OTTAWA – Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says it’s “unacceptable” that an RCMP employee fabricated a response to an access-to-information request.
Goodale says the individual involved was “at a very junior level” and has been disciplined.
The fabrication was revealed last week in a letter from RCMP Supt. David Vautour to Bruce Cheadle, a reporter for The Canadian Press who in May 2015 had requested information regarding the now-defunct long-gun registry.
Cheadle did not receive a response to his access request until March 1, 2016, but that letter was backdated almost five months.
Vautour said a note included with the tardy response claimed that the letter had originally been sent to Cheadle in October 2015, but was returned to the RCMP by Canada Post due to an incorrect postal code.
He said the Mounties have since determined that the backdated letter and the explanatory note were fabricated to avoid a possible complaint about the delay in responding to the request.
“Our office does not condone actions that are contrary to the RCMP core values of honesty, integrity and professionalism,” Vautour wrote Cheadle.
“We want to advise you that we have addressed this matter through a formal disciplinary process and made the Office of the Information Commissioner aware of this matter.”
Goodale noted that it was the RCMP itself that discovered the fabrication and informed both Cheadle and the access-to-information watchdog.
“This behaviour is not tolerated and discipline has been delivered,” Goodale said Wednesday.
Ironically, Cheadle’s original access request involved the issue of backdated legislation which retroactively absolved the RCMP of any wrongdoing when it illegally destroyed long-gun registry records even as Legault was conducting an investigation into a complaint about access to those records.
Stephen Harper’s previous Conservative government passed the Ending the Long-gun Registry Act in April 2012 and then pushed the Mounties to quickly destroy the data, despite assuring Legault that the records would be preserved until her investigation was completed, as legally required.
When Legault subsequently informed the government that the RCMP had committed an alleged offence, the Conservatives re-wrote the law, retroactively stripping Legault of her jurisdiction over the registry records, absolving the Mounties of any wrongdoing and shutting down an active investigation into the matter which had been started by the Ontario Provincial Police.
As part of his coverage of that story, Cheadle had submitted an access request for copies of electronically scanned long-gun registration application forms and transfer applications. The backdated response he received informed him that the Access to Information Act no longer applied to the requested records.
Despite the fabricated date and explanation for the delay in responding, Vautour said the substance of the response “was accurate.”
Cheadle has lodged a formal complaint with Legault’s office about the fabrication.
In June 2015, Legault filed a court challenge to the constitutionality of the retroactive law, arguing that it undermines the rule of law and government access-to-information systems across the country.
However, the court case has been on hold for months as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s year-old Liberal government attempts to negotiate a settlement.