If you have concerns about the on-duty conduct of an RCMP officer, you have options, which can include filing a complaint and suing. The options vary depending on the situation.
Understand your legal options
Most of rural BC and many municipalities are policed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the RCMP). A full list of communities in BC policed by the RCMP is available on their website at rcmp.gc.ca.
Some municipalities in BC are policed by their own police force, including several in the Vancouver and Victoria areas. If you have a complaint about a local police force, see our information on complaints against the municipal police (no. 221).
You may be concerned with the on-duty conduct of an RCMP officer. You may feel they used excessive force in the course of an arrest or investigation. Or you were offended by something an officer said or did to you. Or the RCMP damaged your property.
You have at least four options, depending on the situation:
- filing a police complaint,
- suing the police,
- filing a human rights complaint, and
- pursuing criminal charges.
Each option is designed for a different purpose, and each leads to a different outcome. If possible, you should speak to a lawyer before deciding which option to pursue. In some cases, it might be appropriate to pursue two or more options.
If you have concerns with an RCMP officer’s conduct, you can make a complaint. You can submit a complaint at an RCMP office or with an independent agency that reviews complaints made against RCMP officers.
Filing a police complaint might result in a recommendation for discipline of the officer involved. It will not result in the payment of money for any injuries or harm you have suffered.
We explain the steps in making a complaint shortly.
If an RCMP officer injured you, damaged your property, or violated your rights, you may be able to sue the officer and the RCMP in civil court.
Suing the police might lead to a settlement or judgment involving the payment of money.
A lawsuit is filed in either Small Claims Court or the Supreme Court of BC, depending on the amount of money sought. There are rules and processes that must be followed. Lawsuits must normally be filed within two years of the incident. See our information on starting a lawsuit (no. 165).
If you believe you have been discriminated against by the RCMP, you can consider filing a human rights complaint.
A human rights complaint might lead to a settlement or judgment involving the payment of money.
A human rights complaint against the RCMP is filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The complaint must normally be filed within 12 months of the incident.
If you believe an RCMP officer committed a crime, you can pursue having criminal charges brought against the officer.
If charges are laid, the officer would face criminal proceedings.
The process starts with you raising your concerns with the RCMP. They may investigate. Their investigation could result in a report to Crown counsel (the prosecution office in BC) recommending criminal charges against the officer. A senior Crown prosecutor would decide whether to approve the charges.
If the RCMP doesn’t recommend charges, or the prosecutor decides not to charge the officer, you can go before a justice of the peace to ask that the officer be charged. For more on this process, see our information on charging someone with a criminal offence (no. 215).
If an incident involving a police officer results in death or serious harm, an independent body automatically investigates the incident. The Police Act requires the Independent Investigation Office to investigate to determine whether or not an officer may have committed an offence. An investigation is required whether the police officer was on-duty or off-duty at the time of the incident, and whether the officer works for the RCMP or a municipal police force.
If the investigation concludes that an officer may have committed an offence, the Independent Investigation Office prepares a report to Crown counsel. For more on this process, see the office’s website at iiobc.ca.
The steps in filing a police complaint
Anyone with some connection to the on-duty conduct of an RCMP officer can make a complaint against the officer. A connection means the officer’s on-duty conduct affected you directly or someone you’re acting for. Or you were present when the conduct occurred, or you suffered some harm or loss from it.
You make a complaint to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, or at an RCMP office.
The Commission is an independent agency that ensures that public complaints made about the conduct of RCMP members are examined fairly and impartially. The Commission receives complaints from the public and conducts reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP’s handling of their complaints. The Commission is not part of the RCMP. The Commission has interpretation services for various languages.
You can make a complaint to the Commission:
- Using the online complaint form on the Commission website at complaintscommission.ca.
- By phone by calling the Commission toll-free at 1-800-665-6878.
- By fax or mail, using the fillable complaint form on the Commission website.
Make your complaint as soon as possible after an incident, while memories are fresh and evidence is still available. The deadline to complain is one year from the date of an incident. The Commission can extend the deadline if it decides there’s a good reason.
The Commission usually sends the complaint to the RCMP to investigate. (Sometimes the Commission will investigate a complaint itself.)
The RCMP investigates your complaint and then reports to you in writing. If you are satisfied with the report, that’s the end of the complaint.
If you are not satisfied with the RCMP report on your complaint, you can ask the Commission to review your complaint. You can request a review online or by phone, fax or mail. The Commission website at complaintscommission.ca explains the process.
You have 60 days from when you receive the RCMP report to request a review. The Commission can extend that time if it decides there is a good reason.
The Commission will get the necessary information from the RCMP and review the RCMP report. During its review, the Commission can:
- review the complaint without investigating further
- ask the RCMP to investigate further
- do its own investigation
- hold a public hearing
If the Commission is satisfied with the RCMP report, it will send you a final report with its reasons. It also sends its report to the RCMP Commissioner, the federal Minister responsible for the RCMP, and the officer you complained about. That’s the end of the process.
If the Commission is not satisfied with the RCMP report, it sends an interim report to the RCMP Commissioner and the federal Minister responsible for the RCMP. The RCMP Commissioner will reply to it, explaining what the RCMP will do, if anything. The Commission then sends a final report to you, the RCMP Commissioner, the Minister, and the RCMP officer.
This information applies to British Columbia, Canada
Reviewed in March 2019
Time to read: 5 minutes
Reviewed for legal accuracy by
Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and Mona Muker, Access Pro Bono