RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, Wednesday October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

RCMP commits to changes on how it collects, uses information about protesters

Complaints commission concluded the RCMP acted reasonably for the most part

The RCMP has agreed to revamp its policies on the collection and use of information about protesters after a watchdog expressed fresh concerns, a notable shift from the police force’s position only months ago.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki largely embraced a series of Civilian Review and Complaints Commission recommendations that could better protect the privacy of activists.

Lucki acknowledged the inadequacy of current data-handling practices in her response to the commission’s investigation into Mountie surveillance of opponents of the now-defunct Northern Gateway pipeline project.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association lodged a complaint in February 2014, saying the RCMP improperly collected and shared information about people and groups who peacefully opposed the project and attended National Energy Board meetings.

The complaints commission concluded the RCMP acted reasonably for the most part.

The commission’s long-awaited final report on the matter, made public today, said it was acceptable for the Mounties to monitor demonstrations, record video of protesters, scour social media and other open sources for information about activists, and collect licence-plate numbers for intelligence-gathering purposes.

However, the commission also found RCMP policies lacked clear guidance when it comes to collection, use and retention of such information.

It recommended the police force:

  • Consider implementing a specific policy regarding video-recording protests and demonstrations;
  • Develop policies that make it clear personal information related to demonstrations should be destroyed “as soon as practicable” once it is determined that there is no criminal element or that the information is otherwise no longer necessary;
  • Provide clear policy guidance on collection of personal information from open sources such as social media sites, the uses that can be made of it and what steps should be taken to ensure its reliability;
  • Treat such information from social media sources as a separate category of records — data that should be kept no longer than strictly necessary.

“Canadians have the right to expect that the police will not retain their personal information simply for engaging in peaceful protest,” the complaints commission’s final report said.

“From an operational standpoint, the commission acknowledges the need for the police to be able to exercise good judgment and operate with reasonable flexibility. Nevertheless, the net should not be cast wide, and the indiscriminate or widespread collection and retention of personal information of individuals exercising charter-protected rights cannot be the goal.”

The complaints commission said it hoped that Lucki would take “substantive action” based on her five-page November response to the investigation’s interim findings, in which she expressed support for several recommendations. The commission noted Lucki had rejected similar recommendations in her June response to a probe of the RCMP’s handling of anti-fracking demonstrations in New Brunswick.

In her recent response to the B.C. probe, which the commission characterized as a “striking reversal in position and tone,” Lucki cited new information including an internal RCMP audit that found room for improvement in the force’s practices concerning open-source information.

The civil liberties association said today the complaints commission report confirms its long-standing allegations of RCMP spying on Indigenous and climate activists.

It pointed to the RCMP’s collection and retention of people’s online comments and opinions as well as the compilation of notes on organizers.

The Mounties also tracked and kept records on people who took part in demonstrations, and even attended an organizing workshop in plain clothes at the Kelowna United Church, the group noted.

The association is “deeply disappointed” the complaints commission found most of these activities to be reasonable, even though the commission repeatedly expressed reservations, especially where there was no real suspicion that people might be involved in criminal activity.

The association and the complaints commission reiterated their concerns that it took Lucki well over three years to respond to the commission’s 2017 interim report, delaying release of the final document.

Commission chairwoman Michelaine Lahaie called the delay “incomprehensible.”

“To be effective, a public complaint system must be timely. Delays reduce or eliminate the effectiveness of the commission’s recommendations and perpetuate the underlying problems,” she said in the final report.

“Moreover, years of routine delays diminish or destroy public confidence in the RCMP and in its civilian oversight. The outrageous delays in this and the many other cases still awaiting the commissioner’s response cannot continue.”

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

RCMP

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Record-setting high jumper Emma de Boer, who lives in Cloverdale and attends Holy Cross Regional High School in Fleetwood, will train and study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) next fall. (submitted photo)
Surrey jumper on a high after recruitment by UPenn track team

High jumper Emma de Boer aims to leave Cloverdale for Philadelphia next fall

Surrey RCMP Gang Enforcement Team street check. (File photo)
Surrey RCMP gang enforcement team seizes five vehicles

This was over 13 days, as SGET continues to target gang activity in this city

File photo
Surrey to borrow $150 million for three major recreation projects

That’s for a sports complex in the city centre, a sports and ice complex in Cloverdale and a community centre in Newton

The White Birch proposal for a six-storey rental-only building at 1485 Fir St. was turned down by council on Monday night. (Contributed rendering)
White Birch developer feels ‘betrayed’ by City of White Rock council

Application for new rental building at 1485 Fir St. turned down by council

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Adam Dergazarian, bottom center, pays his respect for Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, in front of a mural painted by artist Louie Sloe Palsino, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Kobe Bryant’s presence remains strong a year after his death

Tuesday marks the grim anniversary of the crash that took their lives

Surrey RCMP are investigating after a pedestrian was struck and killed at 183 Street and Highway 10 Friday night. (File photo)
Modelling of predicted transmission growth from the B117 COVID-19 variant in British Columbia. (Simon Fraser University)
COVID-19 variant predicted to cause ‘unmanageable’ case spike in B.C: report

SFU researchers predict a doubling of COVID-19 cases every two weeks if the variant spreads

RCMP officers wearing face masks to curb the spread of COVID-19 stand by. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
RCMP appeal for witnesses after hit-and-run leaves girl, 17, in critical condition

The Metro Vancouver teenager was found unconscious and critically injured after being hit: police

The Brucejack mine is 65 km north of Stewart in northwestern B.C. (Pretivm Photo)
B.C. mine executives see bright gleam in post-COVID future

Low carbon drives demand for copper, steelmaking coal

Most Read