Head of RCMP rejects call for special prosecutor to probe assault claims within force

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki attends a news conference at RCMP National headquarters in Ottawa on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Wattie. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Wattie

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has dismissed the idea of a special prosecutor to look into numerous claims that women in the national police force were assaulted by colleagues.

Lucki told the House of Commons public safety committee Wednesday that the details were provided in confidence to former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache, who wrote an independent report on harassment of women in the RCMP.

As a result, Lucki said, it is up to individual women to come forward to police to seek a criminal investigation.

“We can’t … figure out who those offenders are, because it was all done in confidentiality,” Lucki said.

But if it is a criminal matter, it is paramount that women come forward so it can be investigated by an outside police force, she said.

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“We don’t need special prosecutors … It’ll be brought to a Canadian court, and the charges will be laid and people will be held to account if the evidence is there.”

In his report released in November, Bastarache said fundamental change is needed to rid the RCMP of a toxic culture that tolerates hateful and homophobic attitudes.

Bastarache was the independent assessor who oversaw the provision of millions of dollars in compensation to 2,304 women involved in a class-action settlement covering several decades.

He said a shocking level of violence was reported by claimants, including over 130 penetrative sexual assaults.

Others described a sexualized environment in RCMP workplaces.

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“This was characterized by the frequent use of swear words and highly degrading expressions that reference women’s bodies, sexual jokes, innuendoes, discriminatory comments with respect to the abilities of women and unwelcome sexual touching,” Bastarache’s report said.

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Public Safety Minister Bill Blair stressed Wednesday that it would be highly improper for him to tell the RCMP to begin a criminal probe.

“I have ministerial responsibility and oversight of the RCMP, but I do not direct the commissioner or the RCMP in their operations,” he told the committee. “And in particular, I do not direct criminal investigations or the outcome of those investigations.”

Opposition MPs expressed concern that more should be done about the troubling cases.

Conservative MP Shannon Stubbs said members of the committee, regardless of political affiliation, “are deeply concerned about what will happen in terms of justice for the victims and consequences for the perpetrators.”

Bastarache’s report, “Broken Dreams Broken Lives,” concluded that change cannot come from within the RCMP. It called for a deep external review of the institution and the future of the force as a federal policing organization.

Lucki has expressed deep sadness and outrage at the findings. But she has not fully endorsed Bastarache’s recommendation of an externally led overhaul, instead outlining numerous initiatives to remedy the problems.

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