That, in the opinion of this House, the government should, pursuant to recommendation 31.3.1 of the interim report of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission on the events that took place during the APEC conference, set out in writing the nature and scope of the RCMP's independence in its relations with the government.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin this hour of debate on Motion No. 391, which I presented.
While the September 11 events did have a significant impact on the business of the House since the reopening of parliament, the fact remains that even if certain issues have lost some of their priority, they remain as important as they were before September 11.
All the questions relating to interference by the Prime Minister's entourage in RCMP operations during the APEC conference are among these issues. First, since the events that triggered the motion before us occurred over four years ago, I will briefly review the facts.
From November 19 to November 25, 1997, the city of Vancouver hosted the APEC conference. During that event, which was attended by officials from various regions of Asia, the RCMP was the police force responsible for security. That essentially meant ensuring the security of 75 persons, including 12 who required a maximum level of protection.
During the last day of the summit, when conference participants were at a retreat at the Museum of Anthropology, located on the campus of the University of British Columbia, students and others voiced their opposition to the political systems of certain APEC members.
The events that followed and involved protesters and RCMP officers resulted in the filing of 52 formal complaints against the actions of these officers. These 52 complaints were grouped into 17 categories reflecting as many situations and events.
On December 9, 1997, the chair of the RCMP public complaints commission launched an investigation into these complaints. Following that investigation, a panel made up of three members was established on February 20, 1998, to hear the complaints. The hearings began on April 14, 1998 and ended in December of the same year, following the resignation of its members.
On December 21, former justice Ted Hughes was appointed interim commissioner to head an inquiry, which ended in the presentation on July 31 of an interim report of 453 pages plus appendices.
I must criticize the fact that, three months after its release, the report is still unavailable in French. Once again the government is failing to comply with its own laws.
Since the production of the report, apart from the fact that the RCMP, through Commissioner Zaccardelli, has publicly admitted its responsibility, the Hughes report has practically fallen into oblivion.
The terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11 have certainly not helped. However they must not serve as a pretext for the government to avoid matters that might embarrass it.
Given the excessive powers that could be given to the police under the bill, it is all the more important to set out the nature of the relations between the RCMP and the government, if it is to avoid finding itself in hot water once again.
In addition, it is useful to point out that the RCMP's mea culpa was expressed four years after the events in question, and the recognition of its errors has cost the taxpayers nearly $10 million.
The point of this motion is therefore to provide for the codification of police independence in order to set standards for the RCMP's relations with the government.
Despite the fact that this motion will likely never be acted on, for reasons I will explain later, we hope that it will, at least, ensure that the report does not end up forgotten on a shelf under a pile of dust, something that is too often the case for reports criticizing the activities of the government.
To get right to the heart of the matter, let us start with subsection 5(1) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, which provides, and I quote:
The Governor in Council may appoint an officer, to be known as the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, who, under the direction of the Minister, has the control and management of the Force and all matters connected therewith.
We see immediately from this that the RCMP is not totally independent from the government. Despite the legislative power the solicitor general retains over the force, the RCMP in fact enjoys substantial independence under common law.
At this point, what appears at first to constitute a conflict with the principle of independence does not in actual fact cause a problem. On the one hand, unless it should become a private police force, which is most certainly not what we want, the RCMP cannot exist independently of a connection with the government. Hence the necessity that it be under the auspices of a department, in this case the department of the solicitor general.
As Commissioner Hughes states in his report, even if the nature and scope of the independence of the RCMP has no clearly defined basis in legislation, the existence of that independence is acknowledged. In a supreme court judgment, Regina v Campbell, it was clearly established that, when its actions are aimed at enforcing the law or carried out within the framework of a criminal investigation, the RCMP is generally totally independent of the executive power.
In this connection, the following is an excerpt from Justice Binnie's decision:
While for certain purposes the Commissioner of the RCMP reports to the Solicitor General, the Commissioner is not to be considered a servant or agent of the government while engaged in a criminal investigation. The Commissioner is not subject to political direction. Like every other police officer similarly engaged, he is answerable to the law and, no doubt, to his conscience.
