OTTAWA — The Conservative government is going ahead with a long-standing promise to create a new independent commission to keep an eye on the RCMP.
The new complaints body will replace the existing Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, which has been repeatedly decried as a toothless mechanism that depends on the force's voluntary co-operation for investigations.
The government will announce Monday afternoon that the new oversight body will have enhanced investigative power to subpoena documents and compel witnesses to surrender information for investigations and hearings.
The new oversight body will also be empowered to conduct policy reviews.
The government has promised the new review body for years, but has said it was awaiting the pending report from a public inquiry into the 1985 Air India bombing, which will be released Thursday.
"The creation of a new civilian independent complaints commission for the RCMP will contribute to the overall reform and modernization efforts underway at the RCMP,'" the government said in its budget.
Paul Kennedy, the former head of the RCMP public complaints commission, has said that a stronger review body should have access to all RCMP files and be empowered to subpoena documents and compel people to testify.
Canada's new civilian watchdog of the RCMP, Ian McPhail, has also called for enhanced oversight powers to help eliminate the RCMP's "credibility challenge."
The new review body follows an announcement in February that the RCMP will no longer allow Mounties to investigate themselves in cases involving serious injury or death of suspects.
The Mounties have been under intense public scrutiny in recent years, arising from their use of Taser stun guns and their involvement in the Maher Arar affair.
In December 2006, the judge who led the inquiry into Arar's deportation to Syria from the United States, after the RCMP passed on faulty intelligence to the Americans, recommended that the RCMP public complaints commission be revamped and given the power to review all national security activities by the RCMP.
Arar, a Syrian-Canadian, was put on a plane and sent to Damascus after being arrested during a stopover at a New York airport.