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House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was force.

Topics

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the question, because, having worked on preparing and developing workplace policies, I know that, even with such policies in place, it is still not enough. As I said, you have to create a work environment where women and men feel comfortable; they have to be able to lodge complaints at a specific place and feel safe when they do.

Other things that are important include workplace training on harassment and the right to say no. That is equally important. But even when you have this type of workplace, we very well know that, when new officers are hired—and that goes for all workplaces—when the person is new and there is a minority, changing the culture does not help. The culture has to be changed at all levels, starting at the top, and people need to have the opportunity to advance in line with their career plans.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault NDP Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the new civilian complaints commission is oddly enough very similar to the existing one where the public can complain about the RCMP.

I would like to thank the hon. member for her remarks and I would like to know what her thoughts are on how independent or dependent the new commission is.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the problems that has been raised has to do with giving the commissioner the arbitrary power to fire people. We feel that this approach is not sufficiently clear or transparent and that a tremendous amount of power is being placed in the hands of one single person.

So there should be a commission or an independent office that reviews the complaints. As we know, since there is no workplace representative, it is difficult to have a fair process. As a result, we would like the committee to study that part of the legislation.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Hull—Aylmer for allowing me the opportunity to speak to this very important bill.

We have said quite openly that we support the bill at second reading, but we see opportunities to amend the bill to actually make it better. There are things that have been omitted simply because they were not thought through. They are not omissions by default or just because, but there are other things we could actually do.

My colleague pointed out the systemic nature of this, but I will quote Commissioner Paulson's testimony before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, where he said:

It's the culture of the organization that has not kept pace...We haven't been able to change our practices and our policies, or provide systems that would permit women to thrive in the organization and contribute to policing, which they must do....I've said it publicly, and I'll say it again. I think the problem is bigger than simply the sexual harassment. It is the idea of harassment. The idea that we have a hierarchical organization overseeing men and women who have extraordinary powers in relation to their fellow citizens, which requires a fair degree of discipline.

What he talks about is what I saw as a very young person, when I was a student and worked in the auto sector. That workplace was dominated by men. There were very few women in that workplace. There was a culture that had evolved over the years. That culture needed to change as we saw the workplace change. However, when we saw the workplace change, its culture lagged behind. We took steps to remediate that, such as through harassment training in the workplace, so that people felt protected. They could come forward knowing there was an investigation process that was neutral and unbiased, that was not going to be heavy-handed for either party, regardless of who the complainant was or who the person being complained about was. People knew the process was available and that they could take part in that process.

Unfortunately, we have seen over the last year or so that former women officers of the RCMP have come forward after leaving the RCMP. It was a career that they desired and cherished, but because of the actions and the culture inside the organization, they felt they had to leave. Now they have finally come forward and said that all of that needs to change. They are standing up and saying to us as the policy-makers that we need to change the organization so that does not happen to other officers ever again, that people would have to leave their job because of the culture they faced within that workplace.

This is the 21st century and the national police organization finds itself mired in the 19th century. I guess this is better late than never, as one would say, but it is too late for those who have left. We will have to find a way to remediate that. The appropriate authorities will have to do that.

It has been mentioned that there are some misgivings in the sense that the powers in Bill C-42 would be arbitrarily given to the commissioner. The commissioner would become the absolute judge.

In every organization there is always a final decision maker, whoever that may be, but in this particular case, there is no balance. There is no balance for the person who perhaps would be subject to discipline and dismissal. One needs to find the balance, because what could happen is it could have the opposite effect. Folks would be forced into not coming forward because they thought the charge may end up in a dismissal and they would not want that to happen. We would end up with a system that still would not work.

The RCMP is our national police organization. I know that a lot of folks who live in Ontario and Quebec do not necessarily see the RCMP, but for folks in the west, the RCMP is a very visible police organization. We want to have an organization that functions well, which it does.

I also need to say that the vast majority of RCMP officers in this country do remarkable work. They go to work every day, work hard at what they do and do the things required of them under the act. They are good employees and good folks to work with. Unfortunately, there is an undercurrent of the situations that we have witnessed. We have heard about the nastiness of those things and we are now trying to address them. Bill C-42 is a step in the process of finding a way to resolve the issues that came up in the past and to ensure they get rectified and do not happen again.

In my view, we need a sense of independence and an independent body that can look at this organization and not appear as if it were the army. The army has a process as well, which is an internal one. That is justifiable and fair for it. However, this is a police organization that deals with citizens, the folks who interact with it. We need to have a civilian oversight authority that actually has authority and teeth. This is the only policing organization in this country that does not have civilian oversight. Municipal, regional, and provincial police forces in the case of Quebec and Ontario have civilian oversight. The RCMP does not.

