The RCMP is launching a new division that will specialize in the fight against corruption in the federal government and abroad.
The official launch of the RCMP's National Division, scheduled for a formal ceremony in Ottawa on Monday, comes as the Mounties are involved in high-profile investigations into the Senate spending scandal and an international bribery case involving engineering firm SNC-Lavalin Group. Still, the RCMP needs to beef up its credentials in matters of federal corruption, with its investigation into the sponsorship scandal being stalled after more than a decade of work.
Ottawa also needs to ensure that it keeps up with other police forces in Canada and abroad in terms of fighting corruption. The province of Quebec has recently taken on a widespread scandal in its construction industry by creating a permanent anti-corruption unit that has gone on to lay charges against dozens of elected officials, bureaucrats, lawyers and senior business officials.
The RCMP is expected to announce its National Division will become a centre of expertise into corruption issues. The creation of the new division was first announced last year, but the RCMP is expected to reveal a "new investigational scope" at the upcoming ceremony. The commanding officer of the Division is Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud, who was formally the head of the RCMP's national-security program.
On its website, the RCMP states that National Division will focus on the corruption of Canadian and foreign officials. In addition, it will look into the corruption of procurement processes and of Canada's electoral processes, as well as leaks of government information.
"National Division will focus its expertise in sensitive, high-risk investigations into significant threats to Canada's political, economic and social integrity," the RCMP states.
The RCMP's National Division is replacing the existing A Division, which has long overseen criminal probes in the Ottawa area.
The National Division will continue to oversee protective operations, such as offering security details to the Prime Minister, the Governor General, VIPs and overseeing security at the Supreme Court and on Parliament Hill.
In terms of upholding the integrity of Canada's social system, the National Division will investigate matters such as war crimes, crimes against humanity hostage takings of Canadians abroad.
The creation of National Division is part of a plan to decentralize the RCMP's operations out of headquarters in Ottawa. The goal is to create bigger investigative groups in the country's major urban areas, namely Montreal and southern Ontario, while reducing the overall number of investigations that are handled in the national capital region.
As he announced the upcoming changes to his staff last year, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said it was part of a strategy to ensure that the national police force is focussed on its police operations, after having grappled with a series of internal problems over the years.
Commissioner Paulson told members of his force "much of the news coverage over the past six months has focused on the negative, particularly the very serious allegations of sexual harassment that have come out."
He added that he wants to focus on the future of the RCMP, urging his staff to look at ways to "do things differently, focus on operations and contribute to the safety and security of those who pay our salaries, the men and women of Canada."