This reform would help address inconsistencies in the police system and improve accountability between the various provincial police forces, according to the special committee, made up of elected officials from all parties in British Columbia, who supported the this recommendation unanimously.

The transition to a provincial system is part of 11 recommendations made to modernize policing in the province and better represent its population. The committee also suggests more investment in mental health and greater involvement of Indigenous communities.

Protesters on Hasting Street in Vancouver in support of the Wet'Suwet'en opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern BC.

Wet’suwet’en protesters have accused the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) of using excessive force during arrests at the Coastal GasLink pipeline construction site.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Maggie MacPherson

The RCMP failed in its mandate

This special group was set up to respond to growing concerns about systematic racism, the lack of accountability of police authorities and their way of responding to addiction and mental health issues.

To arrive at these recommendations, more than 1,800 people and organizations were consulted. They shared their experiences with the police, particularly on the population’s lack of trust in the police force.

I believe that in British Columbia, significant police transformation is long overdue. I believe the RCMP failed in its mandate to ensure the safety and well-being of residents across the provincesays Grand Chief Stewart Philip, President of the Union of BC Native Chiefs.

Stewart Philip.

Stewart Phillip, Grand Chief of the Okanagan Nation and President of the Union of BC Native Chiefs, in November 2017.

Photo: The Canadian Press/Chad Hipolito

I think it’s as long as the RCMP go back to Ottawa. That a collective of leaders come together and establish a police service that will serve the diverse interests, which are clearly evident [dans la population]and will respect cultural diversity in the provincehe adds.

We need accountability, and there is none with the RCMP, also supports Vancouver lawyer Wally Oppal, a former justice of the Supreme Court of the province and former attorney general. However, he points out that the agents of the RCMP made a excellent work at the individual level in the province.

Another major issue raised, according to the MP for the riding of Peace River NorthDan Davies, is the role of default first responders given to the agents of the RCMP to address complex mental health and addiction issues.

Bilingual RCMP sign photographed at sunset.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) detachment in Burnaby, British Columbia, on December 8, 2021.

Photo: CBC/Ben Nelms

RCMP are investigating the case.

Under federal contract, the RCMP is responsible for law enforcement in approximately 150 municipalities across Canada, located in the three territories and in all provinces except Ontario and Quebec.

Since the 1950s, it has served most of rural areas in British Columbia, all those without a local police force. There are 13 independent police forces in the province.

The Divisional Commander of the RCMP in British Columbia, Dwayne McDonald, says he will take the time to assess the committee’s report and won’t speculate until next steps are decided.

The RCMP has a complex role in British Columbia, delivering services at the municipal, provincial and federal level. […] I am very proud of the team at RCMP who works very hard every day to keep communities across the province safe and remains committed to continuing [ce travail]he added in a statement.

The contract between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and British Columbia expires in 2032.

A reform that could take years

The province has already begun reaching out to its partners to discuss the committee’s recommendations, said the province’s Public Safety Minister, Mike Farnworth.

They echo government beliefs that everyone deserves to be treated the same by the police, he argues. This is not always the case for many aboriginal, black and people of color.

However, the report argues that such a reform could take years.

With information from The Canadian Press

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