The committee that monitors UPAC recommends its own abolition

In its five-year report submitted Tuesday to the National Assembly, the Committee for Monitoring the Activities of the Permanent Anti-Corruption Unit (UPAC) recommends… Its own abolition.

In a report dated June, the president of the Committee, Claude Corbo, concluded that there was a need to establish “an independent and disinterested external monitoring mechanism for the three national police forces” of Quebec, namely UPAC. , the Bureau of Independent Investigations (BEI) and the Sûreté du Québec (SQ).

In the absence of such a mechanism, the Committee demands its own abolition. “All three national police forces would benefit from some form of independent civilian oversight. And if it is not a solution that appears appropriate to political leaders, then it is no longer worth monitoring a single police force,” summarized Mr. Corbo in an interview with Duty.

He clarified that he did not assume that the recommendation would be rejected by the Legault government. The Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, “is going to worry,” declared Mr. Corbo.

In the opinion of the committee he chaired, monitoring UPAC in particular amounts to “stigmatizing” this police service. The committee “cannot accept” that the Commissioner for the Fight against Corruption and the UPAC “are perceived as suffering from such deficiencies that they require a supervisory committee while the SQ and the BEI would be so perfect that they do not need an independent civilian oversight mechanism,” the report says.

The UPAC Surveillance Committee therefore recommends that the National Assembly legislate to establish the “Surveillance Committee of the National Police Forces of Quebec”. This could in particular “examine the administration of investigations carried out by national police forces” or “issues relating to personnel management”. The committee would be composed of seven members appointed by the National Assembly, with mandates of five and seven years (respectively for the members and for the president) and renewable once.

“I can attest that having been appointed by the National Assembly and only being accountable to the National Assembly, and having each of us non-renewable mandates, that gave us a form of freedom, independence, autonomy, which allowed us to delve as deeply as possible into the affairs [de l’UPAC] “, said Mr. Corbo.

Lack of supervision

The report he submitted to the Minister of Public Security, François Bonnardel, reveals gaps in the monitoring of police activities in Quebec.

“The BEI has no other [surveillance] than that of the minister. The SQ, in principle it is the minister, but in the report, we identified limits to the ability of a minister to monitor the SQ,” summarized Mr. Corbo. Among these obstacles, the Committee names “imperatives of a political nature”: “a minister belongs to a government; this limits his freedom of decision,” it is written.

The report also identifies “the significant limits” of current police surveillance mechanisms. The Commissioner and the Police Ethics Committee, like the BEI, “essentially deal with and a posteriori of wrongful individual behavior”, without necessarily examining the factors for preventing such behavior, it is noted.

The Monitoring Committee also recalls that the advisory committee on police reality emphasized that “of all Canadian provinces, it is in Quebec that the least space is given to citizens in police governance structures.” In the opinion of this same committee of experts, “there is no doubt that citizen scrutiny of police activities must be increased”.

Further proof of the importance of external monitoring: Mr. Corbo indicates that 59 of the 65 recommendations made by the UPAC Activities Monitoring Committee have been carried out or are in the process of being carried out. Its committee therefore considers it “legitimate” to conclude that “the existence of such an independent civilian surveillance mechanism has proven beneficial as much for the institution thus monitored and its police force as for Quebec society in general.”

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