Off the Line – Karen Haviland: really knows what happened?

“Karen, there are never two sides to a story; there are three or four or even more.”

When I first became a reporter I had a very wise editor (Sharlene Imhoff) who told me, “Karen, there are never two sides to a story; there are three or four or even more.”

Oh, how very right she was.

Think about it.

When a couple gets divorced, there is his version of why the marriage failed, there is her version and there is the version of many of the intimate onlookers. To each and every one of those mentioned above, their version is the truth.

So, which version is true?

I think that if you take a mishmash of those versions and mix them all together you are more likely to see some sort of truth instead of a one-dimensional version of the truth.

Such is the way of the recent tragedy regarding Peter de Groot. I say it’s a tragedy because any time a life is lost, regardless of the circumstance, it is cause for mourning.

I have read and heard many “truths” about Mr. de Groot, the manhunt, the officers involved and the support services in Slocan during that time.

There are “truths” and then there are real truths.

Mr. de Groot was somebody’s son, nephew, uncle, friend, loved one. He breathed air, he felt joy and he felt pain. He was a living, breathing human being, the same as you or me. That is a truth. He was not simply someone you read about in the paper, or heard about on the news, or was gossiped about on the streets; he was as real and dimensional as you or me.

The same can be said about the police officers involved. At the end of the day they go home to family too — if they’re lucky. They do the best they can at their job, the same as you or me. That is also a truth.

As for the other “truths” that is hard to say for sure.

There has been much flaming about the way the RCMP handled the situation. Some folks have even come right out and made unfounded accusations which I won’t even repeat here because doing so will only serve to further those comments and accusations.

Who really knows what happened?

Right now only three people know for sure and that is the two officers involved and Mr. de Groot, who is dead.

All the rest that has been said or written is unfounded at this point. Was Mr. de Groot an Afghanistan vet? There are those who say he was there are those who firmly deny it. What is the truth?

Was Mr. de Groot a dangerous man whose very existence threatened those around him? Some will say he was, and yet there are those who say he was a peaceable man who only wanted to live his life his way. What is the truth?

Some say the situation was handled poorly and that DeGroot did not have to die in order to find a successful resolution. And yet there are those who say they are glad their families were kept safe and thank the RCMP for doing their duty.

Emotions are running high right now and understandably so. It seems there is no middle ground. You are either pro RCMP or pro DeGroot. People are divided in their opinions, even in my own household.

Now is the time for calm heads and thoughtful discussion. Could Mr. DeGroot have been helped prior to the incident and thus might have avoided his demise? Who knows for sure?

We might never know the truth of what happened that day. The closest we will come will be when the Independent Investigations Office finishes their investigation and shares its findings with the public.

There are already those who claim that the IIO will simply cover up the ordeal. This I will disagree with.

The IIO is established in the Ministry of Justice and its Chief Civilian Officer is mandated to never have served as a police officer. The key word in IIO is independent. That is also a truth, whether you choose to believe that or not.

Maybe I am naïve, but I trust in our justice system. I have yet to form a clear opinion about what happened in that cabin near Slocan. I choose instead to wait until the official word comes down regarding that fateful day.

To the DeGroot family I offer my most sincere condolences. To the officers involved I thank you for helping keep me and those I love safe.

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