An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act


Alistair MacGregor  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Outside the Order of Precedence (a private member's bill that hasn't yet won the draw that determines which private member's bills can be debated), as of Nov. 1, 2022

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-303.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act to clarify the scope of the directions that the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness can issue to the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and to require that all directions be issued in writing. It also provides for reporting and publishing requirements with respect to those directions.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

December 8th, 2022 / 7:20 p.m.
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Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, As an Individual

Prof. Kent Roach

Exactly. The part of Bill C-303 that I think is good is that it picks up Justice Linden's recommendation with respect to how this is going to be an area that will change over time, and when the responsible political authority assumes responsibility, they should do so in writing and there should be a presumption that what that direction is will be made public. I think Bill C-303 is going down the right route.

One of the things Justice Linden said was that there's no one-time solution between policy and operation or church and state. It really is a dynamic contextual issue. In a democracy, we have to make sure that ultimately policies are set or not set, as the case may be, by those over whom we can have some democratic accountability.

December 8th, 2022 / 7:20 p.m.
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Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, As an Individual

Prof. Kent Roach

Absolutely. I mean, if the police have complete operational independence, then they're essentially self-governing, and they're restrained only by the fact that we have good police that are generally restrained.

To go back to the McDonald commission, they always said that policy of operation was a matter for the responsible minister, but it's too easy for the responsible minister or the police service board to say, no, that's a matter of operation. That's why I was quite distressed to see again in Bill C-303, which I think is a worthy effort, this mantra of operational independence, which is extremely confusing. Justice Morden had to devote 100 pages of legal analysis to try to elucidate it, and his messages obviously didn't make it to the Ottawa Police Services Board.

December 8th, 2022 / 6:45 p.m.
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Prof. Kent Roach Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, As an Individual

Thank you very much for this invitation to assist with the important work of this joint committee.

Although I am a member of the Public Order Emergency Commission's research council, I should stress that I am speaking only in my individual capacity and, indeed, I am not privy to the commission’s internal deliberations as it prepares it report.

I have written about the events leading to the declaration of emergency, both in my book Canadian Policing: Why and How it Must Change and in an article in a special issue, volume 70, number 2 of Criminal Law Quarterly, where Professor West also has an article.

In both of these venues, I suggest that the use of emergency powers was related to policing and policing governance failures. This is an important matter even when the Emergencies Act is invoked, because section 20 of the Emergencies Act preserves the existing and, I would submit, fragmented and dysfunctional governance silos of the local, provincial and national police.

Let me make three points. One is that, if you compare the police responses in Ottawa and Toronto, you will see that the Toronto response was more effective and reflected the lessons of the Morden report that there should not be watertight compartments between policy and operations, something that was inelegantly referred to more than once in the emergency commission as “church and state”.

This lesson should have been learned long ago, at least since the 1981 McDonald commission, which, like the Supreme Court in its 1999 decision in Campbell and Shirose, stressed that police independence is limited to the ability of every police officer to make law enforcement decisions about whom they will arrest and investigate. Everything else, in my view, is potentially a matter that the responsible governing authorities, the democratically accountable authorities, can assume responsibility for. In a democracy, the police should not be self-governing.

My second point is to address Bill C-303, which is before Parliament. It is a good idea, in that it recognizes that the responsible minister can direct RCMP policies in the form of public directions. It has the potential to clarify police governance. Unfortunately, it continues to define police independence too broadly by exempting RCMP operational decisions, including day-to-day operations, from the ministerial directives. The term “operational” only occurs in policing laws in Ontario and Manitoba, and has indeed caused much confusion and the sort of under-governance that led to the Ottawa police board's having no published policies before the convoy arrived about how to police protests on Wellington Street. They had policies on labour protests and on indigenous protests, but no public policy on Wellington Street.

My final point is that we need such policies. We need to think creatively about these policies, including how to use barriers as a means to reconcile the right to peaceful protest with human safety.

I would urge this committee to be creative and to explore the suggestions of former Senator Vernon White about a redesign of Wellington Street. I would also urge you to consider giving the RCMP a clear lead in policing the parliamentary precinct and border crossings, but only if its governance and resource policies are addressed.

Bill C-303 could be part of this reform, but only if its overbroad definition of police operational independence is rejected through an amendment, one limiting police independence. Police independence should also be defined so that it does not impede the ability of police leaders to control and manage their organizations. Again, this can be done if we limit it to law enforcement discretion.

I would be happy to answer any of your questions. I have particular concerns addressed in my Criminal Law Quarterly article about some of the elements of the events with respect to the Emergencies Act.

Thank you very much.

Public SafetyAdjournment Proceedings

November 23rd, 2022 / 7:10 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Madam Speaker, over the last number of months, we have heard serious allegations of political interference in the RCMP investigation in Nova Scotia. I am a member of the public safety committee, and those allegations actually prompted the committee to have the Minister of Emergency Preparedness and the RCMP commissioner appear before the committee twice, once in the summer and once more recently, so they could answer questions about these allegations.

The second meeting was held after the recording was made public and the committee had a transcript of the words that were said in that call. While I am now satisfied that we do not have enough evidence to substantiate those claims, throughout this process I have always been curious about how we can fix this problem and prevent it from happening again in the future. What I have discovered is that a large part of the problem lies in how the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act is written.

Currently, subsection 5(1) states:

The Governor in Council may appoint an officer, to be known as the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, to hold office during pleasure, who, under the direction of the Minister, has the control and management of the Force and all matters connected with the Force.

The term “under the direction of the Minister” is so sufficiently vague that we could drive a truck through it. It is open to interpretation and has led to problems.

That is why last week, after having introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-303, to tackle this and firm up the language, I asked a question on whether I could get the government's support on this bill. What my bill seeks to do is specifically add clarity, that dividing line between what the Minister of Public Safety can do, the kinds of directions they can give and what is reasonably expected to maintain independence from our national police force.

In my bill, I took the time to state that the minister would not be able to issue any directions in “operational decisions”, when it comes to “matters respecting law enforcement decisions in specific cases, such as those relating to investigations, arrests and prosecutions”, or “any matter that would interfere with the Commissioner’s powers or authority” in managing the force. It would put that legislative thick line between what the minister can and cannot do and also the powers of the commissioner.

The bill is a good idea, and I would really encourage the government to look at it seriously. In fact, I would even welcome the government presenting its own bill on this. I think it would find a lot of support in the House because, again, the problems have been so very clearly demonstrated.

Members should not just take it from me because Commissioner Lucki was on the stand at the inquiry last week and directly referenced my bill. She said, “I think it's time that we put something to writing that outlines...what you can and cannot do from both the Commissioner's perspective and the politicians”. She later said, “in the last six months I've had to respond to it on several occasions, and hope is that my replacement won't have to.” Those are quotes from the commissioner of the RCMP, who herself acknowledges that this is a problem and that my bill would fix this issue.

Therefore, given all of this information, will the parliamentary secretary now commit to supporting this bill so that, going forward, we do not have to worry about this issue any further?

Public Complaints and Review Commission ActGovernment Orders

November 3rd, 2022 / 1:55 p.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's speech. She talked about police officer morale. She has probably heard about Janet Merlo, who spent 20 years in the RCMP, reported persistent bullying and is still hearing from RCMP members about persistent sexual harassment in the force. I am just wondering if she has any comments on how Bill C-20 will address those concerns and maybe even act as a morale booster.

Second, I take well my colleague's comments about the commissioner and the episodes we have had at the public safety committee. Does she have any comments on my private member's bill, Bill C-303, which seeks to add some clarity and specificity on the relationship the Minister of Public Safety has with the commissioner of the RCMP?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police ActRoutine Proceedings

November 1st, 2022 / 10 a.m.
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Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-303, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.

Mr. Speaker, allow me to briefly explain the why, what and how of this bill.

We have all seen the allegations of political interference with regard to the RCMP. I think a big reason for that is the way the RCMP Act is currently written. Currently, subsection 5(1) of the RCMP Act provides for the appointment of a Commissioner, “who, under the direction of the Minister, has the control and management of the Force”. This archaic provision has been and continues to be a recipe for lack of clarity and controversy.

The bill I am introducing today would amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act to clarify the scope of the directions that the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Emergency Preparedness can issue to the commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Specifically, the minister shall not issue direction in respect to the following: any operational decisions, any matters respecting law enforcement decisions in a specific case, such as those relating to investigations, arrests and prosecutions, and any matter that would interfere with the commissioner's powers or authority. It would also require that all directions be issued in writing, tabled in Parliament and published in the Canada Gazette.

I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Hamilton Centre, for seconding this bill. I urge all parliamentarians to support this legislative initiative so that we have clarity of direction for the RCMP.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)