NDP, police association decry lack of oversight in changes to RCMP Act
New legislation to overhaul the RCMP Act does not adequately address how to deal with harassment in the force despite government claims to the contrary, members of the force and NDP MPs said Monday.
Bill C-42, which amends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, has made its way through the House of Commons and is now before the Senate National Security and Defence committee.
Civilian and regular members of the force addressed the media to convey their objections about the legislation before speaking at the committee’s latest meeting on the bill Monday evening.
The main objection is that the bill does not include a provision for the creation of a civilian review body, which members have been demanding for years, and gives the force’s commissioner greater powers to dismiss or demote members.
Rae Banwarie, president of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, said the bill “does not address core issues of harassment in the force.”
“What it will do is give the commissioner even more power -- or his delegates -- in terms of dismissal, demotion, (and) a whole host of things,” Banwarie told reporters in Ottawa.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has argued that some of the amendments in the legislation are needed so he can dismiss a member more swiftly in a case of sexual harassment.
In recent months, the force has been rocked by harassment accusations by both current and former members.
However, Banwarie said while members are able to make use of an appeal process, demotion or dismissal decisions still rest with the commissioner.
“There is no independent oversight in any of the processes in this bill, at all. It is all run or controlled…by the commissioner or his delegates,” Banwarie said.
“That is very problematic. In a modern day policing environment in Canada…in every modern police association organization, they have a police union or association with a collective agreement which assists with a whole host of myriad issues that happen in their various departments. We still have not obtained that goal.”
NDP Public Safety Critic Randall Garrison said his party proposed a number of amendments to the legislation when it was before the House, including the creation of a “fully independent civilian review body,” which would not only help to restore morale among Mounties, but also public confidence in the force.
Garrison said his party also wanted to address harassment in the bill’s language, and make it the commissioner’s responsibility to not only deal with, but also to prevent, sexual harassment.
“We are here to highlight that this Conservative bill remains deeply flawed and fails to address the central problems of the RCMP,” Garrison said.
The federal government said it is willing to work with the RCMP commissioner “to restore pride in Canada’s National Police Force.” However, the NDP’s proposals “would create significant redundancy in jurisdictions where a civilian investigative body already exists,” Julie Carmichael, director of communications for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, said in a statement provided to CTV News.
“Additionally, this would create jurisdictional issues, consume copious resources and be impractical and bureaucratic when dealing with rapidly evolving incidents. The Enhancing RCMP Accountability Act provides for significant independent oversight. It is unfortunate that the NDP opposes these common sense measures.”
When asked specifically whether the commissioner needs the new powers in order to quickly dismiss someone in a case of sexual harassment, Gaetan Delisle, president of the Association des membres de la police montee du Quebec, said the current RCMP Act gives the commissioner enough power.
What’s needed, Delisle said, is an independent body through which members can file a grievance in order to make that process more transparent.
“He has all that power in (the Act), right now, if you look at it closely,” Delisle said, adding that the changes will allow the commissioner to “do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and not be accountable for it.”