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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

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

On the territorial front, through the RCMP contracts the territorial government is working closely with the Northern Institute of Social Justice. I won't put you on the spot and expect you to know about that program, but they are engaging in strategies to recruit first nations into the RCMP. Maybe you can comment on some of the national strategies you are looking at to deal with the first nations recruiting issue in the country.

4:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Okay.

I ask for a lot of innovation from my people, and I want to get away from the idea that our policies in the past have prevented us from having people in a community come back to a community. The only way, frankly, we're going to get adequate representation from some of these distant communities and provide inroads into those communities, really, is to have local people brought into the organization and brought back to the communities. That's an initiative, a trial, a pilot, as we refer to it, we're engaged in right now. We're actively recruiting people from aboriginal communities and asking them to go back to those communities. There are some risks in that sort of strategy. There is some good thinking around being able to move people around. That's one of the things we're prepared to risk out.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

I know I'm cutting you off a little bit. I'm just trying to keep to the timelines here.

We'll go to Mr. Garrison, please, for five minutes.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for appearing, Mr. Paulson.

I want to go back to the question of the independence of the police force. Canada's a little bit unusual, I think, in that in our system, the independence of the courts and the prosecutors and the police is really key to the functioning of our justice system. But the courts and the prosecutors have a few more institutional protections of that independence. The reason we're concerned, on this side, is that independence in the policing forces really operates as a convention, and it depends on the integrity of both sides to protect that independence. I have no reason or wish to question your integrity. But I think no matter who is the government, any government will always be tempted to push across that line. That's my reason for going back to this question about your relationship with the minister.

In the case of meetings, if we're talking about prior notice of meetings, is that just for members of Parliament and senators, or are there other meetings you would include in that category, where the minister might receive prior notice?

4:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

It is primarily for parliamentarians, but sometimes I'll alert.... I can't think of an instance when I've done that. I get requests for a lot of meetings from a lot of folks, and generally I meet with a lot of people and a lot of folks. Sometimes some of the folks are from other countries, or ambassadors want to meet with me, and so on.

I agree with you. The independence of this organization is absolutely vital, and I'm defending it like a terrier. But I also have a role to play in the broader community here. It's kind of a dual-hatted thing. I'm not a politician. I wasn't elected to anything, and I don't really think it's my area to be weighing in on that. My test would be that as the nature of the meeting begins to approach a political realm, I would perform a bit of an assessment as to the political nature of the meeting and would want to step away from it.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

I guess I would say, with respect, that I trust your judgment on that more than I do the minister's judgment on that. I think any minister would have a tendency to push the boundaries to get more information about what others in the political system are doing.

4:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

I'll say this, sir, if I can, because that's an important point. I've been in Ottawa for six years now, and my experience has been that people are very mindful of staying away from the operations of the RCMP. I don't have a lot of problems with that. I think people want to engage the RCMP for a number of different reasons, but operationally, that's a line we don't cross.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

You mentioned the Brown task force. What's the current status of that? Is there any existing report on progress on the non-legislative recommendations, or is a report planned?

4:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

There was quite a comprehensive report that Commissioner Elliott put out some time ago, and he tried to distribute it as widely as possible. We've achieved just about everything we agreed to achieve. I know there are some other legislative requirements. But short of the role and the mandate of headquarters, which has expanded, I've just reinitiated or relaunched a wide-ranging review of that. We didn't deliver on a document on the mandate of headquarters, which is a little contentious, but that's coming. With the exception of the university degrees for new admittance, everything else is pretty good.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

One of the concerns raised by the task force was fair compensation for hours worked and the problem of understaffing and backfilling.

Can you tell us how much progress has been made on that?

4:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Our staffing levels are at our funding levels. With policing in particular you're always going to face.... And we have a number of sources of funds, too. With every division we have agreements of new contracts with the provinces and so on. To the extent that we have empty positions, we should staff those, but I'm fairly satisfied that they're staffed. The problem is our ability to prioritize our work and to say no to some things. I think you come into a police force wanting to solve everybody's problems, but if we're not properly led and supervised, we'll let these people run themselves into the ground. One of my strategies is to help people say no.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Frankly, that's a concern. As a former municipal police board member, we always had concerns that our members would work themselves into the ground because of their dedication and their commitment.

4:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

That's a very real danger.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

I'm very pleased to see that it's one of your priorities, because I know it's one of the most difficult things for those members.

January 31st, 2012 / 4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Garrison.

I'm going to take the chair's prerogative. I did look to the government side to see if there was another question. I would like to ask you a couple of questions.

First of all, to assure Mr. Garrison, I think it was in the late nineties—and maybe there are some reporters here who would be able to tell the time better than I can—that the Hughes report came out. One of the very strong recommendations in the Hughes report was the depoliticization of police forces. I can assure you that our government very much pushed for that then, and we still very much believe in that now. I know that the current minister, who was the lead critic at the time, stood very strong on that point, during the Hughes report and shortly after that. The Hughes report was in the late nineties and I think he came into power in 2000.

