Witness protection is one of the most effective tools law enforcement can use to fight crime.
Witness protection is for individuals whose safety may be at risk because they have helped the police or the courts. They can be victims, compromised informants, police agents or independent witnesses who receive a threat of intimidation or violence. Referred to as "protectees", they can be from anywhere in Canada or even abroad. The protection can also extend to members of their family.
The RCMP administers the federal Witness Protection Program (WPP), as directed in the Witness Protection Program Act (WPPA). Any police force in Canada or abroad can ask for assistance from the Program. The RCMP has full-time, dedicated witness protection units spread out across Canada, and employs WPP Coordinators (who are RCMP police officers with specialized training to provide these services).
The Program operates by focusing on protectees:
Depending on the case, there is a range of protective measures available. When appropriate, there are immediate, short-term measures available, which allow coordinators to respond quickly to potential threats.
Long-term measures may include relocation, accommodation and change of identity. It usually includes counselling and financial support to ensure the protectees' security and facilitate their reestablishment and self-sufficiency (financial support is limited and does eventually expire).
Alternate measures can also be used when a witness either refuses protective measures or is deemed unsuitable for the Program.
To prevent a conflict of interest, the RCMP has introduced measures to separate the federal WPP from investigations. The Program has also improved its structure and operations to be transparent in reporting on its progress and demonstrate its commitment to high quality, secure and effective service.
The delivery of witness protection services is standardized for protectees, from admissions to the level of assistance to be provided. It is not about providing the same services to all, but rather providing the same level of service, based on individual circumstances, to all.
The Program does not shield protectees from responsibility for past or current illegal activities or allow them to avoid civil responsibilities such as child support payments or the payment of taxes. A protectee entering the Program with a criminal record will maintain the criminal record even if provided with a new identity.
Public Safety Canada publishes the Program's annual report, including a summary of WPP cases.
The Witness Protection Program Act (WPPA) outlines: