Presentation delivered at the press conference announcing the coming into force of the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act
Good morning everyone. Thank you for this opportunity to speak.
As the Minister outlined in his opening remarks, this is an important day for the RCMP and for the public it serves.
He mentioned the long held principle that, to be effective, law enforcement services must have the trust and confidence of the public they serve.
Unfortunately, today, one doesn't have to listen too hard to hear the growing concern over how police policy, practice and conduct seem to conflict with the public's expectations of law enforcement agencies.
As Canada's national police force, the RCMP is not immune to this reality. It is a large, diverse and complex organization, in terms of both mandate and jurisdiction.
The integrated nature of its operations with other law enforcement agencies adds to this complexity, and its presence in virtually every corner of this country and abroad is unique in law enforcement circles.
All of this serves to increase the visibility of the RCMP and its members and the opportunities for public concern and criticism about how it goes about its important work.
Fortunately, today it is also a widely accepted view that a strong, credible and independent civilian review mechanism is an essential element in maintaining the public's trust and confidence in law enforcement.
To be effective in our roles, civilian review organizations need to have modern tools and authorities which allow for systemic examination of public concerns about how the police are responding to the ever changing dynamic on the streets of communities across this country.
The coming into force of the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act launches a new era of civilian review of the RCMP which seeks to do just that.
The creation of the new Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, with its expanded mandate and new responsibilities, brings a more robust regime to address public concerns about:
- the conduct of RCMP members, and
- the policy, procedural and training gaps that risk contributing to systemic problems in the RCMP.
On this last point, I believe we need to identify issues before they result in situations that generate serious public complaints and provide meaningful remedial recommendations for change that reflect the realities of today's front-line policing environment but also respond to the public's expectations of the RCMP.
With its new authorities the Commission will be able to identify and review a broad range of RCMP activities with a view to addressing critical concerns of public interest before they become significant problems.
We will also be able to conduct joint reviews with other law enforcement review bodies in situations where the RCMP operations have included other policing agencies and given rise to public concerns.
As the Minister indicated, the new Commission is also authorized to act as an independent observer of investigations of RCMP members who are involved in incident involving serious injury or death.
With these and other new tools, the new Commission is better equipped to strategically examine the conduct and systemic issues that challenge the success of the RCMP.
Over the past year we have worked with the RCMP in the development of a memorandum of understanding which is intended to foster a spirit of cooperation with the Commission in addressing public concerns about RCMP operations and the conduct of its members.
I am encouraged by the Commissioner's words here today and by the commitment he has shown to the implementation of this new civilian review regime.
As we move forward, I believe the new Commission will be in a much stronger position to address the issue that challenge public confidence in the RCMP and contribute, in a meaningful way, to the critical balance between the RCMP's community policing objectives and the public's expectation on how these can and should be achieved.
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