New RCMP commissioner to tackle harassment scandal
Published Wednesday, November 16, 2011 9:35PM EST
Moments after being officially named as the new commissioner of the RCMP on Wednesday, Bob Paulson said his first priority will be to address allegations of sexual harassment within the policing organization.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced the veteran Mountie's appointment in Ottawa. Toews also announced he has ordered an inquiry by the commissioner for public complaints against the RCMP, into the allegations.
Paulson said his first order of business will be to tackle the sexual harassment allegations.
"This is not the RCMP I joined and this condition cannot stand," Paulson said. "I will sort this out in a way that Canadians can have trust and faith in the RCMP and just as importantly that employees of the RCMP can thrive in a healthy, productive and harassment-free environment.
Paulson is being promoted from his role as deputy commissioner of the RCMP, where he was in charge of everything from the protection of important officials to the investigation of organized crime.
Toews said one of the reasons Paulson was a good candidate was the fact that he "recognizes that change is necessary," within the RCMP, adding that "along with a storied history the RCMP faces great challenges."
Paulson steps into the role at a difficult time in the RCMP's history. Cpl. Catherine Galliford, a former spokesperson for the RCMP who worked with the organization for 16 years, recently came forward with allegations of systemic sexual harassment.
Galliford took a leave of absence in 2007. She alleges that recurring sexual harassment from male colleagues has left her traumatized.
She has accused a supervisor of exposing himself to her, and says she suffered other unwanted sexual advances.
Toews said he has asked the commissioner for public complaints against the RCMP to carry out a full inquiry into Galliford's allegations and issue a report.
In addition, Paulson said Wednesday his office will look into any outstanding sexual harassment complaints and will set up a central office in Ottawa to deal with any future allegations.
Paulson was also asked by a reporter about allegations by former Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler that a senior RCMP officer had been rude to his wife while he was being held by al Qaeda in Africa.
Fowler maintains that when his wife asked the RCMP officer about reports that a ransom had been requested, he responded by telling her that if she thought "'one red cent is going to be paid to release a couple of high muckety-mucks, you're out of your mind.'"
Paulson said at the news conference he believed Fowler was actually referring to him, admitting he met with Fowler's wife but denying he ever made the comment.
Paulson claimed the meeting was professional and said such a remark would not be acceptable -- in fact it's the kind of verbal bullying he's trying to erase from the RCMP.
Paulson replaces William Elliott, who steps down this month to take a job with Interpol at the United Nations.
Unlike Paulson, Elliot was a civilian when he was appointed.
That fact, along with his brash style, may have contributed to Elliot's unpopularity with senior officers, who filed complaints against him.
Still, according to Linda Duxbury, a workplace expert at Ottawa's Carleton University, the new RCMP head will have his hands full in his new role.
Duxbury told CTV's Power Play that Paulson is being asked to overhaul and energize a massive public institution at a time when the government is pushing austerity.
In terms of limited resources, Duxbury referred to a 2007 report helmed by lawyer David Brown that stated RCMP staff members were overworked, overstressed and demoralized.
Duxbury said that the new commissioner will have to balance fiscal decisions to "keep the Harper government happy, but at the same time, actually do something meaningful for his staff."
Equally, Duxbury said that the Harper government will have to stand behind their new pick and give him the clout to make the necessary changes.
"Quite frankly, a lot of the changes that he needs to make will be helped if he has the legislative hammer behind him."
Still, in order to address the issue of harassment, both sexual and otherwise, Paulson will need to instigate a complete culture shift at the RCMP.
For years, the RCMP has had a culture of "suck it up, be tough, hang in there" that discourages whistleblowers and doesn't allow staff to speak up, said Duxbury.
"Quite frankly, (the RCMP) shoots the messenger," she said, adding that Paulson will have to foster an "environment where it's safe to speak up."
Paulson, 52, is a former soldier who ran the RCMP's organized crime and terrorism operations.
He is bilingual and is a native of Lachute, Que., though he has spent most of his 25-year career with the Mounties in B.C.
According to a biography posted to the RCMP's website, Paulson spent nearly seven years in the Armed Forces before joining the RCMP in Chilliwack, B.C., in 1986.
Paulson served in various departments in the province, including homicide, aboriginal and community policing, and organized crime.
In 2005, he transferred to the RCMP's national headquarters in Ottawa where he has served as the executive director of the major and organized crime intelligence branch, the director general of national security criminal operations, assistant commissioner of national security criminal investigations, and assistant commissioner of contract and aboriginal policing services.
Paulson was appointed to his current post, deputy commissioner for federal policing, in 2010.