Auditor general Michael Ferguson, who flags the issue in a new report, is urging the RCMP to work with the department on improving information sharing.
Ferguson's report on support for fighting transnational crime finds that overall, the RCMP and Justice Canada were working well with foreign police on criminal investigations that affect Canadians.
It says the 42 RCMP liaison officers posted to 30 countries generally co-operated with foreign and domestic partners on problems ranging from human smuggling to terrorism.
In general, the RCMP did not have access to information on Canadians arrested, charged, convicted and released from foreign prisons.
Foreign Affairs, however, does collect such data when Canadians detained abroad exercise their rights to receive consular assistance. In 2011, the department opened more than 1,800 arrest and detention cases and received information on more than 1,700 ongoing cases related to Canadians jailed abroad, the audit report says.
Federal privacy law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms limit the amount of information Foreign Affairs can share about these Canadians with the RCMP. The Mounties can gain access when it relates to a criminal investigation, or when the public interest outweighs any invasion of privacy.
A 2011 amendment to the federal law governing sex offender registration means those who serve time in prison abroad for sex offences must report to a local police service within seven days of returning to Canada to provide relevant personal details.
The auditor found 25 offenders had registered as required by law since then. However, the RCMP could not confirm whether there were other convicted sex offenders who did not register upon their return because the national police force does not have access to the Foreign Affairs data.
Public Safety Canada and the RCMP are co-leading an interdepartmental initiative that would allow the RCMP to routinely obtain such information, the report says. "At the time of our audit, they had met seven times between 2010 and 2013, but no new protocols had been established."
The RCMP remains committed to working with Foreign Affairs and other departments on information sharing, said Sgt. Greg Cox, a spokesman for the police force.
— Justice Canada processes international requests for legal assistance and extraditions appropriately, but had not looked at reasons for the often significant delays in processing those requests;
— The Mounties had not examined the costs and benefits of greater participation in Europol, despite the organization's growing importance in transnational crime-fighting;
— RCMP files indicated that efforts by the Mounties and other federal agencies had prevented over 750 migrants from reaching Canadian shores;
— Still, the RCMP had not assessed whether it has the right number of liaison officers abroad in the best locations.
New Democrat MP Malcolm Allen said Tuesday the lack of an assessment was indicative of the government's failure to ensure initiatives are providing value for money.
"There's a program, but there's never an assessment of the program."
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