NEWS RELEASE · 14th June 2010
MP Nathan Cullen - Ottawa
New agency represents significant step, but important powers still missing
New Democrat Public Safety Critic Don Davies (Vancouver-Kingsway) and Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen (Skeena-Bulkley Valley) say changes to RCMP oversight announced today by the government lack key powers and fail to close known gaps in the current system.
“Today’s announcement is only a partial victory for the Canadian public,” said Davies. “New Democrats have worked long and hard to improve accountability and oversight at the RCMP. The power to compel evidence and testimony, and the power to conduct joint investigations are vital tools for an oversight agency. These changes represent an important step forward. The government has begun to listen to Canadians and recognized that the status quo is insufficient to restore public confidence in the RCMP.”
While the government’s proposal is a good first step, it misses the mark by failing to empower the new agency to make binding recommendations to the RCMP commissioner. The proposal also fails to create an agency with any teeth, since primary investigations into incidents of death or serious bodily harm will largely be contracted out to provincial or municipal police forces or still conducted by the RCMP themselves.
“I am encouraged that the government is starting to play catch up and has announced some reforms that were suggested a long time ago. Regrettably this bill does not go far enough,” said Cullen. “The new Agency lacks power to make binding recommendations to ensure follow through on needed changes. This completely undermines any new powers in the bill”
Along with public interest groups, civil rights advocates and RCMP officers themselves, the NDP has long-called for improved oversight of Canada’s national police force. Last November, Cullen introduced a Private Members Bill (C-472) that would have established a civilian investigation service for the RCMP.
“The government is trying to pass the buck to provinces even though the majority have no civilian investigation body,” said Cullen. “My private members bill would create a national body guaranteeing fully independent investigations and oversight of the RCMP that Canadians can count on. What we don’t need is a larger watchdog that still has no teeth.”
The bill does not address public concerns about police investigating themselves and would not have changed any circumstances in the case of Robert Dziekanski, Ian Bush, or any of the other high-profile incidents that have driven calls for reform.
“New Democrats will continue to work in Parliament to ensure that the public has every reason to be confident in their national police force,” concluded Davies. “The government must take the next step, and allow binding recommendations and full civilian investigation at the RCMP.”