Is the RCMP riddled with political interference?
With the Duffy affair digging deeper into the public sphere, the public and many opposition MPs and senators have called for the investigation to be handed over to the RCMP. However, an independent agency with the mandate of enforcing the law may be tainted with political interference after the Conservatives mandated Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to oversee the agency’s operations.
Recent events show an excessive amount of political interference from the Conservative party, none more obvious than the internal economy committee’s decision to sanitize an audit on senator’s expense claims. The interference mounts as Harper’s former chief of staff Nigel Wright wrote a secret $90,172 cheque for disgraced senator Mike Duffy under an unknown set of legal conditions while the audit was taking place. The interference continues as Conservative senators opt to internalize the scandal and Conservative MPs choose to attempt to distract peoples’ attention from the scandal at hand.
The concerns arose after a 2011 decision to mandate Vic Toews with oversight of the RCMP.
Former RCMP superintendent Gery Clement said the amount of control the government has over the independent body is concerning.
“Having been at the RCMP for 30 years, and when I was, I was in the national capital region for the better part of 18 years dealing with all levels of investigations, yeah, I would suggest I don’t think I’ve seen — at least since my relationship with the RCMP started — I don’t think I’ve ever seen the type of control that’s been placed on the RCMP, which is a little bit disconcerting from a former member,” said Clement.
However, in April, Toews’s spokeswoman insisted there was no political interference.
“As you are likely aware, political actors are legally prohibited from involving themselves in investigative matters,” Julie Carmichael said in an email. “Our government respects this principle at all times.”
“The RCMP has full independence with regards to the investigations it carries out, and how it conducts them within the authorities it has under the RCMP Act and the Criminal Code, as well as other Federal statutes,” he said in an email that, under current policy, would have been approved by Toews’ office.
“Every member of the RCMP is sworn to uphold the laws of Canada.”
However, in an interview with Global’s The West Block on April 28, 2013, Toews took full responsibility for the control over the RCMP.
“I’m responsible for the RCMP. I need to know exactly what the RCMP is doing and saying because if I go into the House of Commons and I have no idea what is being said, I’m at a distinct situation where it appears that I’m not carrying out my responsibilities to the House of Commons,” Toews said.
Toews regulates the official communications between MPs and the RCMP.
“Essentially what happens, especially if it’s MPs from my party, they’ll come to me and say, ‘Look I want to talk to the RCMP,’ and I’ll refer them to an individual and that’s the end of it,” he said.
“The RCMP clearly has to communicate as an entity, especially on issues of national and public security.”
On April 25, 2013, a meeting between a parliamentarian and RCMP officials was thwarted by Toews. The reason for the following email , under new policy, is all meetings between RCMP officials and parliamentarians “have to first be approved by the minister’s office. This email is to cancel the luncheon.”
At the time NDP Public Safety Critic Randy Garrison stated concerns over the government’s political interference over the RCMP, saying “these memos raise some very serious concerns about whether the government is interfering in the operations of the RCMP to try and assist in controlling their political message. So I think it’s very serious.”It appears that every corner we turn, we find political interference. A Conservative majority in the senate chose to keep its investigations internal so the internal economics committee could sanitize an audit on senators’ expense claims. With the opposition calling for an RCMP investigation, we find it is now controlled by Vic Toews’s office. What implications will this control have over future investigations? Do you believe the RCMP can still investigate independently with Toews’s oversight?