Evidence of meeting #20 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rcmp.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:05 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

We centralized oversight, but we have not centralized the investigations or decisions within the divisions.

I will continue in English.

to be precise on this.

I think that's a very good question.

What we've done.... So in centralizing the oversight, that gives me the opportunity to get the sort of big picture view, but what I've done with my commanding officers is I've written them directly on this issue to say, look, here are my expectations with regard to how you will manage some of these discipline matters. I've been quite particular in laying out my expectations.

I've also laid out a personal responsibility. I was just questioned this morning by our criminal operations officers, and in order for me to be persuasive with our front-line supervisors and leaders, if I'm not doing that at the top with my deputy commissioners and my senior executive, then I think all is lost. So first of all, I'm setting the example. Second of all, I'm making very, very clear our expectations and I'm requiring a certain accountability of leaders and supervisors.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

You have another 30 seconds if you choose.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Earlier, you mentioned the new protocol, which seems to be limiting you. Why was this new communication protocol necessary?

4:05 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

A new protocol is necessary because our officers and people at the department change often. Our policy was very clear, but it could be found in many places within the RCMP. Therefore, it made sense to group everything together and sign an agreement with the department to clarify how non-operational communication should be managed.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

Merci, Monsieur Chicoine.

Now we have Mr. Leef, please, for five minutes.

January 31st, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My comments will probably mirror Mr. Norlock's a little on the department front in the introduction. I must say that from my past I feel as though I should be standing to salute you before I address you. I certainly hoped when I introduced myself that you wouldn't be checking out the shine on my shoes to see if I was up to snuff any more, but I've been trying to retain my diligence at that.

I'm from the Yukon territory. I represent a northern riding. I just want to give you an opportunity to share your experiences with the committee from a rural and northern perspective, and maybe just touch on what you see as some of the challenges facing the three territories, and perhaps ones that overlay the rural part of our county as you take on this new role.

4:05 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Thank you.

I don't want to sound like I am making a pitch here, but if you have not had the opportunity to tour the territories and see some of the remote deployments of our officers, it is really quite something to behold.

First of all, let me say how impressed and thankful I am for the work that the folks do in our territories day in and day out. They are the representatives of the Government of Canada in many respects, beyond what you would expect of policing. Therein lies the challenge, and most of our officers, God bless them, are absolutely community oriented. The people who go up north are a special breed of people. I'm not trying to shine your apple or anything, Mr. Reef, but they are remarkable people.

The challenge is keeping people engaged in the organization, cycling into the north, providing the support for them as they make the sacrifices for their families and other sort of amenities in the north. Personnel-wise it's a challenge. Community engagement is quite a success, frankly. We've had some challenges in some areas from time to time, but by and large our people are very well respected up there.

As the north begins to grow we're seeing what you would normally expect. I didn't come here to whine and snivel about resources, but we need to be mindful of how the north is growing and, as opportunities develop in the north, that I am able to deploy enough resources to satisfy the demand.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

This touches a little on what Mr. Scarpaleggia was saying. I think you answered the question quite well, but I just want to tie it up a little bit.

Do you feel that your role as commissioner of the RCMP is to comment on legislation the government is dealing with and offer opinions on the creation of legislation, or is it more to engage in the business of enforcing the law and having your forces do that?

4:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

That's right. To the extent that I can concentrate on my primary mission, which is to lead this tremendous organization in the mission of keeping Canadians safe, then all the better.

I do have a role from time to time to provide advice to the minister and the department when I'm asked, but I agree with you that I don't think it's my role to comment publicly on legislation or matters of the government.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

You have a few more moments if you choose to use them, Mr. Leef.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

On the territorial front, through the RCMP contracts the territorial government is working closely with the Northern Institute of Social Justice. I won't put you on the spot and expect you to know about that program, but they are engaging in strategies to recruit first nations into the RCMP. Maybe you can comment on some of the national strategies you are looking at to deal with the first nations recruiting issue in the country.

4:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Okay.

I ask for a lot of innovation from my people, and I want to get away from the idea that our policies in the past have prevented us from having people in a community come back to a community. The only way, frankly, we're going to get adequate representation from some of these distant communities and provide inroads into those communities, really, is to have local people brought into the organization and brought back to the communities. That's an initiative, a trial, a pilot, as we refer to it, we're engaged in right now. We're actively recruiting people from aboriginal communities and asking them to go back to those communities. There are some risks in that sort of strategy. There is some good thinking around being able to move people around. That's one of the things we're prepared to risk out.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

I know I'm cutting you off a little bit. I'm just trying to keep to the timelines here.

We'll go to Mr. Garrison, please, for five minutes.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for appearing, Mr. Paulson.

I want to go back to the question of the independence of the police force. Canada's a little bit unusual, I think, in that in our system, the independence of the courts and the prosecutors and the police is really key to the functioning of our justice system. But the courts and the prosecutors have a few more institutional protections of that independence. The reason we're concerned, on this side, is that independence in the policing forces really operates as a convention, and it depends on the integrity of both sides to protect that independence. I have no reason or wish to question your integrity. But I think no matter who is the government, any government will always be tempted to push across that line. That's my reason for going back to this question about your relationship with the minister.

In the case of meetings, if we're talking about prior notice of meetings, is that just for members of Parliament and senators, or are there other meetings you would include in that category, where the minister might receive prior notice?

4:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

It is primarily for parliamentarians, but sometimes I'll alert.... I can't think of an instance when I've done that. I get requests for a lot of meetings from a lot of folks, and generally I meet with a lot of people and a lot of folks. Sometimes some of the folks are from other countries, or ambassadors want to meet with me, and so on.

I agree with you. The independence of this organization is absolutely vital, and I'm defending it like a terrier. But I also have a role to play in the broader community here. It's kind of a dual-hatted thing. I'm not a politician. I wasn't elected to anything, and I don't really think it's my area to be weighing in on that. My test would be that as the nature of the meeting begins to approach a political realm, I would perform a bit of an assessment as to the political nature of the meeting and would want to step away from it.