Ottawa wants to revamp the existing civilian body that oversees the RCMP and create a new independent commission that will have the added responsibility of establishing external oversight of Canada’s border-services agency for the first time.
New government legislation tabled on Thursday, known as C-20, proposes replacing the existing RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) with a new Public Complaints and Review Commission.
Its purpose would be to review and investigate complaints about conduct and service of Mounties and personnel working with or for CBSA.
The CRCC was created by Parliament in 1988 and conducts reviews when individuals are not satisfied with the national police force’s handling of complaints. It is not part of the force.
The CBSA is currently subject to review by independent boards, tribunals and the courts but there is no external complaints or review body for it, the federal government says.
The Liberal government has proposed spending $112.2-million over five years, and $19.4-million per year after that, to establish the commission. If passed, legislation would authorize its chair to recommend the beginning of a disciplinary process or the imposition of disciplinary measures in response to individuals who have been the subject of complaints.
The legislation also codifies timelines in which the RCMP and CBSA must respond to interim reports, reviews and recommendations. Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s mandate letter from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, issued last December, stipulated the introduction of legislation to create a review body for the RCMP including defined timelines to respond to complaints and recommendations.
The bill also contains a requirement for the RCMP’s Commissioner and the president of the CBSA to report annually to the Public Safety Minister on the status of the commission’s recommendations being implemented.
Mr. Mendicino said Thursday that the establishment of the new commission will improve public confidence in both the RCMP and the CBSA. He also said that tools such as the commission’s ability to recommend discipline and public annual reports will build transparency and accountability and foster trust in law enforcement.
If passed, C-20 would also require that the commission collect and publish race-based data.
“We included the obligation to collect disaggregated race-based data precisely because we know that we have to continue to accelerate our efforts to root out systemic racism inequities that exist within our institutions, including within law enforcement,” Mr. Mendicino said.
Michelaine Lahaie, the chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, said Thursday that the commission is well-positioned to also take on review of the CBSA, given its current responsibilities for review of the RCMP.
As for whether it will have the resources to do its work, Ms. Lahaie said “we will see how that works out” but that she is confident right now that the government will provide appropriate funds so it can deliver on its mandate.
In July, 2020, Ms. Lahaie appeared before a House of Commons committee and said statutory requirements for the RCMP to respond to reports would improve accountability “exponentially.”
In November of that year, Mr. Trudeau said he would be following up with then-public safety minister Bill Blair on the status of the RCMP’s response to the civilian watchdog’s report on the investigation into the death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man killed in Saskatchewan in 2016, after it was months late.
The force said at the time that it had yet to produce a response to the CRCC report because more time was required to make it thorough and well-founded.
The CRCC’s report included 47 findings and 17 recommendations to address the deficiencies identified in the RCMP’s investigation and interactions with Mr. Boushie’s family.
It found that the investigation conducted by the Mounties was “generally reasonable” but identified a number of deficiencies such as a failure to protect the vehicle Mr. Boushie was sitting in when he was shot.
For subscribers: Get exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for the Politics Briefing.