The Pendulum Swings: RCMP restructuring and Arar

Crossreferencing: NSL, ch. 3.

The Globe and Mail is reporting this morning that the RCMP will be sliming down its headquarters division.  As reported in the Globe:

As it stands, the RCMP's A Division in Ottawa deals with criminal investigations in several areas: drug importation and trafficking, smuggling, government fraud, white-collar crime, high-tech crime, money laundering, war crimes, immigration and passport fraud, organized crime and national security threats.

After the restructuring, the A Division will be responsible only for the conduct of key sensitive investigations (dealing with matters such as political corruption), priority international investigations and protecting VIPs such as ministers and ambassadors.

The rest of the work will be transferred to O and C divisions in Ontario and Quebec respectively.

Rumours of this change have been circulating for a while.  I know pretty much nothing about how policing can or should be organized efficiently.  I do, however, know a little bit about the evolution of the national security-related policing conducted out of HQ in Ottawa.  That present organization is a direct response to the Arar matter and the Arar Commission report and the conclusions drawn about the calamitous events that culminated in Mr. Arar's mistreatment in Syria.  The Arar report recommended, among other things, that the "RCMP should maintain its current [by the date of the report] approach to centralized oversight of national security investigations." 

It went on to enthuse about the importance of centralized coordination of national security investigations, conducted from the RCMP HQ.  In the Commission's words (at 329):

The type of centralized oversight contemplated here is valuable in ensuring both the effectiveness and the propriety of national security investigations. In terms of effectiveness, centralized oversight allows Headquarters to co-ordinate investigations, ensure that relevant information is shared internally, discern trends and, as provided for in the November 2003 ministerial direction discussed above, inform the responsible minister of high profile investigations or those that give rise to controversy. As regards propriety, centralized oversight allows Headquarters to ensure that investigations do not stray from the RCMP’s crime-based mandate, threats to individual liberties are monitored, information is always shared in an appropriate manner and RCMP policies are followed.

I note that the reorganization of the RCMP structure in national security investigations is pretty much the only thing that has happened within government in response to Arar.  All of the other Arar recommendations related, for instance, to reformed review have been ignored or rolled out as lukewarm reforms that died on the legislative order paper. 

I have been present at many meetings and conferences where members of the RCMP have argued persuasively how the RCMP has learned from the Arar matter.  And this is a division with a solid track record.  Even as most (and perhaps all) of the infamous security certificate cases (not handled by the RCMP) crater, terrorism criminal prosecutions enjoy a basically perfect record. 

Maybe the Globe report is missing some nuance.  But if it is correct, national security is moving out of HQ.  I assume that means that the 2003 ministerial directive on centralized national security investigations is being jettisoned.  One wonders also if the Arar report has been forgotten.  Will all of that centralized control, learning and expertise now be diluted?

When I teach my national security law class now, a significant portion of my students know little to nothing about the Arar matter.  It is ancient history to students who were children when those events arose.  I hope it is different in the RCMP.  Clarity on what will happen to national security investigations would be much appreciated.