Author ORCID Identifier

Kent Roach: 0000-0002-8738-8276

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



This chapter provides an introduction to police-governmental relations in Canada. It does so by outlining the law and history of police-government relations in Canada, constructing four different models of police-governmental relations and identifying critical issues that distinguish different approaches to police independence.

The first part of the chapter examines the contested legal basis for claims of police independence from government with a focus on the Supreme Court of Canada’s pronouncements on this issue in R. v. Campbell and Shirose. The second part examines highlights of the history of police-government relationships. Controversies such as the Nicholson affair, the Airbus, Doug Small and Sponsorship Scandal cases are examined, as well as the contributions of the McDonald, Marshall and APEC inquiries to thinking about the proper relation between the police and the government.

The third part of the chapter constructs four ideal models of police-government relations in order to highlight the range of value choice and policy options. The models are full police independence in which the police are immune from governmental intervention on a wide variety of matters including the policing of demonstrations. The second model is core or quasi-judicial police independence in which police independence is restricted to the process of criminal investigation. The third model of democratic policing similarly restricts police independence but places greater emphasis on the responsible Minister’s responsibility and control over policy matters in policing. The fourth model of governmental policing both minimizes the ambit of police independence and accepts the greater role of central agencies in co-ordinating governmental services including policing.

The last part of the chapter outlines some critical issues that differentiate the four models of police-governmental relations. They include the precise ambit of police independence from government, the respective roles of responsible Ministers and central agencies in interacting with the police, the distinction between governmental requests for information from the police and attempts to influence the police and whether governmental interventions in policing should be formally reduced to writing or remain informal.