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Gov must produce RCMP audit before it's too late, says civil liberties group

The provincial government must produce and publicly release an audit of the RCMP before it signs a new contract with the federal police force next year, says the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA).

Without full knowledge of how the RCMP has performed throughout the province over the last two decades, says Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the BCCLA, neither the public nor the government will be able to make an informed decision as to whether and to what extent the RCMP should continue to serve as the provincial police force.

Negotiations over the renewal of a 20-year multi-billion dollar contract with the RCMP are ongoing. The current contract will expire next year.

"Maybe the audit says [the RCMP is] fantastic value for money, maybe the audit says it's crap value for money," says Vonn. "If we don't know until after we've signed the contract, whatever it says, the point is moot."

The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the ministry responsible for both the audit and the contract renewal, did not respond to The Tyee's request for comment.

The BCCLA learned that the audit of the RCMP was being conducted last fall and has since been engaged in what Vonn calls a "tap dance" with the province government to get the information within released to the public.

Yesterday the BCCLA learned from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner, an independent body that oversees Freedom of Information requests, that a draft of the audit has not yet been finished.

"It almost appears as though the government is determined to make sure the citizens of the province don't know what's in the audit during the time when it really matters -- meaning now," says Vonn.

In the meantime, Vonn says that the BCCLA will continue to push for the speedy completion and release of the audit.

Asked if legal action was "off the table" Vonn responded: "I don't know that it is."

The RCMP has served as British Columbia's provincial police force since 1950. If the province chooses not to renew that arrangement, it has the option of establishing its own provincial police independent of the RCMP. Currently Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland maintain their own provincial police.

Ben Christopher is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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