House of Commons Hansard #146 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was regard.

Topics

Suspension of Sitting
Canada National Parks Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The House stands suspended until 12 o'clock.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:51 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 11:59 a.m.)

Message from the Senate
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills, to which the concurrence of the House is desired: Bill S-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, and Bill S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights).

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

Noon

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews Minister of Public Safety

moved that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, with its roots stretching back to the 1870s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has evolved into one of the world's most respected police forces. It is clear that the RCMP is a vital national institution but even the deepest roots need tending to remain strong.

RCMP members are hard-working and dedicated Canadians who put their lives on the line to protect us each and every day.

As an organization, the RCMP is respected around the world as a symbol of who we are as Canadians and what we value: professionalism, honesty, integrity and compassion. However, these ideals and Canadians' confidence in the RCMP has been tested over the past few years. As parliamentarians, we are all aware of the high profile events, public inquiries and, most recently, allegations of sexual harassment within the force. I know there is a consensus in this chamber that changes are needed.

There is also no doubt that the leadership of the RCMP deserves modern, updated tools to do its job.

Earlier this year, we signed 20-year contracts with our provincial and territorial partners, further demonstrating our government's commitment to the RCMP. We remain committed to ensuring that Mounties can effectively serve and protect our communities for generations to come. I therefore was very proud to enable the enhancing RCMP accountability act on June 20.

Before outlining the major provisions of the bill, I will paint a larger picture of why these changes are so necessary.

Over the past four years, the RCMP has been busy addressing deficiencies to strengthen the trust and the confidence of Canadians. Most important, in November 2011, our government appointed Mr. Bob Paulson as the new Commissioner of the RCMP. A senior police leader with extensive experience across the RCMP's complex mandate, including in British Columbia, Commissioner Paulson is well-positioned to deal with the challenges associated with maintaining the RCMP as a key Canadian institution.

While we have seen progress in several areas, for example, the provinces and territories recently signed a 20-year RCMP services agreement that addressed key issues such as governance, accountability, program sustainability and cost containment, more needs to be done and that means amending the legislation governing the RCMP.

It is surprising to think that the RCMP Act has not been significantly amended in nearly 25 years. The RCMP Act, last amended in 1988, has served us well but the time has come for a change.

The proposed legislation would further enhance the RCMP's accountability by reforming the legislation in a number of key areas: First, it would strengthen the RCMP's review and complaints body; second, it would create a statutory framework to handle investigations of serious incidents involving RCMP members in order to promote greater transparency; and third, it would modernize discipline, grievance and human resource management processes for members of the RCMP. This would help prevent, address and correct performance issues in a way that is both fair and timely.

If some of those ideas sound familiar it is not surprising. The proposed legislation contains all of the elements of the former Bill C-38 and several components of former Bill C-43 related to human resource management.

I will delve into each of these areas more deeply.

In 1988, the RCMP Act established the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, or CPC for short. As its name suggests, the CPC is an independent, arm's-length, civilian body that ensures that public complaints made about the conduct of RCMP officers are examined fairly and impartially.

In recent years, many different stakeholders have expressed concerns about the limitations of that review body. Whether the criticisms stem from contract jurisdictions, parliamentary committees, reports from public inquiries or critiques from individual Canadians, they all share a similar thrust: a belief that the CPC requires enhanced legislative powers for an effective and fulsome review of RCMP activities.

The government has listened to the concerns of Canadians and I have spent the summer travelling the country listening to the concerns of front line RCMP members, community leaders and Canadians. I have heard clearly these concerns. The government recognizes that a growing chorus is demanding change to the review and complaints framework of the RCMP.

I am proud that Bill C-42 fully addresses these issues. The bill would create a new commission that would enhance, streamline and update many elements of the CPC that are currently working effectively. Additionally, new powers would be conferred on the new commission, including the authority to summon and compel witnesses to give oral or written evidence, grant greater access to RCMP information deemed relevant by the new commission for the performance of its duties and, finally, to conduct policy reviews. This would bring the new commission in line with other modern provincial, federal and international review bodies. The legislation would also permit the new commission to have broad access to RCMP information but subject to appropriate safeguards.

