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Evidence of meeting #29 for Status of Women in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was problem.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mrs. Marlene Sandoval
Robert Paulson  Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Madam Chair, so we don't waste Commissioner Paulson's time, I wonder if we can defer that to our next meeting, maybe at the very beginning. I think we're meeting with the group in the first hour...maybe at the beginning of the second hour, if that is okay.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Is that this coming Wednesday?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Yes.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

I don't see the need for a lot of discussion and debate, but if the committee prefers to hold it off until then, these women have waited a long time, and if they have to wait until Wednesday, so be it. But I think it is imperative that, as the status of women committee, we be seen to show some true leadership on this issue. It doesn't have to be a partisan issue. This is an issue of the women of Canada and one of the most respected divisions of the RCMP that we all want to see move forward.

Without serious modernization at this level and some good recommendations going forward, I think the commissioner, with all his great words, intent, and desire, will have a very hard time achieving what he wants, which are the tools and modernization that are clearly needed.

Do you have any further comments, Commissioner?

5:05 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

I think you're absolutely right. I assess the likelihood of the support of the people I've been working with since my appointment on getting these new regulations. I'm very excited by the speed with which people are coming to work on that, and I think it's absolutely essential to be moving forward on that.

I would like to make a comment about Catherine Galliford's comment about women running away as though their hair were on fire, because I don't think I can let that stand.

I know that Catherine Galliford has had a very challenging experience with the RCMP, and this is by no means meant to question that. But I think we need to have a full appreciation for all of the scope and the extent of the problem, because that is a very sweeping condemnation of an organization. I have had incredible experiences working with many women, both sworn officers and otherwise. In fact, I've had partners who have saved my bacon a couple of times, and who have loved the force as much as I do.

So I don't want it left hanging out there that there is a general sentiment that the force is not welcoming or a positive experience for women. This is a problem that we're all trying to fix, and I just want to put some context around it.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Do female members today have faith in the system?

5:05 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

No. I don't think they have faith in the system completely, and that's why I'm so determined to bring their views and other views to providing a system that they will have faith in.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Thank you very much.

5:05 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

You're welcome.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

I discussed this with the clerk, and if the committee is in agreement, we may amend the schedule of the Wednesday, April 25 hearing in order to discuss the motion. Does that suit you, Ms. Sgro? Fine.

Is the committee in agreement? Will someone ask for the vote? Very well. Ms. Sgro's motion will thus be discussed on Wednesday, April 25, two days from now. Thank you.

We are going to continue our round of questions with Ms. Smith.

You have five minutes at your disposal.

April 23rd, 2012 / 5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Thank you, Madam Clerk.

Welcome, Commissioner Paulson. We're very pleased to have you here, and congratulations on your appointment as commissioner of the RCMP. It's a very important position. The RCMP has long been the Canadian flagship. It's recognized all over the world.

I'm extremely concerned about these troubling reports we hear in the media. I think concrete things have to be done to correct the matter.

It was really interesting hearing what your plan was, what you're doing right now, what has been done, and what's in the future.

The thing I'm worried about is that police officers are there to serve and protect. That doesn't mean to say that any police officer, woman or male, should be abused. I feel that the RCMP has a somewhat damaged image, and it's unfortunate. I'm very supportive of the RCMP. My own son is an RCMP officer. However, there is a culture that needs to change, as you have so aptly pointed out, right now.

I've talked to many women RCMP officers who are very supportive of the force and have had wonderful experiences in the force. I think it is right to talk about these incidents that happened. It is right to say that we need to change the culture. That's what has to be done.

Right here in Canada we have the international women in law enforcement conference. It's a big conference. It's an international conference sponsored right here in Canada, in St. John's. I think that's a good opportunity. We need to see the parade of nations. We need to see it filled with the red serge. We need to stand very tall. That's from September 9 to 13.

Now, from what I can find out, there are 17 countries registered and 275 attendees so far, and 154 from Canadian agencies—that doesn't mean RCMP—which is less than half. Only 75 at this point are from the RCMP, but there's lots of time. It's in September. I know that there's one male registered so far, which I find a little bit troubling, because to change the culture we have to be inclusive and include everybody in that.

As I understand it, there are 600 detachments in this country and roughly 20,000 police officers. Many members going right now, I understand, are funding it through their own pockets.

