Politics

Ottawa should explore removing Mounties from communities, MPs suggest

The federal government should look at ending contract policing within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, fundamentally changing the national police service, says a landmark report by MPs.

Report also recommends empowering the RCMP's watchdog

Mounties are assigned to contract policing in roughly 150 municipalities, all three territories and in every province except Ontario and Quebec. (Valerie Zink/Reuters)

The federal government should look at ending contract policing within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, fundamentally changing the national police service, says a landmark report by MPs.

"A transformative national effort is required to ensure that all Indigenous, Black and other racialized people in Canada are not subject to the discrimination and injustice that is inherent in the system as it exists today," says the report from the standing committee on public safety and national security, tabled today in the House of Commons.

The committee, made up of MPs from all four official parties, has been studying the issue of systemic racism in policing since last June — spurred on by an international movement urging governments to rethink police budgets and use of force in the wake of George Floyd's death in police custody in the U.S.

The report lands as the RCMP faces intense pressure to be more sensitive to racial and mental health issues after a number of controversial incidents were caught on camera.

The committee heard from 53 witnesses. Some of them said they felt the RCMP does not respond appropriately to the needs of the communities they serve through contract policing.

Reconsider policing contracts with RCMP: report

Mounties are assigned to contract policing in roughly 150 municipalities, all three territories and in every province except Ontario and Quebec.

Outside of its boots-on-the-ground mandate in those areas, the force also has federal policing obligations that range from protecting the prime minister to thwarting terrorist attacks and investigating organized crime.

"Consequently, the RCMP may not have the capacity to police areas where they are not familiar with community concerns," notes the committee's final report.

The report made 42 recommendations — among them that "the government of Canada explore the possibility of ending contract policing within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and that the Government work with the provinces, territories and municipalities to help those interested establish their own provincial and territorial police services."

Liberal MP and committee chair John McKay said that while much in the report was known previously, a list of recommendations with the weight of a parliamentary committee behind it will help the government pursue changes.

"It was more than a useful exercise," he said. "It was an absolutely necessary exercise and if we are to pursue a path that is to improve policing in Canada, we need to have committees such as this review the evidence and recommend to the government and to the [RCMP] commissioner — this is the path forward and we want you to take it."

The NDP said the federal government needs to build a national database on all police use-of-force incidents. The party also said that all forms of racial profiling need to be prohibited by national policy.

"Canadians are coming to a greater understanding of the role that the RCMP and policing has and continues to play in perpetuating systemic racism against Indigenous and Black communities. It is more clear than ever before that the RCMP needs transformational change," said NDP MP Jack Harris in a media statement.

"Unfortunately, this government has a history of failing to act on reports. The time is now to take serious and concrete action."

Conservative MPs disagree

In a supplementary report, Conservative MPs on the committee disagreed.

"The need to address racism in policing does not eliminate the need to deal with rising gang violence, cyber-crime, illegal firearms trafficking and other criminality. Nor does it make it a realistic prospect, even from a purely operational standpoint, to replace the RCMP as the primary local law enforcement agency for large areas of Canada with a patchwork of new community police forces," they wrote.

"Despite the more negative episodes of its history and the need for change in the present, the RCMP remains a national institution that has played a vital role in Canada's development and the preservation of law and order."

The report also made recommendations to empower the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the public complaints watchdog, when conducting investigations into the RCMP.

It also suggests that the RCMP be transitioned away "from a paramilitary force into a police service model with civilian oversight."

 

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