RCMP over­rides rights of be­reaved fam­i­lies

Cape Breton Post - - NEWS -

Five months ago with great fanfare, the Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment passed the Cana­dian Vic­tims Bill of Rights. “This will be a quan­tum leap for­ward for vic­tims and their fam­i­lies,” pro­claimed Jus­tice Min­is­ter Peter MacKay.

The leg­is­la­tion stip­u­lates that vic­tims of crime and their im­me­di­ate rel­a­tives have a statu­tory right to in­for­ma­tion about all stages of the case; pro­tec­tion if they wish it; par­tic­i­pa­tion in the jus­tice sys­tem and resti­tu­tion where pos­si­ble.

How is it, then, that the RCMP rou­tinely with­holds the names of vic­tims of ac­ci­dents, car crashes and crimes in de­fi­ance of the wishes of their fam­i­lies? The na­tional po­lice force says it is bound by the Pri­vacy Act. But the 30-year-old act does not re­quire po­lice to over­ride the right of vic­tims’ fam­i­lies to have their loved ones pub­licly iden­ti­fied. It was never meant to pre­vent neigh­bours and so­cial agen­cies from sup­port­ing griev­ing rel­a­tives.

Un­til this year the RCMP re­leased the names of vic­tims with their con­sent or the per­mis­sion of their sur­viv­ing rel­a­tives. Now it says it must com­ply with the Pri­vacy Act, re­gard­less of the wishes of be­reaved fam­i­lies.

“I wanted peo­ple to know my sons,” said Mary Anne MacIn­tyre of Judique, a small Cape Bre­ton com­mu­nity where 19-year-old Mor­gan MacIn­tyre and his 17-year-old brother Jor­dan were killed in a car crash two years ago. “Be­ing Vic­tim A or Vic­tim B is just, to me, feels so cold.”

Sgt. Greg Cox of the RCMP says the be­reaved mother can­not waive the right to pri­vacy. “You can’t give per­mis­sion to re­lease some­one else’s in­for­ma­tion. It’s not yours to give.” (A third young man was killed and four were in­jured in the col­li­sion.)

There are two ob­vi­ous reme­dies to this prob­lem. The RCMP could dis­close only the names of MacIn­tyre’s sons. Or it could seek the con­sent of the other vic­tims or their next of kin. But that re­quires ef­fort. It is eas­ier to in­voke the Pri­vacy Act. It is more con­ve­nient to adopt a blan­ket non-dis­clo­sure stance.

If the fed­eral Con­ser­va­tives are truly com­mit­ted to “putting vic­tims at the very epi­cen­tre of our jus­tice sys­tem” a timely re­minder to RCMP Com­mis­sioner Bob Paul­son would be in or­der.

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