OTTAWA — An independent report on harassment of women in the RCMP says the national police force’s culture is toxic and tolerates hateful and homophobic attitudes.
The report released today by former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache says it is well past time for the federal government to take meaningful and radical action to address these issues, which have caused incalculable damage.
It concludes that change cannot come from within the RCMP but must be initiated from the outside.
Bastarache was the independent assessor who oversaw the provision of compensation to 2,304 women involved in a class-action settlement.
The report says sexual harassment and assault not only harm the victims and their families, but also undermine the reputation of the RCMP as a policing organization.
It makes 52 recommendations on systemic barriers, recruitment, training, human resources and staffing, maternity and parental leave, employment flexibility, grievances and discipline, mental health, promotions, leadership, specialized teams and medical examinations abuse.
‘No one should have to experience discrimination, harassment in the workplace’
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair says the systemic patterns of abusive behaviour listed in the report are “repulsive and unacceptable.”
“No one should have to experience discrimination and harassment in the workplace, but we know that this is an everyday reality for many women and LGBTQ2S+ employees in Canada and the RCMP,” he writes in a statement. “Not only does this behaviour ruin careers, it has a lasting and significant impact on the lives of those targeted.”
Blair says he has spoken with the RCMP’s commissioner, stressing the “unacceptable patterns of behaviour” outlined in the document must end immediately.
He’s also calling for a comprehensive plan to address Bastarache’s findings.
“We have a duty to do all the necessary work to prevent acts such as these from occurring ever again,” Blair’s statement reads, adding all RCMP members and Canadians should feel safe bringing reports of harassment forward, knowing “they’ll be heard and believed.”
No one should have to experience discrimination and harassment in the workplace, but we know that this is an everyday reality for many women and LGBTQ2S+ employees in Canada and in the RCMP. pic.twitter.com/cfXbBCFROR
— Bill Blair (@BillBlair) November 19, 2020
RCMP commissioner empathetic, but says changes underway
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says she has experienced harassment first-hand and there is a need for change.
“So I can definitely empathize and understand what these women went through,” she says. “It’s touched me very personally and actually today it’s been a very emotional day. But this is exactly why I took on this job. It’s really deepening my resolve to do better and it’s putting fuel in my fire because I took this job with a clear mandate from the prime minister to modernize our organization modernize our culture and management practices — I was brought in to do that and that’s exactly what I intend to do.”
“Harassment of any kind is unacceptable and is against our code of conduct” — RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki says she is committed to change, responding to new report from a former Supreme Court judge describing RCMP culture as one which tolerates homophobia, misogyny & racism.
— Martin MacMahon (@martinmacmahon) November 19, 2020
Lucki argues a shift is underway. She says she believes she has brought in improvements and the change can come from within the force itself.
“It’s important that people know that it will not be tolerated but there’s also expectations on employees when they see something, they must say something. Supervisors must hold their members to account,” Lucki adds.
The union for Mounties, the National Police Federation, has released a statement, saying the RCMP is taking positive proactive steps to address these issues, and we support this modernization — but acknowledges more work needs to be done.