RCMP delaying investigation into unit that polices B.C. resource protests: watchdog
November 25, 2023 By The Canadian Press
Nov. 25, 2023, Ottawa, Ont. – The federal agency tasked with reviewing complaints against the RCMP says the police force is causing “significant delays” to an investigation of a unit set up to deal with protests against energy and logging projects.
In an investigation update this week, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP says it has received “little information or records” since July from the police force’s E Division, headquartered in Surrey, B.C.
The commission says it has made progress in its probe of the controversial Community-Industry Response Unit, but says finishing the investigation will be delayed.
It says a recent meeting between the commission and the RCMP outlined “concerns about the delays,” and the force has since provided it with more than 400 files, though “significant” information is yet to be provided.
The investigation was initiated in March to look into whether the unit’s policing of protests was consistent with case law, the Canadian Charter, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The commission has hired a law firm to help in its “systemic investigation,” to interview people who interacted with the police unit during protests at B.C. logging sites and along the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.
The brother-sister legal team at Turtle Island Law, Sharae Antley and Jaden Bourque, said in an interview that they’ve had initial meetings with potential participants and formal interviews will begin next week.
Bourque said the delays in the commission’s investigation aren’t a concern because it will give the pair more time to complete their work.
The firm’s interviews, they said, will culminate in a “what we heard” report documenting the lived experiences of those who came into contact with the Community-Industry Response Unit.
“We really view it as truth gathering and truth sharing,” Bourque said. “It’s very important to us to do things in an indigenized and decolonial manner and so that is the way that we engage in this process.”
Bourque said the commission had never before hired an Indigenous law firm like theirs to conduct “truth gathering” work as part of an investigation. He said they hope to gather both facts and information about peoples’ personal histories as part of the process.
“This is a bit of a trail-blazing moment for (the commission),” he said.
The firm was initially hired on contract for a year, but the delays have spurred talks about extending the time frame. The lawyers say they don’t know how many people they’ll interview, but it could be “hundreds,” Bourque said.
Antley said they’re contacting people through word of mouth, regular updates online, and referrals by the commission.
“Anywhere we can get a hold of people,” she said. “Our hope is to get a really fulsome picture of what’s going on, people have different experiences and we are open to all those experiences. They’re all part of the larger picture.”
RCMP E Division did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the delays.
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