In Greater Victoria, we can take for granted our ability to live in relative safety and security, to move and act freely, as long as we don’t harm others or someone else’s property.
With the discreditable conduct decision against Victoria police Chief Jamie Graham for an offhand comment he made at an Olympic security conference to be reviewed, it has us reconsidering just how free we are.
Whether there was, as Graham claimed, an undercover Victoria police officer driving a bus filled with protesters to Olympic torch relay events in Vancouver is almost beside the point. Graham made the comment at an event focused on security for a major international event, presumably a venue where serious strategies for dealing with breaches of security were being tossed around.
At best, such a comment could be considered a show of braggadocio among police officers.
At worst, it indicates a belief that it’s acceptable for police to infiltrate the ranks of people planning or travelling to an otherwise legal and peaceful protest.
Were there individuals on this bus who were known to police and considered a threat to engage in illegal or unsafe activities related to the torch relay? We don’t know, since the police haven’t told us.
Even if there were, inserting a spy in the midst of a group of predominantly law-abiding people is not cool. It’s not the democratic Canada we live in. Other methods could have sufficed, like following the bus and keeping an eye on suspect individuals.
The discreditable conduct charge against Graham for making the comment out loud is moot here and has deflected attention away from the real issue.
The more serious point – one which we would like to call conservatism creep – is that the police would even consider planting a spy in such an environment.
It smacks of authorities thinking they are somehow above the public, not a part of the community.
That is a scary thought, indeed.