The Hamilton Spectator
Ottawa wants RCMP to ban the use of sponge rounds, CS gas for crowd control
The federal government says it wants the RCMP to ban the use of two crowd-control tools that police services across the country say they have in their arsenals: sponge rounds and CS gas.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s office confirmed that it wants the measures outlawed, even as the RCMP declines to say whether it will comply with that instruction.
“Removing less lethal options from our members’ available options raises real concerns for public and police officer safety,” National Police Union president Brian Sauvé said in a statement.
The confirmation the federal Liberals want the tools banned comes after The Canadian Press raised questions about a mandate letter Mendicino gave to RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki last year.
It directed the force to stop using three use-of-force methods: the “carotid control” neck hold, rubber bullets and tear gas.
The RCMP made headlines recently when it confirmed that it still allows officers to use the controversial neck hold despite those instructions and the fact that other police services have stopped using it.
The Mounties do not use rubber bullets or the more-dangerous chemical compounds referred to as tear gas, which cause irritation to a person’s eyes and mucous membranes. But the minister’s office is now clarifying that it wants similar tools banned, too. Mendicino’s office said in a statement that it used the terms “rubber bullets” and “tear gas” in the mandate letter “as they are general language understood by most Canadians.”
It confirmed it considers the milder CS gas and extended-range impact weapons, which fire foam rounds, to be the operational terms for such tools — meaning it does want the RCMP to stop using them.
The RCMP said in a statement it is reviewing the mandate letter — and gave no indication it intends to follow Mendicino’s orders.
“The RCMP continues to report publicly on our use of police intervention options, including the carotid control technique and the 40 millimetre extended range impact weapon that fires spongetipped rounds, not rubber bullets, as well as the use of specialty munitions,” it said.
The RCMP used CS gas 102 times in 2021, and it used extended-range impact weapons 86 times.
The “carotid control” neck hold, which the RCMP reported it used 14 times in 2021, had been widely condemned after George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis.
The RCMP said in a statement it is reviewing the mandate letter — and gave no indication it intends to follow Minister Mendicino’s orders