Ensuring the Effective Review of RCMP Civilian Complaints Act

An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Vic Toews  Conservative

Status

Second reading (House), as of June 14, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act to establish a new civilian review body to replace the existing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Public Complaints Commission, to improve the current complaints system and to establish certain requirements with respect to the investigation of serious incidents involving the conduct of individual members and others.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Review and Complaints Commission, consisting only of members who are civilians, has additional powers to review and report on the activities of the Force and to investigate the conduct of individual members and others appointed under Part I. The Commission may conduct a review of specified activities of the Force and report to the Minister on the Force’s compliance with applicable Acts, regulations, ministerial directives, policies and procedures. The Commission may also review and report on the activities of the Force in any province or territory that has entered into an arrangement with the Minister for the provision of policing services. The Commission has, for the purpose of conducting those reviews and for conducting investigations and hearings into individual conduct, a new right of access to all information, other than cabinet confidences, that is under the control of the Force or in its possession.

The current complaints system, which provides for complaints from the public as well as those initiated by the Chair of the Commission, has been improved by increasing the powers of the Commission and the involvement of individual complainants in the process. In addition to the new right of access to information, the Commission has the same powers as a superior court of record to compel and enforce the production of oral and written evidence relating to a complaint. The involvement of complainants is increased by permitting representations regarding the impact of the misconduct to be made and by providing the complainant with a right to receive regular updates on the progress of any investigation.

A new Part is added to the Act to establish certain requirements relating to serious incidents involving the conduct of individual members and others. If a provincial authority designates a special investigative unit or independent police force to investigate such a serious incident, the Force is required to refer its investigation of the incident to that investigative body or police force. The Force will only investigate a serious incident if no such designation is made and the Force, after reasonable efforts, is unable to identify an investigative body or another police force to investigate. Observers may be appointed to review and report on the impartiality of an investigation of a serious incident by the Force or another police force.

Finally, the enactment makes consequential amendments to other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2013 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to speak to Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.

Before beginning my speech, I would like to stress how committed the NDP is to this legislation. Many of my colleagues have risen over the past hour to show their commitment to addressing the problems within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

On that note, it is important to stress just how disinterested the Conservatives are in this important legislation and in improving the RCMP. We have done very serious work in committee. Moreover, I would like to highlight the work of my colleagues who sit on this committee. They work very hard and have introduced amendments that, unfortunately, have not been accepted.

Now, what does this bill contain? To begin with, Bill C-42 adds new provisions to the sections on labour relations and gives the RCMP Commissioner the power to appoint and dismiss members as he sees fit. Secondly, it attempts to reform the process pertaining to disciplinary matters, complaints, and the management of human resources for the members of the RCMP. Finally, it is an attempt to reform the former RCMP public complaints commission by establishing a new civilian complaints commission.

As members can see, Bill C-42 reintroduces several provisions included in Bill C-38 of the 40th Parliament. At that time, the NDP criticized the bill because it did not go far enough in reforming the disciplinary inquiry procedures. The most notable difference between Bill C-42 and former Bill C-38 is the fact that the new bill says nothing about the issue of unionizing the RCMP.

On that note, I would like to remind members that the NDP is the only political party in the House of Commons whose employees are unionized. We are very proud of this. It is something that we care about deeply. For that reason, we stand behind workers and cannot stress enough how important it is to respect the work they do. We are proud that our employees are unionized. I take this opportunity to put the ball in the courts of the other parties, so that they, too, begin negotiating with their employees. I think that all employees of the House should have an opportunity to become unionized.

The NDP supported the intention of Bill C-42 to modernize the RCMP and to address problems such as sexual harassment, about which my honourable colleagues have spoken. The NDP voted in favour of referring the bill to committee. As I mentioned, my colleagues who sit on this committee have worked very hard, and very seriously.

After hearing from witnesses and experts, however, it became obvious that the bill had major shortcomings, and would not succeed in improving the RCMP's oversight mechanisms. Moreover, Bill C-42 does not reflect, for example, the recommendations of Justice O'Connor emerging from the inquiry into the Maher Arar case, which also sought to improve the RCMP's review standards so as to meet the needs of Canadians.

The Conservatives introduced Bill C-42 as the solution for the problems of the RCMP, which has become somewhat dysfunctional; on the contrary, however, this is not the solution. The bill does not directly address the problem of sexual harassment, as I said just now, and as my colleagues explained so clearly in their speeches earlier. Nor does it address a number of other issues that were the subject of NDP amendments at the committee stage, and which the Conservatives unfortunately rejected.

The NDP put forward a range of amendments designed to ensure that Bill C-42 reflected the challenges the RCMP is now facing. Once again, I take my hat off to my colleagues, who did such careful work in committee.

The main thrust of the amendments related to the following points. The first thing was to require all members of the RCMP to take harassment training, under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act. Unfortunately, this was rejected by the Conservatives. Next, we sought the establishment of a completely independent civilian agency responsible for investigating complaints against the RCMP. Unfortunately, this was denied by the Conservatives. We also proposed adding a provision to set up an independent national civilian investigating body to avoid having the police investigate themselves. Again, this was rejected by the Conservatives. We also wanted to develop more balanced human resources policies by withdrawing some of the draconian new powers suggested by the RCMP Commissioner, and strengthening the RCMP External Review Committee in cases involving discharge. Unfortunately, this too was rejected by the Conservatives.

So the Conservatives rejected all these NDP amendments, ignoring many recommendations from witnesses who had given up their valuable time to come and speak before the committee and explain their points of view, and to suggest amendments and ways of dealing with the shortcomings. We are in fact in favour of the RCMP review principle. We even supported this bill at second reading. Unfortunately, it is not well enough developed at this stage because the Conservatives botched the committee work. They rejected the amendments proposed by witnesses and members of the NDP in committee. That is why we are going to vote against this bill at third reading.

I will now return to the point we were speaking about just now about misconduct and sexual harassment. It is an exceedingly important point, one that has been very much in the news recently and needs to be addressed. Bill C-42 has not gone nearly far enough. Furthermore, as you know, we are asking that this bill should at least provide for training at the RCMP on sexual harassment issues. We are still awaiting the conclusions of the two reports that should shed light on sexual harassment at the RCMP—the investigation by the RCMP public complaints commission and the RCMP gender issues report.

Another problem I discussed earlier, which I find extremely important, is unionization at the RCMP. As I mentioned, we in the NDP are very proud of our support of the unions. We take pride in having unionized assistants and we would like to allow all employees to be unionized. The bill does not address this matter, which is currently before the courts. The RCMP is the only police force in Canada without a collective agreement. Imagine that.

For 35 years, labour relations representatives have been elected to manage employment-related matters. However, this way of doing things, which established a democratic process for employee representation, is a consultation process rather than a true collective bargaining process. As I mentioned, only the RCMP does not yet have a collective agreement and is not yet unionized. This is a shortcoming that needs to be dealt with and which this bill unfortunately does not address.

I could mention a number of other points like that to illustrate the failings of the bill and to explain why we will be voting against it. Among other things, it is because the Conservatives did not take the trouble to listen to the conclusions of the excellent work done by NDP members, in this committee and elsewhere.

I am available to answer any questions you may have about this. I would be more than happy to go into detail about a number of subjects, like sexual harassment and unionization, neither of which this bill deals with.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2013 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand to speak to Bill C-42, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act., an issue that is not only of importance to all members in the House, but is of great interest to the public at large, from coast to coast.

