Editorial: A century of goodwill is getting blown away

The sad RCMP shooting of Greg Matters


CP / Michael Cook

There is one sad and indisputable fact about Greg Matters, the Canadian Army veteran shot dead by RCMP officers on his farm near Prince George, B.C., last year: he brought a hatchet to a gunfight. Matters was a sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder given to making threats of harm to himself and others. Police were there to arrest him on Sept. 10, 2012, because his ongoing feud with an estranged brother had turned violent. Matters was well known to them. There is a small number of such persons in every rural community (or big-city neighbourhood) who take up most of the police’s time and resources. Even in the wake of a tragedy, defenders of the peace are entitled to every possible deference as the facts are probed.

But the RCMP often seems engaged in burning off a century of goodwill with the energy of an arsonist, and the current coroner’s inquest into the shooting of Matters is providing just another occasion. Independent provincial investigators who looked into the incident for the purpose of deciding whether it was culpable homicide were told by police witnesses that the fatal shots were fired into Matters’s chest. Now a pathologist has told the second inquiry that the bullets definitely entered Matters’s back. This sort of revelation is, unhappily, not surprising anymore.

The RCMP originally came to Matters’s home the day before the shooting because he had dialed 911, hoping to have his brother arrested for violating a peace bond he had secured against him in their ugly real estate dispute. Over a period of about 36 hours the situation gradually transformed into the tableau of an Emergency Response Team assembling on Matters’s property in the hope of arresting him, roughing up his frightened mother a tad, and slowly converging on him in military wear and M-16 rifles as he wandered back and forth holding a hatchet.

This does not, to put it mildly, seem like an ideal way of having handled a troubled combat veteran whose emotional problems began with beatings from fellow soldiers in basic training. (The police had been briefed by Matters’s therapist overnight, long before sending in the ERT.) One suspects that Matters may go down in history as the unexpected fifth victim of the 2005 Mayerthorpe massacre. On that day, in a similar setting, a 47-year-old pot-growing pervert somehow got the drop on four lightly equipped Mounties and won a gun battle with them. It is not hard to understand why local RCMP commanders might now be a lot quicker to call upon overwhelming force when dealing with minor local disputes involving unstable people.

That does not necessarily make it right—and there is a curious wrinkle in the pattern of force escalation in this incident: Matters was actually shot by a K-9 officer, seconded to the ERT, who had his service dog with him. The officer told the provincial investigators that he had intended to deploy the dog to help take down Matters non-lethally, but decided not to because of the hatchet in Matters’s hand.

There has been a wave of sentimentality across the country this month in the wake of an Edmonton police dog’s stabbing by a suspect, but these dogs are not family pets. Their ultimate function is to substitute their lives for human ones. In this case, a police dog remained on-leash as police shot down a man who had been convicted of no crime, who did not even have any accuser besides himself. Fido is not much good as a mere witness.

And speaking of witnesses, a major theme of news coverage of the coroner’s inquest has been the irritatingly large number of times death investigators have recommended that frontline RCMP be equipped with inexpensive personal digital video cameras to record footage of arrests and confrontations. The official report of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) into the Matters shooting points out—as if providing an excuse in advance for its own faulty conclusion about how Matters was shot—that the ERT members provided conflicting testimony and that “inconsistencies are to be expected . . . in any fast-moving critical incident.”

This being so, why has the RCMP been dragging its heels on personal cameras? Surely the blame for any “inconsistencies” that could be resolved by an inexpensive equipment purchase must be assigned to the force itself. Body cameras are in use elsewhere, and early studies suggest that they reduce the quantity of both citizen complaints against police and uses of violent force by them. Having video from three or four vantage points of the Matters shooting might in itself have already paid for the initial purchase of cameras for the entire RCMP, especially since the IIO report now looks pretty unsatisfactory and may have to be revisited when the coroner (who cannot lay charges) is finished his work.


Editorial: A century of goodwill is getting blown away

  1. The cops can shoot someone, lie about the circumstances, and nothing is done.
    No wonder James Roszko decided to get the first shots in.

    Of course it wasn’t a fair fight even though he was facing four rcmp.
    James Roszko could shoot back, and the cops only shoot people who are unarmed.

    • What is even more sobering about the incident you refer to is that the RCMP, with all the assets at their disposal, were too inept to establish a secure perimeter.

