For the second time in two years, the RCMP says it can't find a report by an independent agency examining shootings by officers in the Moncton-area.
Following two separate shootings by Codiac Regional RCMP officers in 2019, RCMP asked Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team to investigate the officers' actions. One shooting in January that year injured a woman, while a man was killed in an August shooting.
The Nova Scotia agency said it couldn't release the findings and had submitted its reports to the RCMP. In both cases, the RCMP refused to voluntarily disclose SIRT's findings, leaving it unclear for more than a year whether the shootings were considered justified.
Both times, the Mounties told CBC News to file access to information requests to get the results of the investigations. Months later, the force said it couldn't find the two reports.
"Unfortunately, we were unable to locate the records which respond to your request," the RCMP wrote to CBC in a letter received last week about the report into the fatal shooting.
Cpl. Hans Ouellette, an RCMP spokesperson in New Brunswick, said in an email Monday afternoon that neither report was sent to the Mounties by SIRT, but instead to the province's Department of Justice and Public Safety.
However, SIRT says otherwise.
"The Director completed his report on June 29 and provided it to the RCMP that same day," SIRT said in a July 24 email to CBC.
After this story was published Tuesday, SIRT told CBC it had sent the report to New Brunswick RCMP Chief Supt. Annie Pitre, criminal operations officer.
The provincial department wasn't able to answer a late-afternoon request Monday to clarify who received the report. Ouellette did not respond when provided a copy of the SIRT email that contradicts his statement.
Last year, the RCMP did release a redacted copy of the non-fatal shooting report after initially saying it couldn't be found.
Most recently, CBC sought a SIRT report examining the death of a 24-year-old man shot by Codiac Regional RCMP in an apartment building on Somerset Drive on Aug. 4, 2019.
An RCMP spokesperson previously said officers responded to a call for assistance around 2 p.m. that day and found a man with a knife who made "threatening actions" toward the officers.
Police said the man was Tasered but continued to threaten police. The officer then shot the man.
"At the request of the New Brunswick RCMP, and as a matter of standard practice related to serious incidents, the Nova Scotia Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), an independent agency, will conduct a review of police actions in response to the incident," RCMP said in a 2019 news release.
The independent team investigates serious incidents arising from police actions in Nova Scotia and decides whether charges are warranted against an officer.
New Brunswick has no such agency. Police forces have relied on SIRT or Quebec's Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes to carry out external investigations.
In Nova Scotia, the agency issues news releases and a public report with a summary of the facts, the investigator's conclusions and the reasons for those findings.
However, the organization has said it cannot release its findings or the report as it doesn't have jurisdiction to do so in New Brunswick.
RCMP Const. Isabelle Beaulieu told CBC to file an access to information request to get the results.
Under federal law, the RCMP are obligated to respond to the request within 30 days. The response to CBC's request filed July 24, 2020, was received by mail 291 days after the request was made.
The sequence of events echoes what happened with the SIRT report into on the non-fatal shooting. At the time, the province also said it would be up to RCMP to release the report.
"SIRT investigative reports pertaining to incidents involving the RCMP rest with the RCMP to determine any level of disclosure and as such should be addressed with the RCMP," Coreen Enos, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said in 2019.
That report examined the circumstances of a Codiac Regional RCMP member who shot a woman in Dieppe near the airport after she fired an airsoft gun at first responders on Jan. 5, 2019.
After SIRT's report on that shooting was given to RCMP, the force told CBC to file an access to information request. That resulted in the Mounties saying the report couldn't be found in Nova Scotia or New Brunswick.
CBC complained to Canada's Office of the Information Commissioner, which handles and investigates complaints about access to records, saying that it was impossible the report didn't exist given the RCMP's own statements.
RCMP then released a redacted copy of the report. It cleared the officer of wrongdoing.
Problems with the RCMP's responses to access to information requests aren't new.
Nova Scotia RCMP investigated the 2015 Bathurst police shooting death of Michel Vienneau but claimed it had no records related to the investigation in response to an access to information request.
After a complaint to the federal information commissioner, the force released nearly 1,800 pages of documents and more than 1,000 images and videos.
A report released in November by the commissioner's office says poor management of getting staff to search for records often led to requests being bounced around, sometimes resulting in the force saying it can't find any records.
The report also says the force routinely violates the law regarding timely responses to requests.
"Canadians rightfully expect that the police force for Canada, in charge of enforcing Canadian law, will itself comply with it," Caroline Maynard wrote in the report.