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Retired Nova Scotia justice official to probe Stanley Cup riot

Riot officers some on foot and some on horses try to clear the streets of downtown Vancouver June 15, 2011 during the Stanley Cup riot. (John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail)

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

Former deputy justice minister of Nova Scotia, Doug Keefe, has been named to head the province's Stanley Cup riot review, even as the Vancouver Police Department launches its own internal investigation into the Game 7 street rampage.

A memo circulated last Friday to all members of the Vancouver Police Department says its probe will focus on matters similar to those looked at by Mr. Keefe's independent review: planning and activities that led up to, and the violence that followed, the last game of the Stanley Cup final.

A copy of the police notice was obtained by The Globe and Mail.

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The Vancouver Riot Review Team, led by the VPD's planning, research and audit section, will operate out of the seventh floor of police headquarters, according to the memo.

VPD members were advised that many of them may be contacted by the review team, headed by section director Drazen Manojlovic.

The memo said the VPD's internal review will be conducted "concurrent" to the province's independent investigation.

Although Mr. Keefe's appointment has not yet been formally announced, sources confirmed his acceptance of the job late Monday.

Reached at his home in Halifax, Mr. Keefe said: "I am not commenting tonight. I gather there is going to be some official announcement tomorrow, and after that, we'll take it from there."

An online biography of Mr. Keefe, who retired from government in 2007 after nearly 30 years of service, quotes the ex-deputy minister as saying: "There's hardly been a disaster in Nova Scotia between 1985 and 2007 that I haven't been involved in."

Government response to the Westray Mine disaster was among the high-profile events Mr. Keefe was part of in Nova Scotia.

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His report on the Stanley Cup riot is to be completed by Aug. 31. A budget for the investigation, to be funded by the province, is yet to be determined.

Asked for comment on the VPD's own investigation, spokeswoman Constable Jana McGuiness replied in an e-mail: "We are gathering together all of our information to assist the formal independent review and we will be fully co-operating with any requests during [that]process."

The City of Vancouver is also doing in internal review of the riot, which began in one of the massive live sites, fan zones that city officials, along with CBC, established around Georgia Street for the last two rounds of the playoffs.

The VPD, meanwhile, continues to maintain a wall of public silence over the number of officers deployed ahead of and during the June 15 riot, which saw unruly mobs roaming the streets in a spate of looting, torching vehicles and assaults.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said he expects the VPD to provide its staffing numbers to the provincial review, but is unsure whether the number will ever be released. "It's up to them."

The issue of police staffing levels on riot night has emerged as a major focus of post-riot analysis, with even Mayor Robertson rebuffed in his attempt to solicit the information from VPD Chief Jim Chu.

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Chief Chu has defended his decision to withhold deployment details as necessary "to protect the safety of officers and the public."

He received support from police in Edmonton and Calgary, both cities which also had to contend with huge Stanley Cup street crowds in recent years.

"We never get into numbers. That's like revealing all your cards," said a spokesman for Edmonton police. A Calgary spokesman said they, too, never disclose number of officers for any event "under any circumstances."

Christopher Schneider, assistant professor of sociology at the University of B.C., who has been observing riot reaction in the social media, said he can understand why Chief Chu is loath to cough up details.

"No matter what number he gives, people are still going to criticize them, because they will not be seen as enough," Mr. Schneider said. "The police are trying to take control of the situation. ... The more they say, the more the media and the public will have to criticize them for."

He noted that, unlike Chief Chu, Mayor Robertson has been readily accessible to the news media, answering all questions put to him.

"He's put himself out there on the chopping block, and as a result, everyone has had at him, whereas the police are remaining silent," Mr. Schneider said. "The less they say, the less they put themselves out there and open themselves up to criticism. I think that's their strategy."

Former Vancouver mayor Mike Harcourt said there was no need for Mayor Robertson to know police staffing numbers the night of the riot, as long as he has confidence in the police chief.

"Knowing the details? I don't think the chief should tell you guys the details of how they do it, so the bad guys get to know the details, " Mr. Harcourt said. "The key is that the chief has got the resources he needs to do the job properly."

With a report from Vivian Luk

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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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