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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is Canada’s national police force.  It provides federal, provincial, and municipal police services, and has contracted its services to a number of provinces and municipalities.

Reports indicate that Canadian police agencies at all levels both receive donations of surplus military equipment and vehicles and directly purchase military-style items.  Generally, police are authorized to use force within the framework of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canada’s Criminal Code.  In addition there are regulations, policies, and frameworks for the use of weapons at the federal and provincial levels.

Several recent incidents have reportedly caused some Canadian citizens to question the increasing police use of military-style weapons and tactics.

I.  Introduction

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Canada’s national police force, is organized under the authority of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.[1]  In accordance with the Act, the RCMP “is headed by the Commissioner, who, under the direction of the Minister of Public Safety Canada, has the control and management of the Force and all matters connected therewith.”[2]

The RCMP is regarded as “unique because it is the only police force in the world that serves as federal, provincial and municipal police services.  As the federal police force, the RCMP enforces federal statutes across the provinces and is responsible for border integrity and national security, drugs and organized crime, financial crime and international policing.”[3]  Apart from its federal policing services, RCMP provides contract policing to “three territories, eight provinces (except Ontario and Quebec), more than 150 municipalities, more than 600 Aboriginal communities and three international airports.”[4] 

Apart from the RCMP, Canada also has police agencies at the provincial and municipal level.  As seen below, police agencies at all levels either make direct purchases of military equipment or receive donations of surplus items from Canada’s armed forces. 

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II.  Police Weapons and Equipment

A.  National / Federal Police

In 1995, the RCMP appears to have adopted the Smith & Wesson 9-mm semiautomatic pistol as a standard-issue weapon.[5]  Online information suggests that RCMP officers also use model 5946 and model 3953 weapons,[6] and the Remington 12-gauge shotgun.[7]  In 2010, there were reports of police use of the Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun in order to increase security in Ontario’s Parliament Hill area.[8]  The following weapons also appear to be in use: SIG Sauer 220R (.45), SIG Sauer 226R (9mm), Colt Canada C7 rifle, Colt Canada C8 Carbine,[9] and Taser International M26 and X26.[10]  The Colt Canada C8 Carbine seems to be in limited use in the RCMP but of greater use in Canada’s municipal police forces.[11]  The RCMP also possesses water cannons.[12]  

The marine section of RCMP currently operates five patrol vessels, four of them 17.7 m (58 ft.) fast patrol catamarans, and one 19.75 meter fast patrol aluminum catamaran.[13]  The RCMP’s Air Services Fleet has approximately forty-one aircraft, including three Cessna Caravans, two De Havilland Twin Otters, two Eurocopter EC 120Bs, eight Eurocopter AS 350B3s, fifteen Pilatus PC-12s, one Piaggo Avanti P180, and ten Cessnas.[14]

B.  Local Police Forces

There does not appear to be any standardization across local police departments at the provincial and municipal level.  Different police departments appear to use different weapons depending on the jurisdiction.  There is some evidence of the use of Glock, Sig Sauer or Smith & Wesson handguns by police agencies at the provincial and local level.[15]

Canada.com has reported that a Grizzly armored personnel carrier was donated to Edmonton police in 2007 and one Cougar armored vehicle each to New Glasgow and Windsor, Ontario police in 2013.  In addition, the Ottawa Police Service purchased a Lenco Bearcat armored vehicle in 2010.  In 2013, the Montreal Police acquired a new Thunder 1 armored vehicle from Cambli International.[16]  In 2014, the Department of National Defence also donated an MCI J4500-model bus to the Winnipeg Police Service.[17]

Local police, including in Toronto[18] and Montreal,[19] have reportedly purchased sound cannons or long-range acoustic devices (LRAD).