To put this in context, I want to pick up on some of the themes that were mentioned by my hon. colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, who gave one of the most thoughtful speeches on this subject, or any subject that I have heard in the House in years. What he touched upon, and what is important, was the special relationship that Canadians have with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. I do not think there is a more memorable symbol of our country around the world than the iconic Royal Canadian Mounted Police figure. It has played a pivotal role in the history and development of Canada and is responsible for delivering police and community safety services in communities across our country.

This long storied history is not uncheckered. Like any organization, it has not been perfect. It has had its challenges in the past and it has its challenges today.

The job that we call upon of our RCMP women and men across the country to do is one that is of utmost importance to Canadians. It is one of the most challenging and difficult ones that exists. We expect these men and women to answer calls in the middle of the night, often alone, and to be first responders at times of crisis, tragedy and emergency. We expect them to be the first people on the scene of an accident to deal with death and injury. We expect them to put their lives on the line in defending our communities and keeping people safe. For that, all members of the House join together in expressing our deep gratitude and respect for the men and women of the RCMP.

At the same time, the RCMP is an organization that is facing some serious challenges. Is it possible in 2013 to create a national police force that has a proper civilian oversight structure? Is it possible to construct a labour relations framework that not only gives management the tools it needs to ensure there is an appropriate standard of conduct for the staff that work under it, as well as a fair structure for the men and women to ensure they have access to justice and are treated fairly and equitably? Is it possible to expect that we can have a national organization that can deal promptly, swiftly, fairly and adequately with important issues like sexual harassment? Is it possible to have a modern-day police force that meets the expectations of Canadians? I think all members of the New Democratic Party say, absolutely, we can do that and in fact we should do that.

Bill C-42 is the Conservative government's response to long-standing claims of sexual harassment in the RCMP and to some difficult scandals that have made headlines as a result of problems with the disciplinary process and, if we are honest, lenient disciplinary measures handed out to officers accused of serious misconduct.

Bill C-42 proposes to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act in three main areas. First, it adds new provisions to the labour relations clauses and gives the RCMP commissioner the power to appoint and dismiss members as he or she sees fit. Second, it seeks to reform discipline, grievance and human resource management processes for members. Last, it seeks to reform the former Royal Canadian Mounted Police Public Complaints Commission by establishing a “new” civilian complaints commission and implement a new framework to handle investigations of serious incidents involving members.

Because of the immense respect we have for the RCMP, we can talk about some of these challenges. We have had cases of deaths occurring in custody. In my home province of British Columbia, some very serious questions were raised about the conduct of RCMP officers when civilians died while in the hands of the police. Over 200 women have joined a class action lawsuit alleging sexual harassment against members of the RCMP and making the more disturbing allegation of a widespread, well-entrenched system of gender harassment within that structure.

Bill C-42 reiterates many of the provisions of Bill C-38 from the 40th Parliament. At that time, the NDP criticized that bill for not going far enough in dealing with these very important issues. A very significant difference from the former Bill C-38 and the present Bill C-42 before the House today is silence on the issue of unionization of the RCMP. I would like to start there for a moment.

There has already been a court decision that has struck down the labour relations structure in the RCMP as being unconstitutional. As I said when I was public safety critic, the RCMP is the only police force in the country that does not have the right to have its men and women freely choose their bargain representative and engage in free collective bargaining. It is a national embarrassment. It is also unjust to the men and women who all members of the House claim to support and respect. If we truly respect the men and women we send into dangerous situations, should we not also respect their ability to decide who will bargain the terms and conditions of their work and raise concerns as any other group in the country is free to do? I think we do.

It is not acceptable that to this day the government has not replaced the bargaining structure in the RCMP with a free collective bargaining structure that respects norms, a bargaining structure that not only every worker in the country expects but that is contained in international treaties to which Canada is signatory. The main reason we oppose the bill is that it refuses to deal with this very important issue.

When we talk about sexual harassment, as my friend from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek so eloquently pointed out, one of the many workplace issues that organized labour has worked toward in the county and has helped improve is the situation of harassment in the workplace, including sexual harassment. It is only by changing workplace culture and the attitudes not only of management but of the men and women who are in a bargaining unit or performing labour that we can make meaningful progress.

The fact that the government has failed to act as the court has directed it to—that being to replace the unconstitutional labour relations structure with one that actually conforms to our law and the legitimate desires of the men and women in the RCMP—is a contributing factor to the poisoned context and situation that occurs in many RCMP detachments across the country.

The NDP supported the intention of Bill C-42 to modernize the RCMP and address issues such as sexual harassment in the force and voted for the bill to move to committee because we believed that it was important to work with the government to bring in effective legislation. We made that good-faith attempt.

The New Democrats members on the committee proposed 18 amendments to help strengthen the bill and make it conform to not only the necessities of good legislation but also the dictates of previous commissions and the requests of very informed respected people who were knowledgeable about the RCMP, such as former RCMP complaints commissioner Paul Kennedy, groups such as the Supreme Court of Canada and people like Justice O'Connor, who made recommendations in the aftermath of the Arar inquiry as to how the RCMP could improve its standards. These are eminent non-partisan people who have made a number of deeply thoughtful suggestions as to how we can modernize and improve the RCMP. The NDP wanted to help build that legislation.

Unfortunately, the Conservatives rejected every one of those 18 amendments. For Canadians watching, this is a common daily occurrence in the chamber.

I have been in the chamber long enough to know that no party has a monopoly on good ideas. Sometimes they come from the right, sometimes from the left and sometimes from the centre. However, the Conservatives have an unprecedented fashion, governed by rejecting virtually every idea that comes from any other part of this chamber, because they are hyperpartisan and extreme.

We hear the hon. members clapping when they are called extreme. I will leave it for Canadians to judge the thinking that goes behind that.

I want to point out, as well, that the bill fails to directly address the issue of sexual harassment in the force. It fails to bring a civilian oversight body that is truly independent. It fails to deal with the unionization requirements of the workforce. It also fails to put in an adequate system that would deal with sexual harassment.

The New Democrats remain ready and willing to work with the government to fix those problems and we urge it to do so. The men and women of the RCMP and the public deserve to have a modern RCMP that upholds the finest traditions of this force and makes it prepared for the century ahead.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2013 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, on days like today it is discouraging to listen to what our adversaries opposite have to say. That just cannot be.

I am very disappointed, but not surprised by this government's approach, which is unproductive, indifferent and unfocused and whose failings have been laid bare. Today, the government is on the defensive because of its indifference. It is very evident this morning. Amendments put forward by the NDP included mandatory harassment training for RCMP members, a civilian body to investigate complaints against the RCMP, and an independent review body to avoid police investigating police. All these amendments were very reasonable and in keeping with what the many witnesses said. All these amendments were rejected.

Contrary to the recommendations in the O'Connor report on the Maher Arar case and the many witnesses who appeared before the committee, the government rejected the amendments and continues to favour an internal, perhaps even arbitrary, approach at the RCMP, as we would unfortunately expect, rather than an independent, external and transparent approach.

Unfortunately, Bill C-42 will not resolve the very serious problems that will continue to plague the RCMP. In the meantime, many people will suffer. We are obviously thinking of the women who experience sexual harassment.

Therefore, it is with great regret that we must oppose this bill for all the reasons mentioned and especially because of the lack of transparency and the government's blinkered approach to official opposition amendments.