  2. This is all a fallout from the Dziekansky verdict. The RCMP learned from that they can kill whoever they want, lie on the stand and get away with it even though it was shown in court with video evidence that they lied.
    If that doesn’t send the wrong signals what would?
    But the problem is the whole stinking justice system that stick up for each other at the cost of lives.

    • Or that with all the other corruption too, government and its politicians/employees are above the law and no longer accountable to the people. I call it the ruse of democracy, as none of the parties represent middle class or moral decency, just a placatory party for each demographic all with only big unaccountable unethical government treating us like debt-tax slaves of corrupt state.

      Our votes are useless. A stage show where government always wins and the people always lose be it the tax man, senator/MP corruption or RCMP abuse.

  3. They still haven’t apologized for the murder of striking workers in Estevan back in 1931. Plus ca change…

  4. In the age of armchair quarterbacks the posts so far seem to resemble this low form of opinion. The police acted to keep their community safe. We can agree the heroes so far that have posted would be no where close to this axe waving mentally ill person, thank god the police were there.

    • The police, having received some crucial information which they chose to disregard, encircled a guy holding a hatchet, and fired on him using high powered rifles. The reach of a thrown hatchet compared to that of a high powered rifle, in and of itself, speaks volume about the attitude of the law enforcement community.
      This more recently evidenced taste in clothing fashions on this type of incident equally betray an attitude of them vs us.

      • Living in rural areas carrying a hatchet means nothing. Its like killing a city dweller for driving a car or carrying groceries. So do we start shooting people in parking lots because that bad might have something else than groceries in it?

        Carrying a hatchet, knife or axe isn’t an uncommon thing to do on a rural property, especially if you want to cook dinner tonight.

    • You have no idea what you’re talking about. Average citizens deal with these kinds of people every day. They just don’t kill them. I didn’t even kill the guy who stabbed me at work as a cabbie. I just kicked the bejeezus out of him.

    • Evidence from the coroners inquest showed that Greg’s fingerprints were not on the hatchet found several metres away from his body. In addition one of the bullets that went through Greg’s back lodged itself in Greg’s right forearm. The trajectory of the bullet indicated that Greg’s right arm was right next to his body when he was shot. He was dominant right-handed and could have not been waving a hatchet when this happened. If you watch the news documentary called ‘The War Zone’ by W5, you will find out what happened in the lead up to Greg’s death and hear from the police recordings that Greg was calm and didn’t know that he was being ambushed by men hiding in the bushes in combat gear with M-16s pointed at him. In addition, PTSD is an injury and not a mental illness.

  5. Few realize the job of RCMP is to protect not us but protect government from us.

    Although RCMP have my compliance, they totally lost my respect, They area corrupt immoral police force. No accountability….essentially a license to murder, spy and harm people while letting criminals go.

    I am not sure if it was this story or when RCMP went to Pearson not to arrest, but to protect Rizzuto that completely turned me anti-RCMP. Western Canada needs to give them the boot and use provincial police and when hiring, filter out the RCMPs garbage that apply.

    • Yeah because the Provincial Police are so much better. I wouldn’t hold my breath given the conduct of provincial sheriffs her in Alberta.

      Nice try in pushing your separatist agenda using the death of an injured veteran. That tells me more about you and your agenda than you think and I’ll oppose it just based on that.

      • Cops are corrupt wherever they work. That tells us it’s the people the job attracts, not the orginization

  6. Even in the wake of a tragedy, defenders of the peace are entitled to every possible deference as the facts are probed.


    No, they are entitled into an investigation into their behaviour to determine whether it was reasonable, and they owe investigators and the public candid accounts of their actions. All too often, proper oversight jets hijacked or overlooked in the type of attitute reinforced above.

  7. If we all supported a Republic of Western Canada we could get rid of RCMP …

    • Not if you’re Canadian.

      • It’s funny how the lunatic fringe are quick to call everyone who disagrees with them traitors; but they are the first to call for the destruction of the country and see no problem with that. Look in the encyclopaedia for cognitive dissonance and you’ll see a photo of Dave smiling right back at you.

        • Except the lunatic fringe in Canada is currently identified as the Harper government and it’s blind obedient supporters. If you look in the mirror you’ll see one.

          • Steady on old man, I was actually agreeing with you, hence my referencing Dave.
            It might help if you read the comment.

  8. This also tells people how to deal with any cops who approach them.

  9. When the people live in a state.Where the police are not held individually accountable for their actions.The people live in a police state.The words of Carl Jung.

    • Canada IS a police state and don’t anyone think otherwise.

