Evidence of meeting #29 for Status of Women in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was problem.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

April 23rd, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Commr Robert Paulson Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I thank you for having given me the opportunity to be here this afternoon. I look forward to answering your questions and to discussing things with you.

I haven't prepared any opening comments, as is my practice. Frankly, I'm more inclined to want to have a discussion with you and answer your questions this afternoon on what is a very important subject, not just for me and the RCMP, but for all Canadians.

I'm very happy to be here. Thank you for the invitation. However I can assist your understanding of this significant issue, I'll be pleased to help.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

We shall now move to questions, and we will begin with the government side.

Ms. Truppe, you have seven minutes.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you, Commissioner Paulson, for coming today to the status of women committee. It's very important to have you here. We appreciate the opportunity, across this floor, to ask you questions .

I'd like to get right to the issue, as I'm certain it's on the minds of other committee members as well. Like all Canadians, we are extremely concerned about the troubling reports of sexual harassment within the force. Women should be able to work in any employment, regardless of their careers, in a harassment-free work environment.

In consultation with you, the Minister of Public Safety asked the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to investigate allegations of systematic failures to deal appropriately with sexual harassment within the force. It is imperative that all members of the RCMP be free to face the daily and expected challenges of a day's work without harassment and without fear of mistreatment by co-workers and superiors.

In the context of allegations of harassment, in your view, what is the fundamental problem?

4:35 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Thank you for the question.

It is a complex problem we face. I think in terms of identifying the fundamental problem, there are a number of aspects I would identify for the committee. One is that the nature of police work and the manner in which police officers exercise their duties vis-à-vis citizens requires the management of authorities and special powers. To put it in context, the RCMP—and policing in general, I might say—has historically been mostly a male-dominated profession. We have had one career span of women in the RCMP, most notably Bev Busson, who was a commissioner of the RCMP. She was in the first troop of women, and she finished her career as the commissioner.

Thirty-five years is a long time, but I think what's happened is that the RCMP hasn't kept pace with society in general and how society has moved to provide systems and processes that insist upon equality.

I use the analogy, and I hope it's an appropriate one, that the RCMP is a bit of an aquarium. The fundamental problem isn't the number, although I'm happy to talk about the number of women we have in the force today and what we're doing to increase that number, because I think it's relevant. I also think how many women we have in supervisory roles is relevant.

It's really more about the water in the aquarium. It's the culture of the organization that has not kept pace. Frankly, I think it's the filtration system for the water in the aquarium. We haven't been able to change our practices and our policies, or provide systems that would permit women to thrive in the organization and contribute to policing, which they must do.

For the RCMP to be a successful policing organization, we must have women contributing in a significant way. I think how the organization manages authority and power.... I've said it publicly, and I'll say it again. I think the problem is bigger than simply the sexual harassment. It is the idea of harassment. The idea that we have a hierarchical organization overseeing men and women who have extraordinary powers in relation to their fellow citizens, which requires a fair degree of discipline.

I'll add just one more thing. The cases that have attracted, rightfully, the public's interest are cases in which supervisors and managers and leaders haven't act quickly enough in the first instance to address the transaction that's giving rise to what, over time, ends up being a significant problem. It's a fairly broad answer, but I think, fundamentally, that's what's going on.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Thank you. I appreciate that. I wasn't sure if you heard me.

You mentioned the number of women in supervisory roles. Just out of curiosity, how many women are on the force, and how many are in supervisory roles?

4:40 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Let me give you the precise facts.

I'll be referring to what we talk about as regular members, which are sworn police officers. Right now, just over 20% of regular members are women. We have almost 4,000 women and about 15,000 men.

The rank breakdowns would be a little tedious, but I'm happy to go through that for you. Essentially what you see at the constable and corporal levels is about 20% to 22% representation.

As you go up in the ranks, within the NCO levels you have a decrease in the number of supervisors and non-commissioned officers, say sergeant and staff sergeant.

Entering into the commissioned ranks, which are the executive ranks, you have about 12% representation at the inspector and superintendent levels, and then a decrease at the senior executive ranks.

By way of specific answers, right now there is one deputy commissioner, Line Carbonneau, who is one of six or seven deputy commissioners. I think we have about three assistant commissioners out of approximately 20 in the rank.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Okay, that's great.

When you appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, you provided them with an explanation of how you intended to address these allegations. For the benefit of this committee, would you provide us with a description of your plans and how those plans are coming along?

4:40 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Thank you.

I guess I can break it down into what I have done, what I'm doing, what I intend to do, and what others are doing. When I first was appointed, of course, it was at the height of the disclosures and controversy. My first steps were to centralize the process, recognizing that it—

4:40 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Excuse me, Mr. Paulson, but Ms. Truppe's time has expired. I will however let you finish your answer.

