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Provinces seek more co-operation from Ottawa on witness protection

RCMP cordon off a crime scene using police tape.

JOHN LEHMANN/The GLOBE AND MAIL

Ontario and Alberta are pushing for more federal recognition of their witness protection programs as part of a national revamp of the patchwork system intended to shield those who risk their safety to co-operate in criminal cases.

Provincial concerns – including frustrations in obtaining identity changes for those being protected – are key to a long-promised federal remake of witness protection, documents and interviews reveal.

Ontario recognition of their witness protection programs as part of a national revamp of the patchwork system intended to shield those who risk their safety to co-operate in criminal cases. and Alberta are pushing for more federal

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The federal witness protection program, administered by the RCMP, provides measures ranging from short-term protection to permanent relocation and identity changes. The Mounties spent more than $9-million on the program in 2011-12.

However, several provinces have their own programs, often providing short-term assistance.

The federal government has been working for several years on changes to the RCMP-led program following recommendations from a Commons committee and the commission of inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing.

A primary suggestion was making the federal program more independent.

The Air India commission said it was inappropriate for a police agency with an interest in ensuring sources agree to become witnesses to also make decisions about admission into a witness protection program.

"This is a conflict of interest," said the commission's 2010 report.

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