(Phil McLachlan/Black Press Media)

RCMP watchdog calls for report deadlines to ensure timely Mountie responses

At present, legislation simply requires the RCMP commissioner to respond as soon as feasible

The RCMP watchdog is calling for statutory deadlines to ensure the Mounties respond to complaint findings in a timely way amid mounting concerns over excessive use of force by police.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP makes findings and recommendations in complaint cases, but these are then sent to the police force for input before a report is finalized — and that can take years.

Commission chairwoman Michelaine Lahaie told a House of Commons committee studying systemic racism in policing that the RCMP takes an average of 17 months to respond.

One of the commission’s reports has been waiting for a response for over three-and-a-half years.

“This is unacceptable in any system where accountability is critical,” Lahaie said.

At present, legislation simply requires the RCMP commissioner to respond as soon as feasible.

Lahaie wants to see a recently drafted memorandum of understanding with the RCMP on timelines enshrined in a bill working its way through Parliament. The proposed legislation is primarily intended to expand the commission’s scope of review to cover the Canada Border Services Agency, as well as the national police force.

The testimony follows widespread expressions of concern about police brutality and discrimination toward Black and Indigenous people.

Lahaie said many use of force incidents involving these communities do not result in a public complaint.

During a review of RCMP actions in northern British Columbia, the commission found many Indigenous people were either unaware of the public complaint process or did not trust it.

Lahaie said the process can be excessively bureaucratic and difficult to navigate, and although the commission has taken some steps to improve accessibility, more must be done.

For instance, the commission has made the public complaint form available in 16 different languages, recently working with the government of Nunavut to ensure it was available in Inuktitut.

“Even with these strides, the commission still needs to do more to ensure greater accessibility, trust and transparency in the complaints process,” Lahaie said.

“Ultimately, my goal is for people to believe that they can file a complaint with the commission and be treated fairly, without fear of reprisal.”

To achieve that, the commission needs to consult Indigenous and racialized communities to identify and break down the systemic barriers that exist within the current system and implement their suggested changes, she said.

“We must adopt a regime that better serves all communities.”

Lahaie recommended the bill now before Parliament include public education and outreach to Indigenous and racialized communities.

It currently makes public education mandatory for the commission’s new oversight mandate for the border agency, but these activities remain optional under the RCMP Act, she noted.

“The only way that the public complaint process works is if people trust the system. The only way to build that trust is through our outreach efforts.”

Lahaie also suggested both the RCMP commissioner and the president of the border agency be required by law to provide an annual report to the review commission outlining progress on implementing its recommendations.

Finally, she said the commission needs to be “appropriately resourced” to conduct systemic reviews of issues, which would mean not having to choose between doing such reviews or dealing with complaints from the public.

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

RCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Two new recycling trucks on the way for White Rock

Council approves higher cost to reduce operations yard problems

Politicians want Surrey’s Civic Distinction Awards done ‘virtually,’ not postponed

City staff recommended they be put off to the fall of 2021 because of the pandemic

Illegal suite a concern for Cloverdale man

Despite a City-issued stop-work order, construction continues

White Rock Tritons ‘just happy to get out there’ against real competition

BC Premier Baseball League team returns to field against Langley Blaze, Abbotsford Cardinals

Surrey Mounties need help to find missing woman

Hasheena Mundie, 25, was last seen at about 4:20 pm on August 4, in the 16700-block of 61 Avenue

‘Do our lives count for less?’: COVID-19 exposes cracks in disability aid

In July, Parliament approved a $600 payment for people with disabilities facing additional expenses during COVID-19

Agreement between province, BC Hydro, First Nation, ends legal fight over Site C

B.C. will work to improve land management and restore traditional place names in areas of cultural significance

BREAKING: Reported stabbing in Harrison Hot Springs

Police chase ran through Agassiz, witnesses say

VIDEO: B.C. conservation officers free not-so-wily coyote with head stuck in jar

Poor pup was found with a glass jar stuck on its head in Maple Ridge

Fraser Valley Bandits clinch first round bye with win

Bandits defeat Guelph 84-70, advance to the CEBL semifinals on Saturday

B.C. doctors, dentists call on province for mandatory mask rule

Open letter says masks should be worn in indoor public spaces, public transportation or in crowds

Dwindling B.C. bamboo supply leaves Calgary Zoo biologists worried about pandas

Zoo has been trying to send pandas back to China since May

Maple Ridge firefighting camp empowers young women

Camp Ignite to take place at Justice Institute on Sunday, Aug. 9

Most Read

l -->