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Public safety minister eyes steps to strengthen oversight of the RCMP

Minister Mendicino hopes to increase independence of RCMP’s management advisory board
Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, June 17, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

READ ALSO: Disturbing complaints about RCMP cells lead to call for oversight

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.

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.

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.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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