The Government of Canada recognizes that robust accountability mechanisms can help ensure public trust in Canada’s law enforcement and border services institutions. Bill C-20, An Act establishing the Public Complaints and Review Commission and amending certain Acts and statutory instruments, proposes to enact a new standalone statute, the Public Complaints and Review Commission Act, which would replace the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) with the Public Complaints and Review Commission (PCRC). The PCRC would serve as an enhanced independent review body for both the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA).
The Government is proposing to invest $112.3 million over six years, and $19.4 million ongoing, in the creation of an enhanced independent review and complaints body for the RCMP and the CBSA. In order to respond to existing accountability and transparency gaps in Canadian law enforcement agencies, the Bill would enact enhanced accountability and transparency measures for the PCRC, including:
- Codified timelines
To respond to concerns around the RCMP’s timeliness in responding to CRCC reports, new provisions would require the RCMP Commissioner and the CBSA President to respond to PCRC interim reports, reviews, and recommendations within legislated timelines.
- Annual reports
The Act would create an obligation for the RCMP Commissioner and the CBSA President to submit an annual report to the Minister of Public Safety. The report would inform the Minister of actions the RCMP and the CBSA have taken within the year to respond to PCRC recommendations from the PCRC Chairperson.
- Mandatory PCRC reporting of disaggregated race-based data
New provisions would require the PCRC to collect and publish disaggregated race-based data, in consultation with the RCMP and the CBSA, to increase knowledge about systemic racism in law enforcement and inform solutions to better respond to it.
- Public education and information mandate
The Bill would require the PCRC to implement public education and information programs, aimed at increasing public knowledge and awareness of the PCRC’s mandate and their rights to redress.
- CBSA responses to serious incidents
The Act would legislate a framework in the CBSA Act for the CBSA to handle serious incidents involving its personnel. In addition, the framework would give the PCRC the responsibility to track and publically report on serious incidents (e.g., death, serious injury, or federal or provincial law offences) involving the CBSA, and the ability for the PCRC to send an observer to ensure that internal CBSA investigations into serious incidents are conducted in an impartial manner.
As an enhanced independent review body for both the RCMP and the CBSA, the PCRC would also be responsible for the following:
- Specified activity review function
The PCRC would have the ability to review, on its own initiative or at the request of the Minister, any non-national security activity of the RCMP and the CBSA. PCRC reports would include findings and recommendations on the:
- adequacy, appropriateness, sufficiency, and/or clarity of RCMP and CBSA policies, procedures, and guidelines; and
- RCMP and CBSA compliance with the law and ministerial directions.
- Complaints function
The PCRC would be able to receive and investigate complaints from the public concerning the level of service provided by the RCMP and the CBSA, as well as the conduct of RCMP and CBSA employees. In most cases, the PCRC would refer complaints to the RCMP and the CBSA for initial investigation. If an individual was not satisfied with the RCMP or CBSA’s handling of a complaint, they could ask the PCRC to review it. At the conclusion of the PCRC’s investigation, the review body would be able to report on its findings and make recommendations as it sees fit. The Commissioner of the RCMP or the President of the CBSA, depending on which agency is implicated in the complaint, would be required to respond, in writing, to the PCRC’s findings and recommendations within legislated and regulated timelines.
The PCRC would not have the authority to review, uphold, amend, or overturn enforcement, trade or national security decisions made by the CBSA.
- Detention-related complaints
The PCRC would accept and review complaints from detainees held in CBSA facilities about the conduct and/or the level of service they received from CBSA employees. These could include complaints related to treatment and/or conditions in detention. In order to ensure that detainees held on behalf of the CBSA in provincial/territorial (P/T) facilities have access to a similar reporting mechanism, the Act would specify that the CBSA is only permitted to enter into detention agreements with P/T authorities if the P/T has an independent complaints mechanism in place (except in urgent and temporary circumstances)
Prince Edward Island and Nunavut currently do not have independent complaints mechanisms in place. CBSA would be required to transfer the individual to a jurisdiction that has an existing detention agreement if the situation requires it.
Relationship with the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA)
The NSIRA is responsible for complaints and reviews relating to national security, including those relating to the RCMP and CBSA. Provisions in the Act would facilitate information sharing and cooperation between the PCRC and NSIRA within the boundaries of their enabling legislation.
Relationship between the PCRC and other existing bodies
The PCRC would not consider complaints that could more appropriately be dealt with by other administrative bodies, such as the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages, or the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. If the PCRC were to receive these types of complaints, it would identify the appropriate body in their notification to complainants. However, since the CHRC can only receive complaints from individuals lawfully in Canada, the PCRC would accept complaints about CBSA conduct and service from foreign nationals that involve allegations of discrimination.
Access to information
In performing its review and complaints function, the PCRC would have access to any information relevant to the review or complaint that the RCMP and the CBSA possess, with certain narrow exceptions, such as cabinet confidences and sensitive commercial information.
Other further technical amendments and changes to the legislation will ensure consistency between the RCMP Act and the proposed legislation, as well as replacing references to “the Force” with “the RCMP” in relevant legislation.