  10. I am apalled by the police actions in this case…they could have just shot to wound they didn’t have to kill…they knew he was a war vetran …this man deserved better

    • How many times does it have to be said? Real life cops don’t shoot people in the leg or shoot a weapon out of someones hand.

      • That is correct… they are for the most part Rambo wanna be’s that pretend to be so tough yet they have to shoot a guy TWICE in the back. It is an outrage that they get away with such abominable conduct!.

  11. What is this “century of goodwill” of which you speak? Since I was old enough to read a newspaper, more than half a century ago, I have been hearing of RCMP brutality and lawbreaking, almost always done with impunity, and I have witnessed them lying under oath to me as a jury member. In fact, I recently reread Hugh Dempsey’s excellent Charcoal’s World and was reminded that as early as 1896 the Mounties were imprisoning people without charge. Maybe they’re not as loathed as some national police forces, but goodwill? I don’t think so.

  12. Just government killing off its own, no loyalty as to governments, disabled, vets — disposable. We now live in the era where governemtn is bigger than the people. A statism state where we can no longer hold government accountable.

    Be sure to vote in the ruse of democracy for one of the placatory parties representing statism government managing you.

  13. I am of the opinion there is a shoot to kill policy by the police like the British army in Northern Ireland after the troubles in 1969. I am also of the opinion they are trained with this policy as well to use maximum force whenever necessary in whatever circumstances. The evidence in all shootings by the police indicates this. Dead witnesses tell no tales and as such, the police can walk away free men. They are above the law. If you trained incessantly with marksmanship putting bullets in targets in tight groupings, do you really think then you would not be capable of maiming an assumed troublemaker by shooting them to make them incapable of causing bodily injury other than murdering them. It also makes sense that you suffer with loss of memory or faulty recall of the incidents when you need to get off the hook for your actions as a person who is apparently supposed to be upholding the law. If the evidence proves to be misleading at a trial by the policing authorities, then the case should be thrown out the door and the policing authority be held liable. Judges, allegedly fail here also repeatedly and lean toward defending the policing individuals for their actions.

  14. Cops get paid very well given their education. Part of that salary is “danger pay” – meaning that they know they are potentially risking their lives whenever they are deployed.

    They seem to be entirely forgetting this across the country, pulling firearms of varying potency upon people who have no firearm at all. If a teenager has a switchblade, does that mean he is enough of a danger to be shot with a firearm? Or could perhaps two or three officers use some of that training and take him down, risking a few slashes. I think the latter. They have excellent safety equipment, training, and numbers.

    The moral of the story here is that our cops are becoming wussies; I hate to say. And they want exclusive right to be such wussies to boot. Take the Chinese shopkeeper who was tired of a prolific thief, captured him and called the cops. It was he who was arrested – and he was unarmed – brave by today’s police standards. The police would have probably shot the guy for running away so they didnt lose their breath.

    I have a lot of respect for cops in general, but one this one level they have to get real. You can’t go shooting people who dont pose a realistic risk to you. Sometimes physical force is the best way. Four cops can’t take down a knife wielding teenager? Give me a break. Maybe a dual sword wielding ninja, but some kid with a small handknife? Dont be such wussies.

    • I cannot believe what I am reading, both in the article and these comments. Send the dog? Because a dead dog does a lot of good. And easy solution, wear inexpensive cameras right? Think about it, every cop has a camera filming for a 12 hour shift. Let’s say there are 1000 cops working at a time in BC. That’s 24000 hours of video a day. That has to be stored for at least 30 days for disclosure period. That video has to be uploaded to a computer, stored for at least 30 days, and for EVERY file, it has to be sorted and copied for disclosure. That’s not cheap. We wonder why the cost of policing is going up while crime is going down. It is because of these “inexpensive” ideas.

      How is a guy running at you with a hatchet over his head not a realistic risk? Sometimes physical force is the best way, but not when there are weapons involved. The public needs to get it in their mind that cops bring guns to knife fights. Don’t like it? Suck it up because that is the way it is EVERYWHERE in the world, even countries where most cops don’t carry guns. The unarmed cops will just set up a perimeter and cal in the cops with guns.

  15. I dealt with the police a bit when i was younger (Skateboarding) and some are mean and aren’t especially friendly and others just laugh and tell you to get lost. At times they let us get away with smelling like pot or just making up pour out our beer when they busted us in the park. We did learn at a young age that even if the cops being difficult just agree with whatever he/she says and dont argue with them, or run as fast as you can.

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