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RCMP Commissioner rejects Globe and Mail coverage

The Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, William Elliott, is speaking out against what he calls an “erroneous” Globe and Mail article on Tuesday's report of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP (CPC).

That report, which looked into the procedures followed when RCMP members investigate situations -- including deaths -- involving another officer, advocated a new approach where officers would not be investigating colleagues or superiors.

The Globe and Mail's article on the CPC report in Wednesday's paper (published online on Tuesday) was headlined “RCMP reject watchdog report on internal investigations.”

The lead sentence of the article repeats the conclusion that the force had "rejected' the report. However, the only support for that position given in the rest of the article is a description of Commissioner Elliot's concerns about the feasibility of implementing the report's recommendations:

Commissioner William Elliott said there can be further changes to the RCMP's internal investigations policy, but he insisted the situation is "not as bleak" as was laid out by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP.


Mr. Elliott said it is simply impossible for his officers to stay away from an investigation in every situation. He said that in a perfect world, RCMP officers would never investigate their colleagues, but he argued it is impractical.

The RCMP Commissioner said that in a case involving a police shooting in one of Canada's remote communities, for example, there are no other police forces in place to handle the investigation.

"By the time another forensic expert or police officer arrives, there might not be any forensic evidence to gather," Mr. Elliott said.


In a letter to the editor of the Globe and Mail, Elliott criticized the interpretation of his reaction, saying: “Despite the fact that the RCMP welcomed the report, agrees with a number of its findings and I have been on record saying that the RCMP would prefer if we never had to investigate our own members, your headline on August 12 stated that the RCMP "rejects" the report.”

The letter, which is described as an effort to “correct inaccuracies in your coverage,” goes on to say, in part:

In fact, the RCMP finds a great deal positive in the report. We are proud that it concludes that RCMP members' conduct was appropriate, professional and free of bias in 100% of the investigations reviewed. (Though prominent in the report itself and in other media coverage, this one statistic was completely absent in your paper's graphs). It says our officers complied with applicable policies and completed investigations in a timely manner.


As I have often publically stated, the RCMP is very supportive of enhanced independent oversight and review. We believe that the more credible independent oversight and review is, the more credible the Force can be. We are also very seriously committed and very seriously engaged in bringing about positive change in the RCMP. This is not being defensive as has been suggested. It is proactively striving to improve the RCMP and live up to the highest standards Canadians rightly expect of us.

Elliott also outlines concerns with the CPC's methodology, saying the "report reviews cases between two and more than seven years old, using the lens of new criteria developed for the report" and that it therefore "creates an inaccurate picture." Those concerns were not mentioned in the original Globe and Mail article to back up the statement that the force was rejecting the report's conclusions.

The paper published the letter to the editor this morning, but only in a significantly edited version which omits the harsher language used to criticize the paper.

In response, the RCMP issued the full text of the letter today as a press release.

Amelia Bellamy-Royds reports for The Tyee.

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