Two weeks ago, I met with Bill Brydon and Gord Barnett, the investigators contracted by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to look into the issues about policing during last year’s antifracking protests here in Kent County NB – here is the Commission’s June 2014 annual report saying this investigation is ongoing.
This is a lot like a lottery: its unlikely you will win, but for sure you cannot win if you don’t buy a ticket! Yes, I agree with critics who say that this Public Interest Investigation into RCMP activities may not resolve anything. But, if we don’t come forward with the information on all the harm, abuses, violations, and other damage done by the RCMP, there is NO CHANCE at all that anything can change in how the RCMP “handle” protests like ours.
I saw this as my opportunity to tell them about some of the human rights violations I witnessed, as well as things the police did NOT do, like look into abuses by the company or their contractors when they should have, etc.
I found Gord and Bill were interested ONLY in what I came to tell them, and they did not press me for personal details or attempt in any way to collect evidence against me or any of my allies. After they listened to me, they asked specific questions about what I saw the RCMP doing. They also seemed very focused and concerned about how this affected individual trust or respect for the RCMP as an organization.
I went in with a lot of questions about:
- the mandate for this investigation,
- how the findings will be compiled and published,
- if there will be an opportunity for comment on the proposals that come forward from this investigation, etc.
Most of my questions could not be answered by Bill or Gord, who are simply field-based information collectors. However, they forwarded my questions to the Commission’s Senior Reviewer/Analyst, Rosemary Morgan, who is responsible for the management of this Public Interest Investigation. In her response to my questions, Rosemary emphasized that “the opportunity to be heard is during the investigation interviews. Should you feel you have not been properly heard at that time, I encourage you to advise the investigators, or myself, at your earliest opportunity.” (Here is Rosemary Morgan’s email and her phone number is 613-952-1318.)
Here, following, are the answers to the questions I asked about this investigation. Perhaps this will help you decide whether or not to contact them and ask for a meeting to share your experiences during the protests.
- The Chair of the Commission decided to initiate a Public Interest Investigation in July 2013, after several public complaints about the RCMP’s response to the June 5, 2013 antifracking protest. The public complaints cumulatively made numerous allegations pertaining to RCMP use of force, attitude, arrests, searches, breach of protocols and failure to respect spiritual objects and practices, etc. In addition, one of the initial public complaints was from the Halifax Coalition Against Fracking, which was based upon a petition signed by 245 individuals. Since that time the Commission received about a dozen more complaints about the RCMP response in June, October, November and December 2013. These have been added to the Public Interest Investigation as well.
- The investigators’ contracts may be secured (with personal information redacted) following an Application for Access to Information. If anyone wants to make that application, there are resources on-line. If anyone interested to do this finds the online info and the system difficult to navigate, Rosemary will try to assist.
- The mandate of the investigators (Bill Brydon and Gord Barnett) is to secure and review all information relevant to the complaints from the complainants, witnesses and RCMP members who are willing and able to speak with them. They will also interview the RCMP management responsible for the RCMP response to the protests. The Investigators do not make final findings or recommendations – they simply compile the information with their own observations, and then submit their “Investigation Report” to the Commission. Commission staff (Rosemary and a colleague of hers) will then review the investigation report.
- Gord and Bill are very senior investigators. For the most part, during their investigation they make their own determination of avenues of investigation, including whether or not to interview additional witnesses as additional information is gathered. If information not previously identified by the complainants or the RCMP disclosure is obtained during witness interviews, Gord & Bill will determine whether to conduct additional interviews or other forms of investigation. In any event, at the conclusion of their investigation they will provide the Commission with all information gathered, whether that information is referenced in their investigation report or not. All the information gathered will be reviewed by the Commission to assess the need for further investigation and in preparation of the Chair’s Final Report.
- Rosemary will make the investigation is complete, ie. if it meets the legal requirement of “reasonable thoroughness”. Generally, if further investigation is determined necessary on the basis of that legal standard, the Commission will arrange for further inquiries, either by retaining the investigators to make further inquiries, or retaining additional investigators, or sending a Commission employee who is trained and experienced in investigation.
- When no further investigation is deemed necessary, Rosemary will prepare a draft report for the Commission Chair’s consideration. The Chair will finalize the report with Findings and any Recommendations he deems fit, and it will be disclosed to the parties in accordance with Part VII of the RCMP Act (PART VII PUBLIC COMPLAINTS Receipt and Investigation of Complaints).
