Presentation to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security
Delivered by Ian McPhail, Interim Chair of the CPC
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Mr. Chairman, members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me here today. I am accompanied by Mr. Richard Evans, Senior Director of Operations for the CPC, and Ms. Lesley McCoy, Legal Counsel for the CPC.
Both have worked closely with me in reviewing Bill C-42.
I will keep my comments brief.
The work of the Marin and McDonald commissions of inquiry in the 1970s and 80s formed the basis of the current model of civilian review of the RCMP established in 1988.
Since that time, a succession of parliamentary reports, blue ribbon task forces and public inquiries have sought to improve on the original model, calling for stronger and more effective civilian review of the RCMP.
The RCMP 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 organization and its members' contacts with the public, thereby providing ever-widening opportunities for public criticism.
It is within this context that Commissioner Paulson has pointed out the serious challenges the RCMP is facing.
He has suggested the organization is on the brink of losing the public trust it needs to do its job effectively.
Today, it is a widely accepted view that a strong, credible and independent civilian review mechanism is essential to maintaining that public trust and cementing the resulting public confidence in any policing organization.
It is for that reason that the RCMP and the public need a robust review regime that has the necessary authorities and resources to independently investigate and assess the facts and render credible findings when concerns are expressed by the public regarding the manner in which the RCMP is fulfilling its responsibilities.
The review regime must be able to offer constructive, remedial recommendations which address both:
- concerns about the conduct of RCMP members in the execution of their duties, and
- policy, procedural and training gaps that risk contributing to systemic problems.
I believe that Bill C-42 responds in large measure to these requirements.
It sets out new authorities which will assist the new Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, or "CRCC", in providing an enhanced level of remedial review.
The way in which these authorities are addressed in the legislation may at first glance appear complex.
In my view, this complexity is for the most part a necessary reflection of the current legal landscape, and is in many cases consistent with procedures adopted by the Commission to compensate for gaps or ambiguities in the existing legislation.
The new authorities provided for in Bill C-42 arise in five key areas.
First, the Bill clearly sets out the CRCC's right to access information held by the RCMP and to determine what information is relevant to an investigation or review.
Although in recent times the RCMP has demonstrated increased cooperation with the Commission in this regard, this has not always been the case.
The clear definition in Bill C-42 of the CRCC's right to access RCMP information will remove ambiguity and a potential source of conflict between the two bodies.
In cases where conflict nonetheless arises, the legislation provides a dispute resolution mechanism which offers an alternative to a lengthy and expensive court process.
Second, the Bill gives the CRCC the authority to self-initiate reviews into specified activities of the RCMP.
This will allow the new commission to identify problems and suggest improvements to policies and procedures in advance of public complaints, emergency or crisis situations that may affect public confidence in the RCMP.
Third, the CRCC will have the ability to summon witnesses, compel oral statements, and examine records, all without having to take the extraordinary step of calling a public hearing.
Fourth, Bill C-42 enables the CRCC to work cooperatively with the provinces who contract for RCMP policing services.
The new commission will be able to share information and reports with provincial ministers and provincial counterparts whenever appropriate.
It will also have the authority to conduct joint investigations, reviews or hearings with other law enforcement review bodies.
I believe that Bill C-42 responds in large measure to these requirements.
Finally, the Bill provides the new commission with more control over the complaint process.
For example, under the existing legislation there is no time limit on making a complaint.
Bill C-42 imposes a one-year time limit for making a complaint while providing for the ability to extend time limits for complaints and reviews where reasonable.
While these enhancements go a long way in addressing many of the weaknesses in the current review regime, I do have some observations that the Committee may wish to consider.
The first of these which, admittedly, I raise out of self-interest, is the issue of immunity of the Commission Chair.
Bill C-42 offers some immunity to CRCC members in the exercise of their powers and duties.
Yet, no equivalent immunity is provided to the CRCC Chairperson.
I believe this could easily be addressed. I would be grateful, as would my successors I'm sure, to not have the specter of jail time hanging over my head every day I come to the office!!
The second issue I would like to raise relates to the provisions in the Bill that give the RCMP Commissioner or his delegate the ability to refuse to investigate a complaint that the CRCC Chair has determined is in the public interest to investigate.
Under the existing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, the RCMP does not have that ability: a Chair-initiated complaint must be investigated.
The justification for this limitation is plainly evident. The credibility of any independent civilian review process will be lost if the agency subject to review is in a position to control when investigation may or may not occur.
I believe this could be easily resolved with a simple amendment.
My third issue of concern is that, while the Bill requires the CRCC to protect privileged information it receives from the RCMP, it does not require the RCMP to identify information as privileged.
The privileged nature of the information may not be obvious on its face, especially given that the definition of privilege in the Bill is non-exhaustive.
The Commission recognizes the importance of safeguarding privileged information.
However, to ensure these safeguards are properly applied, the RCMP should be required to notify the Commission when it is providing it with privileged information.
Finally, it is a generally accepted principle that for civilian review to be effective it must be timely.
The Commission has adopted this principle and imposed on itself strict time limits for all phases of the complaint process. It publicly reports annually on its performance in respect of those time limits.
I am pleased to see that this concept of service standards for the CRCC is incorporated in Bill C-42.
I believe that service standards would be a good idea for the RCMP as well.
These observations aside, I am of the view that Bill C-42 codifies, in many ways, a number of practices adopted by the RCMP and the Commission in recent years.
I would argue that these practices are evidence of the RCMP's growing support for external review and its recognition that we are working toward the same objective—a more accountable and more trusted RCMP.
This recognition has certainly contributed to the effectiveness of the Commission's work during my time as Interim Chair of the Commission, and I assure you there has been no shortage of work.
In addition to responding to the ever increasing volume of contacts with the public about RCMP member conduct, the Commission has responded to a number of high profile incidents such as: the in-custody deaths of Raymond Silverfox, John Simon and Clay Willey, and the actions of the RCMP in the context of the G8/G20 summits.
The Commission also completed a full review of RCMP policing services in the Yukon, and continued its yearly analysis and reporting on the RCMP's use of conducted energy weapons.
The Commission is currently conducting an investigation into the RCMP's handling of allegations of workplace harassment. In the context of that investigation, we have reviewed approximately 1,000 RCMP files and 70 individual public submissions regarding the issue.
In examining this information we are looking at how the RCMP responds to complaints regarding harassment in the workplace and whether their policies are adequate to deal with those complaints.
We anticipate completing our report near the end of the calendar year.
I am very proud of all of this work.
I look forward to the CRCC continuing such work and being able to do even more with enhanced authorities and regularized funding.
As you know, for the past several years the CPC has relied on year-to-year interim funding to carry out its mandate.
This has made it particularly challenging to maintain the Commission's strategic focus while ensuring a full response to significant emerging issues.
I am of the view, however, that the enhanced authorities set out in Bill C-42, along with a modest increase and stabilization of funding, will set the new CRCC on firmer ground and allow it to accomplish even more for the RCMP and for Canadians.
Thank you. I would be happy to respond to any questions you may have.
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