RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki overruled the law by failing to respond quickly to a watchdog report of alleged espionage against oil protesters, a federal judge has ruled.
In a recently released ruling, Federal Court Associate Chief Justice Jocelyne Gagne said Lucki violated his duty under the RCMP Act by failing to file a response to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission’s preliminary report on the spy charges “as soon as possible.”
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The ruling is a victory for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which claimed there was a culture of complacency in the RCMP that had caused unforgivable footing in complaint files.
The association lodged a complaint with the Commission in February 2014, saying that the RCMP was wrongly collecting and sharing information about people and groups peacefully opposing the now defunct Northern Gateway pipeline project and participated in the Danish Energy Agency’s meetings.
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The Complaints Commission launched a public interest inquiry and completed a preliminary report on the spy charges in June 2017, sending it to the RCMP for comments on the findings and recommendations.
The watchdog can not make final findings and recommendations regarding a complaint until the RCMP Commissioner responds to a preliminary report, and as a result, the complainant and the public are awaiting a solution to the case.
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Lucki responded to the report in November 2020, but only after the association had launched its lawsuit.
Gagne said Mounties waited a full three years to assign an officer to the case, after which it took the commissioner only a few months to issue a five-page response to the preliminary report.
“In my opinion, a delay of three and a half years is certainly not a reasonable interpretation of ‘as soon as possible’ in the law,” Gagne said in his decision. “It also does not matter when resources become available.”
Gagne said the requirement means the commissioner must have up to six months to respond to a preliminary report unless there are exceptional circumstances. It would be up to the commissioner to argue that more time is needed, Gagne added.
The time frame is in accordance with a memorandum of understanding signed in December 2019 by the Complaints Commission and the RCMP, which set a six-month target for response.
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The RCMP had no immediate comment on the court’s decision.
“Today’s decision is a huge victory for police accountability and for coast-to-coast communities that have called for justice,” said Paul Champ, a civil liberties lawyer.
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“For the first time, a court has made it clear that the RCMP Commissioner must respond quickly to CRCC reports, and it has set a tough time limit for how quickly she must respond. We hope this decision puts an end to the RCMP’s longstanding culture of complacency. “
The court’s decision is a step in the right direction, said Jessica Magonet, Champs’ co-attorney in the case.
“Communities have demanded an end to the abuse of police power,” Magonet said.
“The federal court’s decision shows that the RCMP commissioner can not continue to thwart the appeals process by sitting on reports for years. When it comes to police accountability, justice is delayed justice is denied.”
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