March 18, 2009
KATHERINE O'NEILL, Globe and Mail
The chairman of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission is warning that a looming deep funding cut by the federal government may hamper the agency's ability to properly police the Mounties.
Since late 2007, the independent RCMP watchdog has been receiving an extra $3.5-million on top of its annual base budget of $5.1-million. But that temporary top-up is due to run out on March 31 and no decisions have been made on whether it will be extended.
Paul Kennedy, the commission chairman, said in an interview yesterday that the extra cash was used to build up the agency's public profile across the country and research pressing policy issues, including taser use by the RCMP.
"I would think most Canadians I've come across say that's good work, it's good value work and we are glad you do it," he said.
Mr. Kennedy said this particular work is essential during a time "which is sort of abounding with cynicism in terms of some police activities."
The commission, which has 55-full-time employees, is charged with handling public complaints made against the RCMP, a multibillion organization with thousands of members.
Chris McCluskey, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, confirmed the temporary funding will expire on March 31, but added a "process" is currently under way to consider extending it.
"There is no decision made on that whatsoever," he said.
Mr. McCluskey said the temporary funding boost in 2007 "coincided" with then-public safety minister Stockwell Day's request that the complaints commission conduct a study on RCMP taser use.
The call was made shortly after Robert Dziekanski, a Polish citizen, was killed during a confrontation at Vancouver airport where Mounties used a taser.
The commission's report on taser use by the RCMP, which cost about $100,000 to research, was released last June.
In the meantime, Mr. McCluskey, said the government is currently developing a proposal to revamp and strengthen the RCMP review and complaints body.