That being the case, Bill C-42 has to address the issues of how we can give authority to civilian oversight so that folks can see that complaints are indeed taken seriously, are dealt with effectively and that the remedies that come out the other side are fair and just. I say this because in every remedy, there are two parties. There is always the complainant and there is the one who is aggrieved, and they deserve justice on both sides of the ledger. If we end up with an arbitrary process, there will always be someone who feels as if his or her grievance or complaint has not been handled judiciously in a fair and even-handed way. We would end up back at the same place we are now, with people coming forward and saying that the system did not work when they were involved with it.

I have heard members on both sides of the House say many times that they do not believe people should go to work to be harassed. They should go to work to do the work that we ask them to do, regardless of where they happen to go. Mr. Speaker, you say that you will not condone harassment in the House. However, we have this national organization that for far too long has allowed that to happen and a system to take hold that perpetuates it. It is not even the nudge, nudge, wink, wink routine. It really is a systemic issue, which is much harder to remedy than situations where someone simply does something untoward to someone else, which can then be dealt with by an immediate supervisor by taking the person aside and remedying that particular situation.

When it becomes a systemic issue, it literally inculcates the entire organization and then it becomes okay. If one takes oneself outside of such an organization and steps to the side, outside of the organization one would say in everyday life that others should not do that. However, because it is systemic, when one steps back into that role, it becomes a case of, “Well, that's what we do”. Moreover, because it becomes the norm, “We will continue to do it”. Even though individually we might think something is morally reprehensible, that we would never do it at home, never do it to our neighbours or to our broader community, as soon as we step inside the organization we think it is okay, because the system says to us, “That's what we do”. We need to put an end to that. I think everyone in the House wants to put an end to that.

That is why New Democrats want to send this bill to second reading and improve it. There are opportunities here to improve it. I believe the minister is telling us to bring our amendments forward, that he wants to work on the bill together. I commend the minister for that. Ultimately, we need to make Bill C-42 work for the good women and men in the RCMP and, indeed, the broader public across this country. Let us put the pride back in the RCMP that Canadians have always had in it, and which I know the officers in the RCMP truly want back again so that the organization is the proud organization that we all know it can and will be in the future.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. friend for a very good presentation setting out all the issues that are before us in this bill.

The bill certainly is a step in the right direction, but I must agree with my hon. friend that there needs to be more, perhaps a civilian oversight body, going along with these proposed improvements in legislation.

The member raised the issue of women in the RCMP who faced sexual discrimination and had their careers ended. I have talked to some of those women and they say it is somewhat of a convenient myth that there is systemic sexism within the RCMP. They say their experience is that there are one or two bad apples who keep being promoted and do not get punished. Therefore, the overall message is that if one speaks up, one's career will end and that the person causing grief will continue on a career path by perhaps moving sideways or to another detachment.

I would like my hon. friend's comments on how we can protect women in the RCMP so that they do not face sexual discrimination and harassment.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the folks the member has talked to say that they do not believe it is systemic, but what I witnessed in the auto sector in the mid-1970s is indeed exactly the same thing within RCMP. It was systemic.

If someone is being told they will be promoted or will be moved sideways, it is the system that is doing that. The system is saying that it is okay for them to do what they did and that it will just shuffle them and put them in a different place, and that it will do so again.

The issue is that we actually have to stop it. We have to have the leadership to say that if this continues the person will not be there any more. It is not good enough to simply say “Oops, that was nasty“, and give them a slap on the wrist and a promotion to do something else. Rather, this issue has to be condemned and must be ended.

Where women and men are in the workplace, they must always be equal. They can be nothing less than equals. We put a stop to it when men in an organization, and I say this with purpose, actually accept women as equals in the workplace.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to button the systemic nature because it is not only the leadership that is responsible for this but also the co-workers. If they do not say something, then obviously those actions are being condoned.

We also need more exploration in the bill of the fact that these RCMP officers are also dealing with citizens. There is an old saying: “What happens in the family is practised outside the family”. Therefore, if contempt for another person's rights is systemically condoned within the family, within the house, then that person will take that same attitude out onto the streets in how they deal with other people, including women, in the course of their daily work.

