Nova Scotia's justice minister has referred the case of Nicole Doucet Ryan, the school teacher who tried to hire a hit man to kill the husband she said was abusing her, to the federal Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.
Ross Landry told reporters on Wednesday that the commission is being asked to review the RCMP's handling of calls for assistance for Doucet, the last name she now goes by. She had been arrested in March 2008 and was charged with counselling an undercover police officer to kill Michael Ryan.
Landry made the announcement amid increasing public pressure for an inquiry into the case, which attracted national attention last month when the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a stay of proceedings for Doucet and said it would be unfair to subject her to a new trial.
The public complaints commission is a federal agency "that has a broad audience that they answer to," Landry said. "They have a level of expertise and experience that will clearly review the issue and address any concerns that are there.
"What's at issue for me is the public opinion and perception in the public, and if there's a feeling of doubt or question, then we will want to put that to rest, and if there's gaps or anything in the process or service, we want them identified."
Landry made a written request for the review, and the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP accepted the case, he told reporters.
Several stakeholders have spoken out since the Supreme Court of Canada decision criticized the RCMP's handling of Doucet's case, saying it was "disquieting" that it "seems the authorities were much quicker to intervene to protect Mr. Ryan than they had been to respond to her request for help in dealing with his reign of terror over her."
Doucet said in court she called the RCMP numerous times to complain about the alleged abuse, only to be told it was a civil matter. She argued that hiring a hit man, who turned out to be an undercover officer, was the only way to save herself and her daughter.
RCMP deny ignoring abuse
The RCMP said it reviewed every call that officers received from Doucet and her husband, and there was only one time Doucet told police about specific allegations of violence or abuse. In that instance, Michael Ryan was charged and the court placed him on conditions, it said.
RCMP said that other than that one incident, Doucet never reported her husband had "caused any of the violent activity" that was mentioned later through the courts.
"The RCMP will co-operate fully with the commission for public complaints," Chief Supt. Brian Brennan said in a statement Wednesday, adding the RCMP won't make any further comment now that the process is underway.
Michael Ryan had also spoken out since the Supreme Court of Canada decision, and said the courts branded him a "violent, abusive and controlling husband" who subjected his wife to a "reign of terror" without ever giving him a chance to refute those allegations in a courtroom.
He told CBC's Maritime Noon that he does not believe the review by the commission is the right approach.
"I don't think it's going to disclose the fact that my side of the story isn't out and the allegations are false, and I don't think the public is going to be happy," Ryan said Wednesday.
"I think what the Canadian public would actually need is a public inquiry or some platform that actually discloses the evidence of this whole hit-man case."
Doucet will co-operate with review, lawyer says
Meanwhile, Joel Pink — Doucet's lawyer — told CBC News in an email that he had not been in touch with his client, but he is happy an independent commission will look into her case.
"I will urge my client to co-operate with the commission's investigation if called upon," he wrote.
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is an independent agency created by Parliament, and is not part of the police force.
"It's important that Nova Scotians, especially those experiencing domestic violence, know that they can go to police for help," Landry said.
"I hope that an independent review can put any doubts and questions victims have to rest."