Calls to reform RCMP, reduce harassment will be ‘carefully reviewed’: Goodale

RCMP officers march off the parade grounds following the RCMP National Memorial Service in Regina Sunday, September 12, 2010.
RCMP officers march off the parade grounds following the RCMP National Memorial Service in Regina Sunday, September 12, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Taylor

The government of Canada says two new reports detailing ongoing harassment and bullying within the RCMP will be “carefully reviewed,” but Ottawa is not yet committing to any of the specific changes recommended in the documents.

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale ordered the first report, from the independent Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, after the commission’s previous recommendations were made public in 2013.

READ MORE: Harassment, bullying in RCMP a ‘serious and persistent problem’

At the time, the watchdog said the Mounties must take swift and effective action to reassure both members and the public that workplace harassment would no longer be tolerated. That, it appears, has not yielded the desired results, with harassment and bullying still stubbornly present in the ranks.

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Abuse of authority most serious issue facing RCMP – May 15, 2017

Goodale issued a statement on Monday morning addressing the troubling results.

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“The Prime Minister gave me the mandate to ensure that the RCMP is a healthy workplace, free from harassment and sexual violence,” he wrote.

“Both he and I are strongly committed to whatever action is necessary to help RCMP members, trainees and employees feel safe and respected amongst their colleagues and supervisors.”

But Goodale stopped short of any firm promises to implement the various recommendations, some of which would involve a complete overhaul of how the force is governed and monitored.

Among other things, the independent commission recommended more civilian oversight and expertise within the RCMP. These basic structural changes could include:

  • A model that leaves administrative and financial matters to civilians, and operational issues to RCMP commanders.
  • A division of responsibility between a civilian commissioner and a uniformed chief of department, like the New York police.
  • A civilian board of management that would provide general direction to the RCMP and enhance public accountability.

‘It will take a long time to fix’

The second report released Monday was penned by former auditor general Sheila Fraser.

Also ordered by Goodale’s office last summer, it looked specifically at how the RCMP handled complaints by four female employees who were repeatedly harassed by their superiors.

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Fraser found that the women faced numerous obstacles in dealing with the abuse, and ultimately felt they had no other option but to take their employer to court.

Like the commission, she recommended that “an external body, a Board of Management, is required to effect the organizational changes that are required.”

“While the RCMP is currently engaged in a conscientious effort to deal with harassment, I am of the view that revised policies and procedures and training will not adequately deal with the problem,” Fraser wrote.

“It will take a long time to fix and will require a vastly different approach.”

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Goodale’s statement Monday in response to the two reports did say that all the recommendations “will be carefully reviewed and will inform further action to ensure that the RCMP is a healthy and respectful workplace.”

In January, Goodale seemed open to the idea of civilian oversight in an interview with CBC News, but cautious.

He said it “would be a massive administrative and structural change for the RCMP, so I think you have to think it through very carefully, bearing in mind the principles and the tradition by which the force has functioned for well over 100 years.”

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The notion of civilian oversight is at least a decade old. It was a central recommendation contained in a 2007 report issued by a task force on governance and cultural change at the RCMP.

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The force’s difficult week may only be getting started. On Tuesday, the current auditor general, Michael Ferguson, is expected to release his spring reports, which will include an audit examining whether the force’s current mental health programs provide adequate early detection, intervention and support for employees.

Current RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson is set to retire at the end of June. A replacement has not yet been announced.

— With files from the Canadian Press

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