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.