The first woman to lead the RCMP, Commissioner Brenda Lucki, made her first appearance before committee on Monday and one of the first things a Liberal MP asked her was whether men would obey her.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau named the 31-year veteran of the force to its top post as commissioner in March and earlier on Monday, released the mandate letter issued to Lucki which tasked her with changing the culture of harassment and bullying within the ranks of the RCMP.
But within minutes of appearing before the House of Commons public safety committee, the second question put to her was whether men would listen to a woman telling them not to harass and bully other members.
“Habits have become a way of work, and harassment from my standpoint is a lot more than what women went through. It’s a tough environment, I will include in harassment the bullying, questionable behaviour,” said Liberal MP Michel Picard, who represents the riding of Montarville, Que.
“So I would like to hear you – excuse me for saying it that way – how will a lady tell guys how to behave?”
Lucki did not hesitate in offering her response.
“We do it all the time,” she said. “It’s part of our makeup, ask my husband.”
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Harassment and bullying within the force have raised national attention in recent years in the wake of several lawsuits and high-profile settlements between the RCMP and women who experienced discrimination during their careers there.
Lucki has praised the courage of former members such as Janet Merlo and Linda Gillis Davidson who became the first to file formal complaints against their bosses in 2012 and 2015.
Since then, thousands of women have filed complaints alleging harassment and discrimination within the force.
Later in the day, Picard apologized for the wording of the question, saying “it was not how I intended to phrase it.”
“My question today was not how I intended to phrase it and I apologize. All women in the RCMP should command respect especially the new Commissioner,” he wrote.
Changing the culture in the RCMP was one of the core goals Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tasked Lucki with in her mandate letter, along with improving relations with Indigenous Canadians and improving oversight.
“The RCMP must be a modern organization that reflects Canadian values and culture, and has the trust, confidence and enthusiastic support of the people they serve,” the letter reads.
“In support of culture change, you will need to prioritize that the RCMP is free from bullying, harassment and sexual violence.”
Lucki, who appeared before the committee for roughly an hour, also stressed the need for all leaders to model the kind of behaviour they want to see in others, particularly those they lead.
“I think actions speak louder than words. We can say all we want about harassment but we need to demonstrate that behaviour and it comes from the top,” she said.
“If you permit something, you’re promoting it. We have to show that we don’t permit those behaviours.”