Ottawa chooses not to renew funding for RCMP oversight

Ottawa is cutting funding to RCMP oversight, putting conflict-of-interest cases in the Yukon on the chopping block.

Ottawa is cutting funding to RCMP oversight, putting conflict-of-interest cases in the Yukon on the chopping block.

An observer from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP was appointed to review the RCMP’s conduct in the in-custody death of Raymond Silverfox in December 2008. Another is currently in Watson Lake reviewing a sexual assault case involving two RCMP officers.

But the observer program, which began two years ago, might be cancelled. Ottawa is poised to cut funding to the commission that sponsors the observer program.

“The capacity of the observer program is definitely linked to having the resources to undertake a lot of the cases we’ve taken on,” said Nelson Kalil, a commission spokesperson. “Especially up in the Yukon, because that requires significant resources for travel for our people.

“When you look at Silverfox and Watson Lake, and how we were able to respond quickly on those issues, the service we want to provide in the North would definitely be impacted by a shortfall in the funding.

“Especially when you’re doing it on short notice.”

The observer pilot program started in March 2007 after a string of messy RCMP police-on-police investigations tarnished the national police force’s image.

An extra $3.5 million was given to the commission in September 2007, reported the Globe and Mail.

Those funds helped turn the pilot into a more permanent commission program, said Kalil.

Now the money will run out on March 31. Because Ottawa did not renew the funding in its stimulus budget, the observer program is at risk.

“Without the funding, the program would definitely be impacted significantly,” said Kalil.

The cut won’t affect the annual $5.1-million budget the commission receives, but Kalil wasn’t certain about the details.

“We know as much as you know,” he said. “Our correspondence is what we’ve heard in the news concerning our funding.”

Contact James Munson at jamesm@yukon-news.com

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