The Maher Arar saga continued Tuesday with the release of the final volume of Justice Dennis O’Connor’s report on the affair. Chief among O’Connor’s recommendations: a beefy new investigative body to oversee the RCMP's security operations.
O'Connor writes in the report that “the case for giving an independent review body the mandate to conduct self-initiated reviews of the RCMP’s national security activities is now overwhelming." And that's hardly arguable. But even without Arar, the need for better independent oversight into the RCMP is clear.
The powers of the current complaints commissioner are a joke. Shirley Heafey, who held the job between 1997 and 2005 has publicly ridiculed the investigative powers of the office. And there is plenty about the RCMP that needs investigating.
Let’s review, shall we?
In Houston B.C. a 22-year-old mill worker is arrested for giving a false name. He’s dead 20 minutes later, an RCMP bullet in the back of his head. Investigators take nine months to conclude that no charges are warranted in the case. Throughout the investigation RCMP brass refuse to comment. In the words of Const. John Ward: “The public doesn’t have a right to know anything.”
Elsewhere in the province, a Prince George RCMP officer is accused of having sex with three underage prostitutes. He maintains his innocence throughout the investigation. But when the charges are dropped, it's not because he was cleared, but because his superiors took too long to launch the probe. (The RCMP recently announced that they will appeal that ruling.)
Less publicized here is this story from Alberta, where an RCMP screw-up allowed a woman’s violent ex to break into her house unmolested. She died that same night from multiple stab wounds. The ex walked free after a judge ruled the RCMP failed to provide him legal council. As the Edmonton Journal’s Paula Simons writes “It would be absurd, if it weren’t so horrible.”
There are more. I haven’t yet mentioned Giuliano Zaccardelli, the soon to be former RCMP commissioner. Or Staff-Sergeant Chuck Doucette, author of a three-page memo on Vancouver’s safe injection site that dismisses the entire body of peer-reviewed scientific evidence on the experiment. For that matter there’s this story on the mysterious dismissal of Vernon B.C.’s top two RCMP officials, or this one about two other senior officials retiring to avoid discipline.
An editorial in today's Toronto Star argues that "the Arar case has shaken public trust in the RCMP, a national icon, and in the very system itself." But the evidence says there's a lot more wrong with the RCMP than what came out in Justice O'Connor's report. Any new body should have the power to investigate any RCMP action, not just those concerned with national security. Anything less and the public will have good reason to remain wary of the men in red.