C.  Special Police Forces

The RCMP’s Emergency Response Team (ERT) appears to use the Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun (9mm) and C8 carbine.  The ERT also uses tactical armored vehicles that it either contracted to have built or received through donations from the Canadian Armed Forces.[20]  In 2010, there were reports of Cougar tactical armored vehicles being donated to the British Columbia RCMP by the Canadian Armed Forces.[21]  In 2012, the RCMP purchased eighteen custom-built tactical armored vehicles from Navistar Defence Canada.[22]

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III.  Rules on the Use of Police Weapons

Police are authorized to use force within the framework of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,[23] Canada’s Criminal Code,[24] other provincial-level legislation, and case law.  According to section 25(1) of Canada’s Criminal Code, “[e]veryone who is required or authorized by law to do anything in the administration or enforcement of the law . . . is, if he acts on reasonable grounds, justified in doing what he is required or authorized to do and in using as much force as is necessary for that purpose.”[25]  Section 26 stipulates that “[e]veryone who is authorized by law to use force is criminally responsible for any excess thereof according to the nature and quality of the act that constitutes the excess.”[26]  Section 117.07(1) of the Code exempts police officers from the prohibitions on possession and other uses of weapons and firearms.[27]

Provincial police appear to have their own laws, regulations, policies, and frameworks that regulate the use of force involving weapons.  For example, Ontario has adopted the Equipment and Use of Force Regulation, which “sets out requirements in relation to the use of force including use of approved weapons, training and reporting, as well as use/technical specifications for handguns.”[28]  British Columbia likewise has its own regulations.[29]

With the increasing use of Tasers by Police agencies, guidelines and policies for Taser use have been developed at the federal and provincial levels.[30]

In 2000, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police endorsed a national framework for the use of force that became the basis for police agencies to “build their own use-of-force policies or standards.”[31]  The framework represents “how an officer enters into or is confronted with a situation, and how he assesses, plans and responds to incidents that threaten officer or public safety.  It assists with training officers and provides a reference for decision-making and articulating their actions respecting use of force.”[32]

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IV.  Recent Incidents

Though the surplus donation of military equipment to Canadian law enforcement has not reached a level comparable to the US, Canadian media sources reflect growing public concern over the increasing use of military equipment and tactics in relatively recent events and incidents involving federal and local police forces. 

In 2010, the use of “heavy militarized police units during political protests” during the G20 summit was particularly controversial.[33]  During the summit, Toronto police were seeking to use sound cannons or long-range acoustic devices (LRAD); however, the Ontario Superior Court ruled that only the voice function on the device could be used and not the alert function.[34]  More recently, there have been reports of the RCMP using “armoured vehicles, helicopters and a cadre of heavily-equipped officers in full combat uniforms” during a manhunt for a gunman who shot and killed three officers.[35]  Another recent incident reportedly involved a “peaceful anti-fracking First nations protest” that turned violent after “a large police presence featuring camouflaged snipers descended on the scene and employed military-like tactics to clear their encampment.”[36]

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Tariq Ahmad
Legal Research Analyst
September 2014


[1] Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, R.S.C., 1985, c. R-10, http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/R-10/.

[2] Organizational Structure, RCMP, http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/about-ausujet/organi-eng.htm (last modified Sept. 15, 2014).

[3] Description of Policing in B.C., British Columbias Ministry of Justice, http://www.pssg.gov.bc.ca/ policeservices/description/ (last visited Sept. 19, 2014).

[4] About the RCMP, RCMP, http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/about-ausujet/index-eng.htm (last modified July 10, 2013).  For more information on contract arrangements, see Contract Policing, RCMP, http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ccaps-spcca/contract-eng.htm (last visited Sept. 19, 2014).

[6] Thomas J. Aveni & Duane Chickering, The Varley Inquiry: An Objective Analysis of RCMP Policies and Procedures Salient to the In-Custody Death of Darren Varley (Apr. 1, 2010), http://www.theppsc. org/Consulting/Varley.Inquiry-RELEASED.VERSION.pdf.

[7] ARCHIVED Remington Gun Parts (M8500-12R034/A): Tender Notice, Public Works and Government Services Canada, https://buyandsell.gc.ca/procurement-data/tender-notice/PW-REG-121-4523 (last updated Sept. 18, 2014).

[8] Submachine-Guns to Join RCMP Hill Arsenal, CBCNews (Apr. 7, 2010), http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/ submachine-guns-to-join-rcmp-hill-arsenal-1.948383

[9] Chris Purdy, RCMP to Get New C8 Patrol Carbine, M-16 Like Rifles Modified to Have Less Power, Huffington Post Canada (Oct. 21, 2011), http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2011/10/21/front-line-rcmp-officers-_n_1023821.html.

[10] Hundreds of Faulty RCMP Tasers Destroyed or Pulled, CTV News (Apr. 18, 2010), http://www.ctvnews.ca/ hundreds-of-faulty-rcmp-tasers-destroyed-or-pulled-1.503499.

