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Justice (25-42)

‘Significant delays’ will impact completion of RCMP C-IRG probe, review agency says

November 24, 2023

Civilian Review and Complaints Commission says significant amount of material remains outstandin

RCMP officers surround a protester cemented into the ground during a protest in Fairy Creek using a technique called a Sleeping Dragon
RCMP officers extract a protester cemented into the ground during a protest in Fairy Creek. (CBC News)

CBC Indigenous: The RCMP’s federal review agency says “significant delays” in obtaining relevant material from the Mounties will impact its investigation into the Community-Industry Response Group (C-IRG), a special unit created to police civil disobedience against pipelines in British Columbia.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) is calling out the B.C. RCMP, saying the commission has received little information or records from them since July 2023, despite regular follow-ups and requests for updates.

“This will impact the timeline for the completion of the investigation,” the commission said in a Friday update.

The CRCC, an arms-length agency created to ensure complaints against Mounties are handled fairly, launched a systemic investigation in March into the controversial C-IRG outfit.

The unit is mainly known for its tactical operations against blockades on the traditional unceded territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, where hereditary chiefs oppose construction of the $14.5-billion Coastal GasLink pipeline, and at the anti-logging protests at Fairy Creek.

The CRCC investigation is assessing whether C-IRG injunction-enforcement operations complied with law, policy, best practices and, where appropriate, federal Indigenous rights law and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“Recently, the CRCC met with the RCMP to express concerns about the delays, and a way forward was agreed to,” the statement says. “Significant amounts of materials remain outstanding but are expected to be received in the coming weeks.”

The commission says it is monitoring progress closely and will provide an investigation status update in the new year. The agency was already circulating concerns to various stakeholders in early August.

At the time, the CRCC had retained the services of Vancouver-based Turtle Island Law LLP to gather testimony from those impacted. The commission now says those who had contact with C-IRG can contact the law firm to request interviews.

C-IRG created in 2017

B.C. Mounties formed the outfit in 2017 after the massive anti-pipeline resistance led by the Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota, expressing concern internally about similar opposition potentially greeting the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.

Over the next six years, First Nations leaders who oppose pipeline development, activists, academics, civil liberties groups and even the courts have criticized the squad, which faces lawsuits and was the subject of hundreds of individual CRCC complaints on top of the systemic investigation.

In its first five years, C-IRG operations cost nearly $50 million, an access-to-information request revealed earlier this year.

The CRCC had also accepted more than 100 individual complaints for investigation. The allegations ranged from excessive force, illegal tactics and unprofessional behaviour to racism, discrimination and various alleged charter violations. Complaints are first sent to the Mounties for investigation, and the complainant can request the CRCC review the outcome if they are dissatisfied.

The C-IRG’s former commanding officer, John Brewer, who is now criminal operations officer for core policing for the B.C. RCMP, told CBC’s The Fifth Estate in a recent episode that valid complaints were investigated.

“Some members have acted out verbally in an unprofessional manner. They’ve been dealt with, absolutely they have,” said Brewer.

The B.C. RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


Brett Forester, Reporter

Brett Forester is a reporter with CBC Indigenous in Ottawa. He is a member of the Chippewas of Kettle and Stony Point First Nation in southern Ontario who previously worked as a journalist with the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network.