Ten law professors at a Nova Scotia university are asking the Newfoundland and Labrador government to create an independent police oversight agency amid ongoing allegations that multiple officers sexually harassed and assaulted women.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, embroiled in sexual misconduct accusations in recent years, has been the target of calls for reform since last summer, when a coalition of civil groups called First Voice endorsed the creation of a civilian police oversight board.
The coalition released a draft report in July recommending government create an independent board that could craft training, use of force and complaints policies for the RNC and local branches of the RCMP.
On Tuesday, 10 professors at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University penned an open letter in support of the First Voice proposal.
"In most provinces in Canada — including Nova Scotia — police services are directly accountable to civilian-led police boards or commissions that are established by statute and mandated to provide comprehensive and proactive oversight of police," they wrote.
"Typically, these policies are established through community consultations and engagement, which ensures that police officers within a given jurisdiction conduct themselves in line with democratic norms and community expectations."
Justice Minister John Hogan declined an interview request, sending a statement through department spokespeople instead to confirm he had received the letter.
The department "is committed to transparency and accountability in policing to ensure people in Newfoundland and Labrador have faith and trust in the administration of justice," the statement said.
"I appreciate the work of First Voice and I remain committed to meeting with First Voice following the release of their final report to discuss their recommendations and what they have heard through their consultation process, including comments from the professors of law at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University."
Naiomi Metallic, who's studied police accountability across Canada and one of the professors who signed the letter, says there's also a simpler reason the province should adopt that oversight model.
Doing so, she argues, would help fulfil recommendations from Canada's Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women inquiry by involving Indigenous members when crafting policing policy and warding off systemic racism in police forces.
"Police have a lot of power in our society, and they can have different interactions with different groups in society. All government bodies should be held accountable to the people that they serve," Metallic said Tuesday.
"I hope that the Newfoundland government pays attention to this, and is willing to really look at this and think about it seriously."