Presentation to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs
Delivered by Ian McPhail, Interim Chair of the CPC
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Madame Chair, Honourable Senators, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss Bill C-51, An Act to Amend the Witness Protection Program Act. Merci de m'avoir invité ici aujourd'hui.
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (Commission) has an important role in the accountability framework of the federal Witness Protection Program. Pursuant to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act (RCMP Act), the Commission's current mandate includes investigating, reviewing and conducting hearings into public complaints concerning the program. The Commission can also initiate its own complaint and public interest investigation into any matter relating to RCMP member conduct, including matters relating to the Witness Protection Program. To date, the Commission has not seen the need to initiate any such complaints.
Since 1996, when the Witness Protection Program Act was enacted by Parliament, the Commission has received approximately 30 public complaints relating to the program.
Slightly more than half of the complaints have related to a perceived lack of assistance from RCMP members while a complainant is in the program. For example, many complainants cited difficulties in acquiring documents, and some cited difficulties in obtaining housing or employment. Approximately one quarter of complainants wanted further financial compensation for being in the program. A further 12 complainants were upset that they were not admitted to the program.
The Commission has also conducted 12 reviews to date in cases where complainants were not satisfied with the RCMP's initial response to their complaints. The Commission was satisfied with the measures taken in response to complainants by the RCMP in all but one case since the coming into force of the current Witness Protection Program Act. In that one case, the Commission made a recommendation that policy be implemented to promote access by protectees to legal counsel in appropriate circumstances.
Once Bill C-42, An Act to Amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, receives Royal Assent and comes into force, the mandate of the new Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (or CRCC) will also include reviews of specified activities to ensure the activities of the Force are carried out in accordance with the RCMP Act or the Witness Protection Program Act.
With this new authority, the CRCC could initiate a systemic review of the Witness Protection Program, if deemed necessary. Such a review could include an examination of the program's policies, procedures and compliance with the legislation.
In conclusion, Bill C-51 does not affect the Commission's role in relation to the Witness Protection Program, as our mandate is derived from the RCMP Act. Both the current Commission and its successor will continue to be well suited to provide the independent and external review required. To that end, the Commission will be closely monitoring the implementation of this Bill.
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