I would ask my hon. colleague to comment on whether or not there is another level to why the bill should be explored more, specifically putting into place things that dissuade members of the RCMP from continuing this behaviour.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, to reaffirm the position my friend laid out, we cannot remain silent. Those of us who see it need to speak up and say no. That is how to deal with a system that is unequal. That is how we put an end to it. It cannot just be a memo or an instruction. It has to be about everyone within the culture saying, “That is not how we operate, and we will not get away with that”. We have to stand tall as men when it comes to harassment of women in the workplace and say no to male co-workers, telling them that they cannot get away with it. We have to help with that.

I think the member is correct. If this is what someone does inside, then why would they not do it somewhere else? It is not as if someone on the job is saying that they would not do those things out there, because the tendency is for one to reiterate the same sort of feelings and contempt outside. That is why a civilian complaint authority is absolutely needed. There are complaints from civilians and we have seen them. The Dziekanski case is out there. We need to have a civilian complaint oversight body to actually take care of it.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, Transport; the hon. member for Churchill, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech I would like to read a bit of the summary of the bill because it puts into context some of my forthcoming remarks. The summary states:

This enactment enhances the accountability of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police by reforming the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act in two vital areas. First, it strengthens the Royal Canadian Mounted Police review and complaints body and implements a framework to handle investigations of serious incidents involving members. Second, it modernizes discipline, grievance and human resource management processes for members, with a view to preventing, addressing and correcting performance and conduct issues in a timely and fair manner.

It establishes a new complaints commission, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (CRCC). Most notably, it sets out the authority for the CRCC to have broad access to information in the control or possession of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, it sets out the CRCC’s investigati2powers, it permits the CRCC to conduct joint complaint investigations with other police complaints bodies and it authorizes the CRCC to undertake policy reviews of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

People viewing this will see that the bill is a comprehensive one with many pages of amendments.

I want to refer briefly to the speech by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, where he clearly outlined the NDP position on Bill C-42. In that outline he indicated that the NDP does support getting this bill to committee for second reading, but he also raised some concerns. Those are a couple of concerns that I am going to deal with.

The member said:

We on this side agree that there needs to be action to strengthen the RCMP review and complaints body. The RCMP Public Complaints Commission has provided a valuable service but we have concerns about its full independence and its ability to oversee independent investigations....

Finally, there needs to be action in the area of modernizing discipline, grievance and human resource management processes. The minister has cited anecdotal evidence of things that take way too long and we all know that is true. However, what is lacking is clear guidance for RCMP members of what those standards are and how failure of those standards will be dealt with in a judicious and fair manner. In addition, when RCMP members have grievances they need to have the understanding that their concerns can be brought forward in a timely manner and that those grievances can be resolved and not drag on for years and years....

In his conclusion, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca stated:

—I would stress the importance of both the independence of the RCMP from government and the independence of investigations into RCMP conduct from the government and the RCMP, and also the independence of the commissioner, who really ought to be the chair of this new civilian agency and report to Parliament rather than to the minister of the day.

Those are a couple of aspects that I am going to focus on during my brief time before the House. We have been clear that we welcome the minister's comment that he would entertain amendments to the bill. Although we support the principles of the bill, as I mentioned, we do have concerns. I am going to specifically focus on those concerns around the independent complaints commission and the issue of sexual harassment.

I want to put this into context as well. There was a report back in September 2007 called “Rebuilding the Trust”. Part of the reason I want to read excerpts from that report is that it does set the table for this legislation, but it also reinforces to the Canadian public the importance of the RCMP to them.

My own province of British Columbia is largely policed by RCMP officers. As many others have pointed out, by and large most RCMP officers are excellent at their jobs. We rely on them and trust them. However, there have been some very serious cases in British Columbia that have called into question some of the disciplinary aspects within the RCMP.

The report, “Rebuilding the Trust”, indicates that the RCMP is a national symbol. It states:

The "red serge" has been a source of national pride and is recognized around the world as a symbol of who we are and what living in Canada means. However, in the last few years, trust in the management of the RCMP has been shaken. This has had a stunning impact on the members and employees of the RCMP and on the Canadians they serve. Trust in the management of the RCMP needs to be rebuilt.

That is an important point because it is not only Canadians who rely on the police for its services who need to have that trust but fellow workers, the men and women who serve in uniform, also need to have the trust of their co-workers. That is an important piece. Members need to have confidence that their co-workers are behaving in an appropriate manner.

Although these numbers are from 2007, they are important. They may have shifted slightly but it does show the breadth and scope of the men and women serving in uniform, and the civilians who support them. This is the section titled, “The Business and People of the RCMP”. It says:

The RCMP is arguably the most complex law enforcement agency in the world today. The RCMP provides, under contract, rural and municipal policing services in all but two provinces, in all three territories and in approximately 200 municipalities and aboriginal communities.

