Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and committee members. I was told this was the friendliest committee, so I'm happy to start off here.
I would like to express, first of all, how sorry I was to hear about the sudden loss of your colleague and your friend, MP Gord Brown. On behalf of everyone in the RCMP, I'd like to extend my sincerest condolences.
I have truly been given a gift. It's the opportunity to lead my organization to a bright and new future. With three weeks under my belt as the new commissioner, and armed with a mandate letter outlining those opportunities and expectations for the RCMP, my sleeves are rolled up and I'm ready for the task at hand.
I would like to talk to you today about what I see as three central elements of our way forward: people, community and the opportunities and challenges on the road to our 150th anniversary.
An organization is truly the sum of its people. The RCMP of today is made up of almost 30,000 individuals who joined Canada's national police service to make a difference in their communities. Over 18,000 of those are called upon to put themselves in harm's way, and yet another 12,000 work tirelessly behind the scenes to support them and make our front-line operations possible.
Canada is a diverse and evolving society made up of people from many different backgrounds with the same aspiration for peace and prosperity. I want all Canadians to see themselves in the RCMP—a modern RCMP. We are most effective when we are reflective of our community.
Diversity in our workforce not only keeps us relevant and in tune with Canadians, it gives us a diversity of skills and experiences that help us to advance and innovate.
As inclusion leads us to broader perspectives, respect must also be front and centre, both respect for each other and respect for each and every group and individual we interact with. By acting honourably, professionally, and compassionately without letting biases or assumptions cloud our judgment, we will in return earn the respect of our colleagues and those we serve.
Respect, of course, leaves no room for harassment. I cannot and I will not accept this kind of behaviour and will do everything in my power to address it. We will get at the root causes of bullying, discrimination, and harassment wherever it exists, and we will continue to build our programs to identify, eliminate, and prevent this corrosive behaviour from undermining the important work that we do.
Respect thrives where people are healthy. Over the past several years, we have launched many new programs and services aimed at supporting the health and well-being of our employees.
As part of our mental health strategy, we will continue to roll out readiness training, peer support networks, and employee assistance services that will grow and evolve. We recently introduced a disability management and accommodation program to support our injured members' recovery. It is extremely important that we get our members back to work as valued and productive employees of the RCMP as soon as possible.
Finally, our RCMP requires ethical leadership to support and empower our employees so they can go above and beyond in their work. These important steps forward only happen when every single leader at every level models the attitudes and behaviours we expect of those around us. We will develop these leaders, encourage those who demonstrate what we value, and support them with modern and accountable governance structures.
My second area of focus is the communities we serve from coast to coast to coast. The concerns of rural Canadians have been prominent in recent years. Technology and accessibility bring more issues that were once considered big city problems to our rural areas. Communities that were once insulated from some of these threats are now struggling to cope with the impacts of rising crime rates, potent and dangerous drugs, and the impact of fraud, Internet-based fraud, and exploitation.
We have responded, and will continue to respond, with innovation to better protect our citizens and our employees. Recent examples include new techniques for safely training police dogs to detect fentanyl and other dangerous substances, issuing naloxone to front-line members, and new cybercrime strategies.
We also work day to day with the most vulnerable people in our communities. Our first responders are called upon to deal with complex situations where mental health, poverty, addiction, and domestic violence call for extraordinary judgment and restraint.
We will continue to modernize the training our members receive to deal with these often volatile situations, and we look to our partners in the health sector and other areas to build a stronger network to respond to these critical needs.
For many years during my service, I have worked with indigenous communities and know first-hand the value and the importance of reconciliation with our first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples.
The RCMP has worked with and among indigenous people for its entire history. We have been partners and helpers; however, we must also acknowledge the role we played in some of the darker periods.
We will continue to work to understand and appreciate the complex and important relationship between indigenous communities and Canadians, and use that understanding to increase the trust in order to serve the needs of all with fairness and respect.
My philosophy is simple: make every community better than what it was when you got there.
Across the country, thousands of our employees do exactly that by responding to calls for help, by solving crimes, by engaging with young people in our hockey rinks and in our schools.
When we get to know the community in which we work and come to understand each other, we can start to build trust. We will continue to be a presence that Canadians can turn to for help with the confidence that we will be fair, transparent, and accountable.
To meet the needs and expectations of Canadians, we need to be a modern and agile police service, capable of adapting quickly to an ever-changing policing environment.
As our society changes, Canadians are presented with ever wider career options. Policing is not for everyone, so the challenge of recruiting and training people with the right aptitudes and outlook is a growing one. We must address vacancies and grow our numbers to meet the needs of our communities, and address the pressures on our employees.
These pressures also include a pay and benefits package. I look forward to working on these issues and others with new bargaining agents, who will be active advocates for our members and employees.
In order to tell this story, we must continue to develop business intelligence systems and analytics, so we can clearly demonstrate the impact we are having on the safety of our communities. Using yesterday's technology is just not an option.
Since becoming commissioner just a few short weeks ago, I have gained an even broader perspective on the scope and complexity of our institution. The more I learn, the more I see the potential to build upon our strengths to make positive change, and I see many opportunities to earn the trust and respect of Canadians.
I believe it is important to honour and learn from our past while modernizing for the future. I am really excited for the work ahead with our employees, our partners, our communities, and yourselves as we travel the road together to 150.
Thank you, and I welcome your questions.