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BCCLA calls for prime ministerial accountability for political interference at APEC

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The B.C. Civil Liberties Association is calling on the Prime Minister to take full responsibility for the federal government’s political interference with policing measures at APEC. The Association’s demand is the result of the findings of Commissioner Hughes’s Inquiry into the conduct of the RCMP at APEC. The BCCLA was a complainant at the Inquiry.

Mr. Hughes found that the federal government improperly interfered with the responsibilities of the RCMP on two occasions. First, he found that Jean Carle from the Prime Minister’s Office acted improperly in exerting influence on RCMP officers in the placement of a security fence for a designated demonstration area by UBC’s law school. Second, he also determined that pressure by PMO officials on the RCMP resulted in the police dismantling a protest camp without a valid security reason and two days in advance of their plan to do so.

In the latter case, Mr. Hughes found that the dismantling of the camp, which included the arrest of four individuals who refused to leave, was an unjustified violation of the protesters’ constitutional rights to freedom of expression.

Given that Jean Carle’s credibility has been seriously undermined by Mr. Hughes’s findings, the Association believes that it is time that Mr. Chretien personally answer questions about whether he had provided any direction to Mr. Carle or knowingly acquiesced in his behaviour.

According to BCCLA spokesman Andrew Irvine: “Given that Mr. Carle can not be believed, we need Mr. Chretien to clear the air. Doing so would meet his responsibility as the individual accountable for the actions of his staff in the PMO.”

If Mr. Chretien had no direct involvement in the actions of Mr. Carle and other federal government officials, the BCCLA is calling on him to take responsibility for the actions of his subordinates.

Mr. Irvine states: “The convention of ministerial accountability is clear: the minister responsible for serious misconduct of his subordinates must take responsibility for that misconduct. Commissioner Hughes points his finger directly at the PMO for having caused constitutional violations of protesters’ rights. Now is the time for Mr. Chretien, as minister responsible for the PMO, to take responsibility for his staff’s serious disregard for fundamental rights.”

In the BCCLA’s view, there is a range of sanctions to satisfy ministerial accountability that are appropriate depending on the seriousness of the impropriety. The appropriate political sanction in the circumstances is ultimately a matter for Parliament to decide. Given Mr. Hughes findings, the BCCLA suggests that the minimum necessary, assuming no direct involvement of Mr. Chretien, for him to satisfy his responsibility for the PMO would include:

  • A full apology to the individuals at the protest camp whose constitutional rights were denied and to all Canadians,
  • Appropriate compensation to those whose rights were violated and
  • A full and open review of policies and procedures within the Prime Minister’s Office and all federal government ministries to create protocols to ensure that improper political interference does not occur again with respect to policing.

BCCLA DEMANDS TIMELY RCMP RESPONSE

The Association is also calling on the RCMP for a quick response to Commissioner Hughes’s findings that its handling of APEC protests was seriously flawed. Given that Mr. Hughes found that the majority of rights violations were the fault of the RCMP, not the federal government, the BCCLA expects the RCMP to take full responsibility for those wrongs. Further, we expect that their response will state what changes to police training, planning and procedures have been and will be made to ensure that violations of fundamental rights do not occur again.

“With the upcoming G8 conference in Alberta, it is imperative that the federal government and the RCMP take action now to protect Canadians’ fundamental rights during protests,” states Mr. Irvine. “This process has taken long enough. Let’s see some concrete action.”