RCMP accountability lauded amid fight to contain watchdog's report

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney today applauded increased accountability for the RCMP, one day before a federal watchdog is to release a report the Mounties fought to keep from being made public.

Public Service Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion found wrongdoing with Ottawa air section of RCMP

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, right, and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney held a press conference Monday to mark the advent of a new accountability regime for the RCMP. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney is applauding increased accountability for the RCMP one day before a federal watchdog is to release a report the Mounties fought to keep from being made public.

Blaney and RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson held a press conference Monday to announce the new RCMP accountability act, which got parliamentary approval in June, 2013, is now in force.

Blaney said the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act "ushers in significant changes to further modernize and transform our national police force."

The press conference comes one day before a report into the RCMP's conduct is to be tabled in Parliament.

Public Sector Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion says he'll table on Tuesday a report about "findings of wrongdoing" following an investigation into the Ottawa air section of the RCMP. The RCMP keeps a small fleet of aircraft in Ottawa.

It seems the report could be significant: the government went to Federal Court to try to prevent Dion from tabling the report. The court dismissed the injunction motion.

Report risks undermining confidence in RCMP

The report was supposed to be tabled the week of Nov. 17, but was delayed by the court proceedings. 

Paulson told reporters Monday that he couldn't comment on the case, but said the RCMP would respect the court's decision.

Blaney said the RCMP already has two organizations to supervise the Mounties' actions, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and the RCMP External Review Committee.

The RCMP had also argued that it was up to Transport Canada to investigate the case.

The government's Federal Court application and the integrity commissioner's response aren't being released publicly yet, so there is little available information about the case. But the judge's reasons for denying the injunction are public.

In the decision, Judge Roger T. Hughes says the integrity commissioner had information there were irregularities in how the RCMP dealt with its aircraft.

The judgment says the RCMP argued there is "real potential of undermining public confidence in the RCMP," and of damaging relations between the RCMP and its pilots. The RCMP also worried about its ability to retain and recruit pilots.

The Mounties also argued the pilots alleged to be part of the wrongdoing, even if not named, could be readily identified because it's a small community.

RCMP will face embarrassment

But the judge found that the harm the RCMP fear is speculative, and that the possible harm to the pilots constituted harm to a third party, which the court cannot consider when the matter before it is about the RCMP itself.

"The RCMP will face some embarrassment but that appears to be a consequence of what Parliament intended when it passed the [Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act] which states in its preamble that it is in the public interest to maintain and enhance public confidence in the integrity of public servants," Hughes wrote.

Liberal public safety critic Wayne Easter said it appears the government tried to pre-empt the integrity commissioner's report by highlighting the accountability act.

"There’s probably some serious bad news in the report for the federal government," Easter said. 

"Clearly [the court case] shows that the government will go to almost, almost any length to prevent information becoming public."

New Democrat public safety critic Randall Garrison said if the commissioner's report lays out serious allegations, he expects Blaney to take action.

"The fact that the government fought so hard not to have it released [means] that it must have something of significance in it," Garrison said.

The new RCMP accountability act, a press release from Public Safety says, updates the Mounties' human resources management. It also:

  • Makes members subject to the code of conduct both on and off-duty, in or outside of Canada.
  • allows misconduct to be addressed faster and at the lowest appropriate level.
  • places greater focus on remedial, corrective and educative solutions rather than punishment.
  • specifically name harassment as a contravention.