CALLS FOR RE­FORM

Watch­dog says ma­jor changes needed at RCMP as bul­ly­ing, ha­rass­ment per­sist in ranks

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - JIM BRON­SKILL

OT­TAWA — Bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment re­main se­ri­ous prob­lems within the RCMP and only ma­jor changes to the way the ser­vice is run will make a dif­fer­ence, says a na­tional watch­dog.

In a re­port Mon­day, the Civil­ian Re­view and Com­plaints Com­mis­sion for the RCMP said the force lacks both the will and the ca­pac­ity to ad­dress the chal­lenges that af­flict its work­places.

The com­mis­sion urged the govern­ment to usher in civil­ian gov­er­nance or over­sight for the paramil­i­tary-style po­lice.

A sec­ond fed­eral re­port re­leased Mon­day, a re­view by for­mer au­di­tor gen­eral Sheila Fraser of four ha­rass­ment law­suits from fe­male mem­bers, also called for sub­stan­tial re­forms.

In a state­ment, Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale said both re­ports de­scribe “sim­i­lar se­ri­ous and long-stand­ing con­cerns” and will “in­form fur­ther ac­tion” to en­sure that the RCMP is a healthy and re­spect­ful em­ployer.

Goodale or­dered the com­plaints com­mis­sion re­port to see if the RCMP had prop­erly acted on com­mis­sion rec­om­men­da­tions made in 2013. At the time, the watch­dog said the Moun­ties must take swift and ef­fec­tive ac­tion to re­as­sure both mem­bers and the pub­lic.

The RCMP in­tro­duced ha­rass­ment poli­cies and pro­cesses in 2014 aimed at deal­ing with work­place con­flict be­fore it es­ca­lates.

The lat­est re­port, how­ever, said the vast ma­jor­ity of com­plaints un­der the new poli­cies in­volved al­le­ga­tions that man­agers abused their author­ity. These in­cluded ac­cu­sa­tions of abu­sive lan­guage, such as “you’re dirt,” “peo­ple here don’t like you” and “no­body wants to work with you.”

Oth­ers com­plained of be­ing be­rated in pub­lic, puni­tive trans­fers or hav­ing leave ar­bi­trar­ily de­nied.

“Or­ga­ni­za­tional dys­func­tion in the RCMP has been well doc­u­mented and the com­mis­sion’s cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­firmed that the prob­lems of work­place bul­ly­ing and ha­rass­ment per­sist,” the re­port said.

The com­mis­sion found that while se­nior lead­ers in the RCMP have made ef­forts to pre­vent ha­rass­ment — par­tic­u­larly at the divi­sional level — these ini­tia­tives have been limited and ad hoc and have not re­ceived the nec­es­sary sup­port from head­quar­ters.

“There has been no ef­fort by na­tional head­quar­ters to mon­i­tor their ef­fec­tive­ness, roll out best prac­tices, or in­sti­tu­tion­al­ize re­form,” the re­port said.

In­ci­dents of ha­rass­ment — some­times ex­tend­ing over months or years — can have se­ri­ous pro­fes­sional con­se­quences and can cause real emo­tional and phys­i­cal harm, the watch­dog added. In turn, this may af­fect the op­er­a­tional ef­fec­tive­ness of the RCMP.

“Deal­ing with ha­rass­ment is a com­pli­cated and nu­anced ac­tiv­ity,” com­mis­sion coun­sel Emma Phillips told a news con­fer­ence Mon­day. “It re­quires a nu­anced ap­proach.”

A key prob­lem is that the RCMP’s def­i­ni­tion of ha­rass­ment is un­duly nar­row and likely re­sults in valid com­plaints be­ing dis­missed, the com­mis­sion said. The poli­cies are also overly com­plex and dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend. In ad­di­tion, they place “in­ap­pro­pri­ate em­pha­sis” on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the com­plainant to con­front his or her ha­rasser and on the duty of su­per­vi­sors and man­agers to re­port ha­rass­ment, the re­port says.

Un­like other polic­ing or­ga­ni­za­tions, the RCMP pri­mar­ily ap­points uni­formed mem­bers to se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tions like hu­man re­sources and labour re­la­tions, rather than civil­ian ex­perts, the re­port noted.

The com­mis­sion rec­om­mends hir­ing more civil­ian ex­per­tise within the force. But it also calls for ba­sic struc­tural change, such as:

A model that leaves ad­min­is­tra­tive and fi­nan­cial mat­ters to civil­ians and op­er­a­tional is­sues to RCMP com­man­ders;

Di­vi­sion of re­spon­si­bil­ity be­tween a civil­ian com­mis­sioner and a uni­formed chief of depart­ment, like the New York po­lice; or

A civil­ian board of man­age­ment that would pro­vide gen­eral di­rec­tion to the RCMP and en­hance pub­lic ac­count­abil­ity.

“While RCMP se­nior lead­er­ship is not ab­solved of the re­spon­si­bil­ity to make more sus­tained and mean­ing­ful ef­forts to ad­dress work­place ha­rass­ment go­ing for­ward, last­ing change will only come from fun­da­men­tal re­forms to RCMP gov­er­nance,” the re­port con­cluded.

SEAN KIL­PATRICK, THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Pub­lic Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale said two re­ports de­scribe “sim­i­lar se­ri­ous and long-stand­ing con­cerns.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.