Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday he is asking Public Safety Minister Bill Blair to follow up on the status of the RCMP’s response to a civilian watchdog report on the investigation into the death of Colten Boushie.
The response is now months late.
During a news conference in Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau said he met previously with the family of Mr. Boushie, a Cree man shot dead by a farmer in 2016, and assured them they would get answers.
The wait for those answers is extremely difficult, he added.
“It interferes with the grieving process. It leaves gaping wounds that are difficult to fill,” Mr. Trudeau said. “That’s why I’ve asked Minister Blair to follow up on what is going on with this report and ensure that it is released soon.”
Mr. Trudeau also said on Tuesday that “there is reflection to be had on how to ensure that situations like this, and delays like this, don’t happen again."
In addition to the slow response to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, the national police force has faced criticism from Indigenous leaders over whether it is willing to address systemic racism.
The commission is an independent agency to which individuals 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.
In 2018, the CRCC announced it would review the investigation of Mr. Boushie’s death. It gave its report to the force in January, 2020, and a response was due in July under the terms of an agreement with the force, said Kate McDerby, the director of strategic communications for the CRCC.
Mr. Boushie, who was 22, was 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.
Mr. Boushie’s family has raised significant concerns over the conduct of RCMP officers, including a search of their home that was conducted when they came to inform them of his death.
During the trial, the court also heard that officers left the vehicle he was shot in outside during a downpour, raising concerns that evidence was compromised.
The RCMP says it has yet to produce a response to the CRCC report because more time is required to make it thorough and well-founded.
“In addition, there have been unforeseen interruptions throughout our review as we directed our attention to other files requiring immediate attention,” spokeswoman Catherine Fortin said.
Ms. McDerby said a memorandum of understanding was signed with the RCMP in December, 2019, that includes agreed-upon timelines for both organizations.
She said the agreement requires the RCMP Commissioner to provide a written response within six months of the report being issued to the force.
The RCMP response to the report on the Boushie investigation would have been due in July, she added.
NDP public safety critic Jack Harris said in an interview on Tuesday that the RCMP may not like what is in the CRCC’s report, adding that as of last March, the commission was waiting for responses to more than 170 reports.
“The whole system is grossly inadequate from a public confidence point of view and from a justice point of view," he said. “The system doesn’t provide the kind of accountability that is required.”
Legislative change is needed to fix the problem, Mr. Harris added.
A lawyer representing Mr. Boushie’s family, Chris Murphy, also said in an interview that the RCMP is “continuing to kick the can down the road" by not responding to the CRCC findings.
In July, the chair of the CRCC, Michelaine Lahaie, appeared before a House of Commons committee and said statutory requirements for the RCMP to respond to reports would improve accountability “exponentially.”
In a recent statement to The Globe and Mail, a spokesperson for Mr. Blair, Craig MacBride, said the minister 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. He also called the delays “unacceptable.”
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki told a House of Commons committee on Monday the response to the report on the force’s investigation into the death of Mr. Boushie is expected to be released later this fall.
In recent weeks, Commissioner Lucki has faced calls to resign, including from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde.
Mr. Bellegarde wrote to the Prime Minister in late October to say his national advocacy organization has lost confidence in the RCMP Commissioner.
When asked about this lack of confidence on Monday by Mr. Harris, Commissioner Lucki maintained she has learned a lot about systemic racism since a round of interviews in which she said she struggled with the application of the term to policies and procedures of the force.
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