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Debbie Baptiste, mother of Colten Boushie, holds a photo of her son during a press conference in Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2018.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

The RCMP’s response to a report from its civilian watchdog on the national force’s investigation into the death of Colten Boushie, a 22-year-old Cree man shot by a Saskatchewan farmer in 2016, is now months late and delaying its public release.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission intends to make the final report public, along with the RCMP’s response. But the force said the process is taking longer than expected because of factors that include a high volume of material to be reviewed and the complexities of the recommendations.

The CRCC gave its report to the RCMP in January, 2020. Under an agreement with the commission, the RCMP was to deliver its response in July.

Mr. Boushie was shot and killed on a farm outside Biggar, Sask., in August, 2016. Farmer Gerald Stanley was charged with second-degree murder, but was acquitted by a jury.

During the trial, Mr. Boushie’s family said officers searched their home when they came to tell them Mr. Boushie was dead, and asked whether his mother, Debbie Baptiste, had been drinking. In the hours after Mr. Boushie was killed, police also left the vehicle he was shot in out in a summer downpour, raising concerns that evidence had been compromised, the court heard.

Part of the commission’s review included examining whether relevant RCMP policies, procedures and guidelines are reasonable.

Chris Murphy, a lawyer for Mr. Boushie’s family, said in an interview on Monday that, with every day that passes without a response, the force runs the risk of continuing to use policies that the CRCC has recommended changing. He said Indigenous people are suffering the consequences of the delay.

“The RCMP is continuing to kick the can down the road,” he said.

He added that Mr. Boushie’s family has not been informed of the reasons for the delay.

“The disrespect by the RCMP toward Debbie Baptiste started on the day Colten died and it continued through the RCMP’s investigation into Colten’s death,” Mr. Murphy said. “In my view, it was a negligent investigation.”

Mr. Boushie’s family has launched civil litigation, Mr. Murphy said.

The force has faced renewed scrutiny over its relationship with Indigenous peoples in recent months. Controversies include the violent arrest of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation Chief Allan Adam in Alberta captured on a police dashboard camera video, and officers' response to violence and intimidation toward Mi’kmaq fishermen in Nova Scotia.

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In June, the CRCC announced it would examine the conduct of RCMP members in connection with an incident in Kinngait, Nunavut. A video recording shows an RCMP vehicle being driven toward a man. An officer then opens the driver’s side door, which hits the man and knocks him down.

RCMP spokeswoman Catherine Fortin said in a statement that the time required to prepare a thorough and well-founded response to the CRCC’s report on the Boushie case has been longer than expected.

“In addition, there have been unforeseen interruptions throughout our review as we directed our attention to other files requiring immediate attention,” she said.

The RCMP consider all public complaints to be important and try to address them in as timely a manner as possible while ensuring they are assessed thoroughly and appropriately, she added.

The CRCC announced in March, 2018, that it was looking into the RCMP’s investigation of Mr. Boushie’s death and the events that followed after the Boushie family initiated public complaints..

The commission is an independent agency that Parliament created in 1988 to which people can bring complaints about the conduct of RCMP members. It conducts reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP’s handling of their complaints.

Kate McDerby, the director of strategic communications for the CRCC, said a memorandum of understanding was signed with the RCMP in December, 2019, that includes agreed-upon timelines for both organizations.

She said that this agreement requires the RCMP Commissioner to provide a written response within six months of the report being issued to the force.

The CRCC gave the RCMP its investigative report on Jan. 22, 2020, Ms. McDerby said in a statement. That would mean that under the agreement, the RCMP response would have been due in July.

Canadians have the right to expect timely responses from their public institutions, particularly those with powers as great as the police, she added.

Indigenous leaders, including Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde, have recently called for the RCMP Commissioner to be replaced with someone who will focus on public safety and combating racism.

At a Parliamentary committee in June, NDP MP Charlie Angus asked RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki about the force’s response to the CRCC’s report on Mr. Boushie’s case. She said she had read it and a response was expected this fall.

Mr. Angus told The Globe and Mail there were serious questions about how the RCMP in Saskatchewan handled Mr. Boushie’s case from the beginning, adding that this led to a “deep rift with Indigenous people in Western Canada.”

Commissioner Lucki has a responsibility to restore this trust, and the first step is for her to release the report, he said.

Mr. Bellegarde said the force must provide a plan of action in response.

“Following the killing of Colten Boushie, there are serious questions about how the investigation was carried out, how the Boushie family was treated the night he was killed, and how effectively the RCMP co-operated with the CRCC in the commission’s investigation,” Mr. Bellegarde said in a statement.

There are also serious questions about how effective the RCMP are in protecting First Nations from aggressive actions, he added.

“We don’t have a lot of answers, actions, or transparency on the part of the RCMP on how they are responding to these questions.”

A spokesperson for Public Safety Minister Bill Blair said Canadians expect and deserve that complaints initiated against the RCMP will be examined fairly, impartially and in a timely manner.

“As Minister Blair has said, delays such as these are unacceptable,” Craig MacBride said. “He has called on the RCMP to do what is necessary – including the allocation of more resources, if required – to more quickly respond to CRCC reviews.”

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