This is a follow-up to a story I wrote in April called A thin blue line between spiritual support and indoctrination. You can check that out for additional context.
A heavily redacted report quietly released by Calgary Police Commission details serious concerns brought forward by Calgary Police Service (CPS) staff around psychological supports, the Chaplaincy Service and religious neutrality in the force.
The report was not mentioned in the public portion of the June 28 Calgary Police Commission (CPC) Regular Meeting — it was, however, discussed in a closed-door session that followed. Multiple media outlets published stories about the Regular Meeting, but no outlet has yet covered this report.
The report was written by Mathew Milen, an Edmonton-based Registered Clinical Social Worker who cites Edmonton Police Service as a client on his website. In its summary, the CPC describes Mr. Milen as “an independent expert with knowledge of Canadian best practices in mental healthcare for first responders.”
While Mr. Milen clearly has the credentials to assess best practices, I am skeptical that anyone selling services to Edmonton Police can provide truly independent scrutiny of police in Alberta given Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee’s deep political alignment with the UCP, who recently empowered themselves to appoint Police Commission members. Among the Calgary appointees are UCP-Bow constituency association board member Ayo Adediran and Dr. Robert Tanguay. Tanguay sells psychedelics-based mental health services to Calgary Police through his business, the Newly Institute.
Yet despite my misgivings around financial fallout he might suffer from EPS, Milen pushed staggering insights into his report through a cloud of back-patting. All told, Milen should be commended for leaving these breadcrumbs for us, as should the employees coming forward, who must feel isolated and anxious about their exposure within a police force notorious for protecting its own.
We can only hope the information hiding behind the report’s wall of redactions is somehow brought to light.
The Milen Report
The thrust of Milen’s examination of this bizarre Calgary Police Service (CPS) contract is that the ‘training’ paid for by CPS for some of its members to learn debunked trauma practices did in fact cause harm to some members of the force. CPS stated in 2019 they do not support these practices, as they are not in keeping with the evidence.
Milen emphasizes that this coursework, provided by Robert L. Perkins, did not appear to contaminate other programming offered by the CPS Wellness & Resiliency Division, and that current programming from this Division is up to professional standards.
Although not explicit, reporting by Charles Rusnell suggests Perkins was hired by the former leader of this Division, Stacey Ferland. Ferland, who completed an unaccredited PhD under Perkins, resigned from CPS shortly before Rusnell’s second story on the topic broke in January.
Shortly thereafter, Ferland was hired as Clinical Manager for clinical programming at Edgewood Health Network. Edgewood is a for-profit company with the contract to run the multi-million dollar, publicly funded therapeutic community that just opened in Red Deer. There is no other apparent personnel fallout from these events.
CPS leadership affiliations?
A close reading of the Milen Report brings up some big questions, but the one that stopped me in my tracks, from Milen’s list of recommendations:
By the sound of it, CPS members are sounding the alarm about religiosity within training course content facilitated through the influence of the Chaplaincy Service, and that this is being pushed by CPS leadership.
What are these “various affiliations,” who within CPS leadership has held these affiliations, and what “unwanted or inappropriate religious content” is infiltrating Calgary Police Service through training or elsewhere?
In light of the fraud that prompted the Milen Report, an extension of these questions is: do members of CPS who participate in activities that advance this agenda access better career opportunities?
Are those who refuse frozen out? If so, it would parallel discrimination brought up by staff at VicPD last year:
The way the social component has played out, it’s predominantly white men who get the coveted Emergency Response Team placements. The perks of inclusion seem to go beyond membership.
The recommendations list of the Milen Report also flags religious ceremonies being held within CPS spaces:
Given that this investigation was prompted by the hiring of an alleged fraudster who appears to mistake Christian evangelism for trauma therapy, the conclusion we can draw from between the lines is that Christian ceremonies are being pushed into secular spaces at CPS.
Is Calgary Police Service religiously neutral?
In 2018, after a chapel was built within CPS headquarters, CPS (and, let’s be honest — the Calgary Sun reporting on it) went to lengths to assure the public the chapel was “designed to accommodate a number of faiths.”
But taking the Milen Report together with Rusnell and Russell’s reporting seems to add up to a dynamic in which the Chaplaincy Service has been hijacked by unidentified elements of CPS leadership to promote intentional religious non-neutrality within the force.
Concerns around religious neutrality in CPS spiritual supports go back at least as far as former City Councillor George Chahal asking about fair allocation of Chaplaincy Service staff in 2020 (4:24:50). The Milen Report appears to signify issues that run much deeper.
I had trouble finding any type of statement of religious neutrality on the CPS website. This is a problem on its own. But CPS does cite its commitment to Peel’s Principles of Law Enforcement, including the following statement:
Have you tried…redacting away the problem?
Take a minute to read Section C of the Milen Report’s Appendix:
Psych. It’s all redacted.
The report’s redactions are made under Section 17 of the FOIP Act, which designates that organizations should “refuse to disclose personal information in response to an access request if disclosure of the information would be an unreasonable invasion of the personal privacy of a third party.” However, Section 32 of the Act overrides Section 17 in the event of public interest. I believe the questions raised in the Milen Report more than constitute public interest.
My belief on this is reinforced by the limited scope of the report. If Milen wouldn’t recommend further inquiry into religious neutrality within CPS, will anyone?
I’ll suggest that this is a litmus test of Calgary Police Commission. If Commission is committed to fulfilling its mandate to “establish policies providing for efficient and effective policing [and] to issue instructions as necessary to the Chief in regards to those policies,” they will aggressively pursue this matter to determine if the Chaplaincy Service is being abused by leadership as a vehicle for cultural control within CPS.
Instead, Commission appears to be colluding with Calgary Police to cover it up, as asserted by “four former and current Calgary police and RCMP officers, two criminologists and a whistleblower.”
While UCP appointees parachute in behind Commission lines and police prepare to receive the staggering power to force arrestees into abstinence from drug use, unregulated drug poisoning continues to break records. With these democratic and safety crises being met with inaction and even collusion, I now seriously question the legitimacy of this body and broader governance of policing in Alberta. I urge Commission members to reevaluate their responsibility to the public interest:
If you can’t fight this from the inside, could you do more from out here?
Update: July 10, 2023
Calgary Police Commission’s Twitter account replied to my post sharing this article. A relatively involved conversation followed, which helped clarify a few points.