Casual commentary about political, cultural and economic issues with a particular interest on the city of Winnipeg by John Dobbin
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Winnipeg RCMP Forensic Lab To Close
RCMP Forensic Lab to Close on Academy Road
It can be barely seen from its location on Academy Road from the street level but the forensic lab for the RCMP has been tucked in River Heights since 1986. The parking lot there was recently upgraded for the 20 to 30 who work in the building.
The federal Conservative government led by Stephen Harper now sees fit to close the lab which has had a presence in Manitoba since 1970. It is the same lab that provincial Progressive Conservatives under Manitoba Provincial Attorney General Sterling R. Lyon requested the province get to handle its forensic needs.
The lab has survived budget cuts under Mulroney, Chretien and Martin but now under Harper with massive increases in crime legislation, the office gets the cut.
The Auditor General has indicated turn around time has been terrible at the labs but there has been a dramatic increase for their service at the same time.
The Harper government was toying with the idea of privatizing the labs. The plan now is to reduce the six offices to three. Ontario and Quebec have their own provincial labs yet the feds kept Ottawa's office along with Edmonton and Vancouver. The labs that will close are in Winnipeg, Halifax and Regina.
Some defence attorneys are already saying wait times are too long for lab reports. It is hard to see the proof that consolidating the labs and increasing the workload with more crime legislation is going to see an improvement in turn around time.
It is obvious that if evidence has to be flown or driven to Edmonton or Ottawa, it will cost more. The $3.5 million savings might be eaten up in rising logistics cost.
The Manitoba government and opposition have been notably silent so far on the loss of a the lab, high tech jobs and what it means to the province.
The three provinces affected by the closures are small and their pleas for consideration are likely to be ignored given that two of the provinces have NDP governments. The third, Saskatchewan, has a conservative government so it might be interesting to see if there is pushback there that gains traction.
In any event, it is difficult to see how Manitoba can avoid seeing the lab close with a majority Harper government in Ottawa.
My personal view is that the government needs to try to keep the lab. However, if they can't keep the lab a federal responsibility that the Manitoba government take it over themselves.
Yes, you heard that correctly. Given the extreme difficulties of the RCMP over the years. it is high time we considered our own provincial police force. I say grab the lab and do as much forensic work for the entire province here and offer services to private and police interests world-wide.
Sound far fetched? Well, as far fetched as a mint in Winnipeg making coinage for other countries?
Don't take the lab closure sitting down. Either fight it or grab it. However, don't hang the gone fishing sign up while federal services continue to get chopped and then shrug later on when you have an empty building, continued slow turn around on evidence and ultimately no answers on what to do.
It is time we had our own provincial police force and it will need a lab. The Academy Road lab is modern and ready to go. Let's start with that and then move to create a police service for Manitoba.
I have a suggestion: Call it the Northwest Mounted Police.