It then states:

There are currently over 27,000 members and employees of the RCMP comprising regular and civilian members of the Force and public servants. The approximately 17,000 regular members are trained as qualified peace officers, are entitled to wear the uniform and are entitled to carry weapons. There are also approximately 3,000 civilian members of the RCMP who are not trained as peace officers. Civilian members provide specialist support to the Force in areas such as forensic science and technology. Additionally, the RCMP employs approximately 4,700 public service employees who are not members of the Force, but who provide specialized services in key areas such as human resources and financial management.

In the report, it was discovered that the task had to expand because they realized that during their consultations there were problems around “accountability, governance and cultural issues that ran far deeper and were more fundamental to the Force than those described in the earlier Investigative Report”.

At the end of this report, there were 49 recommendations for things like board management. One of the recommendations was that:

Legislation should be enacted by the Parliament of Canada as soon as possible to establish a Board of Management of the RCMP responsible for the stewardship of its organization and administration including the oversight of the management of its financial affairs, resources, services, property, personnel and procurement.

There was a recommendation “to establish an Independent Commission for Complaints and Oversight of the RCMP having the attributes outlined in Chapter 2” of this report, and that it “should be established and commence operation as quickly as possible following legislative enactment”.

However, there were far-ranging recommendations that also included issues around health and safety for officers, training, education and ongoing support, such as backup and what happens when an officer is disabled.

Again, it is a comprehensive report with 49 recommendations. Although some of these recommendations were undertaken in this piece of legislation, not all of them were and it would be important for the government to indicate why some of these recommendations were not taken under advisement.

Another report in December 2010, called “From Reform to Continuous Improvement: The Future of the RCMP”, also outlined a couple of other key recommendations, and I will just touch briefly on this. It indicated:

Canadians understand the importance of the RCMP in both its local and its national roles. They want the Force to live up to its well-earned reputation in meeting their needs for community safety and national policing. They know, of course, that in carrying out its complex responsibilities and interacting daily with tens of thousands of Canadians, the RCMP will inevitably get some things wrong – sometimes badly so – even as it gets most things right. When it does make mistakes, they expect the Force to be accountable and to respond openly and effectively to scrutiny. If, as we fully expect, the RCMP acts decisively to improve its performance in the future, Canadians will know that it has learned from its errors as well as from its successes.

The report goes on to say:

To meet new challenges and ever-higher expectations, it is clear that the RCMP must be committed to fundamental change and must have the means to bring about that change. Everyone now understands that – the federal government; the provinces, territories and municipalities for which the RCMP delivers police services; the general public and, perhaps most importantly, the leaders of the Force itself. They also need to understand that change must become a permanent condition of the RCMP.

I know other members have referred to the need for cultural change.

There were a couple of key reforms that the report focused on. One was that “the Council was convinced that the RCMP requires a new framework of governance and management, including a continuing source of outside advice and challenge for senior management, as well as a redefinition of the status of the organization”.

They go on to say that they consistently endorse the concept of a civilian board of management. The other recommendation was also around the board of management. In this particular one, they are suggesting that a board of management for the RCMP would be made up of eminent Canadians chosen for their independence, insight and expertise. The council sees such a board as bringing a broad range of benefits to the RCMP, including things like challenging senior management to make better substantive decisions, and it would add to the credibility of the RCMP management inside government.

Those were a couple of other key recommendations. We can see that all of this has to do with increasing and maintaining the credibility of the force because of the importance of its policing role domestically. I am not even going to begin to speak about the international role that we play.

I wanted to point out that some other provincial jurisdictions are undertaking work around independent police watchdogs. An article out of the Canadian Press on September 10, 2012, indicated that starting Monday, police incidents in British Columbia that end in fatalities or serious injury will be investigated by an outside agency.

This outside agency's primary recommendation came about as a result of public inquiries into two high-profile police-involved deaths: Robert Dziekanski, who died at the Vancouver airport in October 2007 after being stunned with an RCMP taser, and Frank Paul, who froze to death in the Vancouver alley where he was taken by Vancouver police after being ejected from a drunk tank. We also had the very sad case of Mark Surakka's daughter who lay dying for four days after an RCMP officer failed to properly investigate a 911 call.

There are still some concerns in British Columbia, and although this is the province, I just want to point out that there are some steps happening here. David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said that his group, which has long advocated for the creation of an independent watchdog, was glad to see this day finally arrived. Its members think that although this is an improvement in the accountability of the province, they would also like to see it have a somewhat expanded role, including looking at previous cases which have been closed.

