Monday, May 29, 2006

Update on Ian Bush Investigation.

Several months ago, I posted on the death of Ian Bush. Mr. Bush was shot while in custody at the Houston RCMP detachment. He had been arrested outside the Claude Parrish Arena in Houston, B.C. by police for having open alcohol and providing a false identity to the officer. I received loads of traffic via Google, Yahoo, and other search engines, as folks in the Bulkley Valley (and all across Canada) clamour for any information they can get. The story is once again in the news, so I think it is a good time to make some additional comments.

The MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley, NDP Nathan Cullen, has been in hot water over some statements he made recently,

Skeena-Bulkley Valley MP Nathan Cullen is backpedalling from comments he made in the national media suggesting he is fearful of questioning the RCMP over the in-custody death of Houston's Ian Bush.

On Thursday, Cullen publicly apologized while speaking on CKNW Radio's Nightline B.C. program for the comments he made to the Globe and Mail's Gary Mason.

Thankfully Cullen did the right thing by apologizing to the RCMP for his off-base and offensive remarks. Kudos to him for doing so. The crux of the issue is that the police investigation is nearing its eighth month, and family and friends of the late Mr. Bush are wondering why there is such a delay. They also questioned why Mr. Cullen has not been more vocal about the shooting and the investigation. The Interior News goes on to report that,

Over the course of the investigation, (Liberal MLA for Bulkley Valley-Stikine Dennis - ed.) MacKay said he has spoken with the coroner's office and the RCMP a number of times to make sure everything possible was being done to bring the inquiry to a close. Regardless of the length of time it takes, MacKay said it was more important to him that it be done correctly.

"None of the investigative members handling the file have done anything improper," said MacKay. "They're doing a thorough investigation and surely to goodness you can't criticize the RCMP members for doing a complete job."
(emphasis mine)

This is the money quote, and it's something that needs to be said to anyone who dismisses the investigators work as incompetent, or suggests that they are stalling to protect one of their own.

Houston Mayor Sharon Smith said it has been difficult for the community to wait for the outcome and she thinks Cullen's remarks took focus away from the real issue.

"As a District Council, we have worked well with the RCMP and have never had any problems," she said. "I don't think the comments assisted this in any positive way. We just hope things can come to a finality. We know whatever comes out of the investigation will be difficult for the community. Patience is always hard in something like this."

I have never met Sharon Smith before, but I fully agree with her comments here as well. No one wants a rushed and incomplete investigation.

But the recent heat he has felt won't stop him from keeping focused on the issue, Cullen said. He said it is his hope that if another situation like this arises those involved won't have to wait so long to find out what took place.

"I can't understand how it can take so long to do an investigation when there's only two people involved and one of them is dead. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of the police are great and do their job well but they're human and mistakes happen and we can't have some sort of feeling of infallibility because that's when mistakes happen, when you can't admit to something having gone wrong."

But I must take issue with Cullen's lack of respect towards the officer who shot Mr. Bush. No one knows what went on in that detachment in the moments leading up the Mr. Bush's death. Yet Nathan Cullen makes it seem as though it was obviously a case a police neglect.

Lets look at the facts that we know:

1) Mr Bush was drinking alcohol openly in a public place.

Even though it was at hockey arena, and it was merely a can of beer (as opposed to him waving a bag of cocaine or an ak-47 around), it is still an illegal thing to do. The last time I checked, you are not legally allowed to drink alcohol in a public place.

2) Mr Bush provided a false name to the police during questioning.

This is, quite frankly, one of the stupidest things a person can do. Lying to a police officer will get you in a world of trouble every single time. Is that some kind of big secret or something? I think not.

As an aside, I have heard from various sources in Smithers and Houston that he was familiar to the police, and that he was only joking around with one of the officers when he told them the wrong name. If he really was "known to police" (ie, had run-ins with them in the past), the last thing he should be doing is lying to them! Also, I wonder what other offenses he has committed in the past that makes him so familiar to police. Drunk and disorderly? Assault? Drug abuse? The excuse that "he was known to cops and was just joking around" simply doesn't fly with me.

It could be that Mr. Bush assaulted the police office, forcing him to draw his weapon. It could also be that the officer is a loose cannon with a history of violent behaviour. We simply do not know at this point. And we aren't going to be finding out anything until the investigation is complete.

When the report is finally released, I will post it on this blog along with my thoughts.