- Rosemary could not provide an anticipated release date. Until the investigators have completed all complainant and witness interviews, it will be impossible to assess the extent of the necessary RCMP interviews, which will be the next step for Bill and Gord. This has already taken a long time. The following factors have contributed to delay: the breadth of the complaints, the duration and extent of the events and the RCMP response. Before the investigators could start their public interviews, they had to review all the available RCMP information. After they read the “disclosed” RCMP reports (anything the RCMP makes available to them), then they started seeking out public witnesses. The breadth and seriousness of this matter has predictably led to a broadening of the number of potential witnesses, which broadens the Commission’s requests for relevant information from the RCMP, and they continue to receive new information from the RCMP and from complainants. They would very much like to wrap this up sometime during this winter, but until the investigators have completed all complainant and witness interviews, it will be impossible to assess the extent of the necessary RCMP interviews, which will be the next step.
- Each formal complainant, the Commissioner of the RCMP, RCMP members named in the complaints, and the Minister of Public Safety will receive a print copy of the Chair’s Final Report. The Commission does not send every witness a copy of the Chair’s Final Report. According to past practice, a bilingual and printable copy of the Report will be posted on the Commission’s website (via a link to the Canada.ca).
- Information provided by the complainants and witnesses, is not automatically provided to the RCMP. However, If information IS used in the assessment of the overall public interest investigation, it may be incorporated into the Chair’s final report, and ultimately released to the RCMP, and the public, in the Chair’s Final “Report Following the Public Interest Investigation into the conduct of the RCMP in New Brunswick in respect of matters involving the anti-shale protests in 2013”. RCMP members, complainants and witnesses, are treated the same. No one is given an opportunity to comment upon the Chair’s report before it is finalized, with the exception of the Commissioner of the RCMP, who is given that opportunity by right under the RCMP Act. However, anyone may write to the Chair following release of the report to comment upon the report or any other matter relating to the Public Interest Investigation. If, upon completion of the Chair’s report, you feel that there are factual errors, and you have information to correct the factual errors, you may contact the Commission; the Chair will review your submission.
As a result of both police activities and strategic police inaction we witnessed last year, the public has lost confidence, trust and respect for the RCMP. This is a major concern because the RCMP is the local police force in almost all of NB. These losses are due to the conduct of some RCMP members, as well as the overall tactical decisions and operations carried out by the force over many months.
As Rosemary outlined the process to me (see bold text in my point #7 above), it became evident to me that the investigators begin with a review of all records voluntarily provided by the RCMP because this provides the investigators with a chronology of the action. HOWEVER, in my opinion, in this instance, this skeletal first “story” or “narrative” may have influenced the investigators to view the entire investigation in a faulty manner. A major complaint about the RCMP’s conduct last year is that they made this into a campaign against First Nations protestors from the get-go. In part, it was the educational community work by non-Natives that brought many Mi’kmaq People on side on the matter of the risks of shale gas development. In fact until the RCMP started targeting and brutalizing protestors, Anglos and Acadians were as deeply involved in the protests as the FN. Non-Natives remained deeply involved in the protests in various ways throughout the entire period.
Therefore, it is importan that the Commission’s investigators hear not ONLY from FN people, and that their outreach for witnesses should not happen ONLY in Elsipogtog First Nation. The RCMP started this by targeting their response to the protests against FN people, and this biased emphasis is reinforced by having public access to the interviewers only happen at Elsi.
MANY, MANY PEOPLE in all three founding cultural communities of Kent County, and indeed across New Brunswick, want to know that the authorities are looking into the serious issues we have witnessed. I have proposed to Rosemary Morgan that the Commission make their process more meaningful and inclusive, by convening one or more public meetings to explain the investigation’s basis, mandate and process to concerned citizens – and also provide some assistance to those who still want to file formal complaints. Rosemary has passed these requests up the ladder in the Commission, and perhaps there is a small chance that some such actions will be taken.
There is one earth, one water, and we are all in this together. There is widespread cross-cultural community concern about the role and actions of the RCMP. This is a crowded world. Our species needs the “rule of law,” human rights codes and guarantees, and policing systems we can trust in the complexity of negotiating how we all get along. Encouraging affected people to speak to the investigators could be a very important first step towards healing.
ABOUT THE RCMP RIOT, and those burning cars…
As It Happens speaks with Allan Marsh, the elected
Chair of the Local Service District for Saint-Charles, N.B.
He was at Thursday’s protests to support the anti-shale gas activists.
I want to encourage every one, who possibly can, to take the chance that this will actually do some “good.” Meet with the Commissioner’s Investigators: Gord Barnett <firstname.lastname@example.org> and Bill Brydon <email@example.com>, cell: 902-579-6410, and tell them what you saw and experienced and how this has affected you and those you know.