Premier David Eby called once more on the federal government to clarify the future role of the RCMP amidst reports the Mounties could turn into a federal police agency like the G-Men of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
“We need clarity from the federal government on this, because if they are not continuing the contract, we need to start planning now,” he said Thursday (July 20) at an unrelated event.
The federal government is currently reviewing the role of the RCMP as a front-line policing supplier and the Toronto Star recently reported that the RCMP could focus on national security, terrorism, financial crimes, cyber-crime or organized crime. In other words, get out of front-line policing.
The report became public after Eby and other premiers representing provinces with RCMP contracts had lamented labour shortages and the RCMP’s uncertain future.
Three 20-year agreements that allow the RCMP to act as British Columbia’s provincial police force as well as the municipal force for municipalities are due to end in 2032. Eby called on the federal government to provide clarity sooner rather than later against the backdrop of labour issues in the RCMP and the recommendation of a provincial all-party committee to create a provincial police force.
Municipalities with RCMP forces have also complained about rising costs and a lack of accountability. One recent sore point being the federal government’s refusal to absorb retroactive pay increases, leaving municipalities on the hook for somewhere between $138 and $145 million.
The federal government is planning to release an interim summary of its review thus far in the fall. It will likely add to the public debate about RCMP labour shortages that have also shaped the provincial government’s recent decision around policing in Surrey.
The provincial government has ordered Surrey to proceed with the Surrey Police Service and abandon its plan to retain the Surrey RCMP as the city’s police of jurisdiction.
Alexander Cohen, director of communications for Federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, said Ottawa is delivering the RCMP reform that Canadians expect.
Cohen said this includes bolstering oversight and accountability through initiatives like Bill C-20 (establishing a public complaints and review commission), improving diversity, improving First Nations policing and implementing the recommendations of the Mass Casualty Commission Final Report among other issues.
“When it comes to contract policing, we are currently conducting an assessment to determine what the future of this important service will look like,” Cohen said.
“Over the past six months, Public Safety Canada has engaged every single province and territory to hear their thoughts. Law enforcement remains a provincial (and) territorial responsibility and provinces (and) territories always have the option to leave the contracts under the process stipulated in them.”
He added that contracting the RCMP offers significant benefits.
“Contracting the RCMP provides (provinces and territories) with police services that are affordable, flexible and predictable,” Cohen said.
-with files from Tom Zytaruk.