[11] Press Release, Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, Deaths of Three RCMP Members and Future Safety of Officers Demand External Public Inquiry (July 17, 2014), http://mppac.ca/deaths-of-three-rcmp-members-and-future-safety-of-officers-demand-external-public-inquiry/.

[12] RCMP Adds Water Cannons to G8/G20 Security Arsenal, National Post (June 21, 2010), http://news.national post.com/2010/06/21/rcmp-adds-water-cannons-to-g8g20-security-arsenal/.

[13] Marine Services, RCMP, http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/mari/index-eng.htm (last modified Dec. 16, 2010).

[14] Air Services, RCMP, http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/air/index-eng.htm  (last updated July 27, 2010).

[16] Douglas Quan, Canadian Police Forces Bulking Up with Armoured Vehicles, Canada.com (Aug. 21, 2014), http://o.canada.com/news/national/canadian-police-forces-bulking-up-with-armoured-vehicles/comment-page-1.

[17] Douglas Quan, Canadian Forces Donate Surplus Military Hardware to Police Agencies, Canada.com (Aug. 29, 2014), http://o.canada.com/news/national/rcmp-defends-acquisition-of-surplus-military-hardware.

[18] Jill Mahoney, Police Can Use Sound Cannons, but with Limits: Judge, The Globe & Mail (Aug. 23, 2012), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/police-can-use-sound-cannons-but-with-limits-judge/article1373891/.

[19] Marie-Michèle Sioui, La police de Montréal se dote de canons à son, La Presse (May 22, 2014), http://www.lapresse.ca/
actualites/montreal/201405/22/01-4768807-la-police-de-montreal-se-dote-de-canons-a-son.php
.

[20] Tactical Armoured Vehicle, RCMP, http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/fs-fd/tav-vbt-eng.htm (last modified Aug. 25, 2014).

[21] Armoured Vehicles Adopted by B.C. RCMP, CBC News (Mar. 24, 2010), http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/armoured-vehicles-adopted-by-b-c-rcmp-1.871738.

[22] RCMP Take Delivery of 18 Armoured Vehicles To Bolster Emergency Response Teams, Global News (July 24, 2012), http://globalnews.ca/news/269502/rcmp-take-delivery-of-18-armoured-vehicles-to-bolster-emergency-response-teams/.

[23] Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canada Act, 1982, c. 11 (U.K.)

[24] Criminal Code, R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46, http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-46/.

[25] Id. § 25(1).

[26] Id. § 26.

[27] Id. § 117.07(1).

[28] Equipment and Use of Force Regulation, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 926 (Ont.), http://www.e-laws.gov.on.ca/html/ regs/english/elaws_regs_900926_e.htm.

[29] Use of Force Regulation, BC Reg. 203/98, available at https://www.canlii.org/en/bc/laws/regu/bc-reg-203-98/latest/bc-reg-203-98.html.  

[30] Guidelines for the Use of Conducted Energy Weapons, Public Safety Canada, http://www.publicsafety.gc. ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/gdlns-cndctv-nrg-wpns/index-eng.aspx (last updated Mar. 4, 2014); Tasers & Conducted Energy Weapons: Current Guidelines, Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, http://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/english/police_serv/ConductedEnergyWeapons/ Guidelines/CEW_guidelines.html (Nov. 2013).

[31] Ron Hoffman, Canada’s National Use-of-Force Framework for Police Officers, Police Chief (Oct. 2004), http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=1397&issue_id=102004.

[32] Chris Butler, The Use of Force Model and Its Application to Operational Law Enforcement – Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?, http://www.cacole.ca/resource%20library/conferences/2009%20Conference/ Chris%20Butler.pdf (last visited Sept. 19, 2014).

[33] Dana Yates, Study of Toronto G20 Summit Examines Civil Rights, Role of Social Media, Ryerson University (June 07, 2013), http://www.ryerson.ca/news/news/Research_News/20130607_g20.html.

[34] Mahoney, supra note 18.

[35] Mathew Coutts, Militarization and Protests in North America – Do We Have a Problem?, Yahoo Canada News (Aug. 14, 2014), https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/dailybrew/militarization-protests-north-america-problem-213726079.html.

[36] Id.

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Last Updated: 06/09/2015