The role of the RCMP accountability, oversight and complaints mechanisms and complaint mechanisms is defined mostly through different commissions, legislation and the public arena. Another important aspect could be how information about them is distributed, in particular, in generic web-site searches.
In the beginning of the RCMP, they were responsible for most policing matters. Over the decades its involvement in security and other powers escalated onto the national level. The Mcdonald Comission reported their findings about their hearings on police deviance in 1979 and 1981. Its last recommendation was particular poignant because it was actually enact with the creation of Canadian Security Intelligence Service three years later. In 1985, when the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act was enacted it held that CSIS would be held accountable. “To maintain an appropriate degree of ministerial responsibility” (Policing and Communities Safety Branch). But the Inspector General, who the reports are forwarded to, does not deal with public complaints. And, like the vast majority of commissions can not convene public hearings or make binding recommendations. The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (Commission) was created in 1988, and they are an independent civilian agency. They can investigate public complaints but again have limited authority to investigate and they cannot conduct a public interest hearing. Previous chairs harken for better system of balance. The Office of the Communication Security Establishment commissioner, established in June of 1996, had the authority to investigate complaints but like the commission have extremely limited authority. This office cannot make binding recommendations. The Anti-Terrorism Act effectively reversed the some of the legislation put forth by the Mcdonald commission by allowing the RCMP to become more involved in security measures by defining the act of terrorism as criminal. And thus with in the realm of the police because CSIS cannot purse criminal cases, they may only gather information (Raaflaub, Tim).
In regards to the public arena, a fairly recent case stands at the forefront. The Arar Affair follows a Syrian born but Canadian citizen, who though information leaked by the RCMP to the American government was detained then transported to Syria where he was tortured for information about his alleged terrorist activities for over ten months. Mr. Arar, was never found to be associated with terrorism in any respect and was released back to Canada. The O’Connor Comission, convened two years after the incident, found that the RCMP was indeed guilty of causing the above incident (Larsen, Mike). And recommended an independent inquiries. In association, Juliet O’Neil, a journalist, was said to have allegations about the Arar incident. Search warrants were served and her place of residence was search along with various pieces of property. When she went to court, the presiding judge ordered the immediate release of Miss. O’Neil’s property and dismissed the charges. The crown has yet to refile.
A simple web search shows unpromising results. The results are filled with buzz words such as Right to Know and Civilian. But the web pages display how they came to be, not what they are involved in now. Government posts declare new commission or inquiry staffed by the public but hesitate to add its limitations of power, in that anything it suggests can be easily discarded. As the search progresses, the results are flooded with why the public thinks that these commissions are necessary; excessive force, tasers, anger at unheard accusations, news casts filled with sensationalism of out of control policing agencies, assaults on the public by inebriate off-duty officers and general discordance. perusing the Commission complaint form what is evident is that most of the form is taken up by information about the complainant, only a few boxes to describe the confrontation, resulting injuries and witnesses.
In conclusion, the RCMP has several public inquiries and commissions but they lack to the power to make a difference with the RCMP lobbying for their previous power before the Mcdonald Commission. Until more power is given to these popularly created commissions the entire process of complaints will not effect the RCMP in any significant way. With the RCMP still only beginning judged by its peers of the occupation, who are more then willing to plead down their misconduct/deviance to policy infractions and not criminal charges.
Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. (2010) Significant Progress Made on the Complaint Commission’s Public Interest Investigation itno the RCMP into the RCMP’s Involvement in the G8/G20 Summits. Retreived from: http://www.cpc-cpp.gc.ca/nrm/nr/2011/20110624-eng.aspx September 20, 2011.
Cook, Karen. (2011) Abbott Commits to Increasing Police Accountability and Oversight. Scribd. Reterived from: http://www.scribd.com/doc/46628506/RCMP-Accountability-jan10-11 September 24, 2011.
Larsen, Mike. (2010) New RCMP Public Complaints Commission Legislation Tabled. Prism. Retervied from: http://prism-magazine.com/2010/06/new-rcmp-public-complaints-commission-legislation-tabled/ September 27, 2011.
Policing and Community Safety Branch. Civilian Oversight of Policing. Retervied from: http://www.solgps.alberta.ca/programs_and_services/public_security/law_enforcement_oversight/policing_oversight_complaints/civilian_oversight/Pages/default.aspx September 25, 2011.
Raaflaub, Tim Riordan. (2006) Civilian Oversight of the RCMP’s National Securtiy Functions. Parliament of Canada. Retreived from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/content/LOP/ResearchPublications/prb0409-e.htm#fn14 September 27, 2011.