Towards the end of RCMP Cst. Greg Wiley’s testimony before the Mass Casualty Commission (MCC) Tuesday, commissioner Leanne Fitch addressed Wiley. “Part of what I’m troubled by is that your recollection that you’ve shared with us has been fairly detailed in some of the encounters that you’ve had with the perpetrator, whether it was the ATV incident on the side of the road, the Canadian Tire incident, conversations you had with him, descriptions of inside — of going inside of the house,” said Fitch. “But yet on this one particular officer safety related bulletin and also the uttering threats in 2010 and the firearms and the information that we’ve obtained that suggests that you were in fact involved in those, you have zero recollection, and I’m struggling with that.”*
Indeed, Wiley could remember some incidents of his tenure in Nova Scotia in great detail.
Wiley recreated his August 26, 2017 telephone conversation with Susie Butlin, the woman who was murdered 22 days later by Junior Duggan. Wiley remembered he was parked in his police cruiser at the foot of College Street, facing the sun. He remembered the detailed back and forth with Butlin, and as the day went on remembered more and more of it, offering up an exceptionally detailed conversation.
Wiley said he remembered the conversation in detail because it was his last shift before going on a two-week vacation, and when he heard she had been murdered, he obsessed on the conversation, wondering if he had done something wrong. Wiley cried as he related the conversation to the commission.
Remarkably, in his June 2021 interview with Wiley, MCC investigator Stephen Henkel didn’t ask Wiley about his involvement in the Butlin case.
Update, Sept. 8: The Mass Casualty Commission tells the Examiner that Wiley wasn’t asked about the Butlin case in the June 2021 interview because Wiley’s name was redacted from the first version of the Independent Officer Review of Susan Butlin that was provided to the commission — that is, the commission then had no way of knowing that Wiley was involved in the Butlin investigation. However, the commission challenged that redaction, and received an un-redacted version of the review in August 2022.
Wiley did file a report of his conversation with Butlin — but the report doesn’t relay many of the details that Wiley offered up during his MCC testimony, including that Butlin had falsely claimed Junior Duggan was charged with sexual assault.
Wiley also had detailed memories of several of his encounters with the man who killed 22 people on April 18/19, 2020, whom the Halifax Examiner refers to as GW. Wiley remembered the first time he visited GW in Portapique, in 2008, in response to GW calling police about the theft of tools from his garage. Wiley remembered that GW later called him back with the name of the suspected thief.
Wiley gave detailed descriptions of the layout of GW’s cottage, and especially of the deck and dock along the Portapique River. He recalled the gist of his conversations with GW over 15 or 16 contacts during the period of 2008-11. Wiley remembered that he met Lisa Banfield at the cottage (but Wiley didn’t recall Banfield’s description of Wiley and GW discussing a firearm owned by GW).
Wiley remembered running into GW in about 2010, in the parking lot of the Canadian Tire. Wiley remembered that this was after he read an email saying something to the effect that GW didn’t like cops, but in the parking lot, Wiley spoke with GW and assessed GW’s demeanour and didn’t see any problems.
And Wiley remembered that one day in 2017 he stopped his cruiser along Highway 2 on the stretch between Five Houses and Portapique so he could back into a two-track trail and take a leak. Just as he was finishing his business, GW happened to drive up on an ATV. Wiley remembered that GW was wearing a helmet that obscured his face, but when he took it off, he recognized GW. Wiley remembered that two had a very short conversation to the effect of “hey, haven’t seen you in a while,” because it was getting dark and GW had to travel home.
Here’s what Wiley didn’t remember.
2010 firearms complaint
On June 2, 2010, GW’s uncle Glynn called the Codiac detachment of the RCMP to say that GW had threatened to kill his parents. A Codiac cop took statements from GW’s father and mother, then called Halifax police, telling HRPD Sgt. Cordell Poirier that Glynn had said GW had “several long-barrelled weapons.”
