Alberta’s justice minister is calling for RCMP commissioner Brenda Lucki to be removed, believing she hasn’t taken accountability in recent police matters.
“It’s been about a year of concerns that we’ve had,” said Tyler Shandro Wednesday.
Shandro said Lucki risked the integrity of the investigation into the April 2020 mass shooting in Nova Scotia that killed 22 people.
“It starts with the testimony that came out of the mass casualty commission, which revealed that Commissioner Lucki was arguably pressured by (then-public safety minister Bill) Blair to share details of the mass shooting investigation for the purpose of bolstering Liberal legislation,” said Shandro.
The federal conservative party called for Lucki to resign last month after audio was released of a conference call between Lucki and senior staff in Nova Scotia. In the call, she said she felt frustrated when she learned the speaking notes used for an RCMP news conference earlier that day did not include basic information about the killer’s weapons rampage.
She can be heard saying her desire to publicly share these basic facts was in response to a request she received from a minister’s office, though she did not specify which minister or the exact nature of the request.
The Conservatives seized on these comments to suggest the Liberal government was interfering in the police investigation to further its pending gun control legislation.
Shandro also took issue with Lucki’s actions leading up to the federal government invoking emergency powers during the Freedom Convoy protests and blockades in early 2022.
“As revealed last week, she failed to inform the federal cabinet of all law enforcement options available prior to the decision to invoke the Emergencies Act,” said Shandro.
On Feb. 14, the day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the never-before-used emergency powers, Lucki did inform Mendicino of law enforcement options.
Lucki had emailed Mendicino’s chief of staff a few hours before the Emergencies Act was invoked, saying she thought police had not yet exhausted “all available tools” in the response to the protest.
She added the Criminal Code and the then-recently announced provincial state of emergency in Ontario provided enough measures for police, including the laying of criminal charges and other deterrent measures.
The minister said Lucki has also failed to deal with the RCMP’s history of systemic racism in a “forthright and public manner.”
In June 2020, after Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam was allegedly beaten by RCMP in Fort McMurray and amid worldwide protests following the death of George Floyd, Lucki said systemic racism did not definitively exist in the RCMP. She then backpedalled a few days later and said it did.
She released a plan later that year to address systemic racism in the RCMP.
“Even after here in Alberta, we saw the dashcam footage of the arrest of Chief Allan Adam. (There was) the disproportionate use of force against the chief and the, in her own words, systemic racism. There’s been no changes and no leadership from Commissioner Lucki to turn the RCMP into being reform-focused on that issue,” said Shandro.
“I am calling on (public safety minister Marco) Mendicino to immediately rescind commissioner Lucki’s appointment,” Shandro said. “The commissioner of the RCMP must be held to the highest of standards. So far, Minister Mendicino has stood idly by while commissioner Lucki has failed to meet even the most meagre of standards for the past two years,” he said.
“This is an abrogation of the minister’s core responsibility to Canadians and must be rectified before the RCMP’s reputation as Canada’s federal police service is further damaged,” said Shandro.
Mendicino said the government has confidence in Lucki, but didn’t say for certain whether she would be reappointed.
“There is a process around the appointment of the commissioner. That process has integrity,” said Mendicino.
“There will be obviously a discussion with the commissioner as her current defined term comes to its natural conclusion. And we’ll see where that takes us.”
Alberta provincial police force
Shandro’s motive could have been to promote a provincial police force in Alberta, according to political science professor at Mount Royal University Keith Brownsey.
Shandro released a plan in August for a provincial police force that would see the federal RCMP continue to operate, focusing on federal policing in areas like cyber-terrorism, human trafficking and organized crime. The “Alberta Police Service” would add hundreds of front-line officers to small detachments who would focus on speeding tickets and other less serious crimes.
Brownsey said it was very unusual to see Shandro overstepping his authority as provincial minister and interfering with federal jurisdiction.
“They may be actually using this to pressure the federal government to get rid of Brenda Lucki, (but) I think that is really about the provincial audience here,” he said.
Brownsey said this was an effort by Shandro to state publicly that he has lost confidence in the RCMP and specifically the commissioner.
“If the RCMP are discredited and the commissioner has made any number of mistakes, then this gives legitimacy to the UCP argument that we need our own provincial police force,” said Brownsey.
“‘See, the RCMP isn’t doing its job. They’re doing something terribly wrong and therefore, we need a provincial police force.'”
In a letter sent to the premier at the end of June, more than 70 rural Alberta municipalities asked the UCP to stop plans to create a provincial police force.
The group — consisting of crime and police agencies, union, Victim Services, dozens of towns, villages and municipalities — says “Albertans have stated loud and clear that they do not want a costly new police service, with an overwhelming 84 per cent of Albertans wanting to keep and improve the Alberta RCMP.”
“The next steps are following through on my commitment that I’ve made for the last six months with municipalities in hearing their concerns, working with them. I suppose it will sooner or later will have to be a decision before cabinet whether to proceed or not,” he said.
Shandro said if the provincial police force doesn’t proceed at this time, it could do so in the future.
“I think it’s really important for us to remember that this is a national conversation and it’s been a conversation that has occurred in Alberta since I was in high school. I’m now in my mid-forties, so it’s not a new conversation, Alberta.”
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