RCMP commissioner says she agrees with most of watchdog's findings in anti-fracking protest probe

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says she agrees with most of the recommendations the force's watchdog has made around how Mounties police Indigenous-led energy protests.
RCMP officers come nose-to-nose with shale gas protesters on Route 134 in New Brunswick in the fall of 2013. (Jen Choi/CBC)

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says she agrees with most of the recommendations the force's watchdog has made regarding how Mounties police Indigenous-led energy protests.

And she is planning on returning her notes to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP (CRCC) this week — one of the final steps on the road to making the report public.

The watchdog agency launched a review of how the RCMP handled Indigenous-led anti-fracking protests in New Brunswick back in 2013.

Dozens were arrested during months of protests near Elsipogtog First Nation, outside Rexton, N.B., that saw a blockade erected on Route 134 to stop gas exploration in the area. RCMP officers used force to disperse protesters and six RCMP vehicles were burned during the clashes.

The CRCC said it sent the RCMP its report in March 2019.

"I have personally read that report. We have agreed with most of the recommendations. We're just writing up and I was told, actually, I should be getting the final report back to the CRCC ... this week ..." Lucki said in an interview with the CBC's Rosemary Barton earlier today.

"It's taken that long because of the the amount of documentation, because their review is so thorough ... And I think they deserve that, when they're looking at something and it takes them one or two years to review something, the least we can do is review the documents that they give us as extensively as they have."

In an unusual move, CRCC chair Michelaine Lahaie did release a portion of her commission's findings on the Rexton anti-fracking protests earlier this year when she announced the commission wouldn't investigate claims that the RCMP acted unlawfully during recent protests in Wet'suwet'en territory in B.C. The CRCC said it would not review the Wet'suwet'en incident because recommendations addressing identical issues were sent to the force almost a year ago.

The commission's unpublished investigation into that incident found that the RCMP generally had reasonable grounds to make the arrests and the force used was necessary and proportional — but Mounties overreached with stop checks and searches near Rexton.

In early 2018, the watchdog launched two investigations into the RCMP's handling of the death of Colten Boushie, the 22-year-old from Red Pheasant Cree Nation who was shot and killed during an altercation with Saskatchewan farmer Gerald Stanley in August 2016. A jury at Stanley's trial acquitted him of second-degree murder in February 2018.

Lucki has read Colton Boushie report, too

The CRCC confirmed it finished its investigation and gave the RCMP its findings, along with some recommendations, in January of this year.

"I've read that report. Personally, I haven't read all the documentation that has accompanied that report and that's what our analysts are doing right now," said Lucki.

"The report is pretty straightforward. The recommendations are very well thought out, as well as the findings, and so I'm hoping that we will have that in the next couple of months as well."

The CRCC is the independent body tasked with reviewing Mounties' actions. It receives, on average, more than 2,000 complaints from the public every year, ranging from allegations of wrongful arrest and improper use of force to reports of bad driving.

While it doesn't publicize the results of every review — citing the need to protect complainants' privacy — it does go public with chairperson-initiated complaints and public interest investigations which involve incidents that are already in the public domain.

Whenever the CRCC isn't satisfied with the RCMP's handling of a complaint, its report on the complaint lands on the RCMP commissioner's desk for review. Lucki and her team then identify which of the CRCC's recommendations the RCMP intends to pursue.

If the commissioner disagrees with any of the recommendations, she must provide the CRCC with reasons. Only then can the CRCC's final report be compiled and released.

With files from Rosemary Barton, Philip Ling and the Canadian Press

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