I found myself following the advice of Minister of Safety and Emergency Preparedness Stockwell Day for the first and last time last week.
As a way of brushing off calls for a public inquiry following cries of police provocation at the Montebello demo, Day suggested protestors file their beefs with public complaints officers. So I called Stocky on his bluff and filled out a Web form.
Sure, the Quebec Provincial Police finally admitted that the three masked "Black Blockers" in the already legendary YouTube smash hit (274,000 viewers and counting) were cops. But is that really the end of the story?
Just how many other undercover cops were messing with our heads that day? What was the level of RCMP participation in this unified command operation, and did the feds give their blessing to police provocation?
There are certainly two moments on August 20 that just reek of Grade 11 drama class acting. Hence suspicion. Through peaceful resistance, protestors establish a free speech zone in front of the Montebello gate. Successful, we break for a late lunch, everyone pulling out their sandwiches.
A lone Black Blocker opts at this particular moment to toss a rock over my head, dinging an officer. Like, I have to ask, why didn't Mad Max do the toss during the initial scuffle? He returns with others and foolishly tries to ram the line with a 3-foot-long 2-by-4. They disperse before a round of tear gas.
These two odd manoeuvres are executed so amateurishly (as amateurishly, in fact, as the encounter with the three caught 30 minutes later on tape) that I'm inspired to gripe to the Commission for Public Complaints Against RCMP.
I tell them I believe it's reasonable to suspect that the RCMP, too, infiltrated as Black Bloc participants. And I ask the commission to investigate so demonstrators can have clarity.
Of this there hasn't been much. Black Bloc, of course, is not an organization, but a tactic. They don't plan beforehand, have no leadership and wear protective goggles and masks to remain anonymous from mainstream media. They're young, impressionable and filled with exuberance.
They do, however, freak out other protestors because of their attachment to tossing missiles at police lines, thus generating negative media images, tear gas and pepper spray counterattacks. What if the stupidest things Black Blockers do are really at the bidding of police plants?
The QPP claims the three officers hung out at a Black Bloc action earlier in the day, and one was given a rock by "extremists." The officer, the force says, held onto it so there would be no suspicions about his identity. For all we know, it was a federal undercover cop distributing boulders to keep his cover by giving a provincial undercover a rock, who kept it to maintain his.
So what is the ratio of true extremist elements to police portraying extremist elements? (The QPP won't take follow-up questions.)
An exasperated Peter Julian, NDP MP from BC and a participant in the Montebello protest, says it's inquiry time. "We don't know if there were more than these three officers undercover. And did the RCMP and federal safety minister know? The buck stops with Stockwell Day," he says.
At RCMP headquarters, Corporal Luc Bessette can't tell me if there were more than three agents spooking the demo. "We can't give details around these infiltrations," he says. "We can assure you the RCMP would never incite or encourage violence. We never have."
But at the RCMP's Public Complaints office, Nelson Kalil is almost inviting. They definitely won't ignore protestors' communications, he says. "We would look at these with interest.'
Though the RCMP investigates itself first, he says, the commission chair can order a public inquiry, as happened after the 1997 APEC protests, or an immediate investigation, as occurred following the 2001 Quebec City demos. Meanwhile, I'm prepared for the fun of generating plenty of paperwork and bureaucratic headaches (our tax dollars at work), but unfortunately, the RCMP doesn't have such a great record implementing inquiry recommendations.