OTTAWA - The RCMP should apologize to protesters they mistreated at the tumultuous 1997 APEC summit, says the force's public complaints agency.
Shirley Heafey, chairwoman of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, concludes in a report that several people were "adversely affected by the inappropriate conduct" of RCMP officers during the meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders in Vancouver.
Her report comes six months after former justice Ted Hughes criticized the RCMP for poor planning and procedures he said resulted in the unnecessary pepper-spraying of demonstrators, unwarranted arrests, the improper removal of protest signs and intrusive strip searches.
Giuliano Zaccardelli, Commissioner of the RCMP, has accepted the majority of Mr. Hughes' interim findings and recommendations.
"In keeping with the RCMP's notable force-wide emphasis on community policing, timely apologies to those people would certainly have been appropriate but, unfortunately, were not forthcoming," Ms. Heafey says in the report.
"Hopefully, Mr. Hughes' findings and the acknowledgement of their accuracy by the RCMP Commissioner will provide some consolation for those who suffered the consequences of inappropriate police conduct. An apology now would still be appropriate."
Ms. Heafey also said the RCMP has not yet addressed a recommendation that the force's Richmond detachment, in the Vancouver area, be renovated without delay to allow a private area for searches of prisoners.
"It is not acceptable that a detachment of this size, in the immediate vicinity of an international airport, be unable to accommodate a proper and private search of detainees," her report says.
The RCMP declined comment yesterday on Ms. Heafey's call for an apology to protesters.
Corporal Benoit Desjardins, a spokesman for the force, noted Commissioner Zaccardelli had "accepted that errors were made" at the APEC summit.
In Vancouver, RCMP Sergeant Grant Learned said the renovations to the Richmond detachment would be complete by summer. In the meantime, temporary facilities have been set up for private personal searches, he added. "That's been in place for some time."
Ms. Heafey's comments, which come as the RCMP prepares for a June meeting of G8 leaders in Alberta, could be the final chapter in the long-running APEC saga.
Security measures for the gathering of Asia-Pacific leaders on the University of British Columbia campus resulted in dozens of complaints from outraged demonstrators.
In February, 1998, Ms. Heafey ordered a hearing into the events. Controversy that seemed to endlessly dog the process led to the resignation of the initial commission panel.
Mr. Hughes, who took over the assignment, considered the evidence of 151 witnesses in 170 days of hearings.
In his interim report made public last August, he also found that Jean Carle, at the time of the summit an aide to the Prime Minister, exerted undue pressure on the Mounties by ordering the removal of protesters camped at the summit site.
Commissioner Zaccardelli has rejected Mr. Hughes' call for legislation to ensure the government does not meddle in security planning, arguing there must be close consultation between federal officials and police in preparing for international meetings.
Lawrence MacAulay, the federal Solicitor-General, said in a statement yesterday that the RCMP "learned valuable lessons from APEC" and had taken swift action to implement Mr. Hughes' recommendations. "I am confident that the RCMP is well-prepared to handle security challenges of major international events," said Mr. MacAulay, the minister responsible for the RCMP.
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