Canadian agency waits for information from the RCMP three months into its systemic investigation of the C-IRG

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Video: The C-IRG on Wet’suwet’en territory, November 2021.

On March 9, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) issued a media release that stated it had “initiated a systemic investigation into the activities and operations of the RCMP “E” Division Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG).”

The CRCC is an independent agency of the Canadian government. It was established by Parliament with a series of responsibilities, including to “initiate complaints and investigations into RCMP conduct when it is in the public interest to do so.”

The terms of reference for its C-IRG investigation noted: “The review will include a detailed examination of relevant RCMP policies, procedures, guidelines and training to assess their adequacy, appropriateness, sufficiency and clarity, in accordance with section 45.34(1) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act. …The systemic investigation will also include a comprehensive file review to assess whether or to what extent the activities and operations of the C-IRG are carried out in accordance with legal standards, policy requirements, and leading practices.”

What is the status of the investigation?

While the CRCC Communications and Media Relations Team tells us they “will not be providing interviews at this stage of the ongoing investigation”, they did respond by e-mail earlier this week to our inquiry about the investigation stating:

At the launch of our systemic investigation on March 8, 2023, the CRCC submitted a request for extensive information to the RCMP.  We have received some of that information so far, and are awaiting confirmation on when the RCMP will be able to compile and provide the remainder.  At this time, we are also procuring independent counsel and other experts to support the investigation.

The CRCC strives to complete its systemic investigations within 12-18 months; however, the timely provision of requested information and access to RCMP personnel will largely determine when the CRCC’s report will be available. All systemic investigation reports are made available on the CRCC website. This includes the RCMP Commissioner’s response to our findings and recommendations and the final report.

On March 22, the Abolish C-IRG coalition wrote to the CRCC. That letter was hand-delivered by PBI-Canada to the CRCC office in Ottawa.

The letter highlights:

The CRCC’s announcement is the result of long, multifaceted grassroots and Indigenous-led efforts to call attention to the C-IRG unit and its role in violently facilitating resource extraction without Indigenous consent. We note that the communities whose collective complaints informed the CRCC’s decision have all advocated for a public process that includes public hearings in affected communities.

While we welcome the CRCC’s investigation, the current Terms of Reference (TOR) for this process fails to create a meaningful forum for accountability. Given the nature of the complaints and substantial evidence supporting them, we argue for the suspension of all C-IRG deployment in BC pending investigation and resolution of all complaints currently before the CRCC. The CRCC reviews can take years to complete, and it is irresponsible to have this unit continue operations during that time, enabling the continuation of unlawful use of force, arrests, detentions, and assaults that have sparked such an investigation.

We encourage the Commissioner to expand the current Terms of Reference (TOR) to include a broader public inquiry with more robust investigatory powers, as was done during the Commission’s investigation at Elsipogtog (aka Kent County, NB), via a parallel Chair-initiated investigation under s. 45.66(1) of the RCMP Act.

The CRCC’s TOR does not include any opportunity for affected communities to inform the process directly by giving evidence or commenting on the accuracy of the RCMP’s evidence or practices. The current TOR also does not explicitly reference the Commission’s powers to compel witnesses or to deal directly with the unlawful conduct of specific officers.

The three-month anniversary of the launch of the systemic investigation into the C-IRG coincides with reports that the RCMP appears to have rebranded the C-IRG as the Critical Response Unit (CRU).

Abolish C-IRG has tweeted:

We continue to follow this. We will provide another update on September 8, the six-month anniversary of the launch of the CRCC investigation.

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