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 force.

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Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Adjournment Proceedings

September 19th, 2012 / 8:05 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to congratulate you on your appointment as Deputy Speaker. We are excited to have you in the chair, even at this late hour.

I am also pleased to have the opportunity to raise what is a critical issue for so many Canadians.

One of the paramount needs that we all have is to feel safe and to live in a safe community. In that context there are many factors that come into play, but one of the most important is policing.

While we recognize that critical work is done in this area, many Canadians, particularly many women in Canada, have raised real concerns around the allegations of sexual harassment in our national police force, the RCMP.

As the status of women critic for the NDP, I have the opportunity to work through Parliament's status of women committee, which is looking at this issue. Within the next couple of weeks we will embark on a broader study, looking at sexual harassment in the federal workplace, including, we hope, a special focus on the RCMP.

All of this connects to my question to the government in late spring. At that time, I asked what specific commitment it was making in terms of funding and financial support as well as political support and political direction to ensure that the issue of sexual harassment in the RCMP became a priority going forward.

The government has repeatedly referred to the ongoing court case by the women who have brought forward these serious allegations, women who have talked about verbal abuse, sexual assault, post-traumatic disorder, depression, having to leave their work as a result and not being able to go on with their lives and, in some cases, not finding gainful employment as a result.

Every Canadian would agree that it is unacceptable that the people who are charged with keeping us safe would also have an environment in which some among them would feel not just unsafe, but also abused. While we all acknowledge the severity of the problem, the Conservative government has been unwilling to draw specific attention to it.

Earlier this week I was in the House taking part in the debate on Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, something that we voted on today. It was clear in the deliberations in the House that the focus of the legislation was not on sexual harassment. That is where I want the question to be once again.

When will the government commit to funding and giving political priority to the need to find out what is going on in terms of sexual harassment in the RCMP and ultimately put an end to it now and for all?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Adjournment Proceedings

8:05 p.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate you on your recent appointment.

I am very pleased today to rise and to be able to address the question by the hon. member for Churchill. All of us, men and women alike, civilians, politicians, the RCMP, and Canadians generally are very troubled by the idea of and recent reports about harassment and, certainly, sexual harassment within the RCMP. I agree with the hon. members that the RCMP should be free to face the daily challenges of protecting our streets and our communities without harassment, which makes their workplace that much more difficult.

That is why the Minister of Public Safety, in consultation with Commissioner Paulson, referred this matter to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. On the specific allegations, nonetheless, it would obviously be inappropriate for us to comment because they are before the courts.

What I think is so important for my hon. colleague to realize is that harassment of any kind needs to be addressed, and to segregate the various types of harassment actually lends less credibility to the issue. What we have done is to have introduced Bill C-42, the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act. I am very pleased to see that the House agreed to send our recent bill to committee.

Many of us participated in the debate, and tonight we are sending it to committee. I look forward to all of us working together. The member for Churchill is not on the public safety committee but serves on another committee. The public safety committee is working to see this bill pass, getting it through committee and working together.

We have heard calls for better civilian oversight, more accountability and a stronger framework to handle investigations of serious incidents involving RCMP members. We have also heard the calls for a more modern, and I think that is a very important word, disciplined grievance and human resource management framework, one that would bring about a cultural shift within the RCMP.

We have responded, working together with our stakeholders. Our government believes that the time has now come to put this legislation onto the books and set out a pathway for the future. This legislation is vital to the future of Canada's national police force and indeed vital to the future of our community safety initiatives over the short and long terms.

Bill C-42 addresses the call for increased oversight and accountability of the RCMP, and builds on the progress that is already being made by the management and the workforce. It is a comprehensive bill. It will allow us to move forward with certainty in our transformation exercise. I think all of us agree that we have an excellent RCMP force but there is a change that needs to be made, not only with sexual harassment but also with harassment of any kind, in the complaints process, and in the way civilian oversight is addressed.

Bill C-42 addresses these issues, and I think that as we work together to see it pass, we can see a new culture shift happen in the RCMP. We can see both men and women working and enjoying their jobs, contributing not only as protectors of Canadian society but also in the individual jobs they do.

We look forward to the NDP working together with us in the public safety committee. Let us get Bill C-42 through committee quickly. Let us work through the different parts of it. Let us bring more accountability to the RCMP. Let us help stop sexual harassment in any workplace and harassment of any kind.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Adjournment Proceedings

8:10 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, as the member will have heard, I also referred to Bill C-42 and the important debate that took place in this House, including looking at the various aspects that are indeed raised by this bill. I certainly know that our critic on public safety has spoken to that as well.

However, the reality is that there is only one court case where about 200 women have come forward with serious allegations of sexual harassment, based on the fact they are women working in this workplace. There is no other workplace for which there is such a court case presently. There is no other allegation of abuse within the RCMP where 200 people have come together to put forward such a court case.

The specificity of sexual harassment remains the question at stake. Men can also be sexually harassed, although we know that the greatest number tends to be women in our society, and certainly in the case of the RCMP the allegations have been made by women. That specificity must be considered and financial and political priority must be placed on it.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Adjournment Proceedings

8:10 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the concern that the hon. member brings forward to this discussion.

Our government is trying to lay a strong foundation within the RCMP so that things like sexual harassment can be addressed. Under the current act that the RCMP works under it can be very difficult to address these issues. Sometimes it is at the initial level, whether it is education or people working together.

We are trying to get Bill C-42 through committee and passed into law so that there can be a stronger foundation for the RCMP, for direct supervisors, the commission and members themselves to deal with these specific issues. I believe we are on the right path.

Again, there is always more work to be done, whether for the government or the people working together and being respectful to each other.

We want to lay the foundation with Bill C-42 to enhance and change the RCMP Accountability Act so that it can move forward, change the culture and have an even better police force.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Adjournment Proceedings

8:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Joe Comartin

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 8:15 p.m.)