The people in my riding of Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher sometimes ask me whether I am fed up with Conservatives' behaviour. Of course we are fed up. We cannot take any more of this closed-mindedness, this sense of divine authority and omniscience, the way the Conservatives do not want to listen to and consider other points of view, the bad faith. We are fed up with how the Conservatives always make their ideological agenda a priority, but especially with how, particularly lately, they are always using the buzzword “transparency” and talking about accountability when they are the champions of silence, the champions of working behind closed doors.

I cannot help but see something that is very suspicious in the Conservatives' attitude. What are they hiding by always calling for transparency and officially talking about accountability, when they have an agenda that they will never reveal?

This is very disappointing for us, particularly for those of my colleagues who have been asking for reforms for a long time, such as the member who is sitting right beside me. It seems that we are still working on the issue of harassment within the RCMP. The NDP has been asking the government for ages to take care of this situation, which affects many people, particularly women. It is a governance problem within the RCMP, a problem with the internal culture.

The bill that the government put forward is not a solution at all. We were hoping for a proactive approach and a strategy to prevent these regrettable situations from happening again, but unfortunately, the outcome we are seeing today is a dry, disciplinary, impersonal and ill-considered bill in which the word harassment appears only once. It is unbelievable. As I was saying earlier, although the amendments we proposed in committee were very positive, they were rejected, and the opinions of many witnesses and experts were ignored.

Once again, as is often the case, the Conservatives took a serious, systemic problem affecting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and addressed it in a simplistic and—quite frankly—lazy manner. What is needed today to change the RCMP and reassure the public is a major change to the culture of this organization, something that this bill does not allow for. On the contrary, in a few years, we will once again be faced with the same problem because harassment will continue to be a serious problem within the organization. This bill does not reassure Canadians that their formal complaints will be examined with the attention they deserve.

Robert Paulson, Commissioner of the RCMP, has repeatedly said that a cultural change is needed. He said the following before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women:

It's the culture of the organization that has not kept pace... We haven't been able to change our practices and our policies...

[T]he problem is bigger than simply the sexual harassment.

David Brown, who led a working group on the issue in 2007 at the request of the federal government, also said the same thing. The name of that group was the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP. It could not be clearer than that.

And yet rather than a real change of culture on the inside and outside, through unambiguous leadership and listening on the part of the minister’s office, we have been treated instead to a sort of “light reform”, which ultimately will do nothing to solve the fundamental problems we have been raising in the House for several months now, if not several years. It will do nothing to change the problems that have brought us to where we are and that this bill is supposedly intended to solve.

The system proposed in this bill for investigating the police completely fails to meet the test of logic and common sense. Bill C-38, which was cloned to produce the bill that is before us today, had provided that the RCMP would investigate itself in certain cases.

The strange structure we are presented with in this bill provides that in the case of serious incidents involving the RCMP—deaths and serious injuries—the provinces will step in and assign the investigation to an investigative body or police service. Otherwise, the RCMP may assign the investigation to another police service, and if that option is not available, the RCMP will carry out the investigation itself.

This means that the job of overseeing the RCMP is assigned in the first instance to provincial bodies, in spite of the fact that such bodies exist in only four provinces: British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Ultimately, and unfortunately, oversight of the RCMP is too often shifted to the provinces. This amounts to the federal government abdicating its responsibility and once again downloading the federal government’s costs onto the provinces.

I thought that the Conservatives wanted to reduce the size of government, since they told us they did, but that cannot mean that responsibility for the oversight of federal institutions has to be shifted to the provinces.

We are opposed to this Byzantine system because it can be simpler and more effective. We tried to do this through an amendment in committee, proposing that a national, independent civilian group be created that would systematically handle this and report to Parliament. Obviously, that amendment was rejected. We have to put an end to this system of the police investigating the police. Even the mayors of some municipalities are opposed to it.

We made proposals here and in committee to that effect. Our amendments and the recommendations from reports, task forces, commissions and witnesses have been waved off by a government that is running headlong toward disaster. Its stubborn insistence on doing nothing of any real effect is astounding, and we find it particularly tiresome.

The bill before us is also an abdication of the minister’s responsibilities. The proposal to significantly increase the powers of the commissioner of the RCMP amounts to running toward the nearest exit; it is the easy solution.

This is another abdication: the government should have led the charge against harassment inside the RCMP with a vigorous reform. Instead it is choosing to set up and endorse a system that massively increases the commissioner's powers, in the hope that this will change something.

All the witnesses and experts who are familiar with this issue say that we do not need more powers concentrated in the hands of a single person and that what we really need is a new system of transparency and independent oversight.

The Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP, which the government created in 2007, had another idea in mind. It proposed reforms that would bring the RCMP into line with the internal governance methods and structures used in civilian bodies, with a board of management that would oversee and could challenge decisions of the commissioner, that would require accountability, that could hear complaints from employees and that would exist within a transparent structure.

Unfortunately, what the government is proposing is, once again, the complete opposite. Clearly, the solution in this bill, which is to put more powers than ever in the hands of a single person, when what is needed is to overcome an organizational problem, will solve nothing. In fact, it may well create more internal problems and discontent.

This is a clash between two different philosophies. When the Conservatives are faced with a complex problem, they propose more powers in the hands of a single person, more order, more hierarchy, more unchallengeable or arbitrary decisions and more discipline. When we look at the same problem, we call for a system that is structured, transparent, well thought-out and systematic and that will act in the public interest and respect the rights of RCMP members, certainly, but most importantly the rights of the public.

In this bill, what the Conservatives are proposing is unprecedented: an enormous reform that will replace the existing commission that examines complaints against the RCMP and reports its findings to the minister with a commission that will examine complaints against the RCMP and report its findings to the minister. That is very impressive.

In conclusion, the people in my riding are not taken in by this kind of obsession with the rhetoric of transparency and accountability, and they hope that we are going to oppose this sham as long as we can.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2013 / 11:25 a.m.
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NDP

Andrew Cash NDP Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in this place on behalf of the residents of Davenport, in the great city of Toronto, for whom this issue is of great concern and of great interest. The idea of, in particular, a civilian oversight of the RCMP and a more rigorous accounting of its operations is something that certainly the people in my riding and the people in Toronto are very much concerned about, particularly in light of events that occurred in Toronto in June 2010. I am referring to the G20 conference and the events that led to essentially the biggest mass arrest in Canadian history, for which the RCMP was the lead law enforcement agency.

We note that Bill C-42 does seek to reform the RCMP public complaints commission by establishing a new complaints commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and implementing a new framework to handle serious incidents involving the members.

The problem, though, is that while the name may change, the powers would not really change. It looks remarkably like the current RCMP public complaints commission, especially in that it would not be a fully independent commission reporting to the House of Commons. Instead, it would continue to report to the Minister of Public Safety.

We on this side of the House have great concerns about that because we have concerns about the minister himself. We cannot forget that this is the same minister who extolled and hectored and lectured Canadians, saying that if Canadians did not stand with him and his flawed online piracy bill then they were standing with pedophiles—an outrageous and offensive comment that earned the scorn, the rightful scorn, of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

The changes in the bill would essentially mean that any major investigation would be overseen by the minister himself, who ultimately would be the final arbiter of these investigations.

As well, the new commission would have serious restrictions on its ability to undertake independent investigations, and its findings would be presented only in the form of non-binding recommendations to the commissioner and the Minister of Public Safety. These restrictions on the independence of the new commission would be a major issue for us.

