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Canada’s public safety minister ‘deeply committed’ to enhance oversight of the RCMP

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia mass shooting inquiry says RCMP held back crucial notes for months' Nova Scotia mass shooting inquiry says RCMP held back crucial notes for months
The public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass shooting says the federal government left out critical pages of a senior RCMP’s notes while they were given the file. The Mass Casualty Commission says it wasn’t until it received a second package weeks ago that four crucial pages were included. Mercedes Stephenson has the details – Jun 24, 2022

The federal public safety minister says he is “deeply committed” to enhancing oversight of the RCMP by strengthening the role of the national police force’s management advisory board.

In an interview, Marco Mendicino expressed a desire to give the board the “independence and autonomy that it needs” — possibly through legislative amendments — to ensure adequate supervision.

He also stressed the need for a clearer line of communication between the board and his office to help build “trust and confidence” between Canadians and RCMP.

The moves could respond to calls, voiced over many years, to bolster accountability of the Mounties through more robust external supervision.

Read more: RCMP leadership reform would minimize political interference, criminologists say

During the last election campaign, the Liberals promised to enhance the current advisory board to align it “with other Canadian police services to have full oversight over the RCMP.”

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The task of expanding the board’s role was included in Mendicino’s ministerial mandate letter. In turn, Mendicino’s recent marching orders to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki direct her to ensure the board “is fully supported as it takes on a greater oversight role.”

The eight-member management advisory board, chaired by Douglas Moen, currently has a mandate to provide advice, information and reports on administration of the RCMP to the commissioner, including on development and implementation of policies and the effective use of resources.

The Liberals created the external board of civilian, part-time advisers in 2019 to help the RCMP modernize after years of grappling with internal bullying and harassment.

The board may provide the minister with a copy or summary of guidance it gives to the commissioner.

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Mendicino said he wants a clear, strong and transparent line of communication between the board and the minister, including the filing of reports to his office that can then be used “to advance public discourse” about the police force.

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He also wants to ensure the board puts forward tangible recommendations on workforce diversification, training, discipline and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Mendicino sees a role for the board in helping strengthen the Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution, intended to resolve complaints of workplace harassment and violence outside the RCMP chain of command, free of bias or conflict of interest.

“We’ll keep all options on the table when it comes to whether or not any of these changes require legislation,” Mendicino said.

Soon after Mendicino spoke to The Canadian Press, a political storm erupted over whether Lucki had promised the Prime Minister’s Office in April 2020 that details of the guns used in the horrific Nova Scotia shooting rampage would be released.

Read more: Errors and omissions revealed in RCMP statements after Nova Scotia mass shooting

The difficult aftermath of the worst mass shooting in Canadian history, currently being explored at a public inquiry, is just the latest challenge for the storied police force.

In his May mandate letter to Lucki, Mendicino said his central objectives are ensuring the RCMP meets the needs of Canadians, addressing systemic racism, eliminating harassment and discrimination, and creating a culture of accountability, diversity and inclusion.

He directed Lucki to support development of national standards on crisis intervention, conducting an external review on de-escalation amid concerns about police brutality and discrimination.

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He also expects timely RCMP responses to reports and recommendations of the civilian complaints commission watchdog.

To that end, Mendicino recently introduced a bill that would require the Mounties to respond to interim reports from a revamped watchdog within six months — addressing a long-standing sore point.

The RCMP commissioner was taken to court over chronic foot-dragging in responding to interim reports from the current complaints commission. The problem has led to lengthy delays in the public release of final reports and recommendations.

“I am singularly focused on one thing, and that is making sure that we protect the health and safety of Canadians,” Mendicino said.

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