Chairperson’s Statement – Protests in Kent County, New Brunswick
Everyone in Canada has the right to express themselves, assemble peacefully and associate freely with each other.
These same rights, enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, empower people to voice dissent by engaging in lawful, non-violent protest.
I recognize the challenges of policing protests, which include balancing the right to peaceful demonstration while enforcing the law and maintaining police and public safety.
Today, I am releasing my final report on RCMP actions at anti-shale gas protests in Kent County, New Brunswick.
During the investigation, my team examined a tremendous volume of videos, documents, witness statements, police records and other relevant information related to the six months of protest in 2013.
A number of issues identified in this report will resonate in many parts of Canada, where the RCMP is responsible for maintaining public order as police of jurisdiction.
Earlier this year, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association along with the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs wrote to me twice regarding their concerns with the RCMP’s “checkpoint and exclusion zone” in the ongoing dispute over the Coastal GasLink pipeline project.
As I explained in my reply, many of the public interest issues highlighted by these organizations were addressed in my final report.
I note with concern, however, that the RCMP has expressed reluctance to take action with regard to some of these findings and recommendations, and as expressed in the Kent County report, I encourage them to do so without delay.
The power of the police to fulfill their functions and duties is dependent on public approval of their existence, actions and behaviour, and on their ability to secure and maintain public respect.
Sir Robert Peel
Canada’s ongoing reconciliation with Indigenous people includes protecting the rights of those whose voices have been diminished by systemic sources of racism in our society.
As I stated in my report, I recommend that the RCMP require all members to review its Native Spirituality Guide, and that all members involved in Indigenous policing, including those who may police protests, receive training on Indigenous cultural issues.
I trust that my report, and the 21 individual complaints reviewed, will assist the RCMP in performing its important public order duties while also respecting the rights of all and, in particular, the Indigenous community’s unique place in Canada.