As we have done on many bills that have passed through this House, we put forth many measured amendments to the bill, ones that would actually have beefed up the idea of civilian oversight and made it independent. Once again, the government ignored every single one of our recommendations and amendments.

This is particularly concerning in light of the 2006 report of Justice O'Connor of the O'Connor inquiry into the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Maher Arar, which called for the RCMP watchdog to be structured along the lines of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, which monitors CSIS. It would have the right to audit all RCMP files and activities and the power to subpoena related documents and compel testimony from any federal, provincial, municipal or private sector person or entity.

The present RCMP public complaints commission does not have review powers to ensure, systematically, that the RCMP's national security activities are conducted in accordance with the law and with respect for rights and freedoms.

This issue of civilian oversight and the independence of an agency that would oversee complaints is an important one. It is an important one for civil society. It is an important one for democracy.

I think it is important to note, as many of my NDP colleagues have during this debate, that we have enormous respect for officers in the RCMP. We understand that they are oftentimes working in extremely difficult conditions and situations, often chaotic, often situations where they have to make split-second decisions, quick decisions.

We understand that sometimes this is an incredibly difficult and pressure-filled job that we as Canadians ask them to do on our behalf, which is all the more reason why it is so important that we create and then maintain an independent oversight body for the RCMP. This is exactly what we had recommended.

We have seen some of the reactions from various stakeholders in Canada around this bill. We would also note that the former chair of the commission for public complaints, Paul Kennedy, commenting on the last iteration of this bill, Bill C-38—and not a lot in terms of this part of the bill has changed—said that the legislation is riddled with loopholes and does not meet Mr. O'Connor's standards.

The law would allow the Minister of Public Safety to make regulations concerning the watchdog's access to privileged information, such as classified intelligence or material about clandestine operations. It also permits the RCMP commissioner to deny the watchdog access to such information. The new law also lacks time limits for RCMP to respond to the commission's interim reports.

Many people may view this debate as a bit inside the bubble, as “inside baseball”. However, in fact, when we get down to the street level and go back to June 2010 and we think about what happened on the streets of my city, the biggest city in the country, the economic engine of this country, the cultural centre of Canada, we see what actually happened, especially right at the corner of Queen and Spadina.

Hundreds and hundreds of regular folks, most of whom lived in the neighbourhood, were kettled, or boxed in, in the rain, for several hours as the police pursued a tactic known as kettling. One of the many problems with what happened that night is that kettling is something the RCMP is not supposed to do. It is not part of their regulations. It is not part of their code, and they did participate.

A report into the RCMP's activities at the G20 was delivered in May 2012. It itemized, in rather minute detail, some of the issues that occurred that night. It also very clearly states that kettling was not part of the RCMP's mandate, and yet officers pursued it.

This is an example of why we need an independent civilian oversight body to build the public trust. I have to say that the events of the G20 severely damaged the public trust in our law enforcement agencies to both keep the peace and protect people who are peacefully coming together and expressing their democratic right of free speech.

I would like to end my comments there. I welcome any questions.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2013 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to follow a speech like the one given by the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.

He spoke about his own personal experiences, and I think that, in so doing, he attacked the very heart of this bill. We are talking about the impact that this can have on individuals and what can happen to people who have problems in the workplace, particularly those involving sexual harassment.

When a debate is held on this type of issue, it is very important to point out that criticizing those who put their heart and soul into serving their community, for example police or RCMP officers, will not advance the debate.

When we talk about matters pertaining to National Defence, Veterans Affairs or the RCMP, our opinions are often criticized and simplistic arguments are often made. Some would say that it is only natural for us to say such things since we do not support our police officers or our armed forces. It is very important to point out that nothing could be further from the truth.

Contrary to what the Conservatives believe, when we engage in a debate and have the courage to take a stand and say that the bill does not go far enough, it is because we have a great deal of respect for the work that is done and we think that it is important to implement measures that will allow RCMP officers to operate in a healthy work environment and that will improve the working relationship between the police and the people they have the duty to serve and protect.

Of course, we will oppose the bill at third reading. As always, we optimistically tried to make amendments to the bill based on the testimony given in committee, but as always, our attempts were in vain.

I would particularly like to acknowledge the work done by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, our public safety critic, and the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan, the deputy critic. They certainly worked very hard to put forward these amendments.

I want to point out that these amendments were not based on some radical ideology, as the government claims. They were based on testimony from experts in committee. These experts have been involved with this issue for a very long time. It is not a new thing.

The first version of this bill, Bill C-38, was introduced during the 40th Parliament. It is not to be confused with the omnibus Bill C-38, which was introduced last spring.

The amendments came out of the testimony, but they were unfortunately all rejected, as usual. I think that is very disappointing. When we hear the points raised by witnesses and propose changes that do not necessarily change the spirit of the bill, but instead help make the measures in it more precise, effective and transparent, I think that the government should be more receptive to the proposed amendments. However, true to form, the government rejected all of the amendments outright.

The member who spoke before me talked about his experience with unions. With respect to the harassment within the RCMP, it is the only police force in Canada that does not have a collective agreement.

People will say that other measures will be put in place to ensure that workers' rights are respected. They are workers, because they work for us. However, when there are no appropriate measures in place, it becomes hard to defend their rights in cases of harassment. This is not the only workplace where harassment is a problem, but as my colleague pointed out, harassment is quite prevalent.

RCMP members have to deal with certain cases and, as one may well imagine, with a very heavy psychological burden in some situations. Sometimes that means that relations between the various individuals involved may be tense and negative behaviour may result. When you take all that into consideration, you realize how important it is to establish ways to manage those problems more effectively.

Continuing on the subject of harassment, when we say sexual harassment, we are talking about an issue that mainly affects women. That may seem to be a prejudicial view, but it is unfortunately true. From the standpoint of gender equality, it is even more important to address the problem of harassment when you want to encourage women to consider taking on any role in our society.

Government members will no doubt tell us that this bill would put in place a system that will solve that problem. We do not believe that is the case, particularly given the structure that would be introduced to do so. That is really our biggest concern in relation to this bill.

To put the matter simply, the government wants the police to investigate the police and the commission to be accountable to the minister, not to Parliament. The lack of political will that this minister has shown for some time now is becoming a problem. After all, when discretionary or decision-making authority lies solely in the hands of one minister, we have to rely on his political will, and he seems to have no such will at the present time.

On the contrary, if we asked the commission to report directly to Parliament, there would be more transparency, more answers and a structure more accountable to the public, which the RCMP is supposed to serve. That would also be good for people on the force, RCMP members, particularly those who are victims of harassment.

To put it simply once again, when we talk about the police investigating the police, this is really the problem that emerged from Justice O'Connor's report in the Maher Arar case. I am very interested in that case. At the risk of making myself seem very young, I was just a student when that report was issued in 2006, but I was very much involved and very interested in politics and current affairs, and I supported various causes.

I remember seeing the report at the time. One of the issues of great interest to me was the way in which our police forces and our armed forces acted, even though we were still in the post-September 11 phase five years after the fact. People in Canada, the United States and Europe were trying to adjust to this new reality as a society and give our police forces powers while protecting citizens' rights.

That report was an attempt to balance those two realities. However, this bill does not take its recommendations into account. Justice O'Connor recommended establishing an independent commission that would actually have been able to go further in changing the RCMP's culture and solving the harassment problem in particular.