As we know, many jurisdictions contract the RCMP for policing services. They have made it very clear that they want enhanced accountability for RCMP member conduct in their communities. They have also asked that the legislative framework for the new commission be designed to dovetail with their own police review bodies. Oftentimes contract jurisdictions want a detailed analysis of RCMP activity tailored to their individual needs. Here, too, Bill C-42 will deliver the goods.

The proposed commission would issue customized annual reports to contract jurisdictions identifying the number and nature of complaints as well as evidence of trends, if there are any.

By its very nature, the RCMP's work is often difficult and dangerous. Members can be called upon to use weapons and occasionally deadly force in the performance of their duties. When serious incidents occur, such as life-threatening injuries or death, the RCMP would be required to refer the case to the provincial civilian investigative body, where one exists. For example, in Alberta, the Alberta serious incident response team would be in charge of carrying out the criminal investigation into an RCMP member's conduct if serious injury or death resulted from an RCMP interaction with the public. In the absence of such a body, the RCMP would have to refer the investigation to another police force whenever practical. In those rare incidents where neither of those two options are available, the RCMP would conduct its own investigation, but this last option would be the exception rather than the norm. This process is both workable and practical for a force spread across one of the largest countries in the world and has the broadest support from the jurisdictions the RCMP serves.

We have built in safeguards that if the RCMP has to investigate one of its own members or if it refers the case to another police force, an independent observer could be appointed by the jurisdiction or the new commission to monitor the impartiality of the investigation. This policy is a result of concerns about a conflict of interest with Mounties investigating their own members.

The government has taken these criticisms to heart and, while we acknowledge the work that the RCMP has done in this regard with its 2010 external investigation or review policies, it is time to solidify this policy in law. The proposed legislation reduces the potential for bias, promotes transparency and promotes public accountability in serious incident investigations.

Recent allegations relating to misconduct and harassment in the RCMP are well-known and I am deeply troubled by these allegations. No doubt, hon. members are also familiar with criticism of the RCMP for how it deals with these kinds of allegations. That is why we believe it is vital to reform the discipline, grievance and human resource management processes within the RCMP and to do so through legislation.

Thus, Bill C-42 would reorient and streamline current processes and provide the commissioner with the authorities needed to manage the organization more effectively.

Let me touch on each of the three components, beginning with discipline.

Simply put, the current process is not working as well as it could, given the existing limitations in the current legislation. Sanctions and remedial options are limited, and the process is weighted down by red tape. Proceedings can literally drag on for years. This is why we are reforming the adjudication boards currently in place.

For most disciplinary actions of any severity, for example, the RCMP is required to use a three-person adjudication board. These boards effectively undermine the role of front-line managers who lack the ability to resolve issues promptly, as well as the flexibility to make decisions on sanctions. As a result, the use of boards creates an adversarial work climate, not to mention long delays in the process.

Under the proposed changes, front-line managers would finally gain the authority and responsibility to impose appropriate, punitive measures. These measures would range from remedial training to corrective action such as holding back pay. Managers would not have to resort to a formal board process, except in the case of dismissal.

Like cases of discipline, the airing of grievances in the RCMP is terribly inefficient. There are, for example, separate processes to deal with terms and conditions of employment, appeals of discharge for unsatisfactory performance, and appeals of formal and informal disciplinary sanctions. On top of that, each process has different decision-makers and administrative structures.

The proposed legislation would create a single grievance and appeal process, allowing for consistency, fairness and efficiency. The legislation would also empower managers, allowing them to deal with issues before they mushroom into big problems. For example, in August 2004, a grievance was filed over a dinner allowance claim of $15, and under the current system it took seven years to obtain a final decision on the matter. Under our proposed legislation, that would be streamlined and dealt with in a matter of weeks, not years. In other words, the proposed legislation would inject some much-needed flexibility into the current rigid system.