In the early hours of June 2, Poirier visited GW’s Portland Street residence and spoke with Lisa Banfield (GW was passed out drunk). Poirier then placed a “firearms interest police” document in the HRPD database. Poirier remained actively engaged in the file, finding that GW had no registered firearms, visiting the Portland Street residence, and speaking to GW on the phone (GW was then in Portapique). But GW’s parents and Glynn were backing off the complaint.
So on June 8, Poirier called Wiley. According to an occurrence report written by Poirier on that date, Wiley “advised that he is a friend of the suspect” and that “he is aware of the family situation of [GW] and the stress that has been causing him.”
In his testimony Tuesday, Wiley said he doesn’t remember the phone call with Poirier at all. Wiley said several times — many times — that he would never describe himself as a “friend” of GW. Wiley said he only visited GW while on duty, in uniform, and never casually off duty. “I’m not calling him a liar,” Wiley said of Poirier. Wiley said maybe he had told Poirier that he had a “friendly relationship” with GW, but the fact that Poirier said he was a “friend” of GW’s caused Wiley to find the whole report suspect.
However, Wiley did have a memory that GW was having some sort of property dispute with his family. Wiley said he advised GW to get a lawyer and not take matters into his own hands.
According to Poirier, Wiley said he had been in the Portapique cottage and had never seen firearms, but he would “attempt” to speak with GW.
On June 18, Poirier wrote that he still hadn’t heard back from Wiley, so he kept the file open.
On Saturday, July 17, Poirier wrote that he spoke with Wiley again, and Wiley said he had not been able to meet with GW. He’d try again over the next two days.
On August 26, Poirier still hadn’t heard back from Wiley, so he closed the file.
Wiley said he remembers nothing about his interactions with Poirier. But were he seeking to speak with GW, Wiley explained that the “stars needed to align” — he’d have to be working a weekend shift (GW visited the cottage on weekends), the weather would have to be clear, he’d need to not have so many calls to make the half-hour one-way trip to Portapique, speak with GW, then travel back.
Commissioner Fitch and some of the other lawyers tried to elicit from Wiley just how a request from another police agency would be handled — would he be “tasked” by a superior, or would Poirier’s call alone be an assignment, or would Wiley decide? Wiley didn’t directly answer the question.
In any event, said Wiley, Poirier’s phone call wasn’t enough information to obtain a search warrant. Commissioner Fitch pointed out that in order to get enough information for a search warrant, Wiley would have needed to commence an actual investigation, which he never did.
Besides, suggested Wiley, 2010 was irrelevant to the mass murders: “bearing in my mind, all of this occurred in 2010, and the tragedy happened in 2020.”
2011 police bulletin
Another thing Wiley can’t remember is a 2011 bulletin issued by the Truro Police Service saying that GW “wants to kill a cop” and had “at least one hand gun… [and] may also be in possession of several long guns located at his cottage…. these firearms are stored in a compartment located behind the flue.”
Wiley said he thought he saw an email saying something about GW not liking cops, but that wasn’t his experience, so he didn’t pay it much heed.
This is remarkable because the bulletin specifically mentions that GW “is upset over a break and enter complaint he filed (PROs Occurrence 2008–1379195). He believes the police did not do their job in relation to this investigation.” Wiley was the responding officer to that call, and it was that very call that first brought Wiley into contact with GW.
Given that the occurrence number was given in the bulletin, it seems unlikely that Wiley would not have been directly contacted about the threat to kill a cop. But Wiley said he knew nothing about it.
It’s a small matter, but Wiley said that over his 15 or 16 visits to the cottage in Portapique, he never saw GW drinking. This is odd, because as he described it, Wiley would’ve been visiting GW on weekend afternoons. And nearly every other witness — Banfield, their neighbours, GW’s family, his sexual partners, etc. — said that GW was nearly constantly drinking while in Portapique.
Community contacts and critical race theory
Wiley explained that GW was just one of six “community contacts” he had along the Minas Basin. These were not official police sources, but rather simply people he felt had their ears to the ground and knew what was going on in the community. He could use such people to understand what was going on, to get advice for an investigation.
Wiley said GW was smart, well-spoken, and “pro-police.”
