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

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

The data from the latest BCCDC reporting period. Image courtesy of B.C. Centre for Disease Control
Cluster mostly confined to Fernie: Sparwood Mayor

David Wilks said only a handful of cases were elsewhere in the Elk Valley

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Downtown Fernie is pictured after a snowfall.
South Columbia Search and Rescue called in the Nelson Search and Rescue and Kootenay Valley Helicopters to provide a long line rescue. Photo: BCSAR submitted.
Long-line rescue needed for injured hiker near Trail

Members of South Columbia and Nelson SAR and Kootenay Valley Helicopters did a long-line evacuation

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on B.C. nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of hospital nurses in Victoria region

Sooke’s Amy McLaughlin holds Theodore, a bunny who will be going to a new owner in Nanaimo within the coming days if all goes will at an upcoming bunny play-date. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Vancouver Island woman looking to hop into bigger space for bunny rescue operation

Amy McLaughlin has rescued more than 400 bunnies, pushing for the capacity to help more

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Most Read