Witness Protection Program - Annual report: 2018-19
This is the twenty third annual report on the federal Witness Protection Program (WPP, or Program), as required by section 16 of the Witness Protection Program Act (WPPA or Act).
The WPPA was enacted in 1996, amended in 2014, and gives the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) the responsibility to promote law enforcement, national security, national defence and public safety by facilitating the protection of persons who are at risk of harm due to their assistance on criminal matters, or their relationship with someone who provides such assistance.
The WPP continues to be an effective tool in combatting serious and organized crime. Confident in their protection, witnesses are able to safely provide evidence at trial without fear of retribution.
The statistics included in this report are based on the services provided by the RCMP between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019. Protectees include individuals from RCMP cases, individuals referred by other Canadian police services, and foreign protectees under subsection 14(2)Footnote 1 of the Act.
To avoid jeopardizing the safety of staff and any individual within the Program, these statistics have been provided without details concerning individual cases. The report strives to provide as much information as possible to the Canadian public without impacting the effectiveness and security of the Program.
In the 2018-19 reporting period, the WPP assessed 37 casesFootnote 2 for admission to the Program, based on section 7 of the WPPA. It is important to note that, while the value of the witness’ participation is one of the factors considered in the admission process, officers investigating the criminal matters to which the protection and assistance of the witness relates, are not involved in the decision and the decision remains independent from the investigation.
The WPP is administered by the RCMP on behalf of the Government of Canada and the Program is available to all law enforcement and security agencies in Canada as well as trusted international law enforcement agencies, with which the Program has entered into a formal agreement. Of the 37 cases referred to the WPP, 34 were from the RCMP, zero were from an international partner, and three were from other Canadian police agencies.Footnote 3 The percentage breakdown is displayed in Figure 1, below.
Figure 1: Cases Referred to the RCMP for Assessment for Admission to the WPP
Cases referred to the RCMP for assessment for admission into the WPP. Of the 37 cases referred to the WPP, 34 (92%) were from the RCMP, zero were from an international partner, and three (8%) were from other Canadian police agencies.
A formal Protection Agreement sets out the basis of participation in the WPP and the obligations of the parties, and is signed by the individual and by the RCMP authority. Between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019, seven individuals were admitted into the WPP. The number of individuals referred to the WPP for assessment fluctuates each year based on factors beyond the WPP’s control such as law enforcement activities that lead to requests for protection by the WPP.
During this same time period, nine individuals were given alternate methods of protection and another 21 refused all forms of protection. Alternate methods of protection are normally provided in cases where individuals are found inadmissible or where they refuse to be admitted to the WPP. Reasons for refusal can include the individual’s unwillingness to relocate due to personal reasons, or an objection to the conditions imposed, for example, abstaining from illicit drug use, never returning to the threat area, etc. Although conditions are imposed to ensure the security of protected individuals and Program staff, all individuals enter the Program voluntarily and have the option of refusing admission based on their personal perspectives and preferences, or their perception of the risk to their security.
Figure 2 depicts the number of individuals who were admitted, who refused admission, and who were provided with alternate methods of protection.
Figure 2: Individuals Assessed
Individuals Assessed: The number of individuals who were admitted (7), who refused admission (21), and who were provided with alternate methods of protection (9).
While individuals are deemed admitted to the Program for life, they may choose to leave it. This is classified as a voluntary termination. Examples of reasons given include a desire to return to a threat area or to engage in activities that are prohibited by the WPP.
Conversely, individuals who breach the conditions imposed on them and thus potentially threaten their own safety or the safety of Program staff, may be subject to an involuntary termination of protection if deemed necessary. This decision is made by the Assistant Commissioner who has the delegated authority to both admit individuals into the Program and to terminate the protection provided to them.
Throughout this reporting period, five individuals were voluntarily terminated from the Program and one individual was terminated non-voluntarily.
Effectiveness of the WPP
The WPP reports that no individual protectees were injured or killed during the reporting period. Operationally, the Program continues to contribute to the overall mandate of a safe and secure Canada through the protection of key witnesses in cases that involve serious criminality.
The Program has made large strides in advancing its policy initiatives, as well as improving program administration to better support the effective operation of the WPP. In the last two years, the Program has implemented several enhancements to improve accountability, ensure operational standards are developed and adhered to, and that all actions are protectee-focused. For example, research capacity was enhanced, which has enabled the Program to access better information to support future initiatives and make evidence-based decisions. Other initiatives include developing and/or updating Standard Operating Procedures, developing relationships with other WPPs domestically and internationally, and implementing various types of tools as part of a protectee-focused assessment process.
Integrity and Accountability
While there were no cases of civil litigation filed directly against the WPP during this reporting period, the WPP could be named in a Statement of Claim in civil litigation actions directed at the RCMP as a whole. No public complaints were filed.
The WPP inevitably deals with trials given its duty to protect those who testify or assist law enforcement. As such, the WPP is required to disclose materials related to witnesses in trials on a regular basis. Disclosure has been noted as the largest-growing aspect of the WPP, with 47 disclosure cases recorded by the WPP disclosure unit in the 2018-19 fiscal year.
The WPP is administered by the RCMP and funded from within the RCMP budget. A table of costs for the 2018-19 fiscal year is provided in Figure 3 below. It includes wages and benefits for personnel, travel costs, administrative and protectee relocation expenses totaling $13.56M. This total also includes the cost of internal services of $1.98M, which encompasses financial management, legal services, real property services and human resources.
These costs do not take into consideration expenses incurred by other law enforcement agencies, including other WPPs.
|Amount in Canadian Dollars||% of Total Expenditures|
|Other Police Department Secondments||$57,212.19||0.4%|
|Witness Protection Expenses||$1,298,330.80||9.6%|
|Civil Litigation Costs||$55,000.00||0.4%|
|Employee Benefit Plans||$1,372,858.00||10.1%|
Figure 4: Percent of Total Expenditures
|% of Total Expenditures|
|Other Police Department Secondments||0.4%|
|Witness Protection Expenses||9.6%|
|Civil Litigation Costs||0.4%|
|Employee Benefit Plans||10.1%|
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