I wanted to know more about this, but none of the lawyers pursued that line of questioning yesterday. How did Wiley choose some people to be community contacts, while passing up others?
It occurred to me that Wiley’s community contacts were all people like him — white guys of a certain age, with a degree of wealth and privilege. I don’t know that for sure, but consider what he told MCC investigator Stephen Henkel (who is also a white guy of a certain age with a degree of wealth and privilege):
… when you go out on the job and you have the uniform on, you’re going to be a magnet for poor people’s negative emotions in certain situations. You’re going to have people swearing at you. And then there’s another thing, racism. I hear about all the systemic racism in the force. Oh my gosh. Justin Trudeau, are you listening? Listen, the — I will inform you that I have experienced, I have witnessed, I’ve been involved in racist incidents with the RCMP. But every time, it hasn’t been racism going to the clients; it’s been coming back at us. I’ve been the recipient of racism. When I’ve been a police officer, I’ve never been the racist. So I get sick over that, too, like my misogynist racist bullies. And the force doesn’t do anything to our commissioner, God bless her, tried to speak up at first and say systemic racism, we’re not aware of that. Like that’s not going on. And Trudeau made her walk it back and basically said, ‘do you want this job?’ Probably, ‘if you want this job, you’re going to walk it back.’ Suddenly we’re systemically racist and there’s all these programs coming in and stuff. So, yeah, at the end of the day, critical race theory and all that sort of stuff, it divides people rather than unites people.
As I say, I don’t know who are the other five community contacts Wiley had along the Minas Basin, but given the above, I doubt they were, say, poor Indigenous people. This matters, because it reflects a police force that values a certain kind of citizen — even one who eventually murders 22 people — over other kinds of citizens, many of whom suffer the real world effects of, yes, systemic racism.
So far as I know, Wiley hasn’t written a political manifesto, but after his questioning concluded yesterday, he offered up some comments — let’s call it a rant — that give an indication of his politics.
He first lectured the commission for using AI transcription software — Trint, which happens to be the same software the Examiner uses — to transcribe his recorded interviews. He said he couldn’t comprehend what he had said because the software botched his words so often, and it doesn’t appear anyone proofed the software’s production. I can’t speak to the latter, but having both used Trint and proofing it myself, as well as having painfully transcribed hundreds of interviews directly, off an audio recording, I can say that most people, almost everyone, speaks in butchered prose. We just don’t sound as intelligent speaking as we would if we wrote something out. That’s not the software’s fault.
Secondly, Wiley damned “the media” for getting the story wrong, noting one news article — he didn’t say which outlet — that mistakenly said he was the lead investigator in a sexual assault investigation, presumably Butlin’s. That was utterly wrong, said Wiley.
The media should be held to account for accuracy, said Wiley. “If there’s a penalty box for hockey, there should be a timeout for media.”
He didn’t actually say “Fake News!” but I understood where Wiley was coming from — any mistake, usually small, and usually corrected, but no matter, will be held up as reason to discredit the entire journalism profession, and certainly any reporting that’s critical of white men of a certain age, with a degree of wealth and privilege.
Wiley was given an “accommodation” such that audio or video of his testimony could not be broadcast, and it won’t be archived as video on the MCC website, so therefore readers and the public generally cannot assess his demeanour while testifying. As I wrote yesterday, the courts tell juries that they are to judge the truthfulness of witnesses in part on their demeanour, and how they respond to questioning.
Since you can’t do so, and since Wiley will object in any case, I’ll offer up my own assessment: Wiley wasn’t a credible witness. He smirked and held looks of disdain at some of the questioning, which together with his closing rant clearly indicated that he held the inquiry in contempt. He often spoke around questions, not answering them directly. He remembered too much about some things, and not enough about others, leaving me with the impression that he was trying to create his own “truth” that isn’t based on, well, the actual truth.
We’ve seen a lot of this kind of “truth-telling” lately.
* This quote has been revised to more accurately reflect Fitch’s words as captured in the transcript of the proceedings.
As originally published, this article incorrectly referred to Stephen Henkel as a retired RCMP officer. He is not.