The Military Police Complaints Commission was established by an Act of Parliament in December of 1999, as part of a significant effort to modernize and strengthen Canada's military justice system.
During the 1990s, a series of sometimes tragic events had combined to raise a number of serious questions about the administration of justice in the Canadian military. Two Special Advisory Groups and a full Commission of Inquiry were convened in an attempt to address these questions.
Among its other findings, the 1997 report of the Special Advisory Group on Military Justice and Military Police Investigations pointed to the need for a mechanism that would bring greater public accountability to the military justice system. Chaired by the late Brian Dickson, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and a veteran of World War II, the Advisory Group said that:
“If an individual citizen complains to a civilian police force about improper conduct of its personnel, there is an expectation of and a right to a response. The situation should be no different in the military context... An independent review capability is essential to ensure confidence and respect for the military justice system.”
This independent review capability is now provided by the Military Police Complaints Commission, which commenced operations on December 1, 1999.
The Commission is one of 8 distinct organizations in the Defence Portfolio. While it reports to Parliament through the Minister of National Defence (MND), the Commission is both administratively and legally independent from the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The Commission is not subject to direction from the MND in respect to its operational mandate.
The Commission is an independent Federal government institution as defined under Schedule I.1 of the Financial Administration Act (FAA). As an independent oversight agency, the Commission must operate at a distance and with a degree of autonomy from government including DND and the CAF. All members of the Commission are civilians and are independent of DND and the CAF in fulfilling their responsibilities and accountabilities in accordance with governing legislation, regulations and policies.
The Commission’s decisions, operations and administration must also be and be seen to be, free from ministerial influence other than seeking the signature of the MND, as the Minister responsible, to table the Commission’s Reports on Plans and Priorities, Departmental Plan Reports, Annual Reports to Parliament and other accountability documents such as Memoranda to Cabinet and Treasury Board Submissions.
Designated as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Commission, the Chairperson is accountable for all of the Commission’s activities and for the achievement of results. Based on the Terms and Conditions of Employment for Full-Time Governor in Council Appointees, the Chairperson has been designated as CEO, statutory deputy head or “
Deputy Head” as defined by the FAA and designated through the Governor in Council.
As Deputy Head, the Chairperson is accountable to Parliament for fulfilling management responsibilities and accountability for allocating resources to deliver Commission programs and services in compliance with governing legislation, regulations and policies, exercising authority delegated by the Public Service Commission for human resources, maintaining effective systems of internal controls, signing accounts in a manner that accurately reflects the financial position of the Commission and exercising any and all other duties prescribed by legislation, regulations or policies relating to the administration of the Commission.
What is the Military Police Complaints Commission of Canada?
Canadian citizens have the right to file a complaint about the conduct of any of Canada's 2,061 sworn, credentialed military police members. To ensure the process is fair and transparent – for both the complainant and the police – the Military Police Complaints Commission provides essential independent oversight.
Created by federal legislation, the MPCC officially opened its doors on December 1, 1999 as part of a major effort to modernize Canada's military justice system.
The Commission also hears complaints from military police officers who have reasonable grounds to believe that a member of the Canadian Forces or a senior official with the Department of National Defence (DND) has interfered with a police investigation.
Canada is among the world leaders in bringing such a high degree of accountability to its military police service. The Commission reports to Canadians and Parliament through the Minister of National Defence and operates independently of DND and the Canadian Forces.
What does it do?
The MPCC has four main areas of responsibility:
- Monitoring the investigation of conduct complaints
When a complaint is lodged against a member of the military police, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal carries out the investigation. The Complaints Commission is responsible for monitoring the investigation.
- Reviewing conduct investigations
A complainant who is not satisfied with the way the investigation was carried out by the Provost Marshal can ask the MPCC to review the matter.
- Investigating complaints of interference
A military police member who has reasonable grounds to suspect there has been interference with an investigation can lodge a formal complaint with the Commission. Interference can take many forms, such as abuse of authority or intimidation
- Conducting public interest investigations or hearings
The MPCC Chair can call a public interest investigation into either a conduct or an interference complaint. The Chair may also decide to call a public hearing and has the power to compel witnesses to testify under oath.
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