Befuddled RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli should be sacked.
His six-year stint as RCMP commissioner has seen many controversies, but the Maher Arar case should seal Zaccardelli’s fate.
On his watch, the RCMP handed incomplete and false information to US security troopers that Canadian citizen Maher Arar was a security risk.
Arar was deported and wound up in a Syrian prison, where he was tortured for a year.
Judge Dennis O’Connor formally cleared Arar, a computer engineer, of any ties to al-Qaeda or terrorism in September.
O’Connor was also very critical of the RCMP’s handling of the case, which cost an innocent man a year of his life.
But Zaccardelli appears to have been ambivalent about the affair.
On September 28, appearing before a house committee, Zaccardelli told MPs that he knew about the RCMP’s errors in the Arar file in 2002, while Arar was in the Syrian jail. He said Canadian police tried to correct the errors.
This week, 69 days after his first testimony, he recanted.
He said his memory had become crossthreaded — in fact, he didn’t know about the errors in the Arar case until O’Connor’s report was tabled.
That’s a bizarre mistake, especially given how clear his first testimony was.
What is even stranger, he didn’t save this confession for the politicians. He first floated his new version of events at a business luncheon on Monday.
As noted, the Arar affair is not the first controversy under Zaccardelli’s watch.
Zaccardelli’s RCMP raided the apartment of Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet O’Neil, who was investigating the Arar case. A judge suggested the Mounties were trying to find out who leaked O’Neil’s information.
And Zaccardelli’s RCMP crashed the home, chalet and golf club of Francois Beaudoin, the president of the Business Development Bank of Canada, shortly after it refused to grant a loan extension to a hotel in former prime minster Jean Chretien’s riding. All charges against Beaudoin were dismissed.
In the middle of last January’s federal election campaign, Zaccardelli faxed a letter to an NDP MP confirming the RCMP was investigating how the private sector had received a leak about a federal announcement regarding income trusts.
And recently, Auditor-General Sheila Fraser reported there was nepotism and favouritism in the administration of the RCMP pension fund through the early 2000s.
These are all troubling actions by the police.
But it’s the RCMP’s bungling of the Arar affair that has shaken public confidence in the RCMP.
Zaccardelli was in charge.
And his faulty recollection about what he knew about this high-profile case, and when, has only made matters worse.
It’s clear Zaccardelli is damaged goods.
It’s time for him to go. (RM)