CCR CALLS ON RCMP TO ADDRESS ANTI-REFUGEE PREJUDICES
21 October 2003
MONTREAL - The Canadian Council for Refugees today called on the RCMP to address anti-immigrant and anti-refugee prejudices within the force, in the light of findings of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP.
The CCR has recently received the Commission's report on the RCMP's handling of a complaint made by the CCR. The report shows that, in an internal memo, an RCMP officer described the CCR's complaint as "libelous clap trap", "an immoral misuse of the public complaints process", "another incident of distorted hoopla to further [the then CCR President's] cause", "a typical process used by manipulative people" and "a diatribe from a misinformed partisan who twists the situation to provide a platform for his cause." The RCMP officer refused to investigate the CCR's complaint, but it was subsequently referred to another officer who dismissed it after what the Commission considered an "inadequate investigation." Two other officers signed off the dismissal of the complaint.
"If an RCMP officer can speak in such terms about refugee advocates, we have to wonder how the RCMP is treating the refugees themselves," said Kemi Jacobs, President. "We welcome the RCMP Commissioner's commitment to avoiding recurrences of the particular problems shown in this case, but where is the commitment to rooting out the anti-immigrant and anti-refugee prejudices evident in both the incident that led to the CCR's complaint and the RCMP's handling of our complaint? We are concerned that this case appears to point to a culture of intolerance towards refugees and immigrants within the RCMP."
Please see backgrounder for details.
Contact:Kemi Jacobs, President, 416-981-4092
CANADIAN COUNCIL FOR REFUGEES
RCMP PUBLIC COMPLAINTS COMMISSION INVESTIGATION OF CCR COMPLAINT
21 October 2003
CCR complaint against an RCMP officer
In August 1999, the CCR complained to the RCMP Commissioner about comments made by an RCMP officer in BC as quoted in a Globe and Mail article titled "Smuggled Chinese aren't real refugees, Mountie says" (page A1, August 6, 1999). The CCR argued that it was inappropriate for an RCMP officer to claim to know whether refugee claims were founded or not and to make public judgment on whether people are telling the truth. The CCR complaint noted the need for government institutions to take account of the fact that refugees are victims of xenophobia and racism in Canada, and as a group are frequently stereotyped in very negative terms. The RCMP officers remarks appeared to be driven by and feeding into these prejudices.
The RCMP dismissed the CCR's complaint.
Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP investigation
The CCR took the matter to the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP which in September 2001 upheld the CCR's complaint. The RCMP Commissioner agreed that the comments were inappropriate and that the officer violated the RCMP media relations policy. The RCMP offered an apology to the CCR.
Chair's initiated complaint by the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP
In February 2002, the Chair of the Commission initiated a complaint addressing the way in which four RCMP members had investigated and disposed of the CCR's complaint. She alleged that one "displayed unprofessional conduct unbecoming a member of the RCMP and demonstrated a flagrant disregard for the public complaint process", that another conducted an inadequate investigation, and that two others failed in their duty to ensure that a proper and complete public complaint investigation was conducted.
The investigation into the Chair's initiated complaint shows that the CCR's 1999 complaint was sent to an RCMP officer who refused to "initiate an investigation based on this libelous clap trap." Instead, he wrote a two-page memorandum which, in the words of the RCMP member investigating the Chair's initiated complaint, "contained acrimonious comments directed towards [the CCR past president] and the Canadian Council for Refugees and displayed disdain for the complaint process." The memorandum argues that the comments quoted in the Globe and Mail article were accurate, and attacks the CCR for making the complaint, describing it variously as "an immoral misuse of the public complaints process", "another incident of distorted hoopla to further [the then CCR President's] cause", "a typical process used by manipulative people" and "a diatribe from a misinformed partisan who twists the situation to provide a platform for his cause." According to this RCMP officer, CCR members "have the suspected agenda of building-up business through self-serving rhetoric." The memorandum also criticizes Citizenship and Immigration Canada (saying, for example, that "CIC appears as a weak and ineffectual body to the point of appearing useless to the general public and encouraging other criminals to further abuse this softness.") The RCMP officer further characterizes all the Chinese claimants as "suspected criminals" who "unlawfully claim refugee status." Those who counsel them to do so are, in his view, "obstructing justice."
In response to this memorandum, the officer was told that RCMP policy requires that the complaint be investigated and he duly referred it to a second officer. This officer's investigation consisted of reading the letter of complaint and speaking to the RCMP officer quoted in the Globe and Mail story. His "Continuation Report" reveals that he also believed that the CCR is self-interested in its advocacy for refugees (noting that the complainant "may be indirectly affected by it in relation to the number of clients his business receives" and has a vested interest because "without refugees they have no function.") He noted that the officer quoted has years of relevant experience and "has the responsibility to inform the public, which he has done." Although he reported that the officer in question had been directed not to take to the press in the future about the "Chinese boat smuggling", he makes nothing of this and concludes that the officer "only told the press the facts."
Two other RCMP officers approved the investigation.
The Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP prepared an Interim Report finding that the RCMP member who had written the memorandum refusing to investigate had "acted improperly and unprofessionally and displayed disdain for the public complaint process" and that one of the RCMP members who approved the investigation "failed in his duty to ensure that a proper and complete public complaint investigation was conducted." The other two RCMP members had retired and the allegations with respect to them were therefore beyond the jurisdiction of the Commission.
The RCMP Commissioner G. Zaccardelli agreed
with the Commission's findings. He did not however accept the Commission's
recommendation that an apology be issued to the CCR past president.