Friday, April 1, 2016

March for life 2015 - RCMP ATIP

After last year's March for Life (which took place on May 14, 2015), I did an ATIP to the RCMP to find out how they calculated the number of marchers at the event. According to the Ottawa Citizen, the RCMP said there were about 8,000 people.

So how did the RCMP come up with that number?

The RCMP march numbers are always a lot less than what pro-lifers estimate. So I wanted to find out how they did their calculations and after the march I did my own calculation for the march and concluded that our estimates of 25,000 marchers were reasonable.

The response I received from my RCMP ATIP started like this:
 "all the information reviewed qualifies for exemption pursuant to sub paragraphs 16(1)(a)(i) and 16(1)(a)(ii) of the Act*. We have however, exercised the discretionary powers provided by the Act and have released some of the information."
I did receive a couple of pages, but clearly a lot of information was missing (the pages I received were pages 1, 2, 19, 89, 127, 128, 132, 163, and 181; so there were at least 181 pages total).

As you can see below from what I did receive, the RCMP's "calculations" appear to be only estimates. There was no indication that the RCMP had done any actual crowd counts. In fact any crowd numbers indicated, vary hugely from 8,000 to 25,000+.

Regarding the previous year's crowd participation (i.e for 2014), page 2 (8,000) contradicts page 19, (12,000). Also on page 19 "past trends...were approximately 12,000 to 15,000", and on page 128, "are typically 20,000 or so participants". So even counts from past marches are contradictory.

On page 1, the RCMP states that 2015 crowds were about 10,000 people with no indication as to how they came up with that number.

Predicted crowds were 25,000. (Probably this number came from the organizers.)

Here are the references.

On Page 1 of the "Occurrence Details" report dated March 6, 2015:
The RCMP says "It is anticipated that crowds of up to and maybe in excess of 25,000 will be in attendance." Then on May 14, 2015 [the day of the event] they say: "The event took place today. Approximately 10,000 pro-life supporters attended the event."

On Page 2 of  the "Occurrence Details" report dated March 6, 2015:
The RCMP says "Expected number of participants listed at 25,000. Last year's participation was approximately 8,000 people."

On Page 19 of the "Operations Plan" (date unknown):
The RCMP says "Last year's participants were approximately 12,000 persons. This year predicted in excess of 25,000 participants. Past trends indicate the number more likely to be approximately 12,000 to 15,000 persons." 

On Page 128 in an email exchange between Daniel Bernier, Nikolas Zouroudis and Richard Gladu:
"As you know there are typically 20,000 or so participants.

On Page 132 in a "General Report" Dated May 9, 2014:
"The annual walk for life attract[sic] around 10,000 to 20,000 people every years [sic]."

On Page 181 of the "Occurrence summary":
" is expected that crowds of up to and maybe in excess of 25,000 will attend."

It looks like all of these crowd counts are estimates, and that no effort was made to accurately estimate the number of people attending.

Another question I have is this: why would the RCMP claim exemptions to giving me information? i.e. based on:
"the detection, prevention or suppression of crime or the enforcement of any law of Canada or a province". *
What crimes were committed? Certainly none by pro-lifers. So what else was in the remainder of the 170+ pages I didn't receive? Interestingly there were five female pro-choicers arrested for jumping over barricades. But no violence at all from 25,000 pro-lifers.

Until I can see some hard evidence that the RCMP is calculating march numbers based on reality, I think I will stick with the pro-life number calculations.

Next march is coming up on May 12, 2016. It will be interesting to see what the RCMP comes up with this time.

 (1) The head of a government institution may refuse to disclose any record requested under this Act that contains
  • (a) information obtained or prepared by any government institution, or part of any government institution, that is an investigative body specified in the regulations in the course of lawful investigations pertaining to
    • (i) the detection, prevention or suppression of crime,
    • (ii) the enforcement of any law of Canada or a province

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