As far as the law is concerned, we agree with the judge. As far as conscience is concerned however, I prefer to abstain from an opinion. Regardless, along the same lines, in a reference to the Commissioner of Police in R. v Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Ex parte Blackburn, in 1968, Lord Denning stated as follows:
He must decide whether or not suspected persons are to be prosecuted; and, if need be, bring the prosecution or see that it is brought; but in all these things he is not the servant of anyone, save of the law itself. No Minister of the Crown can tell him that he must, or must not, keep observation on this place or that; or that he must, or must not, prosecute this man or that one. Nor can any police authority tell him so. The responsibility for law enforcement lies on him. He is answerable to the law and to the law alone.
Once the premises have been established, the following holds. First, the government must not under any consideration exercise direct authority over the RCMP when it is carrying out its mandate of law enforcement. Second, the RCMP must be accountable.
We can see that despite all of its independence, the RCMP remains dependent on the government to some degree. It must maintain some sort of contact with the government. This is where things get more complex because, while everyone agrees on the issue of independence, there is no consensus when it comes time to define what constitutes an appropriate relationship between government and the RCMP, both in academic terms and legal terms.
Keeping in mind that a state expresses its power of persuasion over its citizens through police authority, it is in the public's interest to ensure that no government be able to interfere in the business of the RCMP. Let us not forget that we live in a constitutional state. If we allow the government to interfere in federal policing activities whenever it sees fit, this constitutional state will give way to a police state.
Conversely, the situation would be just as bad if we gave carte blanche to the RCMP without requiring it to be accountable. In this case, we are talking about the state exercising control, not influence, as was the case with APEC. No matter how we look at it, it is both inevitable and necessary that the state and the RCMP maintain some sort of link.
If we consider all of this as it applies specifically to the APEC events, clearly, the government's intervention, or rather, interference according to the Hughes report, was inappropriate. Obviously the RCMP was not present in Vancouver as a part of its mandate to fight crime. Its mandate was limited to providing security for an international events. In order to carry out this mandate, it had to work in close co-operation with government officials. However, this co-operation should have been based on security considerations, rather than political interests. Unfortunately, we now know that this was not the case. We now know that the problem with the involvement of the RCMP at the conference occurred at two levels.
First, as Commissioner Hughes points out, the performance of the RCMP was noteworthy for its glaring lack of professionalism and standards of acceptable competencies.
He felt that there were two reasons for this: a failure to co-ordinate planning and operations, and an inability to anticipate events.
In addition, in his final remarks, he mentioned that the conduct of the police was inappropriate in the circumstances and completely contrary to the charter. This alone is extremely troubling and worthy of attention. Worst of all is the possibility that political interference may have been one of the causes of this mess.
In his report, the commissioner emphasized that he did not agree with the contention of counsel for the complainants that, in ensuring the personal attendance of Indonesian President Suharto, the government would have taken care to see that he was not embarrassed. Hence the premature takeover of the Museum of Anthropology, the extent of the security perimeter and the noise-free zone.
Questions still remain. Even if the action taken was not related solely to preparations for President Suharto's visit, the commissioner still concluded that demonstrators' rights were violated by the intervention of Jean Carle who, as director of operations in the PMO, also served as liaison between the PMO and the RCMP.
Whatever the reasoning, the result was the same: Carle's interventions had the same repercussions as what could be described as interference in RCMP security operations.
Even at that, certain doubts remain because, when describing the reasoning behind Carle's actions and, therefore, those of the government, Commissioner Hughes used the phrase “I do believe”, which is a very subjective way of putting things. In short, the second observation can only be that the RCMP violated charter rights, following government interference.
That having been said, it is vital that the government set out in writing the nature of its relations with the RCMP. This morning, the Bloc Quebecois is calling on it to comply fully with recommendation 31.3.1 of the interim report of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission on the events that took place during the APEC conference. This recommendation reads as follows:
The RCMP should request statutory codification of the nature and extent of police independence from government with respect to:
existing common law principles regarding law enforcement; and
the provision of and responsibility for delivery of security services at public order events.
Above all, and in the circumstances, the RCMP must be accountable under law and it is with this in mind that we are putting forward this motion, which is fully consistent with this principle.
Since the next G-8 summit will be held in Kananaskis, Alberta, from June 26 to June 28, 2002, it is vital that the government comply with recommendation 31.3.1, as formulated, of the Hughes report.