June 21, 2007
Imagine if the head of the Ontario Provincial Police announced on the eve of a probe touching on a major Canadian figure that the figure is an honourable man who has been given a bum rap.
It just happened. OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino went publicly to bat this week for former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, a key figure in lawyer David Brown’s report on a pension-fund scandal inside the national police force. Yet the OPP is soon to begin a review of how that scandal was investigated by the Ottawa Police Service.
Mr. Fantino did not merely make an off-the-cuff comment about his old professional friend. He was effusive about him. He said he was surprised that Mr. Zaccardelli has been “so vilified” over the pension fund. “I would like to think there is goodness and commitment and dedication and honourable duty in every person. To the extent I have known commissioner Zaccardelli, that’s how I’ve known him,” he told reporters. “We are all part of humanity. We have to come to grips with the fact humans are humans.”
Kindness or exoneration, the outburst is premature. The effect is to make the OPP look as if it has reached conclusions before it begins its review, though whether those who actually conduct the review will be influenced is impossible to know. Auditor-General Sheila Fraser has already said the Ottawa police investigation lacked the appearance of independence, because the lead investigator reported directly to an assistant RCMP commissioner. The highest standards of independence and propriety are needed for the investigation of a major Canadian institution and its leadership. Mr. Fantino’s comments suggest an old boys’ network is in charge.