Reports are scathing of the RCMP, but little will change


Two reports were released Monday by the Public Safety Minister in Ottawa. The first, was written by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and can be found here.  The CRCC broadly reviewed workplace harassment and bullying in the Force.

The other was authored by former Auditor General Sheila Fraser. It looked at four particular cases where harassment lawsuits were filed individually by female members Catherine Galliford, Alice Fox, Susan Gastaldo and Atoya Montague. That report can be found here.

The RCMP has had both reports for several weeks but thus far has had little positive reaction to either report both scathing in their criticism of the Mounties essentially saying the organization is  dysfunctional and the harassment and bullying was systemic. Where have we heard this before?

I have long described the RCMP as “144 years of tradition unhampered by progress.” These two reports just reinforce that statement.

None of this is new. There have been a number of reports over the past decade or so and successive commissioners have mouthed all the platitudes including the current one, Bob Paulson, who has been described by a number of officers to me as the biggest bully of all. I cannot argue. Indeed, Galliford told me this is the fifth such report she has participated in.

Both reports recommend some form of civilian oversight for the Force. If that is to happen then the RCMP Act will require the appropriate amendments, if not re-written in its entirety, given the recent union certification application made by the newly formed National Police Federation.

But even then I am not sure much will change. The problem is the culture within the RCMP. It, in and of itself, causes the dysfunction. Part of it is the Old Boys network. For example when Gary Bass was the CO of E Division (BC) his sycophants were referred to as the Bass Boys Club or BBC for short. Promotions literally depended on whether one was a member of the BBC.

When Craig Callens took over upon Bass’ retirement nothing changed except the name. The sycophants were then referred to as being on “Craigslist.”

Another significant issue is the “go along to get along” unwritten rule. Members don’t dare colour outside the box. But the overriding issue is the, again unstated policy, not to do or say anything that could damage the reputation of the RCMP. This is at the heart of the problem.

If a member has a complaint about a superior, even if validated, which is rare, the member is discouraged from pushing it for the good of the Force or the miscreant is simply transferred. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak.

The RCMP Act was re-written in 2014 ostensibly to make it easier for the Commissioner to fire the “bad apples.”

The CRCC report identifies what the RCMP has done since it’s last report on the matter in 2013 were simply small initiatives that had little or no effect.  Said Ian McPhail, Chair of the CRCC in the report, “If the last 10 years, over 15 reports and hundreds of recommendations for reform have produced any lessons, it is that the RCMP is not capable of making the necessary systemic changes of its own accord.”

Stunning words. Paulson’s response? Meh.

Well, to be fair he did put out a one page response in which he gave no reaction to the major recommendation common to both reports, the establishment of civilian oversight committee or board that will assume control for administration, finance and human resource management of the RCMP.

This is his response: “These reports make recommendations that require careful review and consideration. They will no doubt help improve policies to further support a healthy and respectful workplace as the RCMP continues moving forward.” How about that for tepid?

McPhail’s report also says that little has changed in the RCMP from their previous report in 2013 to the present day. Paulson’s response? “It should be noted that many of the reports’ judgments rely on the historical context of RCMP transformation efforts that are not, in my view, reflective of current RCMP environment, policies or processes.”

Yeah, that sure sounds like he is seized with the findings and recommendations doesn’t it?

Paulson has already announced he is leaving at the end of next month. We don’t yet know who his replacement will be, but unless the Trudeau government picks a strong leader – a real leader  who can take the Old Boys’Network by the scruff and shake the heck out of it – nothing will change. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau telegraphed today that the appointment will be either a female or someone well-versed in aboriginal issues. Leadership qualities apparently are not the criteria.

Equally, I don’t think Ralph Goodale, the Public Safety Minister, has the intestinal fortitude to take on the RCMP because any effort to establish some form of civilian oversight with authority over the Commissioner’s office will be fought every step of the way by seniour management in the RCMP. Take that to the bank.

The female members who were interviewed by Fraser were told that the Minister is “absolutely committed to follow the recommendations.” I’m sure Fraser believes that. I, on the other hand, don’t buy it for a second.

I spoke with former West Vancouver Chief and former BC Solicitor General Kash Heed to get his take. He said, “Nothing will change in the RCMP. There are consecutive reports over the past 15 years; Kennedy, Duxbury, Brown ‘et al’ calling for the same changes. The organization will not change unless they are redefined and stick to just federal policing.”

It’s hard to argue that. But that sort of institutional change would have to come from government. The same government lacking in the same sort of leadership that’s needed in the RCMP.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


Leo Knight


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  1. You had my agreement on your article about the RCMP until you used Kash Heed as a source. Kash is unaware of most of the issues in the RCMP and has an axe to grind with the RCMP. Kash likes to hear the sound of his own voice and never hesitates an opportunity to slam the RCMP. He has little credibility throughout the province or with any of the police forces that he was formerly employed by. If you doubt this check with anyone who worked for him or with him at VPD or West Vancouver PD. I enjoy your work but in future when it comes to the RCMP you should use a more informed credible source for insight or an opinion.

  2. Well, whatever you think of him personally, he was SolGen when the province was renegotiating the RCMP policing contract and he was front and centre. So, yes, I think his opinion matters from that perspective.

  3. As someone who has been on the receiving end of harassment from the Commissioner I agree with your analysis. Fortunately, the Commissioner left a paper trail and media interviews in my case that even the Govt couldn’t deny and they didn’t have any real choice but to find him accountable for the Harassment. Even then his discipline was nothing more than a slap on the wrist and he was able to minimize it in public.

    The Minister of Public Safety has refused to deal with two further complaints of harassment against the Commissioner that are now two years old and counting. It is my belief that the failure to take any action on this is simply to allow the clock to run out and let the Commissioner retire so that he faces no further discipline for his behaviour. I have no faith that he will do anything but more of the smoke and mirrors strategy the RCMP and Govt have utilized so far. They grind you until you give up, move on or die. The Force and the Govt is famous for these three words; deny, delay and ignore. Little will change without a Association/Union, civilian oversight, changes to the Officer and NCO promotion process and a re-wrtie of the new RCMP Act which takes all the unchecked power out of the hands of the Commissioner.

  4. I am a disabled woman who lives in a residential area of Kelowna BC. In the last three years I believe I have been the target of harassment, stalking and bullying by neighbours and others in the community. I believe this is because I am perceived as vulnerable to exploitation. I have experienced thefts from my home, bank account, telephone, mail box and utilities. When I have contacted the Kelowna RCMP to address my concerns I have been met with indifference and intolerance and have felt dismissed. There is a withholding of services. I have lost trust in this police organization. As a person with a disability I feel I have not enjoyed the same human rights and civil liberties as others in the community.


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