House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.

Topics

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one thing we need to recognize after listening to a number of New Democrats speak to the bill is the need to change the current system. Some of the strongest advocacy for that change is coming from the rank and file members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They believe that not only is it in their best interest but it is in the collective best interest of Canadians who look to the RCMP as being the best police force in the world. There is a huge expectation that the government will be open to amendments at committee stage because there are some deficiencies. We recognize that. We want the bill to go to committee. There is a great deal of value to having a debate and the Liberals are disappointed that the government decided to rush the bill through.

The member made reference to provincial responsibilities within the bill. Does the member believe that the provinces should have some responsibility in terms of when a review, for example, might take place? That is being suggested in the legislation, from what I understand.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege to work with members of the RCMP and they have raised a number of very important issues over the years. Some current members of the force have come to my office and I have had the opportunity to talk with them about structural issues within the RCMP that need to be dealt with.

After six years of being in government, I am glad the Conservatives are finally bringing something forward. This bill deals with some things, but it does not go far enough. I liked the member's comments with regard to having the opportunity to make amendments at committee and to look at the issue the member talked about, as to whether provincial jurisdiction should be looked at when we are dealing with RCMP issues.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my NDP colleague just mentioned that he does not think the bill goes far enough. This comment made me think about what Commissioner Paulson said. He said that the bill does not go far enough and will not help restore public trust in the RCMP.

I would like to ask my NDP colleague whether he thinks this bill will be enough to make people trust the RCMP and how it operates? If not, what could an NDP government have proposed and brought forward in such a bill?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have heard from people in my constituency and from across the country with regard to the public oversight of the RCMP. Under the current government, we have seen what has happened to the RCMP's image over the years. One thing Canadians and New Democrats would like to see is public independent oversight of the RCMP complaints process. I would urge the government to consider some of the NDP's amendments that would lead to a more transparent and accountable RCMP in the future.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his excellent speech on Bill C-42. He raised a number of points that the NDP would like to examine in committee.

I have a very simple question. Is my colleague not disappointed to see that this bill does not go further, when this is an opportunity to make some significant changes within the RCMP?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, absolutely. The government had an opportunity to restore public confidence in the RCMP and one thing that people in my constituency and across the country have been asking for is public independent oversight of the RCMP complaints process. I urge the government to consider some of the NDP's amendments that will be put forward at the committee stage and look at having public oversight so that we can restore the public's confidence in our national police force.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

September 19th, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned previously in the House, I have had the great privilege of working in the field of environmental enforcement during my career. I have done this overseas, in Yukon, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Montreal and Ottawa. I have had the privilege of working with very dedicated men and women who are inspectors, investigators and enforcement officers. One of the most important things is morale. It is very important to those officers because they tend to be at the bottom of the totem pole in getting staffing, proper equipment, and attention within their respective agencies.

The bill is absolutely imperative for the protection of officers who may feel they are being maligned by sexual harassment. The bill is also important for the purposes of protecting the credibility of the RCMP and the rights of the public to bring forward complaints and to have them properly reviewed in an independent manner. The bill is also important for the credible and effective enforcement of the laws in this country.

I stand with my fellow members of the official opposition in support of sending Bill C-42 to committee. However, I implore the government to give serious consideration to not only some of the proposals that will come forward by our members but also likely some of the same witnesses who have appeared in the many reviews that have gone on over the last decade. These are wise people with a lot of experience. I would also encourage that some of the enforcement officers be brought in. Who knows better than those who are working on the front lines what is needed to do a proper review?

As has been mentioned, we commend the government for finally bringing forward this legislation, which is long overdue, to improve harassment review procedures, to deal with discipline in the force, and also to provide for an improved complaints review process. It is also important that the agency be properly staffed and resourced.

Mr. Speaker, I am having a hard time hearing myself speak. Perhaps members could take their conversations outside.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. I know hon. members are interested to know what the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona has to say. It is difficult to hear the member when other members are having conversations. I would ask them to take those conversations out to the lobbies and we will carry on the debate.

The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the conviviality among parties in the House but do appreciate the respect for those who are standing to speak. This is an important matter and it is important that we all participate in the discussion which means that we listen to what each other has to say as well.

I stand in support of this bill going to committee. There are a lot of very good measures in this bill but there are a lot of measures that could be improved, particularly to respect and observe the many recommendations from as broad a group as the current RCMP commissioner and previous witnesses, including the complaints commissioner.

Many of these legislative reforms are addressing outstanding issues, including the RCMP complaints process and the sexual harassment processes within the RCMP, most notably, a lot of complaints recently about the harassment of women officers and the right of the RCMP to unionize. Regrettably, those have not been addressed in the bill and have not been addressed by the government. We look forward to the government giving those officers the equal right to organize and be represented and to have proper grievance procedures.

As mentioned, there have been numerous reviews, commissions and official calls for action. This is a good start. Perhaps we can embellish the work that has been tabled in committee and come back with a more adequate bill.

These tabled reforms come in the wake of the deep concern expressed by the Canadian public around such incidents as the sexual harassment of female RCMP. I think there are more than 200 former and current officers who have filed a court action. Also, of course, there is the very regrettable Dziekanski incident in Vancouver. It is time to strengthen the law and policy in investigation and complaints, disciplinary measures and sexual harassment procedures.

On the RCMP commissioner authority, we commend the government for coming forward and strengthening the powers of the commissioner to address discipline and potentially discharge RCMP members. However, there have been valid concerns raised that to give complete wide open discretion is perhaps not the route to take, and that there should be very clear criteria laid out and disclosed so that all officers and the public know the reasons for taking disciplinary action.