We must also pay attention to how decisions get made at the top. In contrast to other police chiefs, for example, the Commissioner of the RCMP lacks the authority to make fundamental human resource decisions. Specifically, he cannot establish and maintain processes for the demotion or discharge of members for administrative reasons. Nor can the commissioner make decisions stemming from these processes or establish a system to prevent, investigate and resolve harassment cases.

Under the proposed legislation, the commissioner would gain increased authorities to fully manage the RCMP workforce. Given the complex and dynamic operating environment of the organization, these changes are nothing short of essential. Specifically, the legislation would address the shortcomings I mentioned.

The commissioner would be able to demote and discharge members and appoint commissioned officers, everyone but the deputy commissioners and commanding officers of the RCMP divisions. Other powers include the authority to establish processes to investigate and resolve disputes involving harassment in the workplace.

As a final consideration to enhance human resource management, Bill C-42 would reduce the number of employee categories. Currently there are three categories: regular members, civilian members and public service members. Bill C-42 proposes to eliminate one of the three categories by converting civilian members into public service employees. This would allow the RCMP to focus on the RCMP's core mandate, protecting Canadians while saving valuable taxpayer dollars by streamlining its administration.

The time is now for the enhancing RCMP accountability act, as it would enable the RCMP to advance its transformative agenda and improve public confidence in the organization. It would further enhance the RCMP's accountability by reforming legislation in several key areas that I have outlined.

The RCMP has a proud and illustrious past, but this government believes the best is yet to come. As Minister of Public Safety I have had the privilege of meeting RCMP members and staff across the country. This summer particularly I have also witnessed the pride and appreciation Canadians have for the men and women of the RCMP. The legislation would be important in ensuring the RCMP is an accountable, trusted and adaptive organization for generations to come.

We have identified a small number of grammatical and translation errors in the bill that the government will aim to correct at committee stage.

I trust that all members will support these amendments to ensure we have the best bill possible. I urge all members to join with me in supporting the bill and a speedy passage through to committee.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will have a chance in just a few minutes to state our own position on the legislation.

There have been many reports suggesting reforms to accountability in the RCMP over the past six or seven years. This proposed bill does not appear to align specifically with any of those or include the full recommendations of some of those reports.

How did the minister arrive at this particular package as being the solution to accountability for the RCMP?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
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12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have spent a great deal of time with respect to examining all of those reports and discussing this matter with the RCMP and with experts in the field of policing to ensure that the problems the RCMP is currently facing are addressed by the legislation.

I would have liked to have had the bill come forward to the House sooner, but given the lack of clarity in respect of the constitutionality of provisions dealing with the collective bargaining situation, we had to wait for the court to render its decision. Finally in June of this year, I tabled the bill because we simply could not wait any longer for the court to clarify those important areas, and subsequently the court has clarified that. We believe this is an appropriate package to go forward.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
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September 17th, 2012 / 12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Clarke Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, having served in the RCMP for more than 18 years, getting to the rank of sergeant, I faced a lot of the challenges that the bill deals with on RCMP accountability.

When individuals first join the RCMP they learn the esprit de corps, maintain the right. It is entrenched in each member to serve their communities. When serving across Canada members always uphold different accountability.

I have met with many detachment leaders. I had a conversation yesterday with one member who is in charge of her own detachment.

What we see taking place is a lack of accountability. Members going through the process are not being held accountable for their actions while on or off duty. I am curious if the minister could perhaps elaborate further. While going across Canada, what type of consultation process did the minister do over the summer?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his question and, of course, for his 18 years of service in the RCMP. He had a remarkable career. He is a fine example of the product of the RCMP. We know there are many others in the RCMP who have similar exemplary service records.

We, in fact, consulted extensively over the last number of years, even prior to my becoming the public safety minister. We certainly looked at some of these issues, especially the disciplinary issues.

