Saturday, May 7, 2016

Measuring Democracy

One of the concerns that has motivated me throughout the years I have written this blog is public accountability. Far too often, whether examining politics at the federal, provincial or local level, it is evident that public accountability, when it occurs, is often an afterthought, not a prime mover of our overlords. It is safe to say, I think, that ours is not a particularly healthy democracy, given that secrecy, obfuscation and misdirection far too often seem to prevail.

This proclivity seems to be the default position of those who govern us, and unfortunately, like the metaphorical disease that it is, it spreads and infects an array of institutions. This is egregiously evident when one looks at policing.

I have written extensively about the abuses of police power on this blog, and despite the fact that it happens with alarming regularity, there is little evidence that the police culture of secrecy is changing, given that it is aided and abetted here in Ontario by both Kathleen Wynne's government and the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), which is called in every time a police action results in either injury or death.

Because there are limits to even what I can endure psychologically, I have refrained from writing about the situation of Andrew Loku, a mentally ill man who was shot dead by police less than a year ago for allegedly wielding a hammer at his housing complex. The SIU report, as per tradition, remains a secret, even to the family of the deceased. All we are allowed to know is that the investigation exonerated the police from any wrongdoing.

Given the reactive nature of the Ontario government, a topic about which I wrote yesterday, it tried to placate public fury over the killing and subsequent secrecy by releasing part of the SIU report, a move that satisfied no one. It was truncated and heavily redacted.

The following letters from Star readers are ample testament to both the inadequacy of the report and the failings of our democracy:
Censored report raises more questions, April 30

Some 74 per cent of this report is secret. This abuses the very basic platform of transparency. The 26 per cent transparency shows how little respect for the voter the government really has. When public trust is bankrupt, remediation is needed.

I suggest that all such reports be made public within three months of receipt, the timetable verified by the Ombudsman’s Office. The report will contain no redactions that have not been approved by an independent council of legal experts and voters and shall be housed at arms-length in the Office of the Attorney General.

It is a sad day when I pick up the Star to learn that once again I’ve been blindsided by politicians “committed” to transparency. It’s a vote of no confidence by the politicians of the people. Public trust has never been so … redacted.

Don Graves, Burlington

The abbreviated Special Investigations Unit report into the death of Andrew Loku is surely in its current form an insult to the intelligence of the people of Ontario. Here we have the attorney-general’s office hiding behind the convenient excuse that deletions are “a result of privacy and safety constraints as well as legal requirements,” delivering what is essentially a “nothing report” and no doubt keeping fingers crossed that the public will accept the whitewash.

Well, it is high time this government learned that we have had enough and that we want, no, we demand, answers. Too many men have died at the hands of police and it is time to put an end to the SIU charade that presents itself as the arbiter of an impartial judicial report.

So, what is going on? Is it Queen’s Park or the police union that is preventing us from learning what really happens when shootings occur? Or (perish the thought) are these two bodies in on the act together?

It is difficult to think of any other group that would seek to keep SIU reports confidential and it is long past time for decisive action. In such crucial issues the public has a right to know exactly what is going on.

Are you listening, Premier Kathleen Wynne and the Liberal government?

Eric Balkind, Ontario

The release of the SIU report into the death of Andrew Loku provides very little information that we don’t already know thanks to the daily reporting by the Star. The hiding of 34 pages of the report simply indicates that nothing has changed. We are left in the dark on key issues surrounding Loku’s death.

I continue to be amazed as to why a political party that has just won an election all of a sudden forgets that it should be reflecting what the vast majority of the people want and deserve. Instead, these Liberals ignore legitimate requests as is the case is here.

There is a strong need to know exactly how, why and by whom a man’s life was taken. This should not be a secret society. Who can possibly be against shining a light on terrible events?

Al Truscott, Collingwood

Once again the dysfunction of our democracy to police the Toronto police is clearly demonstrated. The systemic problem of our democracy is evident when the civilian elected officials and appointees are co-opted by the secret system of policing to preserve its bad practices.

It’s not enough for the Star to demonstrate in its pages regularly the secrecy concealing the truth about one case – the problematic shooting of Andrew Loku and its subsequent cover-up.

Citizens, who are the many, who won’t or can’t administer their police, who are the few, have no right to claim that they are a democracy. Shame on us.

Tony D’Andrea, Toronto


  1. What a contempt the SIU and the liberal government that supports them have for the publc, the public, that pays them. Secrecy seems to be the go to place when governments don't wish for us to know the truth. Governments provincially and federally feel quite safe at operating in secrecy, especially, it seems, whenever there is a crucial issue deemed questionable by the public. Avoiding public scrutiny is the government mantra of the day. In a job, if a person refused to tell their boss what they are doing and why they are doing it, they would be fired. It is the sheer arrogance of this secrecy that I find offensive. If police can kill a private citizen and the truth of what happened can be hidden and the government of the day supports that secrecy, then we are not living in a democracy. In a democracy the government doesn't get to decide what the citizens will or will not see.

    1. Your assessment of the current state of affairs here, Pamela, serves to definitively demonstrate that we live in a quasi-democracy, not a real one.