moved that Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, with its roots stretching back to the 1870s, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has evolved into one of the world's most respected police forces. It is clear that the RCMP is a vital national institution but even the deepest roots need tending to remain strong.
RCMP members are hard-working and dedicated Canadians who put their lives on the line to protect us each and every day.
As an organization, the RCMP is respected around the world as a symbol of who we are as Canadians and what we value: professionalism, honesty, integrity and compassion. However, these ideals and Canadians' confidence in the RCMP has been tested over the past few years. As parliamentarians, we are all aware of the high profile events, public inquiries and, most recently, allegations of sexual harassment within the force. I know there is a consensus in this chamber that changes are needed.
There is also no doubt that the leadership of the RCMP deserves modern, updated tools to do its job.
Earlier this year, we signed 20-year contracts with our provincial and territorial partners, further demonstrating our government's commitment to the RCMP. We remain committed to ensuring that Mounties can effectively serve and protect our communities for generations to come. I therefore was very proud to enable the enhancing RCMP accountability act on June 20.
Before outlining the major provisions of the bill, I will paint a larger picture of why these changes are so necessary.
Over the past four years, the RCMP has been busy addressing deficiencies to strengthen the trust and the confidence of Canadians. Most important, in November 2011, our government appointed Mr. Bob Paulson as the new Commissioner of the RCMP. A senior police leader with extensive experience across the RCMP's complex mandate, including in British Columbia, Commissioner Paulson is well-positioned to deal with the challenges associated with maintaining the RCMP as a key Canadian institution.
While we have seen progress in several areas, for example, the provinces and territories recently signed a 20-year RCMP services agreement that addressed key issues such as governance, accountability, program sustainability and cost containment, more needs to be done and that means amending the legislation governing the RCMP.
It is surprising to think that the RCMP Act has not been significantly amended in nearly 25 years. The RCMP Act, last amended in 1988, has served us well but the time has come for a change.
The proposed legislation would further enhance the RCMP's accountability by reforming the legislation in a number of key areas: First, it would strengthen the RCMP's review and complaints body; second, it would create a statutory framework to handle investigations of serious incidents involving RCMP members in order to promote greater transparency; and third, it would modernize discipline, grievance and human resource management processes for members of the RCMP. This would help prevent, address and correct performance issues in a way that is both fair and timely.
If some of those ideas sound familiar it is not surprising. The proposed legislation contains all of the elements of the former Bill C-38 and several components of former Bill C-43 related to human resource management.
I will delve into each of these areas more deeply.
In 1988, the RCMP Act established the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, or CPC for short. As its name suggests, the CPC is an independent, arm's-length, civilian body that ensures that public complaints made about the conduct of RCMP officers are examined fairly and impartially.
In recent years, many different stakeholders have expressed concerns about the limitations of that review body. Whether the criticisms stem from contract jurisdictions, parliamentary committees, reports from public inquiries or critiques from individual Canadians, they all share a similar thrust: a belief that the CPC requires enhanced legislative powers for an effective and fulsome review of RCMP activities.
The government has listened to the concerns of Canadians and I have spent the summer travelling the country listening to the concerns of front line RCMP members, community leaders and Canadians. I have heard clearly these concerns. The government recognizes that a growing chorus is demanding change to the review and complaints framework of the RCMP.
I am proud that Bill C-42 fully addresses these issues. The bill would create a new commission that would enhance, streamline and update many elements of the CPC that are currently working effectively. Additionally, new powers would be conferred on the new commission, including the authority to summon and compel witnesses to give oral or written evidence, grant greater access to RCMP information deemed relevant by the new commission for the performance of its duties and, finally, to conduct policy reviews. This would bring the new commission in line with other modern provincial, federal and international review bodies. The legislation would also permit the new commission to have broad access to RCMP information but subject to appropriate safeguards.
As we know, many jurisdictions contract the RCMP for policing services. They have made it very clear that they want enhanced accountability for RCMP member conduct in their communities. They have also asked that the legislative framework for the new commission be designed to dovetail with their own police review bodies. Oftentimes contract jurisdictions want a detailed analysis of RCMP activity tailored to their individual needs. Here, too, Bill C-42 will deliver the goods.
The proposed commission would issue customized annual reports to contract jurisdictions identifying the number and nature of complaints as well as evidence of trends, if there are any.
By its very nature, the RCMP's work is often difficult and dangerous. Members can be called upon to use weapons and occasionally deadly force in the performance of their duties. When serious incidents occur, such as life-threatening injuries or death, the RCMP would be required to refer the case to the provincial civilian investigative body, where one exists. For example, in Alberta, the Alberta serious incident response team would be in charge of carrying out the criminal investigation into an RCMP member's conduct if serious injury or death resulted from an RCMP interaction with the public. In the absence of such a body, the RCMP would have to refer the investigation to another police force whenever practical. In those rare incidents where neither of those two options are available, the RCMP would conduct its own investigation, but this last option would be the exception rather than the norm. This process is both workable and practical for a force spread across one of the largest countries in the world and has the broadest support from the jurisdictions the RCMP serves.
