Six months into the systemic investigation of the C-IRG, violations continue without clear deadline for CRCC report

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: The C-IRG arrested land defenders on Pacheedaht territory, August 15, 2023. Photo by Amber Bracken.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) launched its “systemic investigation” into the RCMP Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG) on March 8, 2023.

As the six-month mark on that investigation approaches on this Friday September 8, PBI-Canada contacted the CRCC for an update.

Their responses suggest that the RCMP has not provided the CRCC with the documents necessary to complete the investigation, the CRCC will not commit to a completion/report release date, has not called on the C-IRG to suspend its operations, and for now will only review urgent UN statements on Canada’s international obligations.

Has the RCMP provided the necessary information?

We asked: “Has the RCMP now provided you with all the information you have requested?” The CRCC responded: “The RCMP continues to provide the requested materials and the CRCC’s systemic investigation is ongoing.”

In early-June, three months into the investigation, the CRCC stated: “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.”

On August 14, the CBC reported: “The CRCC said via statement the investigation was comprehensive and covered a a five-year span, with thousands of documents already disclosed and more coming. But the commission has a deal with the Mounties, spelling out timeframes for the production of documents, which, in this case, is six weeks.”

This suggests that the RCMP has committed to provide by the end of September a schedule of when documents will be made available, which could still stretch over a much longer period of time. We will seek access to that document to confirm.

When will the systemic investigation be completed?

We asked: “Is it still feasible that systemic investigation will be completed by March-June 2024 (the 12-18 month timeline)?” The CRCC has responded: “At this point in the investigation, it would be premature to specify a timeline for its completion.”

Three months ago, they had told us: “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.”

Is the CRCC concerned by ongoing C-IRG operations?

We asked: “Does the CRCC have any concerns that the C-IRG made arrests at Fairy Creek earlier this month, one of the sites of your systemic investigation?” This refers to the C-IRG raid on Pacheedaht territory on August 15.

Most of the nearly 500 complaints received by the CRCC refer to C-IRG actions at Fairy Creek, including serious allegations about exclusion zones, arbitrary detention, excessive force, intrusive searches, aggression, and destruction of property.

To our question about this most recent C-IRG raid, the CRCC has responded: “The CRCC continues to monitor C-IRG activities.”

The Abolish C-IRG coalition has previously stated: “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.”

Have UN concerns informed the CRCC investigation?

We asked: “Will the systemic investigation look at the recently expressed concerns by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples about the federal police (RCMP/C-IRG) conducting raids on Wet’suwet’en territory despite three letters from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination calling on Canada to stop forced evictions?”

The CRCC has responded: “The CRCC’s investigative team will review all relevant material to inform the findings and recommendations in its final report.”

In his Visit to Canada report dated July 24, the UN Special Rapporteur called on Canada to suspend construction of the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain pipelines and to “halt the criminalization of Indigenous human rights defenders peacefully defending their lands and resources from extractive industries and other business actors.”

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has also called on Canada to remove the RCMP from Secwepemc territory in letters dated December 13, 2019, November 24, 2020, and April 29, 2022.

In its most recent letter, the Committee stated: “According to the information before the Committee, the Governments of Canada and of the Province of British Columbia have escalated their use of force, surveillance, and criminalization of land defenders and peaceful protesters to intimidate, remove and forcibly evict Secwepemc and Wet’suwet’en Nations from their traditional lands, in particular by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), the Community-Industry Response Group (CIRG), and private security firms.”

The Committee monitors state compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, an international obligation that Canada committed to when it ratified the convention on October 14, 1970.

Next steps

The CRCC is not able to confirm its report will be released by March-June 2024. The concern is that a year from now we may still not have a report and the controversial actions of the C-IRG will be allowed to continue during this period.

We will ask the CRCC again on December 8, nine months into the investigation, for an update, but remain concerned by the slowness of this process and the non-specificity of their responses to direct questions.

We also look forward to the visit next month (October 2-13) by Pedro Arrojo-Agudo, the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, and any comments and recommendations he may subsequently present to the UN Human Rights Council with respect to the C-IRG and the right to water.

Video: C-IRG Staff Sergeant Jason Charney drains water tanks on Wet’suwet’en territory, October 2021.

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