The Rollo commission hears experts on discrimination between police and politicians

The political scientist believes it’s a good idea to make a clear distinction between government control of policing and police independence — even if it’s not as simple as some witnesses to the Rouleau commission suggested.

These notions of government control of policing and police independence came up repeatedly during six weeks of public hearings by the Emergency Situations Commission.

The commission, chaired by Justice Paul Rouleau, must determine whether Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government was justified in invoking the Emergency Act last winter to end the demonstrations.

Throughout the hearings, police and politicians described the separation between police operations and executive power. They alternately stated that politicians and police commissioners should never lead police operations in the area.

In testimony, Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Brenda Luckie suggested the government should more clearly define in law the line politicians should never cross.

This line is often compared to the separation between church and state.

“It’s pretty clear to me. For everything that’s in action, we report what’s going on, but we don’t give instructions on how to do things,” said Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Commissioner Brenda Lucky.

University of Guelph political science professor Kate Puddister told the Rouleau commission Thursday morning that too sharp a distinction would not be very helpful. In his view, this overly precise definition would lack nuance and allow politicians to shirk their “policing responsibilities, perhaps as a method of political strategy.”

The police and the government

The commission is investigating the events that led to the government’s decision to invoke the Emergency Act in response to last winter’s week-long “freedom caravan” demonstrations in Ottawa and similar protests at border crossings across Canada.

The commission also has the authority to make recommendations for the modernization of the law and suggest areas for further research.

After hours of testimony from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which concluded the first phase of the investigation last Friday, the commission moved into a second phase of expert testimony on a number of issues related to the protests.

As part of the “political phase” of his investigation, Judge Rouleau this week is hearing from dozens of expert witnesses during roundtables on topics such as disinformation, the definition of a “state of emergency” and restrictions on the constitutional right to peaceful assembly.

The Thursday morning round table was devoted to police-government relations.

The experts who testified reaffirmed the importance of the independence of police services from political interference. Otherwise, they risk being seen as “an instrument of the government of the day,” as Ryan Teschner, executive director of the Toronto Police Services Board, put it in testimony.

But everyone agrees that the police need more control over certain elements of their operations.

“For too long we’ve had a rather vague and sometimes exaggerated concept of police independence from government,” Mr. Teschner said.

Michael Kempa, a criminologist at the University of Ottawa, suggested lawmakers should “drop the term ‘operations'” and define police independence “in terms of the exercise of investigative, arrest and indictment powers.”

Experts have also suggested that all police services in Canada have some sort of civilian oversight body, such as a police commission or board.

Most urban police departments in Canada have a department, with the exception of the provincial police and the RCMP. The Commissioner of the RCMP reports directly to the Minister of Public Safety.

Kate Puddister said the creation of the council would ensure that all policy directives given to the police would be public and documented and would “ensure that ministerial directives are consistent and given where appropriate”.

Consult with First Nations

Commissioner Paul Rouleau said some of the committee’s recommendations may be included in its final report, but he did not specify which ones.

In the second afternoon session, experts discussed how different levels of government, including First Nations governments, work together in an emergency.

Judith Sayers, president of the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council, recommended that the Emergency Act be amended to require consultation with First Nations in addition to provincial and municipal governments.

“Neither the Emergency Act nor the Emergency Management Act lists First Nations as governments. It is recommended to all others,” said Sayers.

“Yet when emergencies arise, First Nations lives, lands, resources and the ability to exercise their Section 35 rights are at risk.”

Consultation methods with First Nations may vary depending on the emergency, he added.

Cal Corley, CEO of the Community Safety Knowledge Alliance (CSKA), believes that more consultation between levels of government could avoid resorting to an emergency in the first place.

While there are “deliberate proactive measures” among federal, provincial, territorial, First Nations and municipal governments to deal with large-scale protests and emergencies, he said, “this should create conditions that in most cases and circumstances negate the need for governments to even invoke federal emergency law.” they should consider applying.”

Mr. Rouleau and his team have until February 6 to present their findings, and the report is due to be made public by February 20.

To see in the video

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