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 women.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

April 23rd, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Thank you, Madam Clerk.

Welcome, Commissioner Paulson. We're very pleased to have you here, and congratulations on your appointment as commissioner of the RCMP. It's a very important position. The RCMP has long been the Canadian flagship. It's recognized all over the world.

I'm extremely concerned about these troubling reports we hear in the media. I think concrete things have to be done to correct the matter.

It was really interesting hearing what your plan was, what you're doing right now, what has been done, and what's in the future.

The thing I'm worried about is that police officers are there to serve and protect. That doesn't mean to say that any police officer, woman or male, should be abused. I feel that the RCMP has a somewhat damaged image, and it's unfortunate. I'm very supportive of the RCMP. My own son is an RCMP officer. However, there is a culture that needs to change, as you have so aptly pointed out, right now.

I've talked to many women RCMP officers who are very supportive of the force and have had wonderful experiences in the force. I think it is right to talk about these incidents that happened. It is right to say that we need to change the culture. That's what has to be done.

Right here in Canada we have the international women in law enforcement conference. It's a big conference. It's an international conference sponsored right here in Canada, in St. John's. I think that's a good opportunity. We need to see the parade of nations. We need to see it filled with the red serge. We need to stand very tall. That's from September 9 to 13.

Now, from what I can find out, there are 17 countries registered and 275 attendees so far, and 154 from Canadian agencies—that doesn't mean RCMP—which is less than half. Only 75 at this point are from the RCMP, but there's lots of time. It's in September. I know that there's one male registered so far, which I find a little bit troubling, because to change the culture we have to be inclusive and include everybody in that.

As I understand it, there are 600 detachments in this country and roughly 20,000 police officers. Many members going right now, I understand, are funding it through their own pockets.

When we talk about the RCMP image today, we know how good that image is worldwide. You can go to any country, and people respect and honour the RCMP.

As a woman, as a Canadian, and as a member of Parliament, I would like to see what you're doing, which is very good in terms of correcting this problem and correcting it quickly. But also I see that something like the International Association of Women Police conference, and including not only women but men as well, could be a great way of bringing up the image of the RCMP. I know that there are many speakers, as you already know, at that conference. What an opportunity.

I'm going to ask whether you support that particular conference, because I understand that it has leading-edge police topics. I've seen all of the topics.

What are you going to do to make sure that RCMP officers, and not only women...? When I see that there are only 75, that worries me a little bit. But it's early. What can you do to make sure that this particular conference is supported? Because I think it's a great opportunity to build networks.

5:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Thank you.

I agree with you. I suppose I can do more, but I've already had to talk to every commanding officer to insist that they have representation at that conference.

The RCMP is a diverse organization, and 75 people from the RCMP going to that conference could be seen by some of our internal bean counters as being excessive. But I have given direction.... Well, you have to....

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Is 75 officers excessive?

5:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

No, but it's a representative conference.

I'm with you.

What we have to do is make sure we have representation that mirrors the police community more broadly in Canada. That means one from every division where we are the provincial police force, one from our major detachments that can afford it, and the national perspective.

I am very supportive of that. I've already given instructions to support that conference. In fact, our new commanding officer, Tracy Hardy, in Newfoundland, who was appointed assistant commissioner just a month or so ago, will be hosting that, so I'm very excited about that.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

I'm very excited to know that too and I think it's a tremendous opportunity. I'm really glad to hear the kinds of things you have brought forward. I think you're extremely concerned about it.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Ms. Smith, your time is up.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

My time is up. Sorry, Commissioner. Thank you.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Marie-Claude Morin

Ms. Niki Ashton will now have the floor.

You have five minutes.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Merci.

I have a few questions, Commissioner, that I would like to get to. In the first piece, you referenced not looking at retention. However, from what I understand, attrition rates in recent years have not been made publicly available. While obviously you have some information at your disposal, publicly we don't have that same ability to see what patterns we are seeing in terms of attrition. Does the RCMP conduct exit surveys as women leave the force?

5:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

We have a practice of doing exit interviews. Frankly, I don't know what our compliance with that is across the board. I don't know that I can say we have a specific exit interview with respect to women departing the force. We have a general practice. When members retire from the force, they will be offered an exit interview either with a commanding officer or with a staffing representative.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Do you think that might be a measure that would immediately be helpful in fixing the problem, as you noted, especially if that survey was more formalized with a direct focus on the possible experiences of harassment that women have received?

5:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

I think it would immediately be helpful in understanding the problem, certainly. Maybe I'll take your suggestion and make sure that's incorporated into our audit to make sure we are canvassing the views of those people who are leaving the force. Often they are a little more forthcoming than people who are sticking around.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Okay. I appreciate that.

Moving on, given the size of this real crisis, I would say, and what it means for having a force that truly reflects Canadians and ensures a safe and equal workplace, I'm wondering in terms of resources. We have been concerned in the recent past with respect to cuts across the board generally, but specifically with respect to the RCMP. We know there have been some ups and downs with respect to specific contracts and so on. We all want to see full resources attached to an effort to eradicate sexual harassment and harassment in the force. Do you feel the RCMP has adequate financial resources to undertake this massive effort?

5:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Yes. I have had absolutely no problem reallocating resources to achieve some of the things I have described. As we go forward with our increased regulations and authorities, there may be a requirement for some readjustment. I certainly wouldn't want it understood as a resource problem. It's a behaviour and a conduct problem. I think we have all the resources we need. It's just making sure they are doing the right thing and getting results.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

I appreciate that and would hope that, through the proposal that was put forward by Ms. Sgro, we can be there to make sure that government is there to support an effort we would like to see implemented as soon as possible, and to support your efforts.

The final question is.... I was reading the documentation in terms of goals that the RCMP has made with respect to hiring. I have heard the numbers of 30% and 35%. Would you consider a goal of 50%, given that women are in fact half of the population?