Police don’t have special duty to specific groups, government lawyers say

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Where the lawsuit accuses the RCMP of failings in investigations or poor dealings with victims’ families, the government argued the law doesn’t contemplate police being held responsible or owing compensation for unsolved cases.

While Merchant has argued the claim is in part due to government inaction on recommendations made in the MMIWG inquiry, Hughson said the government “will respond” to the report. Regardless of what has or hasn’t been done in that respect to date, Hughson argued the claim before the court must be able to stand on its own.

According to the government, it can’t. They argued a variety of reasons, including a claimed lack of “cause of action”; that a class action is not the appropriate vehicle to deal with the issue; and that the plaintiffs have presented “a complete misrepresentation of the role of the RCMP.”

Government lawyers pointed to case law they say backs their position.

Attorney general co-counsel Christine Ashcroft noted a range of tests must be met in order for class action certification to proceed, and she argued that hasn’t happened here.

One argument of particular focus was a response to a claim by the plaintiffs that the RCMP, as an arm of the federal government, has a special duty to Indigenous people as well as to the proposed class, being families of MMIWG.

The government refuted that, stating the RCMP’s duty is to the Canadian public in general. Ashcroft argued “no private law duty of care” is owed to Indigenous victims separate and distinct from the broader whole.

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