POLITICS

RCMP Doctored Flight Logs, Flew Overweight: Integrity Watchdog

12/02/2014 11:21 EST | Updated 02/01/2015 05:59 EST
OTTAWA - RCMP pilots doctored flight manifests in order to fly over-loaded aircraft, the federal integrity commissioner said Tuesday as he dismissed several other serious allegations from a whistleblower for lack of evidence.

Commissioner Mario Dion says he could not establish whether the RCMP flights in 2012 posed a danger to the life, health or safety of anyone because the true weight of the aircraft is not known.

"The records were, not being accurate, it's impossible to determine actually what was the total weight of the plane on any given flight and therefore impossible to determine whether it did constitute a risk to health and safety," Dion said in conference call.

Several other serious allegations from a whistleblower — including that RCMP planes were flown without valid airworthiness certificates, that pilots with lapsed credentials were scheduled to fly and that the RCMP overpaid to house planes at a commercial hangar recommended by a staff member — could not be substantiated ``on the balance of probabilities,'' Dion said.

His report remains under a legal challenge from the federal government, which wanted to quash his findings before they could be made public.

However a judge last week rejected the bid by the federal attorney general and Dion says his mandate includes public disclosure of wrongdoing.

The RCMP and the government continue to contest the manner in which Dion pursued the complaint and they are seeking all records of the integrity commissioner's investigation, including interview notes and any materials obtained from interviewees.

"We have to produce everything we have on file concerning this matter," said Dion.

"We are taking appropriate steps to ensure the confidentiality of the important pieces of information, such as the identity of the whistleblower."

Judge Roger Hughes of the Federal Court gave all parties to the case 15 days to identify which portions of the evidence should remain confidential.

The RCMP said Tuesday that because it moved to address the complaints last year, they should not have been investigated and made public.

"Because the spirit and intent of the recommendations were already being proactively addressed with Transport Canada oversight under the Aeronautics Act, the RCMP has filed an application for judicial review," Sgt. Greg Cox said in a statement.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called it "astonishing" that the Conservative government went to court to stop the integrity commissioner from going public.

"Every time they get a chance, they attack the independent institutions that are there in the public interest,'' said Mulcair. "This is just one more example."

The Mounties acknowledged their Ottawa Air Section, one of 19 RCMP air operations across the country, did not properly maintain logs and that some planes, ``likely due to calculation errors, may have been flown overweight.''

However the integrity commissioner's report found that pilots ``had worked backwards to make the numbers work on paper'' _ in effect, doctoring the log to make the weights of passengers, cargo and fuel fit under the maximum allowed.

One pilot acknowledged doing this and "two other witnesses alleged that almost all pilots did so," according to the report by two investigators.

Dion said there was no evidence that traced the subterfuge up the chain of command, nor did the investigation cover practices at any of the other 18 RCMP air operations.

The commissioner would not characterize what his investigators found when they looked at the other whistleblower allegations.

"They did not find evidence of the fact they were true to a degree that was sufficient for us to conclude that it had happened," said Dion.

The falsified flight manifests were not referred to legal authorities, he said, because Transport Canada is aware of the issue.

As for why Canadians should care about poor aircraft record-keeping that was not proven to endanger public safety, Dion was clear.

"I think laws are created to be respected. And I think it would be fair for somebody to assume that, of all people, the national police force would respect the law.''

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