aside, the day following my letter to the Star, a copy was dropped in my driveway. Interesting coincidence, no!!

    Come gentlemen rally around, support our bros and sis’s across the country. Equally important are the hurt families of our members. Just ask my late wife what it felt like to be front and centre in the lawsuits in Newfoundland. Unfortunately she is not here to answer. She carried those wounds to her grave.

  4. Avatar Bill Greenslade says:

    I support Steve’s position. The vast majority of members are there to do the best they can under the circumstances. They are community members they are ordinary people they are there to protect the public. They are dedicated to the Canadian people. They go to work every day or night with the best intentions in mind with the hope they will go home alive at the end of their shift. They are there to serve the public. Who else goes to work thinking they may not go home tonight. Canada what do you want.

  5. Avatar Bob McGrath says:

    I totally agree that 95 percent of Members in the Force are in it for the right reasons and do a good job. As a retired Member with 33 years service myself, I also know that 95 percent of the Force’s short commings are a result of upper management’s top down military style management. Weather it’s HQ Ottawa or the HQs in the Decisions, the views and concerns of Members in the Field are not considered important. Until the Officers in upper management realize that the reason they have a cushy well paying 9 to 5 position is because of the thousands of Constables, Corporals, and some Sargents working days, nights, weekends etc, not the other way around. Yes, the Toronto Star reporter appears to be painting all Members with the same brush, well, the adage “sins of the father” comes to mind.

  6. Avatar Dave Devine says:

    I agree completely with this letter and very much respect the balanced, fair and dispassionate way it was written. Those who respond to criticism and vitriol with reverse finger pointing and vitriol do not do us a service. We have a right to be upset when someone writes something like the Star article but we also have to be able to separate fair criticisms from gratuitous BS, dealing with the former with a genuine effort to do better whilst responding to the latter firmly but respectfully, as Steve did. Well done.

  7. Avatar Ron Russell says:

    Please extend my sincere thanks to RCMP Vets President Steven Semenchuk for his balanced response to that vicious Toronto Star attack editorial. There has never been a more important for RCMP Vets and our association to “speak up” with such reasoned perspective on police issues such as this.

    Few others have the knowledge and experience of former police officers to speak to some of unchallenged rhetoric and attacks on police that we read about today. Any working officer would surely compromise their own job security by trying to. And what the public and politicians across Canada are generally missing right now is – as Paul Harvey would say – the REST of the story.

    How important are such counter-narratives? Absolutely critical. Without a balanced discussion, a “moral panic” is being created with the public who then blow directional winds into the sails of our politicians.

    Persuasion experts such as Robert Cialdini, Kevin Hogan, and others point to the frightening power of influence in the wrong hands. In today’s world, that might well include biased media outlets who are less interested in facts than sensationalism. This in turn can mobilize wide spread negative sentiment through time-tested techniques such as repetition, credibility, and stirring emotional outrage. Such “credibility” by the way, need not be anything more than a politician, some athelete, or a biased news outlet.

    Sadly, these well-researched and proven
    techniques work as effectively with a lie as they do with the truth. Marketers, cult leaders, and con artists have known this for ages. Even Hitler’s propaganda minister knew the brutal effectiveness of “The Big Lie”. And used it! This same concept helps contribute to undermining much needed policing dialogue because such misinformation and disinformation is often cleverly weaved into storylines with “Some” negative truths.

    Thanks President Semenchuk, for professionally challenging media carelessness with the facts and injecting some “positive truths” into your response. That Toronto Star editorial needed to be challenged.