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Premiers Want Clarity From Feds on Future of RCMP

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said many premiers feel like they are being left in the dark about the future of the RCMP.

“We’re very concerned because there is no indication what the federal government’s plan is moving forward with respect to the RCMP,” Ms. Stefanson, outgoing chair of the Council of the Federation, told reporters July 12 as Canada’s premiers wrapped up three days of meetings in Winnipeg.

“We rely on the RCMP for delivering those services,” she said. The RCMP provides policing for over 70 percent of the land mass of Canada—including provinces, territories, and many smaller communities.

There are over 160 contracts with the RCMP across the country, which are administered by the federal government and are up for renewal in 2032.

Ottawa has launched a review of contract policing to see how well it is working, and many premiers say they need more information.

“They do seem to send a mixed message about whether they’re committed to maintaining contract policing,” said Alberta Premier Danielle Smith, who said there has not been open discussion on the issue. “When you see all of the vacancies that we have … that almost looks as if the force is being wound down just through attrition. And if that’s not the intention, then they should be fairly clear about what it is.”

“We are expanding our sheriffs in anticipation that they may not want to continue expanding the service,” she said.

Other premiers also said a lack of clarity and high vacancy rates are causing concern.

“It was remarkable for me to hear from colleagues across the country, the level of vacancies that they’re seeing in their RCMP forces as well,” said B.C. Premier David Eby, “We have officers that have to work extended shifts, that are increasingly strained and stressed and then going off on leave, making the problem worse. We don’t see a clear path from the federal government about filling those vacancies,” he said, adding that B.C. has the largest RCMP contract force in the country.

“We need to know which direction the federal government is going with contract policing because the current situation is not sustainable for British Columbia,” Mr. Eby added.

The RCMP has been struggling with declining recruitment for several years. Last year, the National Police Federation (NPF)—the union for some 20,000 RCMP members across the country—launched its own recruiting campaign, although the NPF has noted police forces across the country are facing the same problem.

And New Brunswick’s premier pointed out all of this is happening at a time when crime rates in many parts of the country appear to be rising.

“This is all happening at a time when we’re seeing increased crime rates across the country,” said Premier Blaine Higgs. “So, it becomes even more critical to get clarity on not only the future of the RCMP, but on options that we collectively could have in each province.”

Rising costs are also a concern, Ms. Stefanson noted.

“The federal government is responsible for negotiating the contracts,” she said. “We don’t have a say in that. But the costs are escalating as well.”

The scrutiny over contract policing comes at a time when the RCMP is also looking at other calls for reforms.

The Mass Casualty Commission report into the mass shooting in Nova Scotia recommended sweeping changes to the RCMP, from phasing out the training depot in Regina to a reexamination of what services the force is expected to provide.

In a communique sent out on July 11, the premiers called for Ottawa to engage with them over the future of the RCMP.

“The federal government has committed to engaging provinces and territories on the future of the RCMP,” it said.“This is needed now to address chronic RCMP recruitment challenges and staffing shortages, and effectively plan for community policing.”

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