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Scarce resources prevent chief of RCMP oversight agency from initiating investigations | CBC news


The woman whose job it is to hold the RCMP accountable to the public says she often comes across cases involving Mounties that should be investigated but don’t – because her agency doesn’t have the resources.

“I would say probably not a month goes by that I don’t see a complaint saying we should investigate this ourselves,” Michelaine Lahaie, chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC), told a parliamentary committee on Friday morning. .

“When we are faced with serious incidents of violence, or when individuals’ personal freedoms have been violated, those are the cases in which the commission must act.”

The federal government is working on a bill to expand CRCC’s mandate to include border officials.

If Bill C-20 passes, the federal government is proposing to spend $112 million over five years, and more than $19 million annually, to create the new oversight body, which would replace the CRCC and include public complaints about Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) personnel.

LOOK | RCMP watchdog chair discusses lack of resources

RCMP watchdog agency chair discusses lack of resources to prevent and delay investigations

Michelaine Lahaie, chair of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, says “probably not a month goes by” where she doesn’t see a complaint she believes should be investigated by the CRCC.

Lahaie told the commission she was asking for more money to handle a case that could grow by the thousands a year once the public can file complaints against border officials. She said she also needs more money to start more studies.

As it stands, the CRCC receives complaints from the public and refers to the RCMP for investigation in the vast majority of cases. The watchdog then reviews those investigations if complainants are not satisfied. Lahaie said her team treats about 300 to 350 of those cases each year.

The CRCC Chair may also launch a so-called “systemic investigation” into RCMP activities. They can look at police trends, training shortages, blatant mistakes and all other matters that, according to the chairman, warrant more investigation.

Lahaie said she can only conduct one or two of those systematic studies a year.

“What the committee needs is additional resources to be able to do that more often,” she said.

“I refer to systemic assessments as our chance to fix policing before the cop walks out the door.”

For example, the CRCC is currently investigating the activities and operations of the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), a special unit that monitors protests against resource extraction in British Columbia.

“That’s a big investigation. It takes up a lot of my resources, but it’s absolutely critical that we do that,” Lahaie said.

Leon Joudrey case ‘tragic’: Lahaie

Lahaie brought up the case of Leon Joudrey, a resident of Portapique, NS, and neighbor of the gunman who killed 22 people in April 2020.

In July 2020, Joudrey filed a complaint with the CRCC about the RCMP’s response to the mass murder. He claimed that the responding officers had not warned him of the threat to his safety or evacuated him from Portapique, and that he had been able to drive freely through the Portapique crime scene without RCMP scene protection.

Then RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki assigned RCMP members from Nova Scotia to investigate Joudrey’s complaint, but they were unaware of the agreed timeline to provide a response.

A white man in a blue checkered plain shirt and glasses kneels in the grass in front of a grove of green fir trees
Leon Joudrey died in May 2020 near his home in Portapique, NS Joudrey died in October after experiencing years of what he described as “hell” as he tried to move away from the area where many of his friends and neighbors became murdered. (Eric Woolliscroft/CBC)

In May 2022, Joudrey told the mass shooting inquiry that he had still not been notified of a resolution to his case.

“I just get letters in the mail every month that they have no news,” he told the Mass Casualty Commission.

Joudrey died suddenly in October after speaking out about mental health issues.

“That’s an absolutely tragic situation that we should have handled ourselves, but we just didn’t have the resources to do it,” Lahaie said.

The final report from the Mass Casualty Commission, charged with examining the police response to the massacre, pointed to systemic problems within the RCMP and called for its response to the tragedy.

NDP MP Peter Julian called the CRCC’s current level of resources a “major problem”.

“Would it be fair to say that the budget allocation currently in effect is about half of what your reasonable expectation is for the number of complaints most likely to come forward?” he asked.

“That’s a fair statement,” Lahaie said.

Public Security Minister Marco Mendicino has said he hopes Bill C-20 is passed before parliament’s summer recess.

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