The legislation we brought forward has the full support of the commissioner and his senior officers. It reflects some of the concerns they have had as commanding officers at lower levels in the organization. We believe that the disciplinary measures are absolutely essential, that line commanders have a degree of responsibility in ensuring that disciplinary matters are dealt with very quickly and effectively so the organization can focus on the protection of Canadians.

Not only did I do this in the summer, to ensure we are on the right track, which I believe we are, but this has been the product of extensive consultation over the last number of years.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to welcome all my colleagues and the members opposite.

In such matters there should be zero tolerance. Consequently, in cases of harassment, there must be action and investigations. Zero tolerance means that the people causing the problem must be fired, whether they are men or women, although mostly men have been involved in the harassment.

Will the Minister of Public Safety be able to proceed and actually put in place standards to eliminate harassment in the RCMP?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is essentially what the commissioner has been doing since he was appointed by our government. We believe that is an important matter that needs to be attended to: that there is a clear process and expectation in terms of the standards that RCMP officers have to meet. However, processes alone will not solve the problem. Attitudes need to change, but where problems arise, they will be dealt with appropriately.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will continue in the same vein. Can the minister explain how a commission that makes recommendations that are not binding can have enough teeth to truly change the corporate culture of the RCMP?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, processes alone will not solve the problem, and attitudes need to change. This proposal, in respect of the harassment process, would facilitate the timely and effective prevention, investigation and resolution of harassment issues and address the serious concerns being expressed by RCMP employees and the public. The proposed legislation, together with the process in respect of harassment, would provide the commissioner with the authority to establish a single, seamless and comprehensive investigation and resolution process for harassment complaints against members.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his comments on Bill C-42. I would like to revisit a question that one of my Conservative colleagues raised earlier. I do not think a full answer was provided. Apparently consultations about this bill were held this summer before it was introduced.

May we have more information about the associations, members or people who were consulted in the lead-up to Bill C-42?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
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12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, for clarification, the bill was put forward prior to the summer. The summer was a good time for me to get the reaction of RCMP members from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador and of civilians who were under the jurisdiction of the RCMP. I thought their reaction was good, but if the member believes there are changes that need to be made and that further consultation needs to take place, I would like to hear from her.

We will be hearing from witnesses at the end of second reading to ensure that we understand fully the implications of the bill and how it will be acted upon by the RCMP. However, generally speaking, the reaction was a very positive one.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
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12:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-42. I could not agree more with the minister when he said that we should have had this legislation in the House much sooner. There is an urgency for the public in terms of confidence in the RCMP. There is an issue for the RCMP rank and file members who are working in a workplace climate that is often not supportive of the difficult and dangerous work they do. It is also important to the RCMP leadership that is charged with the task of making those necessary changes.

We on this side find much to agree with in this bill and the reasons for undertaking reform of the RCMP Act. In the preamble it talks about many things which we can agree with. First and foremost is the necessity to restore the confidence of Canadians in our international police force.

The RCMP has long provided excellent service to Canadians from coast to coast to coast but over the previous years, dating back to the Liberal government, we have had increasing questions about incidents involving use of force where public confidence has waned in the RCMP. That is a problem not just for the public but for the serving members in the RCMP.

The bill's second purpose as stated is to promote transparency and public accountability in law enforcement. Again, we could not agree more that this is essential if we are going to meet that first objective which is to restore public confidence in the RCMP. The only way to do that is through enhanced transparency and public accountability.

The third reason for reforming the RCMP Act, which is stated in the bill's preamble, deals with the relationship with provincial, regional and municipal governments that hold contracts with the RCMP. They have entered into those contracts in good faith but often feel that they do not have adequate input into the policing in their jurisdictions or adequate accountability measures for the RCMP when they have questions about what has happened in those jurisdictions.

