The leader of an RCMP task force on potential terror threats testified to the BC Supreme Court yesterday that he had concerns that the police force may have employed entrapment techniques near the beginning of their sting on a pair of terror suspects in 2013.
John Nuttall and Amanda Korody—who were arrested for plotting to blow up the BC legislature in 2013—claimed entrapment as a defence back in June last year after they were found guilty of terrorism. Now, emails revealed during the Supreme Court's review of the case show that the lead Mountie on their investigation, Sgt. Bill Kalkat, had expressed concern about the techniques employed by the national police force.
According the Canadian Press, Kalkat had asked undercover officers via email how they were going to avoid legal issues and was concerned about their lack of familiarity with dealing with Islamic extremists. He also noted that the team lacked a thorough plan on actually apprehending the suspects and that they seemed to have been going from "scenario to scenario" with little forethought.
"There has to be some sort of game plan. And I wasn't seeing that with the undercover unit," Kalkat said.
When asked by the Crown lawyer when Kalkat began having thoughts about whether the unit was employing entrapment techniques, Kalkat said that it was around February 2013—five months prior to the couple's arrest on Canada Day that year.
Kalkat said that the case was put on hold at one point because of differences in opinion about how the investigation was to be handled, and that the undercover team he was overseeing was proceeding with techniques that might have worked on homicide or drug stings—not terrorism cases.
"That's one of the difficulties you experienced with the undercover shop, that they were bringing pages out of the wrong playbook?" Crown lawyer Peter Eccles asked.
"That was one of the challenges I faced," Kalkat said.
In the past, entrapment has been a hot button issue in Canada. One of the more popular forms of the the technique is known as the "Mr. Big" sting. Developed by the RCMP in the 1990s, Mr. Big stings essentially involve authorities either posing as or creating a fake illegal entity in order to nudge criminals into working with them.
In Mr. Big operations, the police's goal is to make the criminals trust the undercover cops enough that they feel comfortable meeting the kingpin of the operation—hence the name "Mr. Big"—where they will then try to extract a confession to a previous crime. While the BC terror case is not a classic Mr. Big sting, the challenges to it are similar to those levied against Mr. Big cases of the past.
In 2014, the police were able to trick an Alberta man into confessing to the murder of his roommate. Despite a Supreme Court challenge that the Mr. Big technique had been used to elicit a false confession from the man, the court upheld the ruling.
Most instances of challenging the practice have been shot down—with a notable attempt by the Toronto 18 terror group's defence, who argued that RCMP had entrapped the collective by providing them with the necessary materials and motivation to carry out the planned attacks on government buildings and assassination of the Prime Minister. Ultimately, the judge on the case ruled that their claims were moot.
In august 2014, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Big stings do have the potential to foster unreliable confessions. The ruling opened the door for those with past convictions (who haven't used up all their appeals) to appeal their case to the court. According 2008 statistics from the RCMP, around 95 percent of all Mr. Big cases brought to trial end in a conviction.
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