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RCMP Oversight Head Roach Resigns Amid Liberal Roadblocks

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Kent Roach’s shocking resignation as head of the RCMP ‘s advisory board has rattled Ottawa to its core. His abrupt departure after barely months on the job signals deep dysfunction and breakdowns in accountability behind the scenes. 

Roach, a high-profile critic of policing practices, had been seen as the perfect outsider to bring transparency and reform to the RCMP’s oversight body. 

But in his fiery resignation letter, Roach lambasted political interference by the governing Liberals. His account unravels scorching revelations about lack of accountability and internal corruption, suggesting a different agenda is at play behind closed doors on Parliament Hill. 

This revelation further erodes trust in Prime Minister Trudeau’s administration, already tarnished by scandals over the last few years. 

As Roach departs after a brief and tumultuous tenure, deeper questions emerge about the sincerity of promised change for the RCMP and other Canadian institutions under Liberal leadership. 

Kent Roach’s resignation may come to be seen as a pivotal moment illuminating the fraying ties between the Liberals’ sunny ways and their actual commitment to progress.

It was with great regret that Kent Roach, the chair of the RCMP’s Management Advisory Board, resigned from his position after less than a year. Roach, a prominent critic of policing practices and author of the acclaimed book Canadian Policing: Why and How it Must Change, was appointed to lead the 13-member civilian oversight board in January. 

His appointment was seen as an important step in addressing years of criticism that the board operated with too much secrecy at a time when major policing issues dominated headlines.

In his resignation letter, obtained by the press through an access to information request, Roach cited growing frustrations with interference from the Liberal government in Ottawa as the reason for his departure. “I took this position on the understanding that the government was committed in the minister of public safety’s mandate letter to ‘enhancing the Management Advisory Board to create an oversight role over the RCMP,'” he wrote to Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc. “Unfortunately, I have seen no signs of such a commitment.”

While Roach cited frustration with government interference in his resignation letter, we wonder if there is more to the story. As an outspoken advocate for policing reform, did Roach come across information in his role that made the Liberal government nervous?

The Management Advisory Board was created in 2019 to provide expert external advice and guidance to the RCMP Commissioner on key modernization and management matters. The goal is to provide an outside perspective and recommendations for reform from non-police members.

However, in his resignation letter, Roach raised concerns about the board’s independence and lack of real authority.

“Four years after its creation by amendments to the RCMP Act, the MAB is still financed from the RCMP’s budget and relies upon staff that work for the RCMP,” Roach noted. “The MAB has no formal role in the selection of a commissioner or its senior leaders.”

The MAB is financially tied to the RCMP. Even though the MAB was created to provide independent oversight and advice regarding the RCMP, its budget comes from the RCMP itself. This creates an inherent conflict of interest, where the MAB risks having its funding or resources impacted if it engages in strong oversight that the RCMP leadership doesn’t like.

The MAB has no formal role in selecting the RCMP’s senior leadership. Even though the MAB is intended as an oversight body, it has no direct say in choosing the RCMP Commissioner or other senior officials. This limits the MAB’s ability to shape the direction and priorities of RCMP leadership.

The Liberals talk a big game about modernizing the RCMP and strengthening oversight, but when things get serious they start to fear real accountability and change. 

Perhaps Roach was simply too committed to enacting the transparency and reform he was promised. There is also a possibility that Roach started asking difficult questions or proposing substantive actions that political leaders did not want to entertain.

Roach also said that he was excluded from important discussions about the future of RCMP contract policing services, an issue currently under review by the Liberal government. 

Roach saying that he was shut out of talks regarding the future of RCMP contract policing services raises important questions. What are the Liberals trying to hide in these discussions? And why would they want to exclude the perspective of Roach, an outspoken advocate for policing reform?

The Liberals’ secrecy over the RCMP contract renewal discussions raises questions about what they may be trying to hide. 

One theory is that full transparency could actually amplify calls for localized police forces to replace the RCMP in some areas. The Liberals may fear this outcome because decentralized local forces could be harder for the federal government to control and influence compared to the centralized RCMP.