We have built in safeguards that if the RCMP has to investigate one of its own members or if it refers the case to another police force, an independent observer could be appointed by the jurisdiction or the new commission to monitor the impartiality of the investigation. This policy is a result of concerns about a conflict of interest with Mounties investigating their own members.
The government has taken these criticisms to heart and, while we acknowledge the work that the RCMP has done in this regard with its 2010 external investigation or review policies, it is time to solidify this policy in law. The proposed legislation reduces the potential for bias, promotes transparency and promotes public accountability in serious incident investigations.
Recent allegations relating to misconduct and harassment in the RCMP are well-known and I am deeply troubled by these allegations. No doubt, hon. members are also familiar with criticism of the RCMP for how it deals with these kinds of allegations. That is why we believe it is vital to reform the discipline, grievance and human resource management processes within the RCMP and to do so through legislation.
Thus, Bill C-42 would reorient and streamline current processes and provide the commissioner with the authorities needed to manage the organization more effectively.
Let me touch on each of the three components, beginning with discipline.
Simply put, the current process is not working as well as it could, given the existing limitations in the current legislation. Sanctions and remedial options are limited, and the process is weighted down by red tape. Proceedings can literally drag on for years. This is why we are reforming the adjudication boards currently in place.
For most disciplinary actions of any severity, for example, the RCMP is required to use a three-person adjudication board. These boards effectively undermine the role of front-line managers who lack the ability to resolve issues promptly, as well as the flexibility to make decisions on sanctions. As a result, the use of boards creates an adversarial work climate, not to mention long delays in the process.
Under the proposed changes, front-line managers would finally gain the authority and responsibility to impose appropriate, punitive measures. These measures would range from remedial training to corrective action such as holding back pay. Managers would not have to resort to a formal board process, except in the case of dismissal.
Like cases of discipline, the airing of grievances in the RCMP is terribly inefficient. There are, for example, separate processes to deal with terms and conditions of employment, appeals of discharge for unsatisfactory performance, and appeals of formal and informal disciplinary sanctions. On top of that, each process has different decision-makers and administrative structures.
The proposed legislation would create a single grievance and appeal process, allowing for consistency, fairness and efficiency. The legislation would also empower managers, allowing them to deal with issues before they mushroom into big problems. For example, in August 2004, a grievance was filed over a dinner allowance claim of $15, and under the current system it took seven years to obtain a final decision on the matter. Under our proposed legislation, that would be streamlined and dealt with in a matter of weeks, not years. In other words, the proposed legislation would inject some much-needed flexibility into the current rigid system.
We must also pay attention to how decisions get made at the top. In contrast to other police chiefs, for example, the Commissioner of the RCMP lacks the authority to make fundamental human resource decisions. Specifically, he cannot establish and maintain processes for the demotion or discharge of members for administrative reasons. Nor can the commissioner make decisions stemming from these processes or establish a system to prevent, investigate and resolve harassment cases.
Under the proposed legislation, the commissioner would gain increased authorities to fully manage the RCMP workforce. Given the complex and dynamic operating environment of the organization, these changes are nothing short of essential. Specifically, the legislation would address the shortcomings I mentioned.
The commissioner would be able to demote and discharge members and appoint commissioned officers, everyone but the deputy commissioners and commanding officers of the RCMP divisions. Other powers include the authority to establish processes to investigate and resolve disputes involving harassment in the workplace.
As a final consideration to enhance human resource management, Bill C-42 would reduce the number of employee categories. Currently there are three categories: regular members, civilian members and public service members. Bill C-42 proposes to eliminate one of the three categories by converting civilian members into public service employees. This would allow the RCMP to focus on the RCMP's core mandate, protecting Canadians while saving valuable taxpayer dollars by streamlining its administration.
The time is now for the enhancing RCMP accountability act, as it would enable the RCMP to advance its transformative agenda and improve public confidence in the organization. It would further enhance the RCMP's accountability by reforming legislation in several key areas that I have outlined.
The RCMP has a proud and illustrious past, but this government believes the best is yet to come. As Minister of Public Safety I have had the privilege of meeting RCMP members and staff across the country. This summer particularly I have also witnessed the pride and appreciation Canadians have for the men and women of the RCMP. The legislation would be important in ensuring the RCMP is an accountable, trusted and adaptive organization for generations to come.
We have identified a small number of grammatical and translation errors in the bill that the government will aim to correct at committee stage.
I trust that all members will support these amendments to ensure we have the best bill possible. I urge all members to join with me in supporting the bill and a speedy passage through to committee.