Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few comments on the issue of staff relations between RCMP officers and their employer, the government, from a perspective which concerns me somewhat, namely staff relations and public offices which RCMP members can hope to hold.
I am referring, as you know, to the case of the RCMP officer who got involved in a municipal election and was sharply reprimanded by his superiors. Such is the current staff relations policy within the RCMP regarding this issue. Incidentally, such an attitude also prevailed elsewhere, including in the Quebec public service, of which I am a former member. Until 1976-77, any public servant who got elected in Quebec had to resign from his or her position in the public service.
This, of course, was a serious injustice to public servants, who not only had to make the major decision of whether or not to run for office, but to accept the fact that they would have to resign if they did get elected. I am among those who fought at the time to ensure that the employer, that is the Government of Quebec, treated its employees more decently and more fairly and in a less arbitrary and demanding way.
The act as it stood in 1975, 1976 and 1977-which had been as all acts enacted by men and women-was amended by the Parti Quebecois government and nowadays the Quebec public servants who have the honour of being elected in their ridings to the National Assembly of Quebec do not have to resign, since they are entitled to a leave of absence without pay for the whole time they sit as an MNA and when they leave politics they have the choice, depending on the length of their terms, of simply going back to their jobs in the Quebec public service.
That gives you an idea of how far we are from implementing that type of solution with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Government of Canada and their employees. I met the officer who ran in some municipal election and who brought down his employer's wrath upon himself. That man was badly hurt; he was a victim, I think, of a major injustice, of some kind of abuse of authority, of the latitude given to his employer, because there is no rational or justifiable reason for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to be so hard on its employees, to be so demanding.
The right thing would be for these people, as for all other workers, to be able to get a leave of absence without pay and to go back to their jobs after their terms, if it is possible, and I am talking here about members of Parliament. We could even stipulate that Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers cannot be elected to the House of Commons, because they would then be part of one of the entities acting as their employer, since the Government of Canada is the employer of the RCMP. But to go so far as to prevent an RCMP officer from running as mayor or town councillor is, I think, an abuse of authority worthy of condemnation.
It seems that with this bill now before us, the government is maintaining that policy which restrains rights. It is a question of fundamental human rights to recognizethat somwone is entitled to be chosen by his community to represent it. We cannot, for purely-not to say meanly-administrative resaons, deprive someone of a right as fundamental as the right to run in an election.
I am pleased to have the opportunity today to share my personal experience with you. Legislation in Quebec in this regard has changed significantly. If one was a public servant in Quebec, one had to resign after having been elected as a member of the national assembly. This law was passed by men and women.
Today, because the government listened to peoples' demands and representations, the law was changed so that now a leave without pay is granted. Why do we not do the same thing with RCMP officers, maybe with the required differences and subtleties?