Commission Completes Public Interest Investigation into the RCMP’s Investigation of the Death of Colten Boushie and the Events that Followed
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC) has completed a Public Interest Investigation related to the conduct of the RCMP members involved in the investigation of the death of Colten Boushie. Mr. Boushie, a 22-year-old resident of the Red Pheasant First Nation in Saskatchewan, was shot and killed outside Biggar, Saskatchewan, on a rural farm property in 2016.
The CRCC's report made 47 findings and 17 recommendations to address the deficiencies identified in the RCMP's investigation and interactions with Mr. Boushie's family.
The CRCC found that the investigation conducted by the RCMP was generally reasonable. It was conducted in a professional manner by adequately trained and experienced criminal investigators employing the Major Case Management methodology.
However, the Commission identified a number of deficiencies in the investigation. Some issues were of significant concern, like the failure to protect the vehicle Mr. Boushie was sitting in when he was shot. This, in conjunction with an unreasonable delay in obtaining a search warrant for the property, led to the loss of evidence as a result of inclement weather. There were also deficiencies in the RCMP's interactions with some of the witnesses.
The CRCC's investigation found that the RCMP members who notified Mr. Boushie's mother, Debbie Baptiste, of his death treated her with such insensitivity that her treatment amounted to discrimination. The RCMP members' actions included questioning Ms. Baptiste about her sobriety, smelling her breath, and looking inside her microwave to verify her statement that she had put her now-deceased son's dinner there.
The CRCC made additional findings about the conduct of the RCMP members who attended Ms. Baptiste's home on the evening of Mr. Boushie's death in a separate report relating to a public complaint made by the family.
In its public interest investigation, the CRCC also found that the attendance of RCMP members at the funeral hall where Mr. Boushie's wake was being held was unreasonable and contributed to a further deterioration of the RCMP's relationship with the family.
The CRCC noted that many of the deficiencies in the RCMP's investigation, as well as some of the deficiencies in the next-of-kin notification of Mr. Boushie's mother, were the result of internal communication failures involving instances where RCMP members did not adequately convey important information to other RCMP members.
Another primary observation was the lack of attendance of the Major Crimes Unit (MCU) at the crime scene. In the CRCC's opinion, this was a contributing factor in many of the issues raised in its report. The more serious oversights or omissions could have been diminished or avoided had there been an on-site MCU presence.
The RCMP Commissioner accepted without debate almost all of the CRCC's findings, including the finding relating to the discriminatory treatment of Ms. Baptiste. The only exceptions related to more technical and less central findings.
The RCMP Commissioner agreed to implement all of the CRCC's recommendations. In response to the recommendation for increased mandatory cultural awareness training, the RCMP Commissioner provided a long list of programs that the RCMP has implemented, and is still implementing.
"The RCMP's response to the CRCC's report shows a willingness to implement the Commission's recommendations and to accept its findings. The RCMP's commitment to providing enhanced cultural awareness and Indigenous-related training is expressed in clear terms.
Achieving the deeper change to the RCMP's organizational culture that will prevent the type of discrimination found in this case from reoccurring will require more than cultural awareness training. However, I take note of the positive steps the RCMP is taking, and I hope that this case and the present report can be part of the catalyst for the RCMP to further engage in a necessary process of change.
Mr. Boushie's death is profoundly tragic. The pain and loss felt by his family, friends, and community was evident in their interviews and throughout the CRCC's investigation. On behalf of the Commission, I wish to extend my sincere condolences to Mr. Boushie's family for their loss."
To view the final report of the Chairperson-initiated public interest investigation and a summary of the complaint review, please visit the CRCC's website.
About the CRCC
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC) is an agency of the federal government, distinct and independent from the RCMP. Our mission is to deliver a robust complaint process that holds the RCMP accountable for its activities and the conduct of its members. The CRCC's mandate is to receive complaints from the public about the conduct of RCMP members; conduct reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP's handling of their complaints; initiate complaints and investigations into RCMP conduct when it is in the public interest to do so; review specified activities; report findings and make recommendations; and promote public awareness of the complaint process.
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