A fourth measure, as stated in the preamble of the bill, is to promote the highest levels of conduct within the RCMP. This, of course, is a goal that is shared by governments, RCMP members and the public at large. We know that day in and day out virtually all RCMP members strive to meet those levels of conduct. However, we need clear statements of what happens when those levels of conducts are not met with clear consequences and procedures that would also protect the rights of RCMP members who have dedicated themselves to the service of Canadians so that they do not find themselves subject to arbitrary procedures as part of discipline.

Finally, the bill's preamble states that we need to reform this legislation to create a framework for ongoing reform so that we do not find ourselves in this situation again 25 years later where government after government, Liberal and Conservative, have failed to address these questions and failed to provide leadership on these issues.

We in the official opposition can agree on the goals expressed in this legislation and I believe we can go further. We can even agree on the key areas for action identified in the summary of the bill. Although, the bill's summary counts the areas of action as only two vital areas, I would count them as three.

We on this side agree that there needs to be action to strengthen the RCMP review and complaints body. The RCMP Public Complaints Commission has provided a valuable service but we have concerns about its full independence and its ability to oversee independent investigations.

Second, we believe there needs to be a framework to handle investigation of serious incidents involving members, incidents that involve death or serious injury, which will help enhance transparency. In this day and age, the public has said very clearly that it does not accept that the police investigate themselves in these very serious incidents. We believe that independent investigation not only benefits public confidence but it also benefits those who serve in the RCMP by guaranteeing that the public will understand the outcome of those investigations and where their names are cleared they will be cleared once and for all.

Finally, there needs to be action in the area of modernizing discipline, grievance and human resource management processes. The minister has cited anecdotal evidence of things that take way too long and we all know that is true. However, what is lacking is clear guidance for RCMP members of what those standards are and how failure of those standards will be dealt with in a judicious and fair manner. In addition, when RCMP members have grievances they need to have the understanding that their concerns can be brought forward in a timely manner and that those grievances can be resolved and not drag on for years and years.

We do agree on the areas in which we need to make reforms to the RCMP Act. In particular, we believe it is crucial to allow the RCMP commissioner reforms in the area of discipline to deal with the climate of sexual harassment that exists in the RCMP. We would like to see leadership from the government in mandating the commissioner to bring in a clear anti-harassment policy and a clear process that contains specific standards of behaviour with regard to sexual harassment and specific criteria for evaluating the performance of all employees in this very important area.

However, having said how much we agree with the objectives of this legislation and that we agree with the areas that need to be reformed, I have not risen in the House today simply to present bouquets to the minister. We in the opposition have our concerns, both about government inaction by the Liberals and the Conservatives and government inaction in particular in the area of transparency and accountability.

The present government has been in power since 2006 and, yes, it inherited a record of inaction from the previous Liberal government. However, it has been six years, three ministers and two RCMP commissioners and we are just now embarking on the process to reform this legislation so we can get measures that make a real difference in the performance and work lives of RCMP members now in 2012. In the meantime, we have had more than 200 women members of the RCMP join lawsuits alleging sexual harassment within the RCMP. We also have had an ongoing series of problems with loss of public confidence in the RCMP in investigations of serious incidents like the death of Robert Dziekanski.

We have wasted valuable time and we have had numerous studies that presented solutions to these problems. We had the task force, which was appointed by the government, and I give it credit for doing so, that reported back in 2007, nearly five years ago, with important proposals for reforming the culture of the RCMP, discipline of the RCMP and important recommendations on the Public Complaints Commission. We had an internal review, completed in 2008, of the process of using independent observers in police investigations of themselves. We had the recommendations from Mr. Justice O'Connor in the Maher Arar inquiry with regard to the national security activities of the RCMP in 2006. Most recently, we had recommendations from the former Public Complaints commissioner, Paul Kennedy, both on investigations of serious incidents, which were tabled in 2009, and when he appeared before the justice committee in January of last year to give recommendations on increasing the independence of the job that he used to hold. So there is no shortage of advice available.

However, in a question that I asked earlier to the minister, it is unclear why the government chose to pick only certain recommendations and certain pieces of all these reports. It is hard to see the overall theme that guides this legislation.