There was also the shooting of Ian Bush, a 22-year-old sawmill worker who was arrested after having an open beer at a hockey game in Houston, B.C. He ended up being shot in an RCMP cell in 2005. Although that was investigated and the case is closed, many community members and family members are still not satisfied. They would like to see that independent body have some oversight there.

Ontario has an arm's-length watchdog to conduct investigations into police-involved deaths. Alberta has its own oversight unit similar to Ontario. Nova Scotia has now appointed a watchdog. Quebec is considering the same. My point in raising these is that there are other examples of independent watchdogs, and presumably one of the things that the government is looking at and considering is what works with some of those independent bodies, what does not work and what we can learn from it.

In the time remaining I want to turn to the issue of sexual harassment lawsuits. I agree with my colleague from Welland that there is a systemic problem within the RCMP. When more than 200 women, both current and former RCMP officers, join Constable Janet Merlo in a class action lawsuit against the RCMP on the grounds of sexual harassment, those numbers speak to a broad problem. That does not even begin to touch on the number of female officers who have not come forward.

A story in the Globe and Mail stated that it obtained an internal report which said that a survey of 462 members of RCMP's “E” Division in British Columbia has found that female members do not trust the force's system to deal with harassment complaints and frequently avoid reporting instances of perceived wrongdoing:

Participants strongly expressed that they were fearful of coming forward to report harassment as it could hinder promotional opportunities, have a negative impact on their careers, and possibly cause them to become a scapegoat for anything supervisors wanted to fault them with.

The opinion was also expressed that the RCMP is known for moving the complainant rather than dealing with the problem. I am going to touch on a very recent case in British Columbia. It goes on to say that the internal report makes it clear that there remains much work to be done inside the RCMP to solve a problem that has persisted for decades. The author of the report, diversity strategist Simmie Smith, pointed out there is confusion with the RCMP between harassment and bullying.

In addition, the report points out that the majority of respondents did not feel that harassment was rampant inside the force, but they still expressed frustration at the handling of existing cases and the high number of unreported cases.

A point has been made that certainly not every female officer has been harassed and not every male officer does the harassing, but again, I point to the 200 officers filing a class action lawsuit. It does speak to a much broader problem.

A majority of the respondents expressed that they had no faith in the current reporting system.

The Summary Report on Gender Based Harassment and Respectful Workplace Consultations decried the “significant failure to report incidents” by Mounties, adding that the lack of formal complaints has resulted in “pent up” frustrations in the force.

Again, although Bill C-42 does reference some changes around human resource management, it does not specifically address the issues around sexual harassment and the ongoing problems.

The report talks about removing the complainant rather than dealing with the problem, and we recently had a case in British Columbia that was adjudicated. It was a staff sergeant who ended up being moved into British Columbia after there were several serious complaints against this officer's conduct within the force. I will read a couple of lines of the synopsis of the decision. It says:

Seven allegations of disgraceful conduct were established against the member.... The board considered both dismissal and a considerable demotion but paid great deference to a joint submission and imposed a sanction consisting of a reprimand, the forfeiture of 10 days' pay, a demotion from the rank of Staff Sergeant to Sergeant, a recommendation for transfer, and a recommendation for continued counseling.

When I read through this report, in the decision on the sanction, the board indicated that:

The seven incidents of misconduct describe a disturbing pattern of activity covering a period of years, involving inappropriate behaviour affecting a number of women who, in one way or another, were directly involved with [the staff sergeant] in his capacity.

It goes on to name his various jobs, and that the “gravity of this misconduct in its totality is such that dismissal was in the forefront of the Board's collective mind”. It also says that:

Victim Impact Statements were particularly troubling, revealing wounds which on a personal and an institutional level will require some time and attention to heal. It will take considerable effort to rebuild the damaged trust in our organization, and the Board can only hope that its decision in this matter will prove to be an important step along that path.

The member forfeited 10 days' pay and received a demotion, and the warning in the board's conclusion says:

The board recommends a transfer to a suitable position. In the Board's opinion, such a position should ideally be one which removes this member from working in the direct vicinity of the complainants and takes into account the potential (albeit limited, given the expert evidence) risk to other employees.

The member for Welland and the member for Hull—Aylmer mentioned that there are cultures within organizations and if we do not establish clear anti-harassment policies in these organizations, women would not feel comfortable coming forward.

In conclusion, we will be supporting the bill going to committee for review. We hope that the minister will truly entertain amendments that look at strengthening some of these aspects of the bill.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always impressed with the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan. She does her homework. She does good analysis and she has very thoughtful and reflective comments. I basically sometimes wish I lived in Nanaimo and was one of her constituents.

