BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) on Tuesday anniounced it is launching a lawsuit against RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki for “inexcusable delays preventing the release of a civilian watchdog report into RCMP spying on Indigenous and climate advocates.”
In February 2014, the BCCLA filed a complaint against the RCMP contending it illegally spied on the democratic activities of organizations and Indigenous nations opposed to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. The complaint further alleged the RCMP improperly shared the information it collected with oil companies and the National Energy Board. The BCCLA argued the RCMP’s secret surveillance created a chilling effect and violated constitutional rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and privacy.
The RCMP watchdog, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC), launched an investigation into BCCLA’s complaint in 2014 and completed its interim report in June 2017. It forwarded the interim report to the RCMP Commissioner for response. The CRCC cannot prepare a final report available to the public and the BCCLA until the RCMP Commissioner responds.
Over three years later, the RCMP Commissioner still has not provided her response. The RCMP Act requires the RCMP Commissioner to respond to CRCC interim reports as soon as feasible. In 2019, the RCMP specifically committed to responding to CRCC reports in a six-month timeline.
The BCCLA’s lawsuit claims the RCMP Commissioner has breached her obligations under the RCMP Act and violated the BCCLA’s Charter right to freedom of expression by failing to respond.
The lawsuit will be heard at the Federal Court of Canada, where the BCCLA is represented by Paul Champ of Champ & Associates and Jessica Magonet of the BCCLA.
Champ said: “The BCCLA has waited over six years for a response to its complaint into RCMP spying activities. The RCMP Commissioner should not be allowed to effectively sabotage the civilian watchdog complaint process simply by sitting on a report for years on end. Commissioner Lucki’s failure to respond to the report is a denial of the BCCLA’s constitutional rights and impacts public confidence in the complaint process.”
Jessica Magonet, legal counsel for the BCCLA, added: “As the CRCC highlighted in its most recent annual report, the RCMP is guilty of serious and systematic delays in responding to CRCC reports. These delays undermine transparency, accountability, and trust in our national police force. The inordinate delay in this case is particularly extreme – eclipsing even the RCMP’s average lengthy response time of 17 months.”
Harsha Walia, Executive Director of the BCCLA said: “It is disgraceful that we have to sue the RCMP to secure the release of a watchdog report into the RCMP’s own conduct. At a time when there is public outrage about the expansive powers of the police and continuing racist criminalization of Indigenous land defenders, the egregious delay in handling our police complaint shines a light on the inefficacy of civilian oversight over the RCMP. Where is the Prime Minister’s promised enhanced civilian oversight over the RCMP?”
Clayton Thomas-Müller, Indigenous rights advocate and a senior campaign specialist with 350.org, said: “Being under police and security surveillance has caused harm to my family relationships, and I and others have paid a high price to support frontline Indigenous nations and fight for Indigenous rights and climate justice. The RCMP’s surveillance must be exposed, but we are still waiting to receive the report into their spying activities. This is a slap in the face of Canadian democracy and the legal nation-to-nation relationship between us as Indigenous peoples and Canada.”
Kai Nagata, Communications Director at Dogwood, one of the organizations whose volunteers were allegedly spied on, said: “The RCMP needs to be held accountable. Once again the RCMP commissioner is trying to protect the reputation of the force, instead of the rights of Canadians. We’ve waited six years for a response to very serious allegations. If the only way to get answers is by suing them in court, then that tells you something about the RCMP.”