Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mounties Group Sets Up Legal Aid Program for Accused RCMP Officers

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Mounties Group Sets Up Legal Aid Program for Accused RCMP Officers

Article excerpt

Legislation makes top cop judge, jury: group

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RICHMOND, B.C. - The association that represents Mounties says new federal legislation will give RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson the power to be "judge, jury and executioner" of officers accused of wrongdoing.

The Mounted Police Professional Association announced a legal aid program on Wednesday to cover the costs of legal advice and lawyers for accused officers.

The group, which represents almost 2,000 civilian and regular officers, said Bill C-42, which is awaiting royal assent to become law, gives the RCMP complaints body greater powers to discipline and dismiss officers without any independent oversight.

"He will be able to fire people for what he determines to be unsatisfactory working habits," Rob Creasser, the association spokesman, said. "Ultimately all decisions will rest with him and his delegates."

Rae Banwarie, national president of the association, said the new legal aid program would protect members from "unscrupulous and unethical managers who continue to bully and intimidate."

Those who may need to dispute dismissals or demotions, or who may need a lawyer in criminal or highway traffic prosecutions and police conduct investigations, could also access aid.

"We have to do something to protect our people and our membership across the country and provide them a process where it's fair, it's equitable and they have some recourse," Banwarie said.

The program, funded by association members, would pay the costs associated with disciplinary hearings and employment grievances.

Banwarie, an RCMP constable, said the legislation also violates Mounties' charter rights because it forces officers to give incriminating evidence against themselves -- something that other Canadian citizens would never have to do.

"I am a Canadian citizen first, an RCMP officer second," he said. "The same bill of rights that applies to every Canadian citizen applies to me first and as part of that, I have the right not to say or do anything that's going to incriminate me in any process. …

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