My non sequitur question today is that we have a national police force that is also functioning as a municipal and provincial police force in much of Canada. It clearly needs scrutiny and reorganization. I am wondering if the hon. member shares my feeling that perhaps it is time for us to think about making it a national police force again and have the provinces and municipalities find other ways of doing local and regional policing.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting concept. Part of the reason that New Democrats are supporting sending the bill to committee for review is to look at some other options, and that might be an interesting issue for the committee to study.

When speaking about RCMP members, I talked about quite a few negative circumstances with the RCMP but it is really important to emphasize that, by and large, most men and women in the force do an excellent job. It would be really important to include them in conversations about reformation of the force. I am presuming that the RCMP members themselves would be included on the witness list. It would be interesting to talk to some of the rank and file because my experience in working in other organizations is that the people on the streets doing the job are often the ones who have the best suggestions about how to make the system work better.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member always does thorough research and brings the issues down to the ground in our communities.

I have had the privilege of working in environmental enforcement agencies and one of the most important things for those officers, whether they are environmental officers, food inspection or Criminal Code enforcement, is their morale. If those officers do not feel their agency is behind them or the government, if they feel the public is not confident with them, if they feel they have no one to genuinely turn to for independent advice and assistance, that can really affect their ability to deliver their job. Could the member speak to that and expand a bit more.

The current RCMP Commissioner has raised that very strongly and the member has raised the point. That is why a number of New Democrats say it is good to have legislation and it could use some improvement, but we also need action on the morale and on the code of conduct.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Edmonton—Strathcona is absolutely correct. One of the challenges is that, anecdotally, the morale within the force has been really hit because of the number of serious allegations and complaints.

I did not have an opportunity to speak about this, but the part that has been left out of the bill is that this is the only police force in Canada without a collective agreement. Having a democratic process within a workforce allows members and people a very clear way to bring forward their concerns and suggestions and they have a representation that works between them and management around resolving some of those issues.

Another thing the committee might want to consider is that the bill does not deal with the fact that unionization of the RCMP has been on the table for a number of years and it might be one of those remedies to deal with some of the poor morale in the force.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat troubled by Bill C-42. I would like to ask my NDP colleague what she thinks. I find that what the Conservatives are proposing—the creation of an organization that has very close ties and reports to the minister—is a little troubling.

Does my colleague not think that it would be better to have an independent oversight body that would report directly to Parliament and that could subsequently make binding recommendations concerning the RCMP and even conduct a complete, civilian investigation into the RCMP?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, part of the issue the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has outlined is the fact that perhaps the model that has been suggested in the legislation is not the one that will give sufficient oversight.

Although this is not what has been proposed, I want to refer to the annual report of the Commission for Public Complaints for 2011-2012. In that report there are a whole series of recommendations that the commission has been putting forward to the government for a number of years and they still remain outstanding. These range from a policy on releasing details regarding sensitive investigations, which has been outstanding since February 2008, and a policy dealing with requests for exhibits consistent with the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, March 2009. A whole series of recommendations have been outstanding for a number of years.

It points to part of the problem when there is not that independence, that direct reporting to Parliament. If there were direct reporting to Parliament on matters like this, then Parliament would not only respond to the report, but also be in a better position to hold the government of the day to account, whichever government that might be, for those recommendations that have been made.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague to speak more about the challenges with regard to recruitment in light of problems with sexual harassment. The employer is trying to achieve gender equality and 200 harassment complaints have been filed. What message does that send? I would like to point out something else. The commissioner has all the rights, such as the right to fire an employee, without there being a trustworthy and transparent process for dealing with a complaint.

In that regard, I would like to hear from my colleague about young women, the message being given to young women and minorities who would like to be recruited and hired by the RCMP. How is their morale?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, for a number of years, the member for Hull—Aylmer has worked with women within organizations in order to ensure pay equity.

With respect to the issue around recruitment, and again this is anecdotal, but I spoke to a former first nations police officer who said that he got out of the force after years because he just could not handle the discrimination that was happening. The issues around sexual harassment and the very high profile cases are a deterrent for women wanting to join the force. Therefore, it is a real problem with recruitment. We would like the RCMP force to reflect the makeup of Canada. The last time I looked, roughly 51% of Canadians were women, so we would presume that at some point the force would more accurately reflect the number of women who live in Canada.