We in the NDP want to see more concrete measures. That is why we oppose this bill, which is far too flawed. We want something much more concrete, and these are precisely the kinds of measures we will put in place in 2015 if we have the opportunity to form the government, in order to change this culture, protect RCMP members and ensure there is a better relationship between them and our communities.

I await your questions and comments.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

February 28th, 2013 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are times in debates in this House that speak to times and periods in our own lives. I was pleased to hear from the member for Kootenay—Columbia, who is an RCMP officer and who can bring to this debate a very clear perspective from inside the organization.

In my lifetime, as a young boy growing up in a town called Plaster Rock, New Brunswick, RCMP officers enforced the law in our province. My family had occasion to deal with them. When I was very young, my sister died at the hands of a person or persons unknown. It turned out to be a very ill family member.

For a long time afterwards my father talked about the investigators from the RCMP who handled that investigation. Initially he was taken in for questioning, and he talked about how professionally he, a man who was broken-hearted, who had just lost a daughter, was handled. In fact, that particular incident would affect the rest of his life. He became an alcoholic.

Again my family would interact with RCMP officers, who would pick him up from time to time, as they should and as they needed to do, but there was always a sense that they handled my father with a kind of dignity that perhaps they might not have under other circumstances. I do not know.

For a young boy growing up, my ideal was to become an RCMP officer. Well, if members look at me, I am wearing glasses and I am too doggone short to be an RCMP officer, so I had to forgo that, but I had this great interest in the RCMP, and a great respect for them, for an awful long time.

I still respect the RCMP, although they have fallen on difficult times. There is a cultural change that has happened, at least in my view, over the last number of years, relative to how they treat one another. We have heard those reports.

I recall, I believe it was in the 1970s, a group that was referred to as the "dirty tricks" squad. There was an investigation, and as I understand it, that particular group was disbanded.

The warning signs were there for some time about things that would later become almost institutionalized within the RCMP. Going back to Justice O'Connor in the Maher Arar case, Justice O'Connor made some very significant recommendations to the RCMP at that time, things that they needed to address, things that the government needed to address. That has gone wanting, as far as I am concerned.

Members will recall Bill C-38 in the last Parliament. It started to address this issue, and of course it was lost to the election cycle, as so many things are.

Going back to my friend from Kootenay—Columbia, who brings to this place a particular view of this institution and perhaps of the problems and of some solutions, I am looking forward to listening to his commentary as the day unfolds.

In my previous life as a union leader, one of the things that we had to deal with quite often was harassment in the workplace. We would get together with the company and work on strategies for education of the members who were involved with such things.

Within the union movement itself, I can recall that in the 1980s we worked hard dealing with our own conferences and doing our own internal work on the respect that needed to be paid to one another.

The key to it, in both of those cases, was education. I have a little saying: “With knowledge comes responsibility”. We have the knowledge today of the accusations and abuses that it is suggested have happened within the RCMP. We have enough knowledge to know that something of significance has to be done.

Our party was concerned about this bill because we felt it did not go far enough. During the committee stage, we made proposals for changes to the bill. For instance, a change that is needed is to add mandatory harassment training for RCMP officers.

Every single individual who works with the public and who works under the kind of pressure that these officers work under needs to have that training.

Again reflecting back on my own life, there was a time I worked for the Canadian National Railway as a signal maintainer. In Niagara Falls there was a place called Thorold Stone Road that some members here will know of. Four people were killed there, struck by trains while driving through.

My point is that day in and day out, our RCMP, our police officers and our fire departments deal with the aftermath of horrific events. Today I read in the newspaper that there was a six-car pileup in Hamilton because of the storm. Quite often the first on the scene is a police officer, who has to deal with the pressures that come from those situations. If we consider that pressure for a moment, it does not justify harassment, but in some cases it might help to explain it. It might help us to understand what officers' lives are like and the problems that they take home with them.

In any situation in the workplace, we have to give employees the tools they need to deal with those situations. In the case of the RCMP, I and our party have stressed the need for mandatory training. We also believe there should be a civilian body involved, someone at arm's length. Often we are too close to issues and problems ourselves and keep repeating the same mistakes and not addressing them in a fashion that is helpful to the situation, whereas a civilian board at arm's length would have the capacity to bring a different perspective to the situation. It is really important that the government should pause and look at this idea and give serious consideration to implementing civilian oversight.

In our view, some of the human resources policies we see are overly dramatic and perhaps even draconian in what they offer, but I am not going to dig too far into that because I do not want this to become a bashing of the RCMP. My party and I have great respect for this organization, but part of our responsibility in this place is to do the right thing to help that organization make the corrections deemed necessary by the government.

The government has made an attempt with this bill to start a process, but we do not think it has gone far enough. Witnesses at the committee made recommendations that the government did not see fit to follow through on, any more than it did for things proposed by our party at committee.

As I recall, the bill was put forward in June 2012. It referred to enhancing trust and restoring accountability to the RCMP. Accountability will need the oversight that was talked about. It will need someone at arm's length.

There are proposals in the bill to give more power to the superintendent in charge. The number one officer is going to be given authority where what I would call due diligence should come into play.

I am a great believer in people's right to be heard. People in the workplace, whether they are RCMP officers or regular workers in a plant, make mistakes and do things wrong, and there may be an arbitrary situation in which an employer says, “You're fired”. I worked for Bell Canada, which many times, in my opinion, fired people too quickly. Bell did not even listen to the story in those days. Hopefully that has changed—it has been almost 20 years since I was there—but the reality was that workers would be called on the carpet, the accusation would be made, and they were fired. Then, along with the union, they had to prepare a case to come back to correct the accusation. It is very concerning when that kind of power is vested in one manager or one superintendent in a workplace.

When there is a situation like with the allegations about the RCMP, which talk about a systemic problem that has had to have developed over many years, I remind members again of the pressures that these individuals live under. I want everybody to pause and think about it. It does not justify misbehaviour on the part of workers or officers, but we need to have a trail of due diligence that allows people to look at and understand the situation and help the officers retain their position and correct the behaviour with which people have problems.

As I look through some of the statements from our party and our view of things that could happen, we need the minister to prioritize the issue of sexual harassment. This is the part of the story that has received a lot of media attention. In my experience, the media sometimes make a flashpoint of an issue in which other underlying related or cultural issues in an organization are overlooked because the focus is drawn so heatedly on that point. Sexual harassment in any form in any place, workplace or otherwise, is certainly not acceptable and must be addressed.

However, we can look at the existence of police officers in general and the military-style training they have. Again, I refer back to 1963-1964 when I was a sapper apprentice in the Canadian army. At that time hazing took place. It was considered part of becoming a soldier. We had to be tough enough to put up with whatever happened, whatever was done. Fortunately, the environment I was in did not contain any sexual harassment, but there were other forms of it. Over time, the military dealt with that.

My understanding is that the world today in the military is entirely different. In the military-style training that police officers receive, the environment for that kind of culture is there, and it is just a very short distance between harassment or the buddy-buddy system where people are harassed in good-natured fun.

When women are introduced into the force, their sensibilities relative to what men consider jokes are often greatly different, in most instances. What a man may think is very humourous may tragically hurt a woman. Women live in an environment where the males in the environment have the perceived power in many instances, and they perceive themselves as not having the power to push back. If we listen to the accounts that have been made public by women officers in the RCMP, we hear that is exactly what they have felt happened. They were marginalized, troubled by what happened to them. When they went to superiors for assistance, they felt they did not receive the respect they deserved.

