Jean Chretien

Liberal Party

Pierre Trudeau

Canadian Alliance

Liberal Government Adopting Mob Techniques?

Date: FEB15-00
Source: National Post
Keywords: despotism
Comment: Liberals threaten police independence by political interference.
Posted: JUL14-00
Jean Chretien Index

RCMP fights off Ottawa's attempt to get case files
Mounties hire lawyer
Lindsay Kines and Chad Skelton, Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - Under pressure to defend itself against mounting lawsuits, Ottawa has been quietly trying to get its hands on hundreds of RCMP criminal files, including the investigation of the tainted blood scandal, court documents show.

But the RCMP is fighting back, arguing that the government's position threatens police independence and leaves the force vulnerable to political interference. The RCMP has even taken the unusual step of hiring a prominent Toronto lawyer to advise the force and fend off the government.

The dispute only came to light last week when the RCMP went to court in Victoria to force the government to give back confidential files on an Indian residential school case. The files had been copied by Department of Justice staff at RCMP offices in Surrey, near Vancouver, in the fall of 1998.

To support its case, the RCMP filed a series of affidavits, exhibits and correspondence -- including one memo that lays out the Justice Department's attempts to obtain police files in both the tainted blood and the Indian residential school cases.

RCMP files can contain a wide range of evidence, including victim statements, assessments of witnesses' credibility and private correspondence with prosecutors.

Normally, a defendant in a civil suit would have to apply to the court to gain access to those files -- and they would be heavily edited by the police before being released.

But the Justice Department memo, dated Aug. 27, 1999, reveals the federal government believes that -- with a few exceptions -- the RCMP should be required to hand over all its files to lawyers defending the Government of Canada in civil cases.

The memo indicates the Justice Department has already attempted to gain access to files without going to court -- and been rebuffed by the police.

The Justice Department argues that the RCMP are "an agent of the federal Crown for the purposes of document production in civil proceedings."

The RCMP have argued that position violates the principle of police independence.

"Government agents and elected politicians would be able to learn who was under investigation, who was not under investigation, and the status of the investigations," the RCMP warned in its written submission to the court.

Wesley Pue, a professor of law at the University of B.C., called the Justice Department's arguments "a very dangerous constitutional theory."

Mike McCarthy, vice-president of the Canadian Hemophilia Society, expressed outrage yesterday that the federal government has sought access to RCMP files.

"That's very worrisome," said Mr. McCarthy. "It flies in the face of what justice is all about. ... This is obviously their way to limit culpable liability."


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