According to a news release issued today by the Canadian Association of Journalists, the RCMP has won this year’s Code of Silence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Government Secrecy.
“This summer multiple journalists, equipped only with pens, notebooks and camera equipment, were treated like criminals by the RCMP as they did their job,” said CAJ President Brent Jolly in the release.
He was referring to RCMP efforts to prevent journalists from covering demonstrators opposed to the logging of old-growth forests at Fairy Creek on Vancouver Island.
“This year’s Code of Silence jury agreed that the efforts demonstrated by the RCMP to suffocate press freedom and the public’s right to know about events taking place at Fairy Creek deserves the spotlight,” Jolly added.
The jury also awarded the Mounties an unprecedented second citation for failing to respond to federal access to information requests within the required 30-day time limit.
“The unwillingness of the RCMP to meet basic requirements of transparency,” Jolly is quoted as saying, “is sadly nothing new.”
In 2017, the Mounties won the Code of Silence Award after failing to respond to a single access to information request filed as part of News Media Canada’s Freedom of Information Audit.
A news release issued then noted that the RCMP’s “long tradition of secrecy and non-response” had drawn criticism from Canada’s Information Commissioner as well as the federal minister of public safety.
The judges for this year’s awards represented the CAJ, Ryerson University’s Centre for Free Expression and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression.
Local police secrecy
RCMP secrecy also extends to the Sackville detachment which rarely responds to local media requests for information.
Sgt. Paul Gagné, who heads the detachment, says he does not consider Warktimes to be a legitimate news outlet.
“Anybody can be a blogger,” he told me on one occasion and on another, that he would not be returning my phone calls.
Gagné did not hide his displeasure after my reports on the frequency of closed-door town council meetings led to former CAO Phil Handrahan’s decision to open up monthly RCMP briefings to the public starting in September 2019.
In February 2020, town councillors seemed sympathetic when Gagné complained about having to deliver his monthly reports in public.
“Since we changed the format of our present meeting to being open to the public, I personally don’t find as much value in being here as I did before because I found our exchanges much more, I would say, hearty and substantial,” he told council.
Later, town council discussed his complaint in a private meeting and decided to move the monthly RCMP briefings back behind closed doors.
Last August 17, I filed a formal complaint with the provincial Ombud’s Office stating in part:
My position is that Sackville Town Council can always go into closed session to discuss matters with the RCMP that fall under the provisions of Section 68(1) of New Brunswick’s Local Governance Act, but that it should not be permissible to close the entire monthly RCMP report just in case some legal or confidential matter happens to arise.
I would also argue that the intent of the Local Governance Act is that Sackville Town Council meetings should be open and public except when the mayor and councillors are discussing matters that are covered under Section 68(1).
On December 22, after I asked what was happening with my complaint, the Ombud’s office replied that it was still under investigation.
You are certainly correct. There is no valid reason for the monthly RCMP report not to be public. It was while I was on council. It can, and was, moved in-camera when required. We pay a lot for this service and have a right to information on policing.
Pay a lot! That is an understatement. Wait until you get the bill from Dorchester for a quarter of a million dollars because you will become the only community in Canada that has a federal institution within its boundaries, which you will subsidize. Also, you will get into something called “in lieu of taxes” instead of getting the actual cost . When the PEN has expenses that is a service we provide, we pay. When there is income from building permits, the institution claims it is Federal jurisdiction. Also management operates in Moncton gets a healthy portion of funding that the province gives to that municipality which provides only virtual services, and we provide the hardware. Dominic on the side felt when the New Psych ward goes up, there will be little money for the high standards of equipment and training required to service the PEN. Tax reform bill should have been passed in Fredericton before downloading to the local government. The mandate to merge has passed but must be followed in tandem with tax reform, otherwise we are in for another train wreck. Old Grey Mayor. P.S. Great ideas often die because there is inadequate funding. I don’t think a cat license will help.
So this is time for a strong public response demanding that the RCMP report to the Town Council be given in public. Obviously those involved in local politics can easily determine what is covered in section 68.1 and what is not. Grow up, RCMP. Come clean.
On matters of national security…. keep that phrase in mind.
Like residents of many other communities across Canada that are dissatisfied with the level of service they receive through their policing contracts with the RCMP, many residents of Sackville are also disappointed at the service they are receiving from the local RCMP detachment. The dismissive attitude that the commanding officer has displayed towards residents’ complaints about speeding and ATVs driving on town roads has also been troubling. For example; his statement made at a Town Council meeting that speeding on the pond shore road isn’t really as bad as local residents have claimed in numerous complaints, inferring that residents were over-reacting. Another example; Councillor Black paraphrasing the Commanding Officer’s comments re complaints about ATV’s operating on town roads : “The RCMP know about it, they monitor it and it’s their opinion that for the most part, people who use ATVs on public roads, even though they shouldn’t be, are doing if reasonably safely.” We have recently witnessed the same attitude displayed by Ottawa Police regarding all of the illegal activities that occurred during the idiots’ blockade in that city. Is it not the duty of police officers in Canada to enforce existing laws, or is it just the laws that they feel like enforcing?
At council meetings the CAO has stated that he was informed by the detachment commanding officer that ten officers at the detachment are dedicated strictly to policing within town limits. If there are indeed ten officers employed to perform policing actions only within town limits, it seems odd that many residents have expressed concerns about slow response times or rarely seeing police cars patrolling in our town. Even if three officers were on duty during a single shift, assuming eight hour shifts, that should mean that we could have 24 hour police coverage with three eight hour shifts, with one officer left over. Instead, during the wee hours of the morning, officers have to come from the Shediac area to respond to complaints. So the question is, are there really ten officers dedicated to policing strictly within town limits, or are some of these officers performing patrol duties in the rural areas as well? It is impossible to obtain information about how many officers are on duty at a time in Sackville. These are the types of questions that Sackville residents should be able to ask, considering how expensive our policing contract is with the RCMP, yet we are told that due to security issues this information can’t be provided. Is it any wonder that many communities are considering alternatives to RCMP policing contracts?