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View Jeremy Patzer Profile
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands.
We are considering Bill C-3, which would reorganize the RCMP's Civilian Review and Complaints Commission while extending independent oversight to the Canada Border Services Agency and the RCMP.
This past Monday was the RCMP's 100th anniversary, and part of the celebration includes a campaign to designate February 1 nationwide as RCMP appreciation day. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank RCMP officers for the tireless and important work they do. I also want to thank our Canadian border agents for everything they are doing to protect our country. There are four official crossings in my riding: Rockglen, Monchy, Climax and Willow Creek.
Conservatives believe in checks and balances, parliamentary ethics and the rule of law. To better promote these values, we support increased transparency, accessibility and accountability for government agencies. It is the right thing to do and it shows proper respect to citizens and taxpayers.
As a Conservative, I support the fundamental idea behind this bill, and I hope that expanded oversight will start to make a real difference. It is in line with our party's principles and vision for our country's future. It is one thing to have good ideas and intentions; we must also do our due diligence and make sure that this will be implemented and applied properly.
After the House votes on this, we will be waiting as the opposition to see how this new public complaints and review commission will work out in practice and whether it results in real improvements.
Responsibility means more than receiving people's complaints. We cannot be responsible without offering a response. We need to make sure that there is an effective response made in a reasonable amount of time whenever someone raises concerns related to law enforcement, such as with the RCMP or CBSA.
The main change proposed by this bill involves recreating and transitioning a government agency, and that is what raises the very practical point of timeliness and effectiveness as part of its operations. The RCMP has already had independent oversight since 1988, and it was established as the current Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, or the CRCC, back in 2013.
I have spent some time reading further into the CRCC's more recent work. I could not help but notice that there appears to be a pattern with its investigations since 2007, at least for those posted on the CRCC's website. It takes anywhere from three to seven years to get a final report on the findings of an investigation and the recommendations following from it. It is good to know that it is conducting a thorough review of the complaint, but the fact remains that it is taking a long time in the process.
Presumably, if the RCMP decides to implement any changes into its organization or policies, this will not be an overnight process either. It could take a long time to draft new policy or prepare for any changes addressing the areas that have been reviewed and criticized by the commission. All of this means that from start to finish we might realistically expect the process will go on for years and years, possibly even up to a decade in some cases. These kinds of timelines would likely dissuade too many people from even bothering to file a complaint at all. If people do not have the confidence to report an issue, it will defeat the original purpose of having a review process.
That is exactly what we want to avoid. We want Canadians to call attention to the real problems they are experiencing so there can be an investigation and fair treatment for anyone who is involved. Most importantly, we want to make sure problems get corrected as quickly as possible to prevent similar incidents from occurring.
For the final reports that were available for me to look through, the number of findings ranged anywhere from five to over 55 per incident and the recommendations ranged anywhere from one to 31. Further, I could not help but notice that there is one additional point that is missing after looking at these reports, and that is which and how many of the recommendations have been accepted and specifically implemented into RCMP policy moving forward.
I would like to see a review and report on the results of these final recommendations. It would be a valuable piece of information for the general public to be aware of whenever we are talking about all the different cases being studied. Again, I believe that a civilian oversight is the right approach. This all has to do with providing transparency and maintaining trust in the RCMP and CBSA, whom we entrusted with the public safety of our rural areas in Canada and our border crossings.
Respecting and maintaining public trust is extremely important. That is why it only makes sense to have a similar commission in place for the CBSA. If we are going to be broadening this oversight to the CBSA, then this would be the right time to also ensure that there are accurate reporting mechanisms on whether changes are implemented or not. The CBSA is another organization that the public has a great deal of respect for, based on the scope of the important job we have entrusted to it.
CBSA workers are routinely put in the uncomfortable spot of searching vehicles, belongings and persons, whether it be at an airport or a port of entry along the Canada-U.S.A. border. In the course of carrying out these searches and interviews as part of their duties, I would think that having oversight and review in place would help everyone involved feel more secure in these situations.
There is something else I noticed about the CRCC's current review process. At every stage of the review process, when initiated by the chairman, it goes to the Minister of Public Safety. At face value, it makes sense for the agency to work with the appropriate minister. The fact that there are provisions for this to happen in this bill, as well as before, is not an issue by itself. It goes back to an old question in politics: Who will watch the watchmen?
This is not an empty political cheap shot either. Our real problem is that we still have a Prime Minister and a government that have shown disregard for how our processes are supposed to work. We repeatedly saw their interference in the SNC-Lavalin affair, hiding behind cabinet confidentiality and insisting on limitations for witness testimony and the RCMP's investigation. Will they be able to resist the temptation to interfere in other areas? These are the kinds of real questions that people have across Canada.
In this past campaign I heard repeatedly that Liberal interference in the justice system was a big concern and, at the time, Liberals rallied with their leadership instead of with their former colleagues who were speaking out with integrity. Canadians have seen examples of the Liberals over the last year showing that they cannot trust them with staying out of business that is not theirs to dabble in.
I need to make it absolutely clear by saying again that we have the greatest respect and admiration for active members in both the RCMP and the CBSA. We are proud of their service, and this bill should be one of the ways in which we work with them to best serve the public good. Members in both of these organizations need to be included in our close consideration of this bill. For that reason, my colleagues and I are concerned on this side of the House about the reported lack of consultation with representatives for police officers and border agents. This concern was expressed during the rushed debate on this same bill at the end of the last Parliament, and it was raised again by the member for Kootenay—Columbia, who previously had a long career with the RCMP himself.
Supporting the idea of oversight in this bill does not mean we will not call for proper consultation and otherwise carefully consider it during committee. There are some unanswered questions about how the new commission will operate and we need to make sure that the bill is strong and well balanced for succeeding with its intended goal.
Since we are taking the time to discuss the RCMP as it relates to this legislation, I need to say something about its work in my riding and across Canada. Back home, I have attended five town halls around my riding regarding the RCMP's operations. There are huge concerns related to the number of officers in different places and the response times to emergency calls. This has left too many people feeling unsafe in their own homes. We are dealing with many terrible cases of violent crime. We are seeing an increase in the illicit drug trade with fentanyl and methamphetamine becoming a big problem.
The people in rural communities committing crimes are no longer just the local bad boys. They are large, coordinated crime groups and gangs coming out from the cities and from other provinces to commit organized and targeted crime. In a specific example recently in my riding, an off-duty RCMP officer saw three vehicles speeding in excess of 150 kilometres an hour. These three vehicles were headed to British Columbia with two young girls, who were being taken to be victimized by human traffickers. Thankfully, this story has a happy ending with the suspects being apprehended and the girls returned home safely.
This is the larger problem we have to deal with whenever we are considering public safety and how we can best support our law enforcement. I am looking for a solution that will significantly reduce rural crime and I am not sure that this bill really has much to say for that type of issue. Even though rural Canadians on the ground, provinces and some of my colleagues have been repeatedly raising this issue for a while, we have not seen or heard much about it from the government. We are still waiting for a response.
That being said, I look forward to further studying Bill C-3. We can only hope the government will respect and learn from this bill's spirit and principles of accountability.
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