The man whose wife's tragic death, and the botched investigation and prosecution that came later, sparked the creation of the Manitoba Police Commission hopes its new members aren't just filling seats.
Justice Minister Cliff Cullen appointed five new members to the commission Thursday, including chairman David Asper.
"I hope they can accomplish something, so the people of this province can actually get what they're paying for," Robert Taman said.
Taman's wife, Crystal, died in 2005 when a truck driven by an off-duty Winnipeg police officer smashed into the rear of her vehicle while she was stopped at a red light on Lagimodiere Boulevard.
"With the commission, the IIU (Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba), and the police forces, what it was intended to be in the beginning — and what they are getting now — is completely different. The whole process has not been taken seriously by the police, but also our government when it takes years to fill the chairs," he said.
"There is no commitment from anyone to make this work. The commitment has to come from the government itself to make things better."
Taman was on a member of the commission when it was first created in 2010. He resigned in 2016, citing his belief the IIU should not be using former police officers to investigate police, after an active Winnipeg officer was seconded into the unit.
Asper was previously the first civilian leader of the Winnipeg Police Board from April 2017 until November 2018. Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo) has since been appointed to the position.
Asper is also a lawyer, former law professor, and former executive vice-president of CanWest Global Communications Corp.
Cullen said Asper was asked to be chairman of the commission after his departure from the Winnipeg Police Board. The minister also said Taman resigned from the commission just before his second and final term was up.
The commission members will be partly responsible for the government's review of the Police Services Act, which will have its terms of reference completed "very soon," Cullen said, refusing to clarify.
"We’ve indicated that we will be doing a full review of the police services legislation. That will be a comprehensive review," he said, referring to a pledge made by government in the November throne speech.
"The commission will have a role in that particular review, and the commission’s current role is to make sure they’re having discussions with police services across Manitoba... We will certainly be asking them to continue in that role."
Other new members appointed to the commission are: Winnipegger Jeannette Acheson, a community parole officer with the Correctional Service of Canada; George Wright of Winnipeg, who spent 15 years as a commissioner with the Law Enforcement Review Agency; Rick Kenderdine, who has served as chairman of the Citizens on Patrol Program in Virden; and Ashling Sweeny, a member of the Cross Lake First Nation and a captain with Thompson Fire Emergency Services.
The returning members are: Ernie Blais, former president of the Manitoba Metis Federation; Desirée Gillespie of Stonewall, a board member of the Interlake Metis community advisory committee's restorative justice program; and Mamadou Ka, who teaches political science at the Université de Saint-Boniface.
Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.