New Brunswick

Higgs government forced out head of New Brunswick RCMP, letter reveals

The Higgs government pushed out the commanding officer of RCMP’s J Division in New Brunswick earlier this year, CBC News has confirmed.

Public Safety minister used contract clause to demand replacement in July letter, obtained by CBC News

New Brunswick RCMP Assistant Commissioner and commanding officer of J Division was pushed out earlier this year. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

The Higgs government pushed out the commanding officer of RCMP's J Division in New Brunswick earlier this year, CBC News has confirmed.

Public Safety Minister Ted Flemming wrote to the head of the federal police force in July, saying Larry Tremblay, the senior RCMP officer in the province, "no longer commands my confidence" and should be replaced.

RCMP spokesperson Angela Chang said before the letter was released Tuesday that Assistant Commissioner Larry Tremblay made "a personal decision" to retire at the end of this month.

Flemming told RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki in the July 15 letter that Tremblay had been an "an exemplary public servant" but that "regrettably" he was not helping the government "drive significant change" in law enforcement.

Flemming said the government considered it particularly urgent to make drug crime and crime driven by drugs the top policing priority in the province and to "reverse the trend of diminishing RCMP accountability to local government leaders." 

He used a section of the province's policing contract with the RCMP to ask Lucki to replace Tremblay "immediately," noting: "It is an urgent necessity."

Public Safety released the letter after a request from CBC News.

Contract clause used to remove head of J Division

Article 7.4 of the province's 20-year contract with the RCMP for provincial policing gives Flemming the power to remove the head of J Division.

The article says the commanding officer "will be replaced as soon as practicable" after a written request from the minister "that satisfies the Commissioner that sufficient cause exists that the officer concerned no longer commands the confidence of the Provincial Minister."

The contract also gives the Public Safety minister a say in who is chosen as a replacement.

"I do not invoke article 7.4 lightly, and I regret that it has become necessary," Flemming wrote.

"Please understand I would not be writing if Assistant Commissioner Tremblay still commands my confidence as commanding officer, or if I believed a solution other than his immediate replacement was viable."

Under the RCMP's agreement to provide provincial policing services in New Brunswick, the commanding officer of J Division acts "under the direction" of the Public Safety minister.

Little insight on why removal was necessary

The contract says the RCMP will "implement the objectives, priorities and goals as determined by" the minister and will provide information, annual reports on provincial objectives and monthly reports on complaints against the force.

Flemming's letter doesn't describe where he thinks Tremblay fell short on drug enforcement.

Public Safety Minister Ted Flemming wrote to the head of the federal police force in July, saying Larry Tremblay, the senior RCMP officer in the province, “no longer commands my confidence” and should be replaced. (Jacques Poitras/CBC file photo)

In an interview, the minister said during local government reform consultations this year, "crime and policing" was one of the most common complaints from New Brunswickers.

"The province has put a lot of money into government action on illegal drugs," Flemming said. "We want to declare war on these people."

Last March, the provincial budget announced an extra $2.3 million for J Division's crime reduction unit "with the goal of reducing the illegal drug supply in the province."

The funding was designed to support the province's five-year addiction and mental health action plan, and was allocated to a recently created drug unit within J Division.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Hans Ouellette said earlier this week that the force was "well on track to meet or exceed all of its key performance indicators" for crime reduction in 2021-22.

He said the drug unit had already achieved 16 "high-risk illicit drug seizures" halfway through the year, exceeding its target of 12 for the entire year.

There were 14 disruptions of "mid-level" trafficking organizations halfway through the year, on pace to beat the year's target for 20.

Flemming said the force's statement about hitting its targets was at odds with what he was hearing around the province.

"I found and the government found that we were not having the kind of leadership that we felt we needed. The situation was serious, it was out of control, and that decision was made." 

Tremblay was named assistant commissioner for New Brunswick in 2016. His replacement hasn't been officially announced.

The RCMP would not comment Tuesday on the contents of the letter obtained by CBC News.

Chang said the force is "committed to providing the best possible service to the communities we serve while remaining accountable to the budget we receive."

She also noted the data on drug-enforcement performance targets Ouellette provided earlier in the week.

"We work closely with our partners and communities on priorities, directing our resources to where we can have the most impact," she said. 

On Saturday, J Division published a series of tweets that included an acknowledgement that the lands on which New Brunswick is situated are "the unceded and unsurrendered traditional territory" of the Wolastoqiyik, Mi'kmaq and Peskotomuhkati people.

That came two days after Flemming sent a memo to all provincial government employees banning the acknowledgement of "unceded and unsurrendered" territory.

An initial version of the tweet thread referred specifically to Flemming's memo and was signed by Tremblay. But it was soon deleted and replaced with a thread without a reference to the memo and without Tremblay's name. 

Ouellette said in an interview on the weekend that the tweets were part of the force's efforts to strengthen the relationship with Indigenous communities as part of its national reconciliation strategy.

He said he couldn't comment on whether there were any "private conversations" between the government and the RCMP about Flemming's memo.

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