Interference Case MPCC‑2019‑029 Summary

This interference complaint arose from the handling of two alleged incidents of unlawful incursion, and other breaches of the Canada Wildlife Act (CWA), in relation to the National Wildlife Area located within the Canadian Forces Base (CFB) by members of the local CFB Military Police Platoon (MP Pl). These incidents were reported to have occurred in May and July, respectively, of 2019, and appeared to have involved soldiers of a foreign army unit (FAU) posted to the CFB in question, as they were the only personnel conducting training in the relevant area.

In accordance with a 2009 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Environment Canada (now Environment and Climate Change Canada) and the Department of National Defence, the investigation of the alleged CWA breaches fell to members of the local MP Pl, which was commanded by the complainant.

The subject of the interference complaint was the acting MP Company Commander, who was the complainant’s supervisor at the times relevant to this complaint.

The local MP Pl conducted investigations of these two CWA cases over the summer of 2019. Amidst these investigations, the MP Company Commander apparently became increasingly concerned with the handling of the investigation by the MP Pl under the command of the complainant. These concerns included: an alleged failure to consult appropriate military or civilian legal counsel; the magnitude of the fines under the CWA and regulations potentially applicable to charges under the wildlife legislation; and, in light of the huge fines being discussed (up to $200 million), the potential risk to the Canadian Armed Forces "strategic relationship" with the FAU if charges were to proceed.

The MP Company Commander concerns resulted in certain directions by the MP Company Commander to the complainant who viewed these as constituting improper interference in the two CWA investigations: 1) the referral of the two MP Pl investigations to the regional detachment of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) for review and feedback; and 2) the disposition of the investigation into the May 2019 CWA incident by way of recorded warning to the FAU rather than the laying of charges. The complainant did not interpret these directions as genuinely perceived deficiencies in the MP Pl investigations, but to the MP Company Commander’s preference that the cases not result in charges against members of the FAU. Consequently, the complainant submitted this interference complaint against the MP Company Commander subject to the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC).

After a thorough review of the relevant MP records, as well as a series of interviews, the MPCC concluded that this interference complaint was unsubstantiated.

In his interview with the MPCC, the complainant seemed to back away from his initial belief that the above-noted interventions by the subject MP Company Commander, were the result of some ulterior and inappropriate motive.

The MPCC investigation also determined that the decision to dispose of the investigation into the first incident by way of a recorded warning, instead of by charges, was reached independently by the MP Pl lead investigator, and was not the result of pressure from the MP Company Commander. In any event, the MPCC noted that good faith direction by MP superiors on the handling or disposition of an MP investigation is within the purview of the MP chain of command and does not per se constitute improper interference.

With respect to the direction to refer the investigation files to CFNIS for review, the MPCC determined that this was an accepted practice within the CF MP Gp and did not necessarily entail the entire transfer of investigative responsibility to CFNIS. This appeared to be the case here, where the lead investigator's positions on both CWA files remained with the same members from the MP Pl (although supervisory roles were transferred to the regimental level).

Therefore, the MPCC determined both interference allegations to be unsubstantiated.

During the investigation of this complaint, the MPCC observed that the Environment Canada-DND MOU's management of the CFB National Wildlife Area, having been developed prior to April 2011, was outdated in that it treated the local MP Pl members as delegates and subordinates of the CFB Comd, which is inconsistent with the current command structure of the CAF MPs. Since April 1, 2011, all MPs performing policing duties form part of the CF MP Gp under the command of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal. Certain witnesses interviewed by the MPCC in this case shared that observation.

Indeed, it as noted to the MPCC that the practice of CWA enforcement in respect of the CFB National Wildlife Area under the MOU has been modified by direction to the local MP Pl that they are to play a supporting role, rather than a leading role, in such investigations.

To better clarify relevant authorities and responsibilities, the MPCC recommended that the MOU be modified to reflect the current MP command structure.

In response to the MPCC’s Report, the Chief of Defence Staff accepted the MPCC’s findings and recommendation in this matter.

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