The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has published a detailed brief outlining its concerns with Bill C-42, legislation that is aimed at improving the RCMP oversight and accountability regime. The Bill is certainly a step in the right direction – its s preamble indicates the importance of public confidence in the national police force and the important role of civilian review and accountability in maintaining such confidence. CCLA agrees, and certainly supports the bill’s objectives. Civilian oversight is an investment in good policing. Because the police hold a monopoly, their actions must be subject to robust public review. Because the police are conferred the right to use force to carry out its mission, they must be accountable for the way in which this power is used. In a democracy, we strive to develop institutional mechanisms that establish meaningful accountability, not because we suspect all individuals of foul play or abuses, but because it is the right thing to do.
There are, however, several areas in which the legislation falls short of its full promise of robust, civilian review. In particular, the legislation departs significantly from the detailed recommendations of the O’Connor Inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Maher Arar. This is disappointing and a lost opportunity for meaningful reform. In an effort to shore up some of the legislation’s failings, CCLA has made a number of specific, detailed suggestions for amendment. The recommended areas for improvement include:
- A more robust independent investigation mechanism for serious incidents and injuries
- More expansive access to information rights for the Commission
- Improved public complaints procedure
- Elimination of restrictions currently imposed on the Commission’s self-initiated review powers
- Increased powers to ensure adequate review for national security activities
- Equal oversight for American law enforcement authorized to act as peace officers in Canada pursuant to the Cross-Border Law Enforcement Act
- Consider giving the Commission the power to make binding recommendations and decisions and at a minimum impose a mandatory 5 year review
It is CCLA’s hope that the Committee currently considering this complex and important piece of legislation will take steps to ensure civilian oversight is robust, meaningful and effective.
To read CCLA’s full brief click here.