Is B.C. a dumping ground for misbehaving Mounties?

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew

No other province in Canada relies more heavily on the RCMP to police its towns and cities than British Columbia.

Vancouver, Victoria and some smaller cities have their own municipal police forces, but the Mounties are the major presence almost everywhere else, especially in the north and interior regions.

Suburban Surrey, which rivals Vancouver in population, has the largest RCMP detachment in Canada, with more than 650 members.

So that makes National Post columnist Brian Hutchinson's contention that B.C. has become home for bad officers who can't be dismissed under current legislation a little dismaying.

The case of Staff Sgt. Donald Ray, the head of the polygraph unit at the Alberta RCMP's Edmonton headquarters, who was demoted and transferred for drinking and having sex with subordinate female officers while on duty, is the most notorious recent example, said Hutchinson.

[Related: Just what do you have to do to get fired from the RCMP?]

But he also pointed to Cpl. Tony Spink of the special investigation unit in Victoria, who's been charged with fraud under $5,000 for alleged improper use of government credit cards while off duty.

Spink has been suspended with pay but the Mounties announced last Friday they'd served him with a "notice of intent" to recommend stopping his pay and allowances, according to Hutchinson.

"Unfortunately, and separate from the latest case, there's a growing feeling that B.C. has become a dumping ground for the bad: Mounties whom the brass should be able to discharge, but cannot," Hutchinson wrote.

"The rules don't allow for simple, straightforward termination, even in cases that involve shocking behaviour and RCMP-committed crime."

Hutchinson also pointed to the case of an unnamed inspector from Saskatchewan, who the Vancouver Province reported was transferred to British Columbia after facing prosecution for crimes related to his alcoholism.

"The distinction between the (Ray case) and this member who has a medical condition, is just that," RCMP Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens told the Province. "I think alcohol and behaviours that stem from it, are things that reasonable people can understand."

[Related: RCMP seeks to fire B.C. Mountie guilty of fatal crash]

Word that Donald Ray had been parachuted in from Edmonton outraged B.C. Premier Christy Clark.

But the province is powerless to do anything about it. Although B.C. agreed to a new 20-year contract with the RCMP, which includes new protocols for investigating public complaints, internal discipline remains at the federal level.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson was sympathetic but said his hands were tied by current legislation that made it very hard to fire misbehaving Mounties.

[Related: Top cop concerned with Mounties airing problems in public ]

The federal government has proposed legislative changes that would make it easier to get rid of bad officers but worries the so-called Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act might be too weak.

While the bill gives the commissioner direct authority to fire officers, it suggests dismissal might be the last resort, Hutchinson observed.

"In other words, criminals in the ranks might remain there. Dismissal 'could be an outcome.' No guarantees," he wrote. "The RCMP and the men and women who serve with integrity deserve better. So do the rest of us."

(CBC photo)