However, I go back to the question of whether the people they went to really had the training, understanding and development of sensitivity for what the women faced. Did they really and truly understand? It is easy to say that they neglected and ignored, but maybe they did not have a true understanding of the damage being done.

We have to go back to education and to changing the system that has evolved in such a negative way. We have to give the tools to the RCMP as a whole to begin to address this problem. We cannot fix these things from the outside. We can start doctoring and putting band-aids on it, but the culture needs to evolve itself. Again, we need sensitivity training of relationships between men and women in the workplace, and as well visible minorities, because that is another new thing within the RCMP. All of these things are added to the day-to-day pressures that these good officers live under and the culture that has sadly reached the point it has, a point where we have lawsuits and individuals going very public with their stories.

From my own experiences as a representative in the trade union movement, the last thing harassed people want to do is to make that public. In their minds, they look at it just like bullying in a schoolyard and the people will do it again, or they will lose the respect of their co-workers. All of those things need to be addressed.

When the bill went before the committee, the NDP went to committee in good faith. We understood that the situation had to addressed. We cannot support the bill in its present form because it does not go far enough.

The government has the idea that power can be vested in one person, that person being the head of the RCMP. The government believes that individual will create the environment. That individual is going to need exterior help, such as experts who deal with harassment situations and training experts to assist the people in charge of individual departments. A comprehensive training cycle has to be put in place or this will not work.

It has taken many years for this to evolve. We never heard stories like this before, and it is not because people were silent. We never heard about it because it was not happening. The pressure on modern-day police forces is beyond anything.

Being a child of the fifties, I am from the days when we did not lock our houses or our cars. Police officers in those days very rarely faced somebody with a firearm. The environment we lived in was different. Again, I want to stress that I am not justifying what has happened, but stress has to be part of the equation so we can understand what is happening to these officers and the spillover effect of that evolving negative culture. It totally is out of hand.

Many women RCMP officers have come forward, and I encourage all of them to come forward. They need to understand that there are people who sincerely want to see change. We want to correct the tarnished record of the RCMP. We also want those in charge of the RCMP to have the tools they need to create and sustain a healthy workplace, and I cannot stress that enough.

Members can probably tell that I speak with a great deal of sadness and that is because, as I said earlier, I wanted to become an RCMP officer, but that was a long time ago. I am talking the fifties.

The NDP went to committee in a sincere attempt to make the bill better. We can do better for our RCMP so that we can remain proud of the people who work so hard for us and put their lives at risk, but work in a difficult environment. There is a culture in the RCMP that has been tainted, and we have to do everything we can to fix that.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2013 / 1:25 p.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to lend my voice to 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. I would especially like to focus my comments on one of the issues raised in conjunction with the debate on this bill, namely women’s place in Canadian society in 2013.

A few years ago, several commissions were struck and some reports were released here in Canada and elsewhere around the world. The goal was to give women a bigger role in society. Four principles were embraced: providing equal opportunities, removing the barriers preventing women from entering the labour force, ensuring that the costs associated with having a family are shared by society as a whole, and taking concrete steps to facilitate and achieve the goal of equality.

It is interesting to note that in Canadian society in 2013, we are still talking about equality for women. It is a shame. In point of fact, over the last decade or so, women have actually lost ground in terms of achieving equality with men. We take this equality for granted today. We tell ourselves that there is no problem, that everyone is equal.

Yet, statistics show that today, women still earn on average less than half of what men earn. Furthermore, they are losing ground in various parts of Canada, especially if we look at the jobs in certain industries that are not easily accessible to women, the reason being that barriers to equal access to employment are still in place. Conditions in the workforce are such that women are penalized or forced into uncomfortable or unhealthy situations that are distressing.

In many industries, very few women have access to the jobs that are available, whether it be the natural resources sector or some other industry. Jobs in these sectors are well-paid, but conditions are such that women do not feel safe and able to thrive and be a productive member of society and, above all, to earn a wage comparable to that of men who work alongside them.

For years now, there have been serious problems within the RCMP, one of Canada’s most important symbols. Women who opt to work for the force cannot thrive and feel safe there and, if problems do arise, they do not have access to mechanisms that would help make their workplace acceptable.

We can all agree that this is not just for women, and that this bill addresses other forms of abuse that occur in the workplace.

There have recently been serious cases of sexual harassment. Women in the RCMP have spoken out. Standing up and reporting sexual harassment takes tremendous courage. The individuals who come forward and report the situation become the voices of other co-workers who did not feel they were able to do it.

The situation is quite serious. But there are ways to remedy the situation. There have been studies of this done for a very long time. Bill C-38 was introduced in the 40th parliament, but it died on the order paper, as we know. And now we have Bill C-42.

When a bill is introduced in the House, we have an opportunity to debate it, when a time limit is not imposed, obviously. We have an opportunity to exchange ideas and see how we could improve it and how we would go about doing that.

We have another truly excellent tool that the Canadian public is not very familiar with: committees. In a committee, we can again explore bills and improve them even more.

When I arrived in the House of Commons, I found committee work very interesting. It also takes us outside the House of Commons and gives us a chance to work together to improve bills.

What is even more valuable is the fact that we have a chance to invite witnesses from outside the House. These people are non-partisan and are simply there for the cause, to improve a bill, to explore a question that has been raised, to participate in a study, and so on.

After hearing testimony, the various members of the committee will put forward amendments, recommendations and ways of improving the bill.

In the case of Bill C-42, it is unfortunate that in spite of the work done by my colleague, the critic and member for Alfred-Pellan, who is the deputy critic, none of the amendments were accepted, even though they were supported by witnesses and experts. That is troubling.

In Parliament, we have mechanisms that enable us to fine-tune bills. They are not based solely on ideology. We have a chance to debate bills and make improvements to them.

When we heard the testimony of experts and witnesses in committee, it was obvious that the bill was flawed.

This can happen when people are in a hurry to do the right thing. Nevertheless, there was Bill C-38 and there was C-42. One would have thought that the government could have corrected these shortcomings. There was a realization, however, that there were shortcomings, and that the bill would not achieve the stated purpose: better machinery within the RCMP, so that a healthy work environment could be established whereby all members of the force, regardless of rank or responsibility, could express their grievances and obtain a hearing.

For example, some amendments targeted prevention. There was a desire to inform people about sexual harassment, and the ways in which it manifests itself, in order to create an environment in which respect would inform the values of RCMP members and their behaviour towards each other, with no issues arising between women and men, or among colleagues. In that sense, training seemed to me to make perfect sense.

In any workplace, it is always important to have access to an independent mechanism outside the organization, particularly when serious problems arise. It was proposed to put in place such a mechanism so that people from outside could hear the grievances of individual members, and make recommendations accordingly.

It is rather like what I was saying just now about committee work. Members are deeply involved in their work. Here on Parliament Hill, we often feel like we are in a bubble. I have to say that in committee work, what is always very interesting is to hear people from outside testify and let us have their point of view on a given situation. This independent committee will have to include people who have experience in this type of assessment.

Other recommendations and amendments were designed to produce more balanced human resources policies by withdrawing some of the draconian new powers proposed for the RCMP commissioner, and strengthening the RCMP External Review Committee in cases in which discharge from the force is possible. It is always important to have a division of powers. If too many powers are placed in the hands of one person, there is a risk of abuse.

