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 so...my 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?