We have a problem when there is a culture within an organization wherein these kinds of high profile discrimination cases cause women to ask themselves why they would put themselves out there. Why would they put themselves in that kind of a position where they would always have to struggle to be considered an equal member or to get their well-deserved promotions? If they dare to raise those issues, they could be sidelined or worse. We know that sometimes when people speak up, they are punished even more or they are ostracized by their fellow officers because they said something about what was going on.

Other people have talked about the legislation and regulations simply not being good enough. They are absolutely correct. We need to ensure there are human resource policies and practices in place that look at recruitment, training and education, retention and that examine the reasons for turnover. A good human resource practice is when officers quit the force before their retirement date, they should be interviewed to find out the real reasons why they left and they should be protected throughout that interview process. That would give the force a good overview of why people were quitting.

Therefore, comprehensive human resource planning and management practices would be critical to ensuring the force could recruit and retain women, visible minorities, first nations, Métis and Inuit.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I would like to inform hon. members that there have been more than five hours of debate on the motion before the House. Consequently, the maximum time allocated for all subsequent interventions shall be ten minutes for speeches and, as usual, five minutes for questions and comments.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, today, I rise to speak to Bill C-42, an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.

Before I do that, I want to take this opportunity to thank the men and women who are currently serving in the RCMP and those who have served in the RCMP for their dedication and hard work in making our communities safer places to live.

Also I have had the opportunity to work with a number of retired RCMP officers at my previous job. I want to thank a former colleague of mine at the Justice Institute of BC who I worked with for 15 years, Al Lund. He retired from the RCMP after serving our country for 29 years. I thank him for his service.

Having worked with RCMP officers, I know the dedication and the hard work they put into the job to make our communities safer places. I thank all of them.

First, it should be a priority of the House and of the government to restore public confidence in the RCMP. A functioning, effective RCMP that holds the public trust is critical to building safer communities in our country.

On this side of the House, we support the stated intent of the bill and we agree with some of the measures in it.

The minister has said that the legislation should have come to the House sooner. I completely agree with him. In fact, I have stood in the House countless times and called upon the government to step up and deal with the problems that years of Conservative mismanagement have caused in our national police force.

The goals stated in the preamble of the bill, transparency, improving conduct, strengthening the review and complaints body and dealing with the climate of sexual harassment that exists in the RCMP, are all good ones and are what New Democrats have called for over and over in the House.

We support the bill at second reading. However, we firmly believe it does not go far enough, particularly with regard to those issues of sexual harassment in the RCMP. The bill does not go far enough in directly addressing the concerns of women serving in the RCMP who are calling for urgent action to foster a more inclusive and safe environment for women.

The bill has been introduced without the benefit of findings of the internal gender audit of the RCMP ordered by the commissioner, which is currently under way but not yet completed.

It is clear that sexual harassment is not a problem of merely discipline. It is endemic to the internal culture of the RCMP. The approach of the Conservatives does not make women in the RCMP a priority, which is necessary if we want to deal substantially with the problem.

My primary concern is that over and over we see the government's attempt to gloss over real issues within the RCMP and implement quick fixes instead of truly trying to take the steps necessary to fix the force.

For the sake of those serving in the force, to restore public confidence in the RCMP and, ultimately, for the safety of our communities, we need transparency and accountability in the RCMP and solutions that would get to the heart of the problems within the force. On those accounts, the government has failed time after time.

The scope of the problem of sexual harassment in the RCMP is massive. More than 200 women, both current and former RCMP officers, have joined Constable Janet Merlo in seeking a class action suit against the RCMP on the grounds of sexual harassment. That does not include other lawsuits against the RCMP from proceeding, including Corporal Catherine Galliford and Constable Karen Katz.

My NDP colleagues and I have pushed the minister for months to prioritize the issue of sexual harassment in the RCMP. Unfortunately, Bill C-42 does not directly address systematic issues in the culture of the RCMP. It is clear that the bill by itself will not change the current climate in the RCMP.

Despite our repeated questioning and urging in both the House and in committee, the Conservatives have chosen to only focus on the issue of RCMP discipline and RCMP sexual harassment. They did not take a leadership role in presenting solutions. Now we have a bill that would not address the root cause of the problem.

The bill does give the RCMP commissioner the ability to create a more effective process for dealing with sexual harassment complaints, which is an important step in the right direction, but it is not enough. We need to go further on this issue. There needs to be a clear anti-harassment policy in the RCMP that contains specific standards for behaviour and specific criteria for evaluating the performance of all employees. Such a policy is needed to serve as a basis for fair disciplinary hearings.

The Minister of Public Safety has stated, “Canadians' confidence in the RCMP has been tested over the past few years and this legislation will ensure that the RCMP is fully accountable for its actions and is open and transparent in its service to Canadians.”

