Good morning, Madam Chair, members of the committee, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you so much for this opportunity to come before the committee to contribute to your study of sexual harassment in workplaces in the federal jurisdiction.
Here with me today is Superintendent Michael O'Rielly, who is leading the legislative reform initiative for the RCMP. He will be able to answer any questions relating to Bill C-42.
The work of the RCMP has a profound impact on all Canadians. The RCMP's mandate is multi-faceted, and every employee within the force contributes their skills and expertise to deliver quality policing services. All employees of the RCMP are responsible for enhancing and maintaining the health and strength of the organization. The commissioner and senior management have committed to an “every employee engaged” approach, whereby expectations of conduct relating back to our core values are discussed with each RCMP employee and agreed to.
Men and women are recruited into the RCMP with the expectation that they will become part of a world-class policing organization. Employees of the RCMP expect that their colleagues, no matter their position or role, will do their very best to maintain and further this image, in how they deal with the public and each other.
The RCMP is privileged to enjoy high levels of public approval and support, and the vast majority of the women and men carry out their duties every day in a professional and diligent manner. However, over the past few years, concerns regarding harassment, accountability, and existing human resource management practices have been raised. In this regard, we are not meeting the high expectations of Canadians.
I would like to take this opportunity to describe some of the efforts we are making to show accountability and establish a work environment with zero tolerance for inappropriate behaviour, such as harassment.
The RCMP is taking steps to effect organizational change that will address two key factors: numerative inequality, or the difference between the number of men and women in the workplace; and normative standards, or those aspects of organizational culture that can contribute to harassment.
According to Statistics Canada, the representation of women within policing services across Canada has increased from 17.3% in 2005 to 19.6% in 2011. The representation of female regular members within the RCMP has kept pace with this increase, rising from 18.1% to 20.1% over the same period. In spite of this, these rates remain below the labour market availability for women who are interested in a career in policing, which was estimated to be 27% in the 2006 census. This means there is room to have more women in policing.
The commissioner has announced an increase in the recruiting benchmark for women from 30% to 35% to have a more equitable level of representation of female police officers in all ranks throughout the RCMP. We are committed to achieving a more equitable gender balance to help create a better, more respectful workplace.
I will now talk about the normative factors. The RCMP must develop the means to change behaviours, to set new standards and expectations, and to hold all employees accountable for their behaviours.
The results of the Public Service Employee Survey, in both 2008 and 2011, indicate that about 30% of RCMP respondents reported being harassed in the past two years. This percentage is essentially the same as those found throughout the core public administration.
Since 2005 there have been 1,102 complaints of harassment filed in the RCMP. This is an average of 150 complaints a year. Of these, 57% refer to interpersonal deportment; 36% are identified as abuse of authority; 4% relate to discrimination, as defined under the Canadian Human Rights Act; and 3% relate to sexual harassment.
What this tells us is that harassment continues to be reported at a consistent rate in the RCMP. This is unacceptable. The steps we are committed to taking to overcome this issue include focusing on a more respectful workplace, improving training practices, and establishing procedures and processes to prevent, investigate, and resolve harassment complaints.
Part of changing our culture is the identification and handling of harassing behaviour at the onset. Some unacceptable actions are more obvious than others, and some forms are more insidious.
Any definition of harassing behaviour, sexual or otherwise, will always be subjective to a certain extent. The challenge is to clearly define what is considered to be unacceptable conduct and to know when to intervene.
By identifying such behaviours, expectations can be established that action will be taken to point out and stop improper conduct immediately. The RCMP is identifying and developing a continuum of what is considered to be disrespectful and harassing conduct to better hold employees, especially supervisors and managers, accountable for taking action.
Establishing the responsibilities of supervisors and managers is also vital to achieving this. The commissioner or senior manager, such as commanding officers, cannot oversee the daily interactions of every employee. We put this trust in our many managers and supervisors. We must also give those managers and supervisors the training and tools to prevent and effectively handle conflict in the workplace and any inappropriate behaviour they see at an early stage.
The RCMP has had mandatory online harassment awareness and prevention training for all employees since 2005. This was a step in the right direction in raising awareness; however, we recognize the need to do more.
We are also enhancing leadership development focusing on core components, such as how to manage workplace relations, how to identify and address conflict and harassment, and how to build and maintain respectful workplaces.
The RCMP is implementing a respectful workplace program that sets out expectations for all employees of what supports respectful and harassment-free workplaces. The program also outlines how to recognize when these expectations are not being met, how to engage in early intervention, and how to rebuild relationships. The program is built on the Treasury Board policy on the prevention and resolution of harassment in the workplace and supplemented by the RCMP Act; however, the two processes do not align in purpose, process, or outcome.
Bill C-42, the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act, if passed, would provide the RCMP with a number of tools in the areas of conduct, grievances and discipline.
The proposed legislation will provide the commissioner with the authority to deal with harassment directly, by establishing streamlined procedures for the investigation and resolution of harassment complaints.
I would like to thank the committee for inviting us here today and for undertaking this study. Our intention is to continue making changes through the actions that I have outlined today. Our goal is to become a primary contributor to the creation of safe, healthy, and respectful workplaces in the federal public service.
My colleague and I would be pleased to provide further information in response to any questions.