Chairperson’s Statement on the Timeliness of the RCMP Public Complaint Process
I firmly believe that independent civilian review is an essential aspect of maintaining public trust in the police.
The confidence of the public is essential—without it, police services lack legitimacy and effectiveness.
Canadians have the right to expect timely responses from their public institutions, particularly the ones with powers as great as those given to police.
Consequently, I was encouraged to read the RCMP Commissioner's statement last month following the Federal Court's decision that the RCMP's 2020 response to a British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) complaint filed in 2014 was not provided, per the provisions of the RCMP Act, "as soon as feasible."
In December 2019, the CRCC and the RCMP signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) outlining, among other things, agreed upon timelines for both agencies to respond to and finalize public complaints.
At the time of the signing of the MOU, the backlog of CRCC interim reports awaiting a response from the RCMP dated back over four years, with the actual incident often dating back even further.
Late last year, the RCMP cleared their backlog of responses to CRCC interim reports and since April 1st, 2021, all new CRCC interim reports have been responded to within the agreed upon six‑month time frame.
The Commissioner's commitment to addressing the backlog and the subsequent RCMP effort brought closure to members of the public as well as RCMP members bogged down for years by a slow-moving complaint process.
Findings & Recommendations
RCMP responses outline which of the CRCC's findings have been accepted and what remedial measures are being actioned to address CRCC recommendations.
In 2021,the CRCC's findings and recommendations led the RCMP to take significant remedial steps, including:
- Updating policies and procedures for response to mental health crises and wellness checks (summary numbers 21-282, 21-283).
- Creating a national sexual assault investigation course, making changes to national policy surrounding sexual assault investigations, and creating a best practices guide (summary number 21-059).
- Revising the policy on strip searches to ensure that strip searches are conducted in private and are not live-monitored and providing additional training to RCMP members to address the improper strip search of an Indigenous woman (summary numbers 21-279, 21-281).
- Changing policy concerning prisoner care and handling, such as the provision of adequate meals, blankets and mattresses, access to showers, reasonable medical attention and access to medications (summary numbers 21-035, 21-236, 21-281, 21-285, 21-278, 21-038).
- Revising its definition of "street check" to align with the RCMP's community policing philosophy and bias-free policing policy and implementing a policy for the collection, analysis and reporting of data from police interactions with racialized and Indigenous peoples (systemic investigation).
- Creating an updated guard training course to improve the training of RCMP jail guards (summary numbers 21-236, 21-278).
- Making changes to the police service dog policies and training (public interest investigation and summary number 21-242).
- Reviewing its policies relative to ensuring welfare of children whose parents or caregivers are arrested or otherwise indisposed (summary numbers 21-088, 21-140).
- Creating a new public complaint investigator and Commissioner's delegate training course (Chairperson's complaint and public interest investigation).
- Changing RCMP policies and forms, and the National Public Complaints Guidebook to address concerns noted by the CRCC (Chairperson's complaint and public interest investigation).
- Conducting a management review of a detachment and instituting measures to prevent racist conduct (summary number 21-277).
Of particular note, the RCMP Commissioner accepted almost all of the CRCC's findings, including the finding relating to the discriminatory treatment of Ms. Baptiste following the completion of my Chair-initiated complaint and public interest investigation related to the conduct of RCMP members involved in the investigation of the death of Colten Boushie.
The CRCC has committed to being more transparent, and summaries of all public complaint decisions are now posted on our website. These summaries have been depersonalized in order to protect the privacy of individuals who file complaints against the RCMP.
In addition, the RCMP's website now includes an overview of all RCMP commitments made in response to CRCC recommendations.
Publishing information related to the implementation status of CRCC recommendations is critical; however, I propose that further action is required.
Legislation related to enhanced oversight of the RCMP has been introduced a number of times over the past few years.
The government's most recent Speech from the Throne included a commitment to continue to reform policing, and the Minister of Public Safety's mandate letter includes a directive to accelerate action to reform the RCMP by "establishing defined timelines to respond to recommendations from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission."
The Federal Court ruling referenced above mirrors previous calls for statutory timelines for the RCMP to respond to CRCC reports. Legislators have the opportunity to codify the Court's decision as legislation related to the public complaint process is contemplated.
As I stated to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security and to Minister of Public Safety, I recommend that amendments to the RCMP Act include statutory:
- timelines for the RCMP Commissioner to respond to CRCC reports;
- requirement for the RCMP to report annually on the implementation of CRCC recommendations;
- requirement for the CRCC to deliver public education with a particular focus on Indigenous and racialized communities.
Canadians have a right to expect timely responses to their concerns about RCMP member conduct. The CRCC and the RCMP must continue to work together to deliver a timely, transparent and accessible public complaint process.
I look forward to the introduction of new legislation that will strengthen oversight of the RCMP and provide for the independent review of Canadian Border Services Agency complaints. Independent review including the ability to conduct strategic investigations into systemic issues will increase the public's trust in the complaint process.
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