We have said that leadership from the government is required but that means more than just legislation. Therefore, I cannot let this opportunity go by without pointing out some of the things that the government has done in the area of the RCMP and the Public Complaints Commission. Just the past week, the government issued lay-off notices to two staff members at the RCMP Public Complaints Commission. When we are in the midst of reforming this and when that commission is in the midst of a massive study of the sexual harassment complaints that have taken place in the RCMP, why has the government chosen to lay off two staff members at the Public Complaints Commission in the midst of this crisis over sexual harassment that the commission was attempting to address?

Also in the last week we saw lay-off notices given to 149 support staff members of the RCMP across the country, including 42 support staff in British Columbia alone. These people provide important services in helping the RCMP do its job on a daily basis. These are not uniformed members who received the lay-off notices but people who work everywhere from the forensic labs to personnel, recruiting and in all the other very important functions that support the basic police duties of the RCMP.

When it comes to the Public Complaints Commission and the RCMP, the government has been following a peculiar practice. When Mr. Kennedy produced his strong recommendations on investigations, the response of the government was to fail to reappoint him to the job. Having appointed him in 2005 and giving him annual reappointments every year, when his very strong recommendations came out, suddenly he was no longer its first choice for the job as the Public Complaints commissioner.

The new interim commissioner, Ian McPhail, was initially given a one-year term as interim chair and now has been appointed again for another year. I am emphasizing the single year because we are talking about someone who should have independence from the government in doing the job of providing civilian oversight of the RCMP. How can someone do that with any confidence when at the end of every year he or she could lose their job? While I am encouraged that the new legislation talks about a term of up to five years for the new chair of the civilian review agency, I am concerned that the government will continue its practice of making only annual appointments, which gives it far too much power over what should be an independent commissioner.

While we believe that Bill C-42 does deal with issues of urgent public concern about the RCMP, we on this side of the House will be supporting the bill at second reading in order to move the bill to committee. I was very pleased to hear the minister say in his opening remarks that he was open to amendments to the bill at committee. We look forward to seeing all kinds of witnesses come forward at committee, witnesses who have previously provided advice to the minister, although he was unable to name any of them specifically today. We hope to see them called as witnesses at committee so we can hear from them about whether the ways the government has chosen to address these issues are the right measures.

While we agree with Commissioner Paulson that legislation alone is not enough, we do need to produce the optimum legislation at this time. That will require extensive amendments to the bill at committee. We believe a positive aspect is that of giving the commissioner power to create one process to deal with the issue of sexual harassment. We understand there are competing RCMP and Treasury Board guidelines, which have created a great deal of confusion within the force. It is a positive measure, but we have some serious concerns about the independence of a new civilian review agency. There are restrictions on its ability to undertake independent investigations. I have already raised the issue of the length of the term for the chair of that commission.

As I mentioned briefly, we also have a concern that the disciplinary reforms needed in the RCMP because of the lengthy and complicated process involved should not err too much on the other side. The RCMP operates in a non-union environment. Many of the rank and file members of the RCMP we talked to over the summer expressed a concern that where they do not have an organization to advocate on their behalf as individuals, there needs to be balance in the disciplinary process so they are not subject to arbitrary dismissal when they have devoted their lives to helping and serving all Canadians.

Therefore, we will be talking at committee on how to ensure there is a balance in the disciplinary process. We agree that it needs to be streamlined and improved, but the government's solution seems to be to concentrate more and more arbitrary power in the hands of the minister. We remain concerned that we get a chance to explore fully at committee what those disciplinary processes would look like and how people's rights as employees would be protected in a non-union environment.

I find the minister's excuse for the most recent delays in introducing the bill, namely waiting for a court decision on whether the RCMP has the right to unionize, a bit weak. It was obviously possible to bring the bill forward with a previous section of Bill C-38 omitted. However, I hope we will have some discussion of the issue of whether or not having a union in the RCMP might be a good way to address some of these outstanding issues, particularly in the area of sexual harassment where people often need an advocate in the workplace to approach management, especially if management is part of the problem. People need someone to approach management and advocate on their behalf. We might not be in the situation we are in today with more than 200 women filing lawsuits against the RCMP if we had a more conducive work environment and a better way of making sure that individual members had advocates on their behalf in the RCMP.

