Hunt for pipeline bomber draws harassment complaints
Residents of B.C. town question RCMP tactics
Globe and Mail
Saturday, Jul. 11, 2009
An RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] team hunting for the EnCana pipeline bomber in northeastern British Columbia has been accused of harassing and intimidating people in an attempt to get a break in the case.
Several residents of the Dawson Creek area say they have been interrogated up to eight times, pressured to take lie detector tests and asked for DNA and fingerprint samples.
One man said he fled a busy restaurant when police loudly accused him of being the bomber.
The RCMP say they have not received any formal complaints about their tactics.
But Vancouver lawyer, Jason Gratl, vice-president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said he has written to the RCMP asking them to stop harassing two clients.
“They are acting like state or secret police,” Mr. Gratl said. “The RCMP have fomented a climate of paranoia and suspicion … by applying a level of social pressure that amounts to harassment and intimidation.”
The RCMP has more than 250 investigators trying to catch whoever is responsible for six bomb attacks on EnCana infrastructure since October. Police have interviewed more than 450 people so far, without any charges laid.
Mr. Gratl said four people have contacted him with complaints about police.
One of those is Dennis MacLennan, who says he willingly agreed to a police interview last fall, after the first bombings, but when investigators kept returning with more questions, he decided not to co-operate any more.
That, he said, led to a confrontation with members of the Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in a local café.
“They come and sit at my table … and they start engaging me in questions. I said, ‘look I don’t want to talk to you, my lawyer has advised me not to’ … So I get up to leave and one member of the INSET team starts yelling at me: ‘You’re the bomber You’re the bomber’ You know, in a public restaurant … this is just absolutely atrocious behaviour,” Mr. MacLennan said.
He is in a dispute with EnCana over the amount of money he claims is due for a well on his property, but says that shouldn’t make him a bombing suspect.
“I do my business by the rules … I’m not some radical crazy,” he said.
But police have kept after him for months.
“They just kept pressuring me and chasing me around town, talking to people I’m doing business with and telling them I’m under investigation … destroying business opportunities for me. It’s been quite stressful … they’ve gone to my landlord and said, ‘Would you be surprised if we arrested him?’ and poisoning the atmosphere with people I’ve had relationships with for 10 and 20 years,” he said.
“My friends think there must be something to it if the police are being this persistent. All sorts of rumours are being spread.”
A woman, who asked not to be named, sounded distraught as she described being a police suspect.
“They’ve talked to me three times; our son at least six times. It’s interviews, interrogations, wanting fingerprints, DNA, lie detector tests. They wanted my cellphone record … It’s two or three hours of questioning at a time, over and over again,” she said.
The woman, who is not one of Mr. Gratl’s clients, said she knows others who have been questioned by police, and most are withdrawing from social contact.
“I can see some of the same symptoms of [post traumatic stress disorder] in those who have been police targets … there is isolation, paranoia, just like they have been in combat,” she said.
Another woman, who has not been questioned herself, said a friend was interrogated repeatedly and “he was absolutely torn apart by the intimidation. He was a basket case.”
She said she didn’t want her name in the media, fearing it might result in a police visit.
RCMP Corporal Dan Moskaluk, media relations officer for the North District, said police would like to hear from anyone who thinks they have been treated unfairly.
“I guess the response to those types of issues [is that] we are always concerned,” he said.
“At this point in time I’m not aware of any formal complaints that have been received or are being investigated … but again we would certainly welcome any issues that people would like to voice to us,” he said.