RCMP to be investigated over guns seized from High River, Alta., flood zone

RCMP to be investigated over guns seized from High River, Alta., flood zone

A controversial decision to have RCMP officers seize guns from High River, Alta., homes that had been evacuated during recent flooding to strike southern Alberta will be investigated by a public oversight agency.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson issued a letter to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP (CPC) on Friday, expressing concern over some of the Force's action.

The letter begins:

The citizens of southern Alberta have had to face an incredible event recently as flood waters ravaged some of their communities and forced many of them from their homes. Natural disasters such as the flooding we’ve witnessed here test, not only the mettle of our citizens, but also our community leaders, emergency and first responders including the police. In short, these are very difficult and trying circumstances for our communities.

Paulson goes on to note that High River faced some of the worst effects of the flood and, while he is proud of the work done by the RCMP to keep the community safe, he recognizes there are questions about the gun seizure.

"Naturally this is quite troubling to me, and I am sure to you, as indeed it must be to many Canadians who wonder what was going on in High River," he writes.

“I am writing today therefore, to ask if you would consider a ‘Chair initiated complaint’ to permit you to investigate our actions in High River to assess if they were well founded, reasonably executed and in accordance with our policies.”

[ Related: Calgary Stampede kicks off with emotional parade ]

The whole affair comes after High River residents expressed their outrage last week after being evacuated from their waterlogged homes.

RCMP officers blocked residents from returning out of concern for public safety, meantime patrolling the evacuated zone and conducting searches. Some firearms found inside the abandoned homes were seized, with a promise to return the property to its rightful owners when the threat had passed.

[ More Brew: PMO not happy guns seized from High River homes ]

The vast majority of High Park residents had returned to their homes, although a state of emergency remained in place on Friday.

The CPC has the authority to impartially investigate actions taken by the RCMP.

Interim Chair Iam McPhail confirmed the agency would look into the "the conduct of RCMP members involved in entering private residences and seizing firearms following flooding in High River, Alberta."

The RCMP announced last weekend that it would begin returning some of the seized firearms.

The Prime Minister's Office had previously expressed disappointment that the step was taken, while Premier Alison Redford defended the safety measure, saying it was only unsecured firearms that had been seized as a safety precaution.

It will now be up to the CPC to determine whether it was an appropriate safety measure or an invasion that went beyond the Force's mandate.