The federal government's omnibus crime bill has drawn criticism from legal experts and public officials across the country, but RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says he has no opinion on the bill.
Paulson was in Prince Edward Island Wednesday to meet with federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers during their meetings in Charlottetown this week. He presented his priorities for the force and congratulated the ministers on reaching contract agreements with the RCMP in all provinces.
But the key topic up for discussion during the justice ministers' meetings has been Bill C-10. It contains major changes to several laws, including adding mandatory sentences for a number of offenses and new measures to deal with young offenders. It also creates new offences in the Criminal Code.
These new, tougher measures will mean more jail time for many offenders.
A number of legal experts and public officials have slammed the bill, saying it focuses too heavily on penalizing offenders without proof these tougher measures will help eliminate crime.
But Paulson said he has no opinion on this controversial legislation.
"I don't have a view," he said in an interview with The Guardian.
He said he wishes to reserve comment in order to maintain his independence.
He pointed to recent accusations by Liberal Senator Colin Kenny that he is being muzzled by the federal Conservatives, citing his refusal to share an opinion on the crime bill as proof of his independence.
"Senator Kenny on the national stage right now is accusing me of not being independent. That's not true at all. I'm very independent. I'm so independent that I'm not going to sort of weigh in and discuss what laws are being considered and being passed," Paulson said.
Once this law or any other that pertains to law enforcement is passed, he will simply work to enforce them, he said.
"What I think is the most important thing for me as commissioner of this force is that we have to commit to Canadians and work with Canadians that we're going to lower the crime rate and we're going to increase our clearance rate. Those are the measures I'm interested in."
Kenny accused federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews last week of trying to muzzle and control Paulson after Kenny was told a lunch meeting he was trying to arrange with the commissioner would have to be approved by the department.