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Evidence of meeting #20 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was rcmp.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Robert Paulson  Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

You have a minute and a half.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

I'd like to ask you a question, as a police officer, as a professional, and I'm going back to the gun registry, if you don't mind. Some of the witnesses who came before the committee told us that the registry, which the commissioner's report is very supportive of, actually, if you look at it.... I understand you didn't sign it, but the report signed by Mr. Elliott is quite supportive of the registry. Witnesses came and told us that the registry gets in the way of the relationship between police officers and law-abiding citizens. It creates distrust between law-abiding citizens, specifically law-abiding gun owners, and police officers.

In your professional opinion, is that the case?

4 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

To be absolutely clear, I don't have a full understanding of what you just said, of how it gets—

4 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Witnesses came to the committee, and they said that because police officers have the right to take away their weapon, this creates a distrust between them, as law-abiding gun owners, and police officers. This is what the government has been arguing for quite a while, actually.

I'm just wondering if you believe that's the case. Do you think that law-abiding gun owners, as citizens, have a distrust for police generally—not the RCMP—because of the existence of the gun registry and the powers the police have with respect to gun ownership?

4 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Well, I think.... Look, that's part of the fundamental challenge of running a police force the size of the RCMP.

To the public trust issue, we have a lot of powers, and we can impact the lives of Canadians in many, many different ways, so it doesn't surprise me. That's why I think we undergo the sort of level of scrutiny and demands for accountability and transparency that everybody makes of us. So—

4 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

So it's not the registry. It's how police are trained to deal with citizens.

4 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

I can't speak to what other witnesses have said about that, sir. I just know that we have to be mindful of people's rights.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Commissioner Paulson.

Thank you, Mr. Scarpaleggia.

Mr. Chicoine, you have five minutes.

January 31st, 2012 / 4 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Mr. Commissioner, for coming here today. We wish you all the best in performing your new functions. Since Canadians seem to have very high expectations of you, we would like you to make the best decisions possible in order to restore the confidence of Canadians in the RCMP.

Mr. Paulson, a task force on governance and cultural change in the RCMP informed the government in 2007 that the current oversight system of the RCMP lacked transparency. What is your evaluation of the current state of oversight of the RCMP by a civilian third party?

4 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

First of all, thank you for your comments.

I am very much in favour of external monitoring of the RCMP. I will continue in English to make myself clear.

I think the external review of policing is absolutely vital to public confidence. When I was the assistant commissioner in contract and aboriginal policing, I held the pen, actually, on developing our external review and investigation policy.

I think it's.... Where jurisdictions have a means of providing that external review and investigation, our policies require that we subscribe and cooperate. I think it's absolutely vital to our core mission.

4 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Do you think that a national civilian oversight body should have the power to make recommendations that are binding on the RCMP commissioner?

4 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

In fact, that is the case now.

4 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

In your opinion, what would be the best measures to take soon in order to improve civilian oversight so as to restore the public's full confidence in the RCMP?

4 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

First of all, I think that the government has the responsibility to make decisions regarding external oversight of the RCMP. Our responsibility is to provide the information regarding the RCMP, and I make every effort to do so as commissioner. That is what we are doing in the case of the CPC harassment investigation. We are providing all our information to the CPC.

4 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

You mentioned earlier that you intended to centralize the resources in Ottawa. However, some stakeholders see the RCMP as perhaps too large to be overseen properly.

How will you make sure that commanding officers inform you properly about the issues related to complaints and the corresponding disciplinary measures?

4:05 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

We centralized oversight, but we have not centralized the investigations or decisions within the divisions.

I will continue in English.

to be precise on this.

I think that's a very good question.

What we've done.... So in centralizing the oversight, that gives me the opportunity to get the sort of big picture view, but what I've done with my commanding officers is I've written them directly on this issue to say, look, here are my expectations with regard to how you will manage some of these discipline matters. I've been quite particular in laying out my expectations.

I've also laid out a personal responsibility. I was just questioned this morning by our criminal operations officers, and in order for me to be persuasive with our front-line supervisors and leaders, if I'm not doing that at the top with my deputy commissioners and my senior executive, then I think all is lost. So first of all, I'm setting the example. Second of all, I'm making very, very clear our expectations and I'm requiring a certain accountability of leaders and supervisors.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

You have another 30 seconds if you choose.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Earlier, you mentioned the new protocol, which seems to be limiting you. Why was this new communication protocol necessary?

4:05 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

A new protocol is necessary because our officers and people at the department change often. Our policy was very clear, but it could be found in many places within the RCMP. Therefore, it made sense to group everything together and sign an agreement with the department to clarify how non-operational communication should be managed.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

Merci, Monsieur Chicoine.

Now we have Mr. Leef, please, for five minutes.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

My comments will probably mirror Mr. Norlock's a little on the department front in the introduction. I must say that from my past I feel as though I should be standing to salute you before I address you. I certainly hoped when I introduced myself that you wouldn't be checking out the shine on my shoes to see if I was up to snuff any more, but I've been trying to retain my diligence at that.

I'm from the Yukon territory. I represent a northern riding. I just want to give you an opportunity to share your experiences with the committee from a rural and northern perspective, and maybe just touch on what you see as some of the challenges facing the three territories, and perhaps ones that overlay the rural part of our county as you take on this new role.

4:05 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Thank you.

I don't want to sound like I am making a pitch here, but if you have not had the opportunity to tour the territories and see some of the remote deployments of our officers, it is really quite something to behold.

First of all, let me say how impressed and thankful I am for the work that the folks do in our territories day in and day out. They are the representatives of the Government of Canada in many respects, beyond what you would expect of policing. Therein lies the challenge, and most of our officers, God bless them, are absolutely community oriented. The people who go up north are a special breed of people. I'm not trying to shine your apple or anything, Mr. Reef, but they are remarkable people.

The challenge is keeping people engaged in the organization, cycling into the north, providing the support for them as they make the sacrifices for their families and other sort of amenities in the north. Personnel-wise it's a challenge. Community engagement is quite a success, frankly. We've had some challenges in some areas from time to time, but by and large our people are very well respected up there.

As the north begins to grow we're seeing what you would normally expect. I didn't come here to whine and snivel about resources, but we need to be mindful of how the north is growing and, as opportunities develop in the north, that I am able to deploy enough resources to satisfy the demand.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

This touches a little on what Mr. Scarpaleggia was saying. I think you answered the question quite well, but I just want to tie it up a little bit.

Do you feel that your role as commissioner of the RCMP is to comment on legislation the government is dealing with and offer opinions on the creation of legislation, or is it more to engage in the business of enforcing the law and having your forces do that?

4:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

That's right. To the extent that I can concentrate on my primary mission, which is to lead this tremendous organization in the mission of keeping Canadians safe, then all the better.

I do have a role from time to time to provide advice to the minister and the department when I'm asked, but I agree with you that I don't think it's my role to comment publicly on legislation or matters of the government.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

You have a few more moments if you choose to use them, Mr. Leef.