Paul Kennedy was removed as head of the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) regarding the RCMP after he advocated a more powerful and independent Commission. He sought adequate funding for investigations, increased accountability and improved service standards. The Harper government appointed a Conservative Party ally to replace him.
Paul Kennedy was appointed Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) Against the RCMP in 2005. He was re-appointed for three more one-year terms in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
Throughout his tenure, Kennedy was known as a relentless advocate for a more independent CPC. He believed that the CPC relied too heavily on the cooperation of senior RCMP officials, and was too limited in independent power to probe the RCMP’s activities, or to inquire into witnesses’ testimonials and to demand the production of documents as evidence.
Kennedy also advocated for better funding to oversee the RCMP so that the CPC could investigate more cases and investigate them thoroughly. He argued that the CPC’s budget of $5.2 million paled in comparison to the RCMP’s $4.1 billion budget.
Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan cut Kennedy’s budget by $600,000 in 2009, seriously limiting the scope of the CPC’s investigations.
Kennedy did get funding for the high-profile investigation into RCMP involvement in the tasering death of Polish immigrant Robert Dzienkanski at the Vancouver International Airpoirt in 2007, and his work to reform RCMP policies on taser use. But that funding was only made available temporary. Similar investigations in future might not get the funding they need given the small size of the CPC’s budget.
Media sources have reported clashes between Kennedy and the Conservative government during Kennedy’s time as head of CPC. He was ridiculed by Conservative officials for his stance that Mounties’ work requires proper review and that access to evidence and witnesses was necessary in order to ensure accountability. Although the government has promised reform monitoring of the RCMP, this promise was not kept during Kennedy’s tenure.
Kennedy had other successes: during his tenure, the RCMP was under public pressure to modify training and operational procedures. The commission now regularly conducts reviews of RCMP activities and their policies in self-investigation. Kennedy also addressed investigations of death and verbal abuse involving RCMP officers, and proposed legislative and policy changes to avoid conflicts of interest.
Kennedy’s final weeks in office were marked by the release of a report strongly critical of the conduct of the RCMP officers involved in the death of Robert Dziekanski. The RCMP would go on to accept all but one of the findings in Kennedy’s CPC report, and address the report’s recommendations, eventually creating an Office of Professional Integrity, as well as a new policy to ensure independent and impartial investigation of RCMP employees.
However, in November 2009, Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan’s office notified Kennedy that he would not be re-appointed after his contract terminated that December. Kennedy had been prepared to serve another term.
In January 2010, Ian McPhail, a long-time contributor to the Conservative Party, was appointed interim chair of the CPC. McPhail was a real-estate lawyer with some limited experience on other commissions. Observers felt McPhail lacked the experience required head the CPC. McPhail’s appointment was seen by Paul Kennedy and others as a wholly partisan move, that placed a strong Conservative ally in an important watchdog position. The replacement of Kennedy with McPhail has been criticized as an attempt to silence Kennedy’s criticism of the RCMP, thereby reducing accountability of the RCMP to the government and the public.
In January 2010, Kennedy made an appearance on Parliament Hill to express concerns about the fate of civilian oversight bodies under the Harper government. He was joined by two other watchdogs who the government had removed for dubious reasons: Peter Tinsley, who had been the Military Police Complaints Commissioner; and Linda Keen, former President of Canada’s nuclear safety regulator.
Kennedy has said the government was not willing to let the CPC fulfill its intended purpose. He has also called on the government to institute a fixed term for which a commissioner is appointed, so that people who have a job to do on behalf of the public don’t end up essentially working for the governing party.
In 2011 the new Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, re-appointed McPhail as head of the CPC for another year.
- October 2005: Paul Kennedy is appointed Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) against the RCMP.
- October 2007: Robert Dziekanski dies after being tasered by an RCMP officer at the Vancouver International airport; Kennedy strongly criticizes the way the situation was handled.
- December 2008: Paul Kennedy is reappointed for another 1-year term as Chair of the CPC, until December 31, 2009
- August 11, 2009: Kennedy calls for policy changes to enhance accountability of the RCMP.
- November 18 2009: The government tells Kennedy his contract will not be renewed.
- December 8, 2009: Kennedy publishes a report criticizing some of the RCMP’s actions.
- January 24, 2010: The government appoints Ian McPhail as interim Chair of the CPC.
- January 26, 2010: Paul Kennedy, Peter Tinsley and Linda Keen hold a press conference, expressing their concern over the government’s silencing of watchdogs.
- February 4, 2010: The RCMP announces a new policy to ensure independent and impartial investigations of its employees.
Role or Position
Implications and Consequences
- Transparency: The removal of Kennedy means the loss of a qualified civil servant with over thirty five years experience in public service, with a proven track record of creating change for increased accountability.
- Democracy: The effectiveness and independence of watchdog organizations are compromised when leaders are appointed to short one-years terms and removed at will by politicians. The slashing of the CPC budget means in practice that there will be minimal oversight of the RCMP.
- Democracy: If public officials are removed and replaced whenever they threaten to hold the government to account, the strength of our democracy is diminished.
Photo: CTV News