Of equal concern is the fact that the legislation does not actually stop with giving the commissioner that totally discretionary power. He or she can in turn delegate that down and in turn sub-delegate it. We do not know from one day to the next who will actually be taking disciplinary action, including releasing officers from duty.

In addition, on the RCMP oversight and investigation of complaints, there have been many calls for an independent oversight body which exists in many of the provinces. It is time for the federal government to step up to the plate and institute an equally credible process. That is not only important for the purposes of the public, which has been raising a lot of questions about the way that some of the RCMP officers have been conducting their affairs and exercising their powers, but it is also important for the morale of the officers themselves. They need to know that there will be a process where the review is done in a fair, open and independent way, that the findings will be final and that measures will be taken. Instead, the government has chosen to do the same thing it is doing with regulatory environment agencies, which is having well-informed independent officers appointed, hearing witnesses and then saying that it will make the final decision based on, what, we do not know.

It is very important that the bill also limits the powers of this supposedly independent commission to initiate reviews. That needs to be strengthened. The decisions are not binding. The final decisions are vested in the political order and that is not appropriate. People are calling for independent scrutiny, like other jurisdictions.

We would prefer that they continue to report to Parliament and not only to the minister. That would enable all members of Parliament to hold the force accountable and ensure that any recommendations move forward.

Also, there has been a call from a number of bodies, notably Paul Kennedy, the former complaints commission, that there is a need for specific deadlines for response by the RCMP to commission reports. This is all good, sage advice. The bill could be embellished by adding these kinds of reforms.

In the area of response to complaints of sexual harassment, it is good that a new process is being put in place but we need more than legislation.

In April of this year, when Mr. Robert Paulson, the RCMP commissioner, appeared before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which was studying the role and challenges to women employed by the RCMP, he said:

It's the culture of the organization that has not kept pace. ... 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. ... 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.

We commend the commissioner and we hope the government will also listen to his sage advice and take this further than simply bringing forward legislation. We look forward to potentially his testimony in committee where he could embellish on his recommendations.

Surely it is the responsibility of Parliament to be instituting the measures that ensure our federal law enforcement agency is protecting the rights of its officers and is able to take action to actually prevent harassment and ensure a healthy working climate.

I do not think it is sufficient for us simply to have provisions where a brave member of the force might actually come forward and file that complaint. What is important is that measures be taken upfront to prevent this kind of harassment, so that we actually have a climate with high morale and equal opportunity for both men and women and people of different backgrounds to contribute to law enforcement.

I will just repeat my high level of respect for our federal enforcement agency and I look forward as a member of Parliament to try to bring back improved processes to strengthen its ability to protect our communities.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's comments on the bill and she has really pointed out some of the areas in the bill that need to be strengthened and improved.

I would like to give her the opportunity to talk a little bit longer about those suggestions for improvement and why she thinks it has taken the government so long to get the bill before the House.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his incredible work in this area. He makes a fantastic critic in this area, both for the RCMP and for the Canadian public.

I do not think I have much chance to elaborate. Many who have spoken in the House have raised the issues very thoroughly. I just want to reiterate that bringing forward these measures is not just for the benefit of the public, nor is it just for the benefit of some of the officers who may be feeling harassed. It is very critical that we have solid foundations for our federal enforcement agency.

There are many isolated communities in Canada. I think of those along the highway between Edmonton and Fort McMurray and the major accidents that are occurring that various levels of government are trying to address. Those officers need to go to the scenes of those very gruesome accidents time after time and are sometimes deployed on their own.

It is very important that we work together to get the strongest measures in place to protect our forces and the public.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on the comments by my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

As the member for Edmonton—Strathcona has said, for an institution as important as the RCMP, it is so important that the members within that force know they can rely on proper procedures around sexual harassment.

I, like many others, have a lot of questions about why, with so many incredible and disturbing cases that female officers of the force had to experience, it took so long before any action was taken. It seems to me that when we look at the RCMP, surely the most basic right is for the members to work in a harassment-free environment. As the member for Edmonton—Strathcona has pointed out, often those members are working in very difficult conditions in isolated communities.

It is really just a comment to underline what the member for Edmonton—Strathcona has said about these measures being incredibly important. It is disappointing that the government, even though I heard the minister many times say that he was concerned about it, basically did nothing about it, so it is long overdue.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is absolutely critical for the morale of our federal enforcement agency.

As one of our colleagues mentioned earlier in her speech, it is not just the female members of the RCMP who are resigning because they are concerned about the way that female officers are being treated. There are a lot of great men and women in the force.

I think particularly of some instances of hearing concerns about some of our first nations members of the RCMP who are feeling that they are being treated in a discriminatory fashion.

It is absolutely critical that. if we are going to recruit the best of our youth into this important agency, we stand up for them and encourage them to enter these enforcement agencies.

We are a democratic nation. We operate by the rule of law. We need to ensure that all those mechanisms are in place and that we are putting that into effect, which means staffing, support and, frankly, giving the forces a union.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member for Edmonton—Strathcona, as I asked the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan, whether it is perhaps time now, as part of a review, to think about what we really want as a national police force rather than one that also tries to serve many provinces and municipalities in a more day-to-day policing operation.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that I am the one to venture into that. It may well be an activity that the parliamentary committee reviews. I know that some jurisdictions prefer to have their own provincial force. My province is beginning to have sheriffs supplementing RCMP. The national police is still valued very much and the police in the city of Edmonton. I am not necessarily convinced that the forces we have right now should be replaced. It would certainly be the kind of thing that we would refer to the committee or to the various associations of police chiefs to review.