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Federal Court rejects RCMP officers’ bid for speedy appeal reviews, cites insufficient evidence of ‘unreasonable delays’

by HR Law Canada

In a recent decision by the Federal Court, a group of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers’ application for a “writ of mandamus” was dismissed.

The officers had sought orders to compel the RCMP External Review Committee (ERC) to expedite the review of their appeals concerning internal harassment and disciplinary decisions, some of which have been pending since before 2020.

The ERC, an independent tribunal, reviews certain RCMP labour-related grievances and offers non-binding recommendations. However, recent expansions in its mandate have led to increased case volumes and significant delays in processing these appeals.

The court acknowledged the officers’ frustrations over the delays but ruled that they did not meet the legal criteria necessary for the issuance of a mandamus.

“While I acknowledge the Applicants’ frustration with the delay in the ERC appeal process, I find the Applicants have not established they meet all of the requisite criteria to entitle them to the relief sought,” the judgment read.

What is a ‘writ of mandamus’?

According to the court, a writ of mandamus — a judicial remedy that compels a government agency to perform a specific act — was not appropriate as the applicants could not demonstrate that the delay was unreasonable or that it caused significant prejudice.

The ERC provided justification for the delays, citing increased caseloads and staffing shortages which were not fully alleviated by budget increases in 2020.

The ERC’s current prioritization system, which ranks cases by severity and date, means that many of the applicants’ cases are considered lower priority. The court found this system to be a methodical approach to managing the backlog.

Order would disrupt processing of other cases

Despite the applicants’ arguments that the delay undermined public trust in the handling of RCMP conduct and harassment matters, the court maintained that the balance of convenience did not favor issuing the mandamus order, as it would disrupt the orderly processing of other cases within the ERC’s system.

“The ERC is addressing the backlog in a methodical and principled manner,” the court noted, acknowledging ongoing efforts to clear longstanding cases.

In conclusion, the application was dismissed, leaving the concerned RCMP members to await the ERC’s review under the existing system.

For more information, see Bedard v. Canada (Attorney General), 2024 FC 570 (CanLII).

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