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RCMP contract policing heads for federal review

The federal government promises to review the RCMP’s contract policing obligations as critics question the national police’s role in communities.

In his mandate letter, new Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino was asked to “conduct an evaluation of contract policing in consultation with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners and stakeholders.”

The promise of a review comes after years of headlines about systemic racism and excessive use of force in the RCMP, and reports of harassment within the ranks.

Constables are assigned to contract policing services in approximately 150 municipalities, in all three territories and in all provinces except Ontario and Quebec. Current RCMP policing agreements — municipal, provincial and territorial — expire in 2032.

The force also has federal policing duties that range from protecting the prime minister to countering terrorist attacks and investigating organized crime.

Robert Gordon, a former police officer and professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University, said the RCMP’s “balkanized system” and the troubling history of Indigenous communities warrant scrutiny.

He said he wanted to see the RCMP get out of the communities and focus on federal policing.

“I think there were a number of outbursts that underscored the importance of Canada addressing this issue,” he said.

“It’s a long and arduous journey, but I think it’s worth it. And I’m very happy that it shows up in the mandate letter.”

The union welcomes the evaluation

The RCMP union chief said he sees a review as a way to improve services.

“Almost one in four Canadians call the RCMP for policing in their jurisdiction. So I would say from all the data and the surveys we’ve done that the RCMP is extremely good at contract policing,” said National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé told CBC. News in an interview earlier this week.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t do better. And I think that’s what the Minister of Public Safety is considering – how can we improve that service delivery?”

Last year, MPs on the Public Safety and National Security Standing Committee suggested the federal government “explore the possibility of ending contract policing,” which would fundamentally change the national police service. (Tory MPs on the committee tabled a supplemental report disagreeing with the report’s key findings.)

Anti-racism protesters block Cordova Street in Vancouver on June 15, 2020. The promise of an RCMP review comes after years of headlines about systemic racism, excessive use of force and harassment within the ranks . (Ben Nelms / CBC)

The committee had been studying the issue of systemic racism in policing since June 2020 – spurred by an international movement urging governments to rethink police budgets and the use of force in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody. seen in the United States.

“A national transformational effort is needed to ensure that all Indigenous, Black and other racialized people in Canada are free from the discrimination and injustice inherent in the system as it exists today,” said the committee report.

Sauvé said this review has also highlighted broader issues that governments need to consider, including the role of police in responding to mental health calls.

“Many witnesses have come before the government and talked about the failings of policing, not that the police are the bad guys, but that governments across the country have chosen over decades to underfund other services. and other social safety nets,” Sauvé said.

“And de facto the police have become the last first responders standing.”

Sauvé said he would like to see more work done on recruiting to ease the workload of active members.

“I think policing as a whole needs to put a little more shine on their buttons as a career choice for young Canadians who want to give their life and their service,” he said.

“That being said, increasing the diversity of our membership is a fantastic idea.”