Bill C-42 would not lead to more independent and transparent oversight of the RCMP. It is simply the same body that reports non-binding recommendations to the minister but with a new name.

The minister has also adopted the simplistic solution of giving the commissioner the final say on the dismissal of employees.

Once again the Conservatives have rushed through this legislation. As one member has already stated, some grammatical and translation amendments are going to be made at committee.

We agree with Commissioner Paulson that legislation alone is not enough to keep the public's trust and that profound reforms to change deep underlying cultural problems within the RCMP are needed to foster a more open, co-operative and respectful workplace for all employees. The minister has clearly failed to provide leadership on these larger issues facing the RCMP. That must change.

The proposed new civilian complaints commission looks remarkably like the current RCMP Public Complaints Commission, especially since it would not be a fully independent commission reporting to the House of Commons. Instead, it would continue to report to the Minister of Public Safety.

As well, the new commission would have serious restrictions on its ability to undertake independent investigations. Also, its findings would be presented only in the form of non-binding recommendations to the commissioner and the Minister of Public Safety. These restrictions on the independence of the new commission will be a major issue for us at committee stage.

The proposal also fails to create an agency with any teeth, since primary investigations into incidents of death or serious bodily harm would largely be contracted out to provincial or municipal forces even though some have no civilian investigation bodies, or still would be conducted by the RCMP itself. The government must take the next step and allow binding recommendations and full civilian investigation of the RCMP through a truly independent watchdog panel that would report directly to Parliament.

The NDP believes that this bill is a step in the right direction, but it does not go far enough. We will be working to improve the bill at committee.

I would stress that in my community of Surrey and in communities across the country, crime and violence are a reality. Two weeks ago in Surrey, a known gang member was shot and killed in broad daylight. This kind of violence is unacceptable. However, instead of investing in measures to prevent crime in our communities by supporting the work of the RCMP, the Conservatives are making it harder for the police to do their job.

Just last week I spoke in the media about 42 RCMP support staff in B.C. who had received notices stating that they could lose their jobs. Pay cuts affect staff who help our police officers to do their jobs. These are people who work in forensic labs and records, member pay, and recruitment.

We need to support the work of the RCMP, not make its job any harder. This bill is being rushed. I hope the committee will be able to make some amendments and make those improvements that I have talked about.

An effective RCMP force is a matter of public safety and real action is long overdue.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, one thing we need to recognize after listening to a number of New Democrats speak to the bill is the need to change the current system. Some of the strongest advocacy for that change is coming from the rank and file members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. They believe that not only is it in their best interest but it is in the collective best interest of Canadians who look to the RCMP as being the best police force in the world. There is a huge expectation that the government will be open to amendments at committee stage because there are some deficiencies. We recognize that. We want the bill to go to committee. There is a great deal of value to having a debate and the Liberals are disappointed that the government decided to rush the bill through.

The member made reference to provincial responsibilities within the bill. Does the member believe that the provinces should have some responsibility in terms of when a review, for example, might take place? That is being suggested in the legislation, from what I understand.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege to work with members of the RCMP and they have raised a number of very important issues over the years. Some current members of the force have come to my office and I have had the opportunity to talk with them about structural issues within the RCMP that need to be dealt with.

After six years of being in government, I am glad the Conservatives are finally bringing something forward. This bill deals with some things, but it does not go far enough. I liked the member's comments with regard to having the opportunity to make amendments at committee and to look at the issue the member talked about, as to whether provincial jurisdiction should be looked at when we are dealing with RCMP issues.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin NDP Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, my NDP colleague just mentioned that he does not think the bill goes far enough. This comment made me think about what Commissioner Paulson said. He said that the bill does not go far enough and will not help restore public trust in the RCMP.

I would like to ask my NDP colleague whether he thinks this bill will be enough to make people trust the RCMP and how it operates? If not, what could an NDP government have proposed and brought forward in such a bill?

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have heard from people in my constituency and from across the country with regard to the public oversight of the RCMP. Under the current government, we have seen what has happened to the RCMP's image over the years. One thing Canadians and New Democrats would like to see is public independent oversight of the RCMP complaints process. I would urge the government to consider some of the NDP's amendments that would lead to a more transparent and accountable RCMP in the future.

Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability ActGovernment Orders

September 19th, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his excellent speech on Bill C-42. He raised a number of points that the NDP would like to examine in committee.

I have a very simple question. Is my colleague not disappointed to see that this bill does not go further, when this is an opportunity to make some significant changes within the RCMP?