Parliament’s national security committee announced this morning it is launching a review of the federal policing mandate of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police — a probe that comes as concerns mount about the force’s ability to adequately police emerging threats.
The RCMP’s federal policing department investigates cases involving national security, terrorism, cybercrime and organized crime.
“While a number of reports over the last five years by prominent Canadians and other review bodies have highlighted significant challenges with the RCMP as an integrated organization, none have specifically focused on the RCMP’s critical and diverse mandate in federal policing,” said Liberal MP David McGuinty, chair of the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), in a media statement.
“I expect the committee’s review to highlight areas where the RCMP could strengthen its federal policing activities and to help to inform the public discussion around the RCMP’s unique role in this area.”
The special committee, whose members hold top secret security clearances and are bound to secrecy, said its review will dive into the RCMP’s federal policing activities, authorities and capabilities.
Based on their findings, the committee members could make legislative and policy recommendations or suggest changes to the RCMP’s funding.
The force has pushed in recent years for more money to cover what it calls “significant resourcing challenges” for its federal policing unit.
“Without sufficient technology, tools and information systems, there is a risk that federal policing may not be able to meet critical operational requirements,” the RCMP stated in a report last year.
“Given the increasing demands on RCMP resources, particularly on national security files, the RCMP is facing significant resourcing challenges.”
Intelligence sharing slammed by ex-FBI official
Sean Jorgensen, acting executive director of the NSICOP secretariat, said the review will touch on multiple issues facing the RCMP.
“The committee’s interest is in the RCMP’s very broad roles and responsibilities in the federal policing mandate and the challenges they may face in fulfilling them in a criminal environment that is increasingly complex and global,” he said.
The national security review comes as concerns grow about how Canada’s intelligence agencies, including the RCMP’s federal policing unit, share information with each other.
A federal briefing note prepared last year warned that the RCMP and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, Canada’s domestic spy agency, are often hesitant to share information with the justice system — a reluctance that puts a number of national security court cases at risk.
Earlier this year, the former head of counter-intelligence at the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation released a book that pointed to systemic problems with how Canadian agencies investigate espionage.
As reported by the Canadian Press, Frank Figliuzzi wrote that it fell to him to tell the RCMP about a spy in the Canadian navy, even though the Canadian Security Intelligence Service was already well aware of Jeffrey Delisle’s sale of secrets to the Russians.
Both agencies say they’ve worked to improve how they share intelligence and evidence.
The committee said it plans to finish its RCMP review in 2022.
NSICOP meets in secret and reports directly to the prime minister on national security matters. Only redacted versions of its reports are made public.
CBC News has requested comment from the RCMP.