New Brunswick

RCMP watchdog reviews police handling of shale gas protests

The independent Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is investigating complaints about police conduct during the shale gas protests in Kent County.

Dozens of anti-shale gas protesters were arrested during months of protests in Kent County

Protesters faced a line of police officers in Rexton back in October 2013 as police were enforcing an injunction to end an ongoing demonstration against shale gas exploration. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The independent Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is investigating complaints about police conduct during the shale gas protests in Kent County.

Commission staff members are in New Brunswick as a part of the watchdog agency's investigation, which was prompted following the violent clashes between the RCMP and anti-shale gas protesters in eastern New Brunswick last year.

Anti-shale gas demonstrators closed highways and the RCMP made dozens of arrests.

The protests along Highway 126 in Kent County started in June and saw several arrests. In October, the protests and arrests continued and the RCMP seized explosive devices, firearms, knives and ammunition were seized from the protesters.

Tim Cogan, a spokesperson with the commission, said investigators have started to conduct interviews in New Brunswick.

“We've got well over three dozen to go and it may actually grow depending on what information we gather from the people we're talking to,” Cogan said.

Once its review is finished, the independent federal agency will make recommendations to the RCMP on how it can improve or fix any issues.

The commission, which was created by Parliament, is not a part of the RCMP and is intended to be a tool to keep the RCMP accountable.

Prior to doing interviews, the commission reviewed the RCMP's files. The commission wants to know more about how the RCMP handled the shale gas situation.

Cogan said complainant and individual RCMP interviews will take months to finish.

“We're taking statements from them, gathering any physical evidence that they have,” Cogan said.

“Any records that they may have of what transpired that has given arise to their complaint.”

This is not the first time the commission has investigated a New Brunswick complaint.

The last investigation surrounded a complaint that the RCMP covered up allegations of sexual abuse at the Kingsclear Youth Training Centre. 

The commission ruled in October 2007 that there was no evidence of an RCMP cover up.

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