The situation within the RCMP concerns me, but I am also concerned to see that in other workplaces, women do not have an opportunity to contribute fully to society, particularly in some areas of activity.

I would like to offer a thought as we discuss Bill C-42. As a society, we will have to remember these commitments to equality between men and women. We must think again about better ways of doing things, specifically in order finally to eliminate barriers so that all women have an opportunity for full access to the workplace, whatever the area of activity may be.

We, as a society, must also recognize our responsibility with respect to the important role women play in building a family, and help them perform the tasks that come with that role. I want to remind the House that there has been a real step backward on this matter over the past decade. In some parts of Canada, women cannot participate fully in the economy, because they do not have access to certain types of employment that would provide them with better economic conditions. They cannot get beyond the barriers that prevent them from getting those jobs.

In the matter before us, I repeat that we must create good working environments, especially in traditional workplaces. I said the RCMP is a symbol of Canada and that it is over 125 years old. Traditionally, the RCMP was almost exclusively a male preserve. I believe women have a considerable contribution to make within the RCMP and in other spheres of activity. In order for them to make this contribution, it is very important for us to rethink the way the RCMP operates and, together, come up with some sustainable solutions.

I am also basing my remarks in this House on the many recommendations and reports that have been presented since 2006. Hon. members will remember that we have been under Conservative rule for quite some time now. Recommendations were made by Justice O'Connor in 2006 and David Brown in 2007. It is now 2013 and the bill before us is not yet perfect, as we have heard. The Liberals admit it, and the government has said so, too. This has been going on too long.

We must make sure we have something that will last and will ensure that RCMP members and employees have access to a fair and equitable process. Even some members of the RCMP are worried that the bill may decrease members' job security, especially in jobs related to the exposure of harassment complaints.

In conclusion, I will say that the NDP believes we can do more to find answers to these questions. We believe that the RCMP needs a clear anti-harassment policy, one that sets out precise standards of conduct and precise criteria for all employee performance assessments. Such a policy is a necessary foundation for a fair disciplinary process.

I would like to add that bills have an important effect on Canadian society, because they demonstrate the government's orientation and commitment toward certain situations that Canadians think are unacceptable.

That is why I am disappointed that the government members did not accept the NDP's offer of co-operation through its amendments, and that they do not want to talk about the status or situation of women in certain workplaces.

I will stop there. I await the House's questions with impatience and some trepidation.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2013 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for LaSalle—Émard.

I am pleased to be taking part in the debate at third reading of Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. This bill amends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act. It deals with modernizing discipline within the RCMP, gives RCMP commissioners greater powers and discretion, and changes the procedures for complaints and human resources management. The bill also replaces the civilian complaints commission with the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.

This bill incorporates numerous provisions of Bill C-38, which was introduced in the 40th parliament and which the NDP strongly criticized at the time. Although we supported the spirit of the bill, which aimed to modernize discipline-related items within an institution that is dear to the hearts of Canadians, we were critical of what it failed to do, since the content of the bill did not adequately reflect the goal.

While the bill that is before the House today incorporates a majority of the provisions of Bill C-38, it does not include the provisions relating to unionization of the RCMP. The RCMP is the only police service in Canada that does not have a collective agreement, which is an essential bargaining tool between employees and employer. Members of the RCMP have to be content with a consultation process, and this is regrettable.

The current government introduced Bill C-42 on June 20, 2012. Canadians’ perception of the RCMP, the key police force in our system, has changed in the last few years.

Statistics from the Management of the RCMP Disciplinary Process 2010-2011 Annual Report unfortunately highlight the fact that this institution has a problem when it comes to discipline.

The statistics on formal discipline hearings held from 1994 to 2011 show that 750 formal discipline hearings were held across Canada. In this same period, 206 regular and civilian members resigned from the RCMP and 20 of those members resigned in reporting period 2005-06. From 2008 through to 2011, there were 145 formal discipline hearings held. In this same time span, a combination of 40 regular and civilian members resigned from the organization.

On the annual number of formal discipline hearings, from 2000 to 2011 there were 915 new formal discipline cases, which averaged out to 83.18 new cases a year. The anticipated number of new formal discipline cases for 2011-2012 was 83. There were 123 cases carried over on April 1, 2011, from the previous reporting period. The estimated number of formal discipline cases to be dealt with in 2011-12 was 206 cases.

On the sexual harassment complaints, over 200 women who work or have worked in the RCMP have joined Const. Janet Merlo to launch a class action against the RCMP on the ground of sexual harassment. The first court hearing took place on August 2, 2012, but the class action application has not yet been approved. Other individual actions against the RCMP are under way, including the actions by Cpl. Catherine Galliford and Const. Karen Katz.

When we read these figures and consider the various testimony heard by the committee, it is apparent that changing the organizational culture should be central to any comprehensive examination undertaken by the Minister of Public Safety.

Of course, legislation means that outdated procedures that were seen as too much of an administrative burden will now have a framework and will be updated. From the legislative point of view, there must be an in-depth analysis of the RCMP's corporate culture, so that changes can be made.

According to Robert Paulson, the RCMP commissioner, it is a central issue. He came to testify at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women on April 23, 2012, when the committee was studying the role of female employees in the RCMP and the challenges they face. He said, and I quote:

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. 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.

The term “harassment” appears in the bill's summary and in paragraph 20.2(1)(i), which states that the RCMP commissioner may “establish procedures to investigate and resolve disputes relating to alleged harassment by a member”.

Even though harassment, and more specifically sexual harassment, is at the heart of the debates on the culture within this police force, the legislator failed to address this issue in the bill. The official opposition, which voted to send this bill to committee to be examined thoroughly and amended, is opposed to the bill at third reading.

The 18 amendments proposed in committee were either rejected or deemed out of order. The NDP's amendments had to do with substantive changes to the text of the bill, unlike the Conservatives' amendments, which had to do with grammar-related corrections in French. This shows once again that a government bill was botched before it was even introduced in the House.

One of the amendments had to do with amending the Canadian Mounted Police Act to add mandatory harassment training for all RCMP members. This is a simple, concrete measure that meets the expectations of many witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This measure would have helped provoke the necessary corporate culture changes in order to change the perception certain RCMP members have of the concept of harassment.

In closing, the Conservatives have yet again shown their lack of openness and co-operation with other parties by rejecting the official opposition's amendments and not considering expert advice in order to restore the RCMP's increasingly tarnished image in Canada.

If, as the Minister of Public Safety claims, this institution is synonymous with “professionalism, honesty, integrity and compassion”, this bill is misguided and the RCMP may no longer live up to those adjectives in the long-run.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

February 12th, 2013 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Élaine Michaud NDP Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague, I rise today to speak to Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. This bill is the Conservatives' response to the many complaints of sexual harassment in the RCMP and to recent scandals, following disciplinary measures that were too lenient for officers accused of serious misconduct.

Unfortunately, as my colleague for Vaudreuil-Soulanges clearly explained, the government has come up with a very weak response to serious issues and problems for RCMP members and Canadians.

Bill C-42 is almost identical to Bill C-38, which was presented during the 40th Parliament. It proposes three major changes to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act. If the bill is passed in its present form, it will give increased powers to the RCMP commissioner in the area of labour relations. Among other things, it will allow him to appoint or fire members at his discretion, which is a rather major discretionary power. The bill also seeks to change the process governing disciplinary measures, complaints and human resources management for RCMP members. It provides for the establishment of a new civilian complaints commission to replace the RCMP Public Complaints Commission.