When we talk about the RCMP image today, we know how good that image is worldwide. You can go to any country, and people respect and honour the RCMP.

As a woman, as a Canadian, and as a member of Parliament, I would like to see what you're doing, which is very good in terms of correcting this problem and correcting it quickly. But also I see that something like the International Association of Women Police conference, and including not only women but men as well, could be a great way of bringing up the image of the RCMP. I know that there are many speakers, as you already know, at that conference. What an opportunity.

I'm going to ask whether you support that particular conference, because I understand that it has leading-edge police topics. I've seen all of the topics.

What are you going to do to make sure that RCMP officers, and not only women...? When I see that there are only 75, that worries me a little bit. But it's early. What can you do to make sure that this particular conference is supported? Because I think it's a great opportunity to build networks.

5:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Thank you.

I agree with you. I suppose I can do more, but I've already had to talk to every commanding officer to insist that they have representation at that conference.

The RCMP is a diverse organization, and 75 people from the RCMP going to that conference could be seen by some of our internal bean counters as being excessive. But I have given direction.... Well, you have to....

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Is 75 officers excessive?

5:10 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

No, but it's a representative conference.

I'm with you.

What we have to do is make sure we have representation that mirrors the police community more broadly in Canada. That means one from every division where we are the provincial police force, one from our major detachments that can afford it, and the national perspective.

I am very supportive of that. I've already given instructions to support that conference. In fact, our new commanding officer, Tracy Hardy, in Newfoundland, who was appointed assistant commissioner just a month or so ago, will be hosting that, so I'm very excited about that.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

I'm very excited to know that too and I think it's a tremendous opportunity. I'm really glad to hear the kinds of things you have brought forward. I think you're extremely concerned about it.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

Ms. Smith, your time is up.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

My time is up. Sorry, Commissioner. Thank you.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Marie-Claude Morin

Ms. Niki Ashton will now have the floor.

You have five minutes.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Merci.

I have a few questions, Commissioner, that I would like to get to. In the first piece, you referenced not looking at retention. However, from what I understand, attrition rates in recent years have not been made publicly available. While obviously you have some information at your disposal, publicly we don't have that same ability to see what patterns we are seeing in terms of attrition. Does the RCMP conduct exit surveys as women leave the force?

5:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

We have a practice of doing exit interviews. Frankly, I don't know what our compliance with that is across the board. I don't know that I can say we have a specific exit interview with respect to women departing the force. We have a general practice. When members retire from the force, they will be offered an exit interview either with a commanding officer or with a staffing representative.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Do you think that might be a measure that would immediately be helpful in fixing the problem, as you noted, especially if that survey was more formalized with a direct focus on the possible experiences of harassment that women have received?

5:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

I think it would immediately be helpful in understanding the problem, certainly. Maybe I'll take your suggestion and make sure that's incorporated into our audit to make sure we are canvassing the views of those people who are leaving the force. Often they are a little more forthcoming than people who are sticking around.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Okay. I appreciate that.

Moving on, given the size of this real crisis, I would say, and what it means for having a force that truly reflects Canadians and ensures a safe and equal workplace, I'm wondering in terms of resources. We have been concerned in the recent past with respect to cuts across the board generally, but specifically with respect to the RCMP. We know there have been some ups and downs with respect to specific contracts and so on. We all want to see full resources attached to an effort to eradicate sexual harassment and harassment in the force. Do you feel the RCMP has adequate financial resources to undertake this massive effort?

5:15 p.m.

Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Commr Robert Paulson

Yes. I have had absolutely no problem reallocating resources to achieve some of the things I have described. As we go forward with our increased regulations and authorities, there may be a requirement for some readjustment. I certainly wouldn't want it understood as a resource problem. It's a behaviour and a conduct problem. I think we have all the resources we need. It's just making sure they are doing the right thing and getting results.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

I appreciate that and would hope that, through the proposal that was put forward by Ms. Sgro, we can be there to make sure that government is there to support an effort we would like to see implemented as soon as possible, and to support your efforts.

The final question is.... I was reading the documentation in terms of goals that the RCMP has made with respect to hiring. I have heard the numbers of 30% and 35%. Would you consider a goal of 50%, given that women are in fact half of the population?