4:40 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Okay. I centralized the whole process. I am able to oversee it from Ottawa. I had face-to-face direct meetings with my senior management team and my senior executive. I reduced it to writing, telling them what my expectations were of them, and what would happen if they didn't meet the expectations, trying to instill some accountability.

Right now, I am working with my partners in government at Public Safety and others to bring forward and recommend some changes to the RCMP regime for discipline, harassment, and grievances. I intend to pursue that process with a gender-based audit, which requires some explanation, sadly. I can maybe get to it if somebody else wants to know about it. Lastly, I'm providing all of the information to the CPC for their independent systemic review.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Thank you.

Thank you, Ms. Truppe.

We shall now move to the official opposition.

Ms. Ashton, you have seven minutes.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. Paulson, for being here today.

I wanted to start off by noting that I have the honour of representing a constituency in which, in fact, all of our communities are serviced by the RCMP. As somebody who is from northern Manitoba, I know from many of my peers the kind of evolution we've seen with respect to the force's connection with local communities, with aboriginal communities, and with the ongoing need to reflect the people the force serves, particularly in hiring aboriginal, first nations, and Métis officers. It is something that certainly isn't going unnoticed. We look forward to seeing much of the same and to continuing to move forward.

With respect to the issue that we're focusing on today, I would certainly like to note the fact—and you alluded to it—of the way it really shook the Canadian society at its core. We believe in and we have faith in the work of the RCMP, and we'd like to know that the officers putting their safety on the line are also able to work in a workplace where their safety is very much respected. However, when we heard the allegations, and certainly with the stories that have come forward by many women and the understanding that there are many others, this represents a real insecurity and a real concern in terms of where we're going.

I want to particularly note that for myself as a young woman, and for many of my peers who are either in the force or looking at potentially getting involved in the RCMP, this is definitely a dissuasion. I have heard that it's something that really affects their decision as to how long they might stay in this kind of a workplace. That's the wrong direction. We have made great gains in Canada, and certainly we have seen this with respect to the RCMP in terms of gender representation, but I believe this is a step back, which we need to learn from and learn from immediately, as soon as possible.

I want to go back to the initial comment you made with respect to the aquarium. I thought that was a very interesting analogy, and I appreciated that you raised it right off the bat. Many of us do think it's a question of culture, a male culture that has allowed for harassment—sexual, physical, mental, emotional—to take place as though it's the norm. I believe that, as we seek to tackle that, there is perhaps an intangible element to it. I would like to know, as you move forward—and you noted some of the steps you are taking—what exactly is being done to be able to change that culture?

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Thank you for your comments and your question.

Culture changing has been central to the RCMP discussion for the past five or six years. Since the Brown task force people have been talking about culture change, so it's a perfectly legitimate question.

I think that a culture is a reflection of the actions of a group of people, so I concentrate on changing the actions of the employees of the RCMP. You do that through what I've talked about already—some of my leadership initiatives and the accountability exercises—but also through having a policy framework and a rule framework within the organization that gives strength to the ideas and the culture you're trying to shape. In other words, there needs to be a respectful workplace and a sense of fairness when it comes to decisions around transfers, promotions, recognition, or any of the things where people are compared one against another. That is absolutely vital to creating that culture of fairness.

I think the problem extends past the women-men issue, although one of the first steps is to recognize you have a problem, and I'm here to recognize that we have a problem with how women thrive within the organization. But it goes to other portions of our organization too. Having policies and functioning systems that people can rely upon, outside of the individual decision-maker, gives them the confidence to know.... It's almost like the rule of law in the organization. Our policies and our practices are being reviewed so that we can establish that sense of fairness.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

On some of the specifics, you referenced the gender-based audit, which was also brought up at the public safety committee. Could you elaborate on what that entails?

4:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Thank you.

My commanding officer in British Columbia was referred to just recently. Deputy Commissioner Callens did a sort of informal one. He had some of his staff interview 400 female members to put some information, facts, and scope around the problem.

This audit will examine our policies and practices on the engagement of women and the advancement of women. Retention is surprisingly not a problem with women in the RCMP. We have a greater retention rate for women than for men. So we've scoped out the retention issue, but we're going to put some science behind how we understand that. For example, how do our policies support women or disadvantage women with respect to promotions and transfers? If their choice is to raise a family, are they disadvantaged because they're not mobile? What are we doing about that?

Those are the kinds of specific policies that affect people and give them options to live productive lives as citizens, but also contribute as members of the RCMP. That audit will come back to me by August with data, conclusions, and recommendations.