Of Truth, Reconciliation, and the Musical Ride

Somebody once said — it was either S.J. Perelman or me, since I’ve been known to steal from him — that history is best if it’s constantly re-written. Rooting in my archives for inspiration, I came up with this chef d’oeuvre from two years ago. It illustrates how far we’ve regressed.

For the benefit of our American, British, Australian and European readers, The RCMP Musical Ride is an internationally recognized mounted troop precision drill, complete with full dress uniforms, immaculately groomed horses, couched lances and magnificent musical accompaniment, performed at all manner of formal or special public occasions, for some reason that nobody has ever explained.

Now that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has almost completed its exhaustive report ($68 million dollars’ worth) on the history of the Indian Residential Schools, we can all salute the last undeniable evidence of Canada’s blameless reputation internationally, as compared with the way the Yanks treat the Lakota Sioux, the Navajo and, you know, all those other people you see in all those John Wayne movies. And after five years of intensive research, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has finally presented the TRC with a 457-page report proving absolutely without question that the Mounties didn’t know about any bad stuff going on at those schoolie things. We can all go home and have a drink.

But to close out the whole business, it can now be revealed what we suspected all along, especially since we were made privy to the existence of a mole embedded deep within the RCMP’s proud force – in fact the training boot camp in Regina for an elite unit that rivals the U.S. Navy Seals: The Musical Ride.

His undercover report follows:

I was a Shovel Man At The Musical Ride

I won’t say my life has been in danger for the past three years since I was specially assigned, by the investigative arm of (former) John Duncan’s Ministry of Aboriginal Affairs, to inquire into the inner workings of the RCMP from the best of all vantage points – on the ground, slightly to the rear of the action and armed with a seemingly harmless stage prop (a scoop shovel). But I was aware, of course, right from the get-go that if my secret mission ever came to light, I might be singled out for KP, or swamping out the barracks, or perhaps even dishonorable discharge, stripped of my rank, all privileges, my insignia and shovel.

But I can now state emphatically that my work has totally disproven all that stuff you’ve read about, such as Indians being taken for one-way rides in 30-below weather, women disappearing from Vancouver’s downtown east side, that tired old rumor about the Force’s involvement as truant officers in 141 residential schools for 150 years and the story about police partnership in schemes to traffic kids for horny old rich white guys. That last item was mistakenly run in the Vancouver Sun by an overzealous investigative reporter who was rewarded with a promotion to full-time stringer based on Texada Island. All of those falsehoods, of course, were the work of terrorists, or perhaps the now-extinct Communist Party of Canada..

To begin with, I had to prepare myself by studying the history of the Men In Red. It all started when our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, who, history has established, was alcoholically challenged, was accused by the opposition of neglecting the critical situation in the West because he had been on a week-long bender.

According to Hansard, the official transcript, Sir John arose, unsteadily, in Parliament and declared that his distinguished opponent had been misinformed on two counts – first, that he had only been under the weather for a single weekend, and secondly, that the Queen had seen fit to appoint a mounted police force following the P.M.’s recommendation, in order to put down the hostile savages (Americans, actually) who were illegally migrating to Fort Calgary, as well as Indians and Metis camped menacingly near the CPR rail head opposing the “Iron Horse.”

As far as the RCMP was concerned, the “Royal” designation was tacked on by a grateful Edward VII, sometimes falsely alleged to have been Jack The Ripper. (One unsubstantiated anecdote has it that Edward’s only reference to the “Royal” designation was that he had said: “These colonial bobbies are a royal pain in the ass.”)

My further research taught me about the unblemished history of the RCMP:

In July 1874, 275 mounted officers marched all the way from Toronto to southern Alberta, where American whiskey traders were operating among the Aboriginal people. Sir John declared at the time that it was wasteful for that good American product – he mentioned the word “Bourbon” – to be dissipated on “our native people.”

In the 1940s the RCMP became the official police force of Saskatchewan in anticipation of the socialist threat posed by Tommy Douglas, and subsequently took over provincial policing in Alberta, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, although most had Conservative governments and had no crime since it was still The Great Depression. In 1950, it assumed responsibility for policing in Newfoundland and British Columbia.

Women were first accepted as uniformed members in 1974, and as a result, there followed an expansion into areas such as airport policing, VIP security and drugs because women insist on poking into these areas. Today, the RCMP’s scope of operations includes organized crime, terrorism, illicit drugs and economic crime. (That doesn’t sound right – it should read that their operations are AGAINST all that stuff. )

As far as the Mounties’ report to the TRC was concerned, it was from start to finish, as we say in Canada, honest injun.

RCMP officers weren’t aware of any abuse because aboriginal families don’t talk much, least of all to the cops, for some reason. The 457-page report stated that the police acted on behalf of the federal government to track down a few of the nasty kids who had run away from the schools for some reason. They said parents had the option in the first place of sending kids to the schools or not. None of them refused. Simple as that. Not a single parent went to jail, which was the second option.

“Children would rarely denounce the abuse they suffered, and the school system prevented outsiders from knowing about any abuse,” the report stated. So if the schools didn’t want to tell the police, end of story. The RCMP motto “Maintien le droit,” is generally taken to mean “mind your own business.” Because the churches know what they’re doing.

The RCMP researchers conducted 279 interviews and traveled to 66 communities between 2007 and 2009 to examine the police role in supporting the system. Everything looked pretty quiet. No kids around. No problem.

The report concluded that a lack of trust of the police by natives was the biggest barrier to investigations being carried out up until the 1990s. After the 1990s, no problem. Maybe because there were no kids and no schools, by that time.

“The report is supported by the relatively small number of files in RCMP records on these matters for the period covered by the research project,” said the report. No kidding. I thought that was pretty conclusive. No files, no records, where’s the problem?

It lists 619 victims who appeared before the courts and over 40 perpetrators identified with charges being laid for crimes ranging from having to stand in the corner for failure to learn the catechism, to assault causing bodily harm, such as being rapped on the knuckles. Gee, I found that pretty great. I mean 50,000 allegedly dead kids and only 40 perps. Anyway, none of them went to the slammer because of the statute of limitations.

So you can see how much exaggeration has been going on.

That’s about it. I’d give you my name, but I’m not supposed to reveal it, even to Wiki-Canada. You can’t believed those hackers, anyway.

Now that I’m back in civilian life, (former) Minister Duncan has promised me a desk job in the Ministry. I guess he liked my report. The last thing he sad to me was:

“You’re the best shovel man I’ve ever seen. And in Ottawa, I’ve seen them all.”

Bill Annett writes four newsletters: The Canadian Shield, American Logo, Beating the Street, and The Oyster World. He can be reached at: hoople84@gmail.com. Read other articles by Bill.