RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said Wednesday she is stepping down as the head of Canada’s national police force.
Lucki will exit the top job on March 17, she said in a statement. She was appointed in 2018 and was the first woman to permanently hold the role.
She has faced intense criticism in recent years for the RCMP’s handling of multiple crises, including the mass shooting in Nova Scotia and the response to the so-called “Freedom Convoy” protests in Ottawa and at border crossings across the country.
Multiple sources told Global News the government was not planning to extend Lucki’s mandate.
“Today I announced that I have made a personal decision to retire. This was not an easy decision as I love the RCMP and have loved being the 24th Commissioner,” Lucki said in her statement.
“As Commissioner, I was asked to modernize and address the RCMP’s internal challenges. This was a significant mandate and with the support of my senior executive team and the commitment of all RCMP employees, we’ve accomplished a lot.”
She added that she leaves the post “knowing I did my best and take comfort that the RCMP is well placed to shine in its 150th year.”
- Quebec town devastated by fishing accident that killed local man, 4 children
- N.S. wildfires: Some evacuations lifted in Halifax; Shelburne blaze remains out of control
- Spy watchdog’s relations with intelligence agencies ‘challenging’: memo
- New rehab contract for veterans given failing grade by union. Why?
Lucki has been accused by some top RCMP officials of political interference for allegedly pressuring staff to release information about the Nova Scotia shooter’s firearms at the behest of the federal government, which announced gun control legislation days later. The commissioner has denied she was acting at Ottawa’s behest.
During the public inquiry into the government’s unprecedented use of the Emergencies Act in response to last year’s protests, evidence was presented that showed Lucki told a government official she believed city police had not yet exhausted “all available tools” to end the occupation.
That email was sent hours before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the emergency powers that Lucki later defended as helpful to police in clearing the blockades.
The Emergencies Act inquiry is due to release its report this month. Another report from the Nova Scotia Mass Casualty Commission is due at the end of March.
Last November, Alberta Justice Minister Tyler Shandro called on the federal government to fire Lucki over these and other issues that he said had broken the public’s trust in the RCMP.
Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino, who oversees the RCMP, and Trudeau have publicly expressed confidence in Lucki remaining on as commissioner.
“I want to thank Commissioner Lucki for her years of service to the RCMP,” Mendicino said in a tweet, adding he appreciated her “partnership and dedication.”
Justice Minister David Lametti also thanked Lucki for her service on Wednesday.
“We have served through some very challenging times together and I appreciate even more her service,” he told reporters in Ottawa.
Conservative MP Glen Motz, who said he knew Lucki from police training courses they attended together when he was an officer in Medicine Hat, said the commissioner “unfortunately probably became overly yanked around” by the Liberal government during her tenure.
“That’s unfortunate,” he said. “But I wish her well in retirement and I thank you for her service.”
Lucki also faced calls to resign when, in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in the United States and worldwide protests against police brutality and racism in 2020, the commissioner stopped short of agreeing with Trudeau’s assessment that the RCMP exhibits systemic racism.
Although she later expressed regret for that position and admitted “unconscious bias” exists within the force, she struggled to define exactly what systemic racism was.
At a parliamentary committee meeting in June 2020, she acknowledged “there’s absolutely systemic racism” in the police force but when asked to give an example, compared it to disparities in officers’ heights and how that might affect their performances during physical evaluations.
Lucki noted in her statement Wednesday that she has since imposed training for officers to understand and avoid systemic racism on the job.
Under Lucki’s leadership, the RCMP was criticized for its response to Indigenous-led protests against natural gas pipelines, particularly the Coastal GasLink project in northern British Columbia, as well as solidarity rail blockades erected in early 2020.
Dozens of protesters and land defenders were arrested at the time, which was contrasted by critics to the RCMP’s hands-off approach to other protests including the “Freedom Convoy.”
In January 2022, a federal judge ruled Lucki had not followed the law by failing to respond promptly to a watchdog report about alleged RCMP spying on anti-oil protesters, particularly the 2014 demonstrations against the now-defunct Northern Gateway pipeline.
The court action was lodged by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, which argued there was a culture of complacency in the RCMP that led to long delays on responding to complaints.
At the public inquiry into the Nova Scotia mass shooting last year, Lucki vowed she would work to “change the future” and “modernize” the RCMP and how it addresses public safety.
“I can’t undo the past, but I surely can change the future,” Lucki told one of the lawyers representing families of the victims.
“You have my commitment.”
NDP MP Peter Julien told reporters in Ottawa the next RCMP commissioner will have to be able to finish that task.
“It’s vitally important that the federal government choose somebody who is going to show the leadership to actually resolve these fundamental issues,” he said.
The Edmonton-born Lucki’s RCMP career included time in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan, serving on a force responsible for everything from traffic duty to investigating financial crime and terrorism.
In 2016, she became commanding officer of Depot Division, the police training academy in Regina where young RCMP recruits are put through their paces.
Lucki holds a degree in psychology and sociology from the University of Alberta, and studied management and leadership at the University of Manitoba’s business school.
There was no immediate word about the government’s plan to fill the commissioner’s job.
—With files from Mercedes Stephenson, Rachel Gilmore and The Canadian Press