Additionally, transitioning policing to municipalities risks disrupting long-held power dynamics and resource allocations. Influential political figures who hold sway over elements of the RCMP may resist any shifts that could dilute their authority. 

Keeping vocal critics like Roach away from the discussion prevents disruptive ideas or revelations that could upset these delicate political considerations. The Liberals likely worry that opening the door to substantive criticism and reform could unravel a policing model that, despite its flaws, largely serves embedded political interests.

Keeping Roach out of the loop prevents vocal criticism or recommendations that could disrupt cozy arrangements. It also limits insights that could weaken the government’s negotiating stance if shared publicly.

The RCMP provides contract policing services to approximately 150 municipalities, all three territories, and every province except Ontario and Quebec. The current contracts expire in 2032, lending urgency to the issue. “The matter is urgent given that the existing contracts expire in 2032 and both the RCMP and contract partners suffer from the uncertainty about the future direction of contract policing,” Roach wrote.

The impending expiration of the RCMP’s contract policing agreements in 2032 casts this issue in an urgent light. As Roach notes, the vast scope of these contracts across 150 municipalities and most of Canada means huge swaths of the population depend on RCMP services. 

With less than a decade before the contracts end, all sides need clarity and direction on what comes next. Will agreements be renewed, and under what terms? Will some municipalities transition to local forces? There are massive logistical and financial implications at stake. 

The RCMP will need to know if its resources and personnel may be scaled back. Municipal leaders need time to plan, budget, hire, and train if they opt for independence from the RCMP. The spectrum of possibilities means all stakeholders currently suffer from uncertainty, as Roach describes. 

This time pressure should lend urgency to resolving the situation. But the Liberals’ lack of engagement suggests politics may be obstructing practical planning. Roach’s resignation indicates that good faith efforts at roadmapping solutions are being stonewalled. With citizens counting on safety and stability, the expiring contracts should catalyze action, not secrecy.

Roach clearly believes the MAB has an important role to play in advising on contract policing and Indigenous policing agreements, if only it were allowed. 

He adds in his resignation letter: “I believe that despite its limited resources, the MAB can offer vital advice to the future evolution of contract policing. The MAB has also been kept largely in the dark on the government’s work on the future of Indigenous policing and the future of the tripartite policing agreements.”

Roach also cited growing “irreconcilable tensions” between his role as an independent academic who studies and comments publicly on policing, and what he described as efforts by his former colleagues to restrain his speech.

During his time chairing the board, Roach took steps to increase transparency, launching a website to provide updates on the MAB’s work and granting media interviews. But even the website launch did not come easy. “The MAB has been able to launch its own website, but at this time has still been unable to post its reports or written advice to the commissioner because of a lack of capacity to comply with Treasury Board requirements with respect to accessibility,” the letter stated.

In his resignation letter, Roach maintained that despite the constraints placed upon it, the board was providing value. “I have been truly impressed by the professionalism and dedication of all RCMP members and staff that I have been fortunate to work with, and I offer them my sincere thanks,” he wrote.

However, it is clear Roach ultimately felt he could not continue to serve effectively given what he saw as active interference by the governing Liberals. His resignation represents another blow to the already troubled civilian oversight body and casts further doubt on the government’s commitment to instituting meaningful, transparent monitoring of the RCMP. Without addressing the issues cited by Roach, it is unlikely the MAB can fulfill its intended purpose on behalf of the Canadian public.

Roach’s resignation offers yet another troubling glimpse into Liberal government malfeasance. Despite posturing as reformers committed to transparency and accountability, the Liberals’ actions tell a different story. 

Interference in the MAB’s oversight work and exclusion of Roach suggest an aversion to real scrutiny of the RCMP. Rather than facilitate unflinching oversight, the government seems intent on tightly managing public perception. 

The gaps between the Liberals’ lofty rhetoric and obstructionist approach fuel perceptions of engrained corruption and institutional rot. Kent Roach’s truncated tenure stands as another indictment of backroom cynicism trumping promised renewal. 

Canadians are left to wonder, if the Liberals cannot even tolerate an arms-length civilian board examining RCMP practices, can they truly be trusted to steer the reform Canadians need and deserve?

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