New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen has tabled legislation in the Canadian parliament that would prevent the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from investigating its own in situations where there are concerns about officer misconduct. The legislation comes on the back of a report by a parliamentary RCMP watchdog that concluded that there was a need for an independent body to investigate incidents resulting in deaths and serious injuries of people in police custody. The RCMP currently conducts its own internal investigations when there are suspicions that a Mountie has acted inappropriately in the course of her or his duties.
The review was commissioned on the back of numerous complaints about internal investigations that found no wrongdoing on the part of officers despite evidence to the contrary. Such incidents include the 2005 death of Ian Bush, 22, who was arrested on a minor offence and shot in the back of the head after being transported to the police detachment; an incident in Manitoba where an RCMP member was accused of sexually assaulting an inmate in a detachment cell block; and numerous instances of assault, bodily harm and the improper use of force. In the majority of such cases, no charges were recommended by the RCMP's internal investigatory body nor were any charges laid.
The incident that has drawn the sharpest criticism of the RCMP amongst the general public was the 2007 death of Robert Dziekanski, a disoriented Polish traveler who became agitated upon his arrival at Vancouver International Airport. RCMP officers at the scene tasered him to death, saying that he had been acting in a threatening manner. Video evidence later emerged showing that the RCMP spokesman had lied about the incident to the media:
The RCMP are not the only Canadian police force under suspicion of conducting biased self-investigations. The Vancouver police force has been highly criticized for its handling of the 2009 shooting death of Michael Vann Hubbard, a homeless man who was wielding nothing deadlier than an X-Acto knife. After the incident, the police seized and erased cellphone video of the shooting.
The Calgary police force was caught on film brutalizing Splitting the Sky, an activist who was attempting to conduct a citizen's arrest of unindicted war criminal George Bush during a speaking engagement at the Calgary Convention Centre.
In 2007, the Surete de Quebec&mdash:Quebec's provincial police force—was exposed for planting agents provocateur in the Montebello SPP protests to start violence at the otherwise peaceful event in order to justify a police crackdown of the peaceful protestors.
The problems with the RCMP are unsurprising to those who know the history of this organization. A series of flagrantly illegal acts on the part of the RCMP in the 1970s prompted the McDonald Commission, a Royal Commission called by Trudeau's government to investigate the RCMP's conduct. The four year inquiry concluded the RCMP had repeatedly broken the law, including stealing political party members lists, forging documents, breaking in to private property and even burning down a barn in Quebec to thwart a scheduled meeting of the Black Panthers and the FLQ. The McDonald Commission's recommendation that the national security operations of the RCMP be spun off into an independent body resulted in the creation of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). CSIS was founded in 1984 and within a year one of their agents had co-founded the group that was found to have been responsible for the bombing of Air India Flight 182, to this day the largest act of mass murder in Canadian history.
The RCMP Commissioner, William Elliot, has agreed that the RCMP should not be investigating deaths and injuries of civilians in its custody and says that the force is committed to increasing transparency of its internal investigations.