From the outset, the NDP has supported the intent of Bill C-42. We felt that this legislation would modernize the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and bring solutions to issues such as sexual harassment in the organization. However, it is now obvious that this good intention—the intention perceived behind the bill—did not translate into a true legislative measure that would provide concrete results for women in the RCMP, and for other members of that police force.

As it stands now, the bill has some major flaws. It does not go far enough and it does not really improve oversight of the RCMP. Worse yet, it does not even deal directly with sexual harassment in the RCMP, which is a central concern for women across the country—whether they are members of that police force or not—and for all Canadians. Every day, Canadians learn about new cases in the media. They hear about this problem, they see what is going on in that police force and, in the process, their trust in the RCMP erodes. Yet, the men and women of that police force are very invested and they make sacrifices to protect the public. Some action should be taken immediately to restore this trust. However, that is not what Bill C-42 proposes.

The Conservatives only looked at the issues relating to discipline and sexual harassment in the RCMP, after being questioned on many occasions in the House and in committee. They never adopted a leadership role when it came to proposing solutions to the problems identified in the RCMP.

Now they are bringing in a bill, when they are on the defensive. This did not come about because of the Conservative Party's concerns, but rather because of the pressure of public opinion and NDP colleagues who have done an impressive amount of work to try to make the government aware of the major problems that exist in the RCMP.

For all of these reasons, the NDP will not support Bill C-42 at third reading. We moved a number of amendments at committee stage in order to ensure that Bill C-42 was truly a response to the challenges facing the RCMP. Among other things, we wanted to make it mandatory for all RCMP members to take harassment training. We also wanted to set up an independent civilian body to investigate complaints against the RCMP. In addition, we proposed adding a provision to set up an independent national civilian investigative body to make sure that the police are not investigating themselves, something that seems very logical to me. Finally, we also proposed removing some of the new draconian powers that the government was planning to grant to the RCMP commissioner, with a view to establishing more balanced human resources policies for the RCMP.

All of these amendments were based on recommendations from numerous witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

These witnesses came straight from the policing community. They are therefore knowledgeable about the context and the constraints, and they know what they are talking about. The recommendations they made to us were based on their experiences and on what they had seen, and they deserved to be taken a little more seriously than the Conservative government has done.

All of these witnesses share the NDP's concerns that Bill C-42 will never be enough to change the climate and the culture in the RCMP workplace, the two elements that allow the abuses that are routinely alleged to occur. Sexual harassment in word and deed continues to occur, but in many cases, the perpetrators are never punished.

This bill is likely to create more problems than it solves, especially since new powers are being granted to the commissioner. Unfortunately, the Conservatives turned down every one of the amendments that we put forward in committee without even wanting to discuss them. This is unfortunately not surprising. It seems to be typical of this government's attitude in committee. If the experience of my opposition colleagues on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security is anything like what I experience regularly on the Standing Committee on Official Languages, the process was probably very arduous and quite frustrating for anyone who tried to work co-operatively.

This is what the NDP has been proposing from the outset. We have always been prepared to co-operate with our colleagues from all parties in order to make proposals that are beneficial to all Canadians. In this case, our proposals would have been beneficial to the women and men of the RCMP, as well as the Canadian public, but they were rejected out of hand. Unfortunately, the Conservatives on this committee were just as inflexible and closed-minded as those on many other parliamentary committees. They refused to co-operate to make Bill C-42 a piece of legislation that genuinely responds to the needs of the RCMP.

As members of Parliament, we are responsible for acting in a way that strengthens public trust in the RCMP, but the Conservatives refuse to take the steps needed to modernize the organization. For months now, the NDP has been urging the Minister of Public Safety to make sexual harassment in the RCMP a priority, but the issue is barely mentioned in Bill C-42. In fact, the word “harassment” appears once, and it is not even in a context that aims at resolving the issue of sexual harassment.

Although the bill gives the RCMP commissioner room to create a more effective process for responding to sexual harassment complaints, it contains no proactive measure to try to combat this systemic problem, and there is no provision on adopting a clear policy to prevent sexual harassment within the RCMP.

Bill C-42 does not go far enough in addressing the very real concerns of female members of this organization, who have been waiting far too long for the government to do something tangible to ensure that they have a safer, more open work environment. Another problem we must address is the fact that these same women do not have access to the same positions and promotions as quickly and in the same way as the men do.

Currently more than 200 women who work or have worked for the RCMP have launched a class action suit against the organization for allegations of sexual harassment. There are other individual suits under way, and there are undoubtedly incidents that will never be reported, because these are difficult situations. When wrongdoers get off the hook rather easily and no real disciplinary measures are taken, there is no real incentive for anyone to report these problems.

The women in the RCMP make the same sacrifices for their country as the men, but the women are abandoned by the system every day. They deserve better than this and, as elected representatives, we have a responsibility to act swiftly. That is why the NDP will oppose Bill C-42 at third reading. We proposed solutions and the Conservatives did not want to implement them. These solutions did not come just from the opposition, but also from people who are directly involved, who know what they are talking about and who care about the well-being of RCMP members.

This is very disappointing. I think it is a real shame to have to vote against this bill.

I would also like to see a substantive reform of this organization, but that is not going to happen with Bill C-42.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

September 18th, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are indeed disappointed because a little consultation is all it would have taken for us to share with the Minister of Public Safety some critical elements that could have helped refine this bill and made it easier for us to support. It would not have taken much effort. However, what we have once again is a botched bill that is supposed to fix problems with another bill. Bill C-42 replaces Bill C-38.

The minister could have done a better job if he had consulted the opposition. Had he done so, we would not have to redo the work at second reading, and we would be able to move the bill through as quickly as possible. As things stand, at least we support studying it at second reading so that we can pass a bill that will make the RCMP more accountable and prevent certain types of incidents from happening again.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague just spoke about the independence of the RCMP. This reminded me that Bill C-42 is partly based on Bill C-38, which was introduced in a previous Parliament.

Both bills propose similar things. For example, this type of bill would once again enable the RCMP to conduct investigations itself in certain circumstances. For example, the bill proposes that each province be able to choose the organization responsible for investigating the RCMP; if no organization is able to do so, the RCMP itself will investigate.

I would like to ask my NDP colleague what he thinks about this piecemeal system within the RCMP. Does he not think that this type of system would undermine Canadians' trust in the RCMP?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP 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.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2012 / noon
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Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativeMinister 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.

May 31st, 2012 / 7:50 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

I have one final question, which concerns the Fisheries Act. The government eliminated more than 1,000 positions at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans this week. We have also learned that toxicology specialists, who are responsible for monitoring pollution in waterways, will be laid off or relocated.

Do you believe that Bill C-38 will help protect these lakes and rivers or that it will exacerbate the situation? What should this bill contain to improve the situation?

May 31st, 2012 / 7:45 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to the witnesses for being here.

I would like to ask Mr. Maas some questions. We are talking a lot about the impact of Bill C-38 on environmental assessment. Under this bill, responsibilities would be delegated to the provinces on the ground that there is duplication. However, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has told us today, through an internal document, that there is in fact no duplication.

In that case, what risks would be incurred? The federal government is transferring these responsibilities to the provinces when there are no uniform standards. This causes a lot of predictability problems. What do you think about that?