RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki listens to a question during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

RCMP watchdog waiting over two years for Mountie views on its own foot-dragging

OTTAWA — The RCMP watchdog has waited more than two years for the national police force to respond to its interim report that found, perhaps fittingly, the Mounties were too slow in reviewing the watchdog’s findings in an earlier matter.

An official in the watchdog’s office details the wait — one of dozens of such delays — in an affidavit filed in the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association’s court case against RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.

The association is seeking a Federal Court declaration that Lucki violated the RCMP Act by failing to submit her response to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission’s interim report about allegations of spying on anti-oil protesters “as soon as feasible.”

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP was granted permission to intervene in the case so it could assist the parties and the court by presenting evidence and making arguments about the complaints process and the systemic RCMP delays affecting the commission’s work.

Nika Joncas-Bourget, general counsel for reviews with the complaints commission, says in her affidavit that as of Jan. 18, 156 interim reports by the complaints body were awaiting a response from the top Mountie.

This included 130 outstanding interim reports that had been awaiting replies from the RCMP commissioner for more than six months.

In 106 of those cases the complaints body had been waiting on a response for at least one year.

The watchdog cannot make final findings and recommendations on a complaint until the RCMP commissioner responds to an interim report. In turn, the complainant and the public are left waiting for resolution of the matter.

As a result, the civil liberties association also wants the Federal Court to declare that the commissioner’s “unconscionable delay” in responding to the interim report on the anti-oil protests violated the association’s right to freedom of expression.

Extreme delay has been the hallmark of the complaints process for over a decade, said Paul Champ, counsel for the association.

“It is time to hold the RCMP commissioner accountable for these systemic delays,” he said Thursday in a statement. “We hope a strong judgment by the court will compel the RCMP to treat public complaints with the seriousness and respect they deserve.”

In an affidavit filed with the court, Michael O’Malley, director of the RCMP’s National Public Complaints Directorate, says the force has hired new staff with the aim of eliminating the backlog of cases awaiting responses from the RCMP.

Joncas-Bourget says in her affidavit that the commissioner’s unreasonable delays thwart the watchdog in carrying out its mandate.

“The delay also undermines the legitimacy, fairness, and efficacy of the public complaint process. Both the complainants and the RCMP members who are the subjects of the complaint must live with the stress and uncertainty of an unresolved complaint,” she said.

Any remedial action, such as training or policy changes, that the complaints commission recommends must also wait, she added.

In many cases, these delays have led to situations where the RCMP members who are subjects of the complaint have retired or resigned before the commission’s report is completed, she said.

In one case, the commission investigated a complaint from a member of the public who was frustrated at waiting for the RCMP’s response to an interim report on the behaviour of two civilian force members.

The complaints body’s March 2019 interim report about the delay found the RCMP commissioner had not replied on the matter of officer behaviour “within a reasonable time frame.”

It also recommended the Mounties apologize to the complainant for the “unreasonable delay.”

More than two years later, the watchdog awaits the RCMP commissioner’s response.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 1, 2021.

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

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