MPCC Policy on Openness and Privacy
The Military Police Complaints Commission (“
MPCC” or “
the Commission”) is a federal, independent tribunal created to provide for independent civilian oversight of military policing.
This document outlines the MPCC’s policy on the openness of its processes and describes how it handles issues relating to privacy.
The Commission’s mandate is divided into four main categories:
- Monitors the handling of conduct complaints conducted by the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM) in the first instance;
- Reviews conduct complaints where the complainant is dissatisfied with the Professional Standards investigation and/or its results. This may result in a fresh investigation by the Commission;
- Investigates in the first instance interference complaints made by a Military Police (MP) member or his supervisor; and
- Conducts public interest investigations and/or hearings when the Chairperson deems it to be in the public interest to do so.
Commission Final Reports are provided to the Minister of National Defence, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, the complainant, the persons who are subjects of the complaint, all persons who have satisfied the Commission that they have a substantial and direct interest in the complaint as well as senior Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence officials.
The Commission has a mandate to investigate two types of complaints: conduct complaints, in respect of which the Commission generally acts in a review capacity following a first instance investigation and/or disposition by the CFPM; and interference complaints (complaints by MPs about improper interference in their investigations), where the Commission has exclusive investigative jurisdiction.
The majority of the Commission’s cases are conduct complaint reviews. Conduct complaint reviews commence with a paper review of the Professional Standards investigation in the first instance as well as the initial military police investigation complained of, followed by any necessary investigation by the Commission. This is not a public interest investigation and therefore investigative activities such as interview of witnesses are not open to the public.
In all conduct and interference cases that are not deemed to be a public interest investigation or hearing, the Commission issues a final report to the complainant, subject member(s) and departmental and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) officials, as mentioned above. Even though these reports have a very limited distribution, the MPCC may deem, on a case by case basis, that it is appropriate to anonymize names of parties or witnesses where disclosure of such identifying information may result in harm to the person’s interests, reputation or otherwise. No names are mentioned and the case is summarized in a page or two.
The National Defence Act gives a discretionary power to the Chairperson to launch an investigation and possibly a hearing where he or she considers this to be in the public interest. A decision from the Chairperson outlining why the complaint is in the public interest triggers a public interest investigation and/or hearing process.
The Chairperson may determine it advisable that a complaint should be investigated via a Public Interest Investigation or a Public Interest Hearing based on the seriousness of the allegations where elements of the complaint strike at core issues in policing or where the allegations involve the infringement of important statutory rights, to name a few examples. A public interest investigation and/or hearing may be in the interest of the Military Police members, the Military Police as an entity, and the Canadian Forces in order to re-establish their reputation and credibility and to the Canadian public. The interest of the public is served by ensuring complaints are properly handled. The fundamental principle of civilian oversight is to promote public trust in policing.
The Commission operates very much like a court when it conducts public interest hearings pursuant to Part IV of the National Defence Act. These hearings are presumptively open to the public.
Following a public interest investigation and/or hearing the Commission forwards its Final Report to the complainant, the subject member(s), and all persons who have satisfied the Commission that they have a substantial and direct interest in the complaint as well as other Department of National Defence officials. In the cover letter attaching the Final Report it is noted the Final Report will be posted on the Commission’s web site in the near future. Once the report is translated into both official languages the Final Report is then posted on the Commission web site.
A public interest investigation is not conducted publicly, though its findings are reported in detail to the public. Investigative activities such as interviews of witnesses are not open to the public. public interest investigations are more cost effective and expeditious and therefore are used more often than the hearing option.
A public hearing is a process that is open to the public except those portions held in private for specific reasons enunciated in the National Defence Act.
Whether the case is conducted by means of a public interest investigation or a public interest hearing, there is a “public interest” in knowing the result as well as how the Commission arrived at its conclusions, findings and recommendations as reported in the Commission’s final report.
Therefore, for all cases deemed in the public interest (investigation or hearing), the Commission posts full text decisions on its web site including names of complainants, subject member(s) and key witnesses. However, exceptions exist such as in the case of minors, victims of sexual assault, sensitive medical information and other exceptional circumstances. Initials and/or vetting are used in these circumstances.
In addition, public interest decisions are written to avoid using the names or personal information of third parties (i.e. parties who are neither complainants nor the subjects of a complaint) whose identities are not critical to a full understanding of the case.
Public interest hearings are recorded according to the Commission’s rules of procedures and transcripts and exhibits are provided to anyone who requests a copy. Such requests may be made through the registrar of the MPCC.
When a public interest hearing is convened, the Commission operates based on the open court principle. The open court principle is significant in our legal system. In accordance with that principle and the National Defence Act, public interest hearings are to be open to the public except in those circumstances where the test for a private hearing in whole or in part is met. Due to its mandate and the nature of its proceedings, the Commission maintains an open justice policy to foster transparency in its processes, accountability and fairness in its proceedings.
The Commission’s web site, notices and other publications advise parties and the community its hearings are open to the public. Parties engaging the MPCC’s services should be aware that when the Chairperson calls a public interest hearing the process presumes a public airing of the complaint, including the public availability of its decisions. Parties and witnesses are subject to public scrutiny when giving evidence before the Commission. Commission decisions identify parties and key witnesses by name and may set out information about them that is relevant to the determination of the complaint.
At the same time, the MPCC acknowledges that in some instances mentioning an individual’s personal information during a hearing or in a written decision may affect that person’s life. Privacy concerns arise more frequently when some identifying aspects of a person’s life become public. These include information about an individual’s home address, date of birth, sensitive medical information for example. The MPCC endeavours to include such information only to the extent that it is relevant and necessary.
With advances in technology and the possibility of posting material electronically – including Commission decisions – the MPCC recognizes in some instances it may be appropriate to limit the concept of openness as it relates to circumstances of individuals who are parties or witnesses in public interest proceedings.
In exceptional circumstances, the MPCC may depart from its open justice principles, and in doing so, the Commission may grant requests to maintain the confidentiality of specific evidence and tailor its decisions to accommodate the protection of an individual’s privacy.
The MPCC’s policy is consistent with the statement of the Heads of Federal Administrative Tribunals Forum (endorsed by the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals) and the principles found in the Use of Personal Information in Judgments and Recommended Protocol (PDF version, 112 KB), approved by the Canadian Judicial Council.
MPCC public interest final reports are available electronically on its web site. In an effort to establish a balance between public access to its decision and privacy concerns, the MPCC has taken measures to prevent internet searches of full-text versions of decisions posted on its web site. This was accomplished by using the “
web robot exclusions protocol”, which is recognized by internet search engines (e.g. Google and Yahoo). As a result, an internet search of a person’s name will not yield any information from the full-text versions of decisions posted on the MPCC web site. We cannot guarantee that the technological measures taken will always be respected or free of malfunctions. Please address any questions or concerns that you may have to the registrar of the MPCC.
The MPCC web site is subject to the Official Languages Act and applicable Treasury Board policies. The MPCC strives to ensure that all information is available simultaneously in English and French.
In accordance with the Official Languages Act, the Commission posts all its decisions and summaries in both official languages on this web site. Reasonable delays may occur from the time a document is released to the time the translated document is posted on the web site.
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