The Vancouver police refused to arrest former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney when he spoke to a prosperous crowd last night at the Vancouver Club.
This is despite a declaration by a leading U.S. human-rights group on the weekend that Canada was obligated to investigate "overwhelming evidence" of torture committed by the Bush administration, including at least two cases involving Canadian citizens (Maher Arar and Omar Khadr).
"In addition, Canadian law expressly provides for jurisdiction over an individual for torture and other crimes if the complainant is a Canadian citizen, even for offenses committed outside of Canada," New York-based Human Rights Watch stated. "Canada ratified the Convention against Torture in 1987 and incorporated its provisions into the Canadian criminal code."
So what can citizens do when their police don't enforce the law in the face of overwhelming evidence?
One option would be to lay a complaint against Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.
Video footage of the event (see below) clearly demonstrates that police were asked to take action, and refused to do so.
Vancouver police ignore calls to arrest Dick Cheney.
On the weekend, a group called Lawyers Against The War wrote a letter to Chu advising him of his duty to arrest Cheney if he arrived in Vancouver.
"As you are aware, the duty of the VPD to investigate and prevent statutory crimes arises from both the common law and the Police Act, which imposes a mandatory duty on police officers to prevent crimes and offences against the administration of justice," Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson wrote in the letter. "In accordance with the Criminal Code, Mr. Cheney's arrest can be carried out without warrant and in advance of the commencement of criminal proceedings."
Under Section 269.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada, torture is an indictable offence with a maximum 14-year prison sentence. It's also illegal under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act, which is federal legislation.
Chu disregarded Davidson's unsolicited legal advice.
Under Section 77(1)(b) of the Police Act, a public-trust offence is, among other things, anything that would "discredit the reputation of the municipal police department with which the member is employed".
Under Section 78(2)(a), anyone can file a complaint that Chu committed a public-trust offence under Section 77(1)(b) of the Police Act by failing to arrest Cheney.
Under the Police Act if the complaint cannot be resolved informally, any investigation cannot be conducted by an officer of a lower rank. This means that another chief would be required to examine the evidence.
History will not be kind to Cheney. As Derrick O'Keefe, one of the leaders last night's protest, put it: "Cheney lied, millions died, we demand he must be tried."
Derrick O'Keefe says Dick Cheney should go to prison.
Cheney was deeply involved in launching a war of aggression against another country without the justification of self-defence. He and other members of the Bush administration lied about Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction.
The International Military Tribunal at Nuremburg after the Second World War characterized a war of aggression as the "supreme international crime". It can only be launched legally with the authorization of the UN Security Council, which the Americans didn't obtain before attacking Iraq.
On the face of things, it appears that Chu and his officers did not enforce the law. And by filing a complaint against him, there is a case to be made that this discredited the reputation of the municipal police department.
The head of the provincial prosecutorial branch, Robert Gillen, also deserves to come under scrutiny for his role in this affair. Gillen, an assistant deputy attorney general, has not chosen to charge Cheney despite the Human Rights Watch declaration that there is overwhelming evidence of torture committed by the Bush administration.
The Crown counsel office has full independence on whether or not to lay criminal charges, which makes it impossible to seek judicial review of its decisions in this area.
There are two tests that must be met to launch a prosecution: it must be in the public interest and there must be a reasonable likelihood of conviction.
Given the evidence that has accumulated in connection with the Bush administration's actions—including Cheney's public utterances in favour of waterboarding and other actions tantamount to torture—there probably is a "reasonable likelihood" of convicting the former vice president under Section 269.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
The protesters outside the Vancouver Club clearly feel that this is in the public interest.
Gillen is a lawyer. As such, someone could file a complaint against him with the Law Society of B.C., which regulates the profession. It has statutory authority "to uphold and protect the pubic interest in the administration of justice".
Under Section 26 of the Legal Profession Act, a member of the public may file a complaint if he or she believes a lawyer "has practised law incompetently".
Did Gillen demonstrate incompetence by not taking all the evidence at his disposal and charging Cheney? That would be up to the law society, which is dominated by lawyers, to decide. And unlike Gillen's decision not to prosecute Cheney, this would be subject to judicial review.
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.