My question to you, Mr. Commissioner, is about a couple of things we took as a committee before the appointment of a commissioner.... One was the development of leadership from within. How do we develop leadership from within the ranks of the RCMP, not just to some day reach the position that you have been appointed to, but to make certain that good governance and leadership from within the RCMP are enhanced by certain resources or by programs to enhance leadership? That would be my first question.

Secondly, we've seen very strong recruitment in our armed forces over the last little while. Are there any new plans for selling recruitment to the RCMP, so that the youngest and the brightest men and women who are coming out of our high schools, colleges, and universities would want a career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?

4:20 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for that.

Let me talk about the leadership development programs. You may have heard about the force's efforts to revamp our whole approach to developing and training leaders and providing support for our leaders. We have three levels: the supervisory development program, the managerial development program, and the executive development program. Just this morning in fact I got the final briefing on the third leg of that, which is the officer development program. I'm very reassured by what I'm seeing there. I've received tremendous feedback from some of our corporals and front-line supervisors who have gone on the supervisory program. Our middle managers have similarly given me positive feedback. It's all real-life-based leadership examples. It's not theoretical. I think we've come a long way there. We'll not see the fruit of that for perhaps another year or two.

On the executive development plan, this morning I talked about a desire to professionalize the officer corps of the RCMP. Earlier I talked about the need to have NCOs step up and run the place effectively under the supervision of our warrant groups and so on. But we also need effective managers who are professional officers. That's why we have all the pips, crowns, and bling on the shoulders. But we need to preserve that in the traditions of this organization. We are taking steps to start to give officers...and to start to expect from officers that they understand the context in which they are being asked to lead. I'm very excited by that. I think it's in good stead.

On the recruitment issue, I take your point. We don't have any problem getting applicants. We have a lot of applicants. One of our challenges is to get to a steady state of recruiting so that we're not up and down in terms of intake of people at Regina. Of course, that turns a lot on how the provinces and territories and the economies of the various regions of our country develop. The point is to elevate our intake in terms of the class of people we're taking. We have a very rigorous screening process. Often, as I root through some of these more unattractive discipline situations, we always end up back at our recruiting opportunities. We're polygraphing our recruits. We're looking for life experiences. We're looking for education. I think there's an opportunity there to try to improve that as well.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much.

We go back to the New Democratic Party one more time.

We go to Madam Morin.

You still have five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you.

First of all, I would like to thank you for coming here to meet with our committee. It is helpful to speak with you.

Given the incredible state of harassment complaints, would it be pertinent to entrust oversight of the regulations regarding the harassment cases to a third party in order to show more transparency to the public?

4:20 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Yes. Our policies regarding harassment and our regulations are very clear. Managers and others have received training in these matters. This is well known. It may be a bit complicated, as was said earlier, but our policies and regulations comply with those of the government.

I think I'm open to any sorts of improvements in our policies, in our oversight of that. I'm very anxious to understand and take the advice of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP—which is doing a systemic review, as you know—so yes.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

In your opinion, what would be the best measures to adopt soon to improve civilian oversight in order to restore the trust of the public in the RCMP? This trust is not necessarily lost, but we know that it is weakened somewhat.

4:25 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Yes, well put.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

I am not saying that it is gone, but—

4:25 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

First of all, I think that this must be transparent. We must be clear that we are prepared to help our colleagues everywhere who are responsible for overseeing the RCMP. When we make mistakes and there are complaints against us, we must be willing to speak frankly and openly with the investigators. However, that will come at some point.

We get to a point where we can be as transparent and as open as possible. That's one of the challenges I have with my discipline process, that we have to preserve the principles of fundamental fairness. What I ask of my supervisors and my leaders is that we are open, that we are engaging, that we open the books to the extent that we can around some of these matters, and I think we will soon re-establish the confidence we need from Canadians.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you.

How much time do I have, Mr. Chair? Two minutes, you say? Great.

I have one last question. We often hear about the blue culture, or police culture. It is well known and documented. This culture makes some good police officers remain silent in the face of abusive behaviour or corruption. I do not want to generalize, but we know that it is a well-known situation, at least I think that is the case. Does the RCMP take any measures to prevent such behaviours, and if so, how?

4:25 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Yes.

I would say we're very fortunate right now to not be particularly challenged with those kinds of issues, but we do have very robust internal investigation services in all of our divisions. We do, in certain cases, proactive integrity testing of our officers. That is something that I monitor very carefully. I think you can tell, in some of the behaviours that are challenging...or rather, when you begin to see officers behave in certain ways, it often signals some other issues. We have a very robust program of overseeing that sort of misconduct.