As several scandals have revealed, Canada’s law enforcement system is vulnerable to political interference.
The Prime Minister and provincial premiers have the power to appoint key people in the law enforcement system (judges, chief prosecutors and police chiefs) without any meaningful restrictions. They even get to choose the people who enforce the laws that require themselves, and their Cabinet ministers, to be honest, ethical, open and waste-preventing!
Politicians in cities and towns across Canada also get to choose their own watchdogs.
As well, judges, prosecutors and police forces essentially watch over themselves in many jurisdictions, with weak disclosure and audit systems.
This has to stop – and it can be stopped – 20 years ago the Ontario government set up a mostly independent committee to find qualified people to serve as judges (although even Ontario’s committee can be improved because a majority of members are still selected by the government). Every other government in Canada – federal, provincial, territorial and municipal – should follow Ontario’s lead and set up their own fully independent, merit-based appointments committee for everyone involved in law enforcement.
As well, changes are needed to strengthen the independence, and accountability, of prosecutors and police officers.
Please make the following key changes as soon as possible to protect law enforcement across Canada from political interference, and to ensure judges, prosecutors, police officers and government and big business watchdogs act fairly and are effectively accountable:
- Pass a law that sets up an independent appointments committee for all appointments to law enforcement positions (judges, prosecutors, police officers, and all government and big business watchdogs) with the committee members not connected to any political party, required to have knowledge of law enforcement, and approved by at least a majority of leaders whose political party won 10% or more of the vote in the last election;
- Require the committee to advertise publicly and widely on a website and through the print media all law enforcement jobs, including a list of merit-based criteria for each job;
- Require the committee to review applications, conduct interviews, and choose a ranked list of 3 very qualified people for each position and send the list to an all-party committee of the provincial, territorial or federal legislature, and require that committee to chose whom they appoint to each law enforcement job from the list of 3 qualified candidates;
- Prohibit cities and towns from choosing the heads of their own police forces, and instead have the provincial/territorial appointment system choose the head of local police forces. Also eliminate the codes of conduct, donation, gift, lobbying and financial interest registries and/or democratic good government watchdogs wherever cities and towns have been allowed to hire them (for example, in Ontario) because city and town councils have multiple conflicts of interest when writing such codes, setting up such registries and appointing their own watchdogs. Instead, have a province/territory-wide municipal code of conduct, and municipal donation, gift, lobbying and financial interest registries set up by, maintained by and enforced by provincial/territorial democratic good government watchdogs.
- Establish in each province and territory an anti-corruption police force (as Quebec created after its construction corruption scandal) which does not report to any cabinet minister or politician at any level of government, and that includes a staff of special prosecutors, and that is fully independent (including in terms of how the head of the force and all the staff officers and lawyers are appointed) with, of course, special public accountability measures to ensure the force does not act in corrupt ways itself.
- Establish a Public Prosecution Service (which currently only the federal level, and B.C., Nova Scotia and Quebec have) with a Director chosen through the same independent appointments committee process;
- Choose the Attorney General, as the government’s lawyer, from amongst lawyers who already work for the government, through the same independent appointments committee process (so that only the Minister of Justice is a politician and member of Cabinet);
- Establish a Judicial Council (if one does not already exist) for investigating and ruling on complaints and situations of wrongdoing by judges, and have the members chosen through the same independent appointments committee process (with a majority of members being members of the public), and give the Council full investigative powers;
- Establish a Police Oversight Board/Special Investigation Unit (if one does not already exist) for every police force to investigate and rule on complaints and situations of wrongdoing by police officers, and have the members chosen through the same independent appointments committee process (with a majority of members being members of the public), and give the Board full investigative powers;
- Empower the judicial and police oversight council/board to impose a sliding scale of penalties on judges and law enforcement officers who commit wrongs based on the seriousness of the violation, including suspensions, fines and on up to removal from their jobs, and including penalties such as pension clawbacks and other fines that apply even if the judge or officer resigns or retires before their wrongdoing is caught or ruled on, and require the council/board to issue a public ruling on every complaint, and to penalize every judge or officer who is found guilty of wrongdoing;
- Require every law enforcement body, prosecutor, good government and big business watchdog agency (including every Officer of Parliament, Public Prosecution Service, Judicial Council, Police Oversight Board/Special Investigation Unit) to investigate every complaint and situation it becomes aware of, and to issue a public ruling even when a violation is not found or prosecuted (summarizing why the alleged actions were not a violation or prosecuted);
- Require every law enforcement body, prosecutor, good government and big business watchdog agency (including every Officer of Parliament, Public Prosecution Service, Judicial Council, Police Oversight Board/Special Investigation Unit) as well as to track and disclose statistics on enforcement decisions every year so that discriminatory enforcement patterns are revealed;
- Ensure that everyone has a clear right in law to have a court review a ruling of any law enforcement body, good government and big business watchdog agency (including every Officer of Parliament, Judicial Council, Police Oversight Board/Special Investigation Unit) if the ruling ignores facts or rules or uses a blatantly unfair decision-making process;
- Require everyone in a law enforcement position to recuse themselves if they have even the appearance of a conflict of interest, and to be honest, and to create a record summarizing all their actions and decisions;
- Prohibit anyone (other than judges) serving in a top law enforcement position or law enforcement audit/inspection position (including every police chief, Officer of Parliament, head of any big business watchdog agency) from serving more than one term of 10 years maximum (during which they are fully protected from political interference) to ensure they don’t try to please the government/ruling political party in order to keep their job, and;
- Ensure everyone involved in law enforcement who blows the whistle on wrongdoing is fully protected from retaliation by a comprehensive protection system as summarized in the unanimous House of Commons report summarized at: https://democracywatch.ca/house-committee-recommends-key-changes-to-strengthen-federal-government-whistleblower-protection-will-the-liberals-finally-make-the-changes/
Please let me know what you will do to ensure that these changes are made as soon as possible. I will be deciding which political party to vote for in the next election based on the responses I receive from representatives in each party. I look forward to hearing from you.