The RCMP says it has implemented about 22 recommendations made by the civilian watchdog agency over the last fiscal year, but the status of dozens more recommendations regarding Mountie misconduct is not known.
The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) is called upon hundreds of times a year to investigate public complaints about RCMP activity, ranging from claims of bad behaviour to allegations of botched investigations. If the CRCC concludes a finding of wrongdoing is founded, it can make recommendations to the RCMP, although they are not binding.
Citing a need for more transparency, the national police force has started to post the status of some of those recommendations online.
So far, the RCMP has posted 101 recommendations stemming from about a dozen different cases reviewed by the CRCC during the last fiscal year. The RCMP claims that about 21 per cent of those recommendations are “completed”; most of the remainder are recorded as “in progress” while a handful are said to be partially completed.
“As part of our commitment to strengthening trust, transparency and accountability, the RCMP is providing an overview of all commitments we have made in response to CRCC recommendations,” says the text on the RCMP’s webpage on civilian complaints.
In one case involving a strip search, the RCMP was asked to consider amending RCMP policy regarding what to do with bras and other undergarments. That recommendation is marked as “in progress.”
The RCMP itself — not the CRCC — decides whether the recommendations are logged as completed. The watchdog has in the past objected to its lack of verification powers and its inability to weigh in on whether the RCMP actually followed through on a complaint.
Most of the CRCC’s recommendations to the RCMP in response to complaints about how Mounties monitored Northern Gateway pipeline protesters in 2012 and 2013 have been deemed complete by the police force.
All of the CRCC recommendations coming out of the investigation into the handling of the death of Colton Boushie — who was shot and killed after he and four others from the Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan drove onto a farmer’s property near Biggar, Sask., in August 2016 — are still recorded as in progress, according to the RCMP.
The CRCC concluded that the force racially discriminated against Boushie’s mother in the course of its investigation.
The status of dozens of other recommendations remains unknown. According to its website, the CRCC has completed at least 117 final reports on RCMP activity since 2020. Those reports covered a wide range of complaints — including claims of warrantless arrests and mishandled sexual assaults — and all presented recommendations.
A spokesperson later added there have been additional recommendations completed in addition to the 22 completed recommendations on the website.
“As part of the phased approach to publishing the implementation of Commissioner supported recommendations, the RCMP will be updating the implementation status on a regular basis,” said Robin Percival.
“The RCMP is working to having an update completed by Nov. 30, 2021.”
A spokesperson for the CRCC said the move to publish the reports is a positive one but the process still lacks accountability because the agency can’t confirm the extent to which the RCMP actually implemented its recommendations.
‘This is a major gap’
“The information provided on the ‘RCMP commitments on responses to public complaints’ web page is a step in the right direction,” said CRCC spokesperson Kate McDerby. “However, it does not adequately address the CRCC’s call for accountability when it comes to the status of its recommendations.
“While existing legislation requires that the RCMP Commissioner respond to reports and indicate whether the recommendations are accepted, there is no statutory requirement for the RCMP to confirm the degree to which the CRCC’s recommendations have been implemented. This is a major gap.”
The chair of the CRCC has been calling on Parliament to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act to include a statutory reporting requirement.
The Liberal government has introduced legislation three times to expand the CRCC’s mandate to include border officials, but each attempt failed to pass before the dissolution of Parliament.
The latest version of the bill, which the government hinted would also strengthen the CRCC, was introduced just weeks before the election was called in August.