MPCC Commentary on Bill C-7 - dated 19 May, 2006

This commentary is an initial appreciation by the Commission of the impact of Bill C-7 on its ability to perform independent oversight of the military police. A written brief is being prepared that will more fully analyze the effect of the Bill.

The Military Police Complaints Commission was created in 1998 following recommendations from a study chaired by the late Right Honourable Brian Dickson. The study emphasized that “Independent oversight is especially important for the military police . . .

Over its six year life the MPCC has monitored hundreds of complaints and fully investigated dozens more. It has delivered 190 recommendations, 73% of which were accepted by Canadian Forces' authorities. This has led to improvements in military police policies and training and the impartial resolution of a wide variety of contentious issues.

Bill C-7 follows on another study chaired by the Right Honourable Antonio Lamer that again emphasized the importance of independent oversight of the military police.

By contrast, it is of concern that Bill C-7 would fundamentally diminish the ability of the Commission to perform the oversight function. Over the first six years of its existence the Commission's four main areas of responsibility have been:

  1. Monitoring the investigation of conduct complaints
    When a complaint is lodged against a member of the military police, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (head of the military police) carries out the investigation in most cases. The Complaints Commission is responsible for monitoring the investigation.
  2. Reviewing conduct complaints A complainant who is not satisfied with the way the complaint was handled by the Provost Marshal can ask the MPCC to review the matter.
  3. Investigating complaints of interference A military police officer who has reasonable grounds to suspect there has been interference with an investigation can lodge a formal complaint with the Commission. Interference can take many forms, such as abuse of authority or intimidation.
  4. Conducting public interest investigations or hearings The MPCC Chair can, at any time, call a public interest investigation into either a conduct or an interference complaint. The Chair may also decide to call a public hearing and has the power to compel witnesses to testify under oath.

However, Bill C-7 would substantially limit, to the point of effectively eliminating, the first role of Monitoring and the fourth role of Public Interest Investigations and Hearings.

Opportunity Lost

In recent years, many jurisdictions have been strengthening the independent oversight of their police forces. Bill C-7 represents an opportunity lost in terms of amendments that could have significantly enhanced independent oversight of the military police.

Last year, the MPCC identified, in a Special Report - Updating Civilian Oversight of Canada's Military Police: Achieving Results for Canadians legislative, regulatory, political and operational constraints that have a tangible impact on the effectiveness of the independent oversight of the Military Police. Even before Bill C-7 there were shortcomings in the oversight mechanism for Military Police activities, and the special report was an attempt to find solutions to those problems, in cooperation with our stakeholders, so as to guarantee Canadians that the independent oversight of the Military Police is fully satisfactory and lives up to their expectations.

This Special Report suggested improvements in six areas that would strengthen independent oversight of the military police, but none of those are addressed in Bill C-7. They are:

It is also noteworthy that two of Mr. Lamer's recommendations that would have strengthened independent oversight have not been implemented in Bill C-7. They are:

Next steps

The Commission has been advised that, following second reading, Bill C-7 will be referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence for review. Accordingly, the Chair of the MPCC, Mr. Peter A. Tinsley, has written to that committee to advise of the fundamental impact of Bill C-7 on independent oversight, to advise that a written brief on the matter will be filed with the committee, and to offer to appear before the committee to elaborate.

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