Complaints Against the RCMP (Script 220)
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If you are concerned about an RCMP officer’s conduct, you have options, from filing a complaint to suing. Learn how the options differ, and the steps in filing a complaint.
- 1 Understand your legal options
- 2 The steps in filing a police complaint
Understand your legal options
The RCMP polices most communities in BC, but not all of them
Most of rural BC and many municipalities are policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the RCMP). A full list of communities in BC policed by the RCMP is available on their website at rcmp.gc.ca.
Some municipalities in BC are policed by their own police force, including several in the Vancouver and Victoria areas. If you have a complaint about a local police force, see our information on complaints against the municipal police (no. 221).
If you are concerned with an RCMP officer’s conduct
You may be concerned with the conduct of an RCMP officer. You may feel they used excessive force in the course of an arrest or investigation. Or you were offended by something an officer said or did to you. Or the RCMP damaged your property.
You have at least four options, depending on the situation:
- filing a police complaint,
- suing the police,
- filing a human rights complaint, and
- pursuing criminal charges.
Each option is designed for a different purpose, and each leads to a different outcome. If possible, you should speak to a lawyer before deciding which option to pursue. In some cases, it might be appropriate to pursue two or more options.
Filing a police complaint
If you have concerns with an RCMP officer’s conduct, you can make a complaint. You can file a complaint with an independent agency that reviews complaints made against RCMP officers.
Filing a police complaint might result in a recommendation for discipline of the officer involved. It will not result in the payment of money for any injuries or harm you have suffered.
We explain the steps in making a complaint shortly.
Suing the RCMP
If an RCMP officer injured you, damaged your property, or violated your rights, you may be able to sue the officer and the RCMP in civil court.
Suing the police might lead to a settlement or judgment involving the payment of money.
A lawsuit is filed in either Small Claims Court or the Supreme Court of BC, depending on the amount of money sought. There are rules and processes that must be followed. Lawsuits must normally be filed within two years of the incident. See our information on suing in Small Claims Court (no. 166).
Filing a human rights complaint
If you believe you have been discriminated against by the RCMP, you can consider filing a human rights complaint.
A human rights complaint might lead to a settlement or judgment involving the payment of money.
A human rights complaint against the RCMP is filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The complaint must normally be filed within 12 months of the incident.
Pursuing criminal charges
If you believe an RCMP officer committed a crime, you can pursue having criminal charges brought against the officer.
If charges are laid, the officer would face criminal proceedings.
The process starts with you raising your concerns with the RCMP. They may investigate. Their investigation could result in a report to Crown counsel (the prosecution office in BC) recommending criminal charges against the officer. A senior Crown prosecutor would decide whether to approve the charges.
If the RCMP doesn’t recommend charges, or the prosecutor decides not to charge the officer, you can go before a justice of the peace to ask that the officer be charged. For more on this process, see our information on charging someone with a criminal offence (no. 215).
If a police incident results in death or serious harm
If an incident involving a police officer results in death or serious harm, an independent body automatically investigates the incident. The Police Act requires the Independent Investigation Office to investigate to determine whether or not an officer may have committed an offence. An investigation is required whether the police officer was on-duty or off-duty at the time of the incident, and whether the officer works for the RCMP or a municipal police force.
If the investigation concludes that an officer may have committed an offence, the Independent Investigation Office prepares a report to Crown counsel. For more on this process, see the office’s website at iiobc.ca.
The steps in filing a police complaint
Who can make a complaint
Anyone with some connection to the conduct of an RCMP officer can make a complaint against the officer. A connection means the officer’s conduct affected you or someone you’re acting for. Or you were present when the conduct occurred, or you suffered some harm or loss from it.
Step 1. Make a complaint
You make a complaint to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, or at an RCMP office.
The Commission is an independent agency that responds to complaints against RCMP officers. The Commission is not part of the RCMP. It is neutral and does not take sides in a dispute. The Commission has interpretation services for various languages.
You can make a complaint:
- Using the online complaint form on the Commission website at complaintscommission.ca.
- By phone by calling the Commission toll-free at 1-800-665-6878.
- By fax or mail, using the fillable complaint form on the Commission website.
Make your complaint as soon as possible after an incident, while memories are fresh and evidence is still available. The deadline to complain is one year from the date of an incident. The Commission can extend the deadline if it decides there’s a good reason.
Step 2. The complaint is investigated
The Commission usually sends the complaint to the RCMP to investigate. (Sometimes the Commission will investigate a complaint itself.)
The RCMP investigates your complaint and then reports to you in writing. If you are satisfied with the report, that’s the end of the complaint.
Step 3. Request a review
If you are not satisfied with the RCMP report on your complaint, you can ask the Commission to review your complaint. You can request a review online or by phone, fax or mail. The Commission website at complaintscommission.ca explains the process.
You have 60 days from when you receive the RCMP report to request a review. The Commission can extend that time if it decides there is a good reason.
The Commission will get the necessary information from the RCMP and review the RCMP report. During its review, the Commission can:
- review the complaint without investigating further
- ask the RCMP to investigate further
- do its own investigation
- hold a public hearing
If the Commission is satisfied with the RCMP report, it will send you a final report with its reasons. It also sends its report to the RCMP Commissioner, the federal Minister responsible for the RCMP, and the officer you complained about. That’s the end of the process.
Step 4. The Commission issues a report
If the Commission is not satisfied with the RCMP report, it sends an interim report to the RCMP Commissioner and the federal Minister responsible for the RCMP. The RCMP Commissioner will reply to it, explaining what the RCMP will do, if anything. The Commission then sends a final report to you, the RCMP Commissioner, the Minister, and the RCMP officer.
[updated August 2017]
The above was last reviewed for legal accuracy by Evelyn Sarault and Denyse Leach, Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.
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