I want to touch on some of the reports that have been issued and what we believe should be addressed at committee. The 2006 report of the Justice O'Connor inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Maher Arar called for Parliament to create an RCMP watchdog along the lines of the Security Intelligence Review Committee. It already monitors CSIS but would also have the right to audit RCMP files and activities and have the power to subpoena related documents and compel testimony. The present complaints commission does not have enough powers over the RCMP's national security activities.

Thus, while we are glad to see provisions in the bill that would increase those powers, given the causes behind the creation of CSIS, we have a question about the RCMP recreating an arm that would undertake national security activities that would appear to operate without adequate parliamentary oversight. That is a question that we will be addressing in committee.

The report filed in 2007 by the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP proposed reforms to establish the RCMP as a separate entity from government, with separate employer status. That was a very interesting proposal that appears nowhere in this bill. I would like to know why the government, having appointed this commission of eminent persons with expertise to suggest solutions to the problems in the RCMP, including a former commissioner of the RCMP, a vice-admiral of the Canadian Navy, a very prominent Canadian corporate lawyer, and a member of the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board, set aside a major recommendation of theirs. That is a question for which I would like to hear the government's answer.

In addition to the idea of having separate employer status for the RCMP, many groups in the past have suggested that there needs to be some kind of civilian input mechanism for the RCMP, perhaps only at the national level, but maybe also at the regional level.

While municipalities have boards that provide civilian guidance and control over their police forces and that provide insulation from the local politicians, we have nothing like that in the RCMP. Accordingly, we have had proposals that we create an independent management board, which again came from the 2007 report, which would give Canadians the confidence that the government cannot interfere directly in the activities of the RCMP and cannot give so-called advice to the commissioner, who has to report directly to the minister.

We are depending here upon the integrity of the minister and the integrity of the RCMP commissioner to protect the independence of policing, and reports have often recommended that it would be better to create a structural impediment to that kind of interference than simply depending on the integrity and goodwill of the people occupying those positions.

I am not questioning either the integrity of the minister or of the RCMP commissioner, but the public has to have confidence that independence is there. When those relations go on in private and they are direct reporting relationship, it is difficult for the public to have that confidence in the independence of the RCMP.

Many provisions in Bill C-42 are similar to those in Bill C-38. I would just like to mention a brief comment by Paul Kennedy, the former RCMP public complaints commissioner, that Bill C-38 was so riddled with loopholes that it did not meet the standards necessary to guarantee independence of policing.

Again, here is someone appointed by the Conservatives to the position of public complaints commissioner who presented reports to them on the kinds of reforms that needed to be brought forward. He had serious concerns about what was happening in Bill C-38 and would, I am sure, have those same concerns when it comes to Bill C-42 given that many of the sections remain the same.

With the very limited amount of time I have to conclude my remarks, I would like to say that we do understand the urgency for action here. It is not our goal in this debate to delay these reforms to RCMP accountability and transparency, but it is important that we get them right. We must get them right in terms of public confidence; we must get them right in terms of the careers of individual RCMP members; and we must get them right to give Commissioner Paulson the powers and the abilities he needs to take care of some very serious problems in the workplace climate involving sexual harassment inside the RCMP.

We have one chance to get this right. I am hoping to work co-operatively with the government. Again, as I said, the minister said he would welcome discussion of amendments in the committee, and so we will be putting forward those kinds of amendments.

Finally, I would stress the importance of both the independence of the RCMP from government and the independence of investigations into RCMP conduct from the government and the RCMP, and also the independence of the commissioner, who really ought to be the chair of this new civilian agency and report to Parliament rather than to the minister of the day.

These are the kinds of concerns that New Democrats will be raising at committee.