Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, asked on the West Block yesterday why the RCMP’s senior officers can’t meet with opposition MPs without first notifying his office.
Tom Clark: I want to ask you something about the RCMP because there’s been this e-mail circulating around the last few days from the commissioner of the RCMP instructing his senior members, his senior brass not to accept meetings or luncheons with parliamentarians or with senators until it is cleared by your office. Is that true?
Vic Toews: I don’t clear as the appropriate[ness] of any interview. Interviews are done all the time with the RCMP without them clearing it but there is a communications protocol that does take place between the RCMP and my office, absolutely. I’m responsible for the RCMP. I need to know exactly what the RCMP is doing and saying because if I go into the House of Commons and I have no idea what is being said, I’m at a distinct situation where it appears that I’m not carrying out my responsibilities to the House of Commons. So the communication discussions that go on between us, I think are quite normal and certainly were in effect under the prior Liberal government as I recall.
Tom Clark: So any MP, and I guess that would include Conservatives MPs cannot meet with senior members of the RCMP without a clearance from your office, that’s what you’re saying?
Vic Toews: Well they don’t clear it with my office but essentially what happens, especially if it’s MPs from my party, they’ll come to me and say, look I want to talk to the RCMP and I’ll refer them to an individual and that’s the end of it. I don’t see any more of that. But the RCMP clearly has to communicate as an entity, especially on issues of national and public security.
It’s actually not quite clear from these responses what the “protocol” is, but it seems at least one lunch has been cancelled after the minister’s office was not first notified.
When this was raised in the House on Friday, Candice Bergen, Mr. Toews’ parliamentary secretary offered that, “If parliamentarians need to, or want to, meet with RCMP or other officials, the appropriate place for them to do that is in parliamentary committees.”
Update 1:52pm. In the interests of clarity, I asked Mr. Toews’ office if senior RCMP officials had to notify the minister before meeting with opposition MPs. Here is the response.
The Commissioner of the RCMP will meet whom he chooses, when he chooses. It is also appropriate that he approve meetings of his staff. The appropriate place for Parliamentarians to interact with officials, RCMP or otherwise, is at Parliamentary Committees. If a Member of Parliament has concerns relating to the RCMP, we would encourage them to bring those to the Minister. However, none of this impacts the ability of any Member to speak with their local RCMP on law enforcement or other local matters.