RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson to retire June 30
Meredith MacLeod, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, March 6, 2017 10:08AM EST
Last Updated Monday, March 20, 2017 9:56AM EDT
Canada's top Mountie is retiring while acknowledging the RCMP has much to do to address “historical yet persistent harassment claims,” mental health issues among officers, diversity on the force and labour code charges related to the shooting of five Mounties in Moncton.
Bob Paulson, whose 32-year career in with the RCMP, including five-and-a-half commissioner, will step down June 30.
Paulson announced his retirement through an internal email sent to the force’s more than 29,000 employees Monday morning, but the Mounties have not made an official announcement.
The announcement comes amid questions about Paulson’s handling of misconduct charges among officers, claims of sexual harassment and mental health issues among its employees.
Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness tweeted Monday morning: "Thank you @CommrPaulson for your decades of service and your dedication to protecting the safety of Canadians."
In his email to RCMP employees, Paulson says he is excited to focus on his family and that it has been a “profound honour and privilege” to serve with them.
Paulson led the force during times of ever-increasing concern over homegrown and foreign terrorism, the shooting on Parliament Hill which killed a Canadian soldier, and the June 2014 shooting in Moncton that left three Mounties dead and two seriously injured.
The RCMP will be tried in a provincial court in April, on labour code charges relating to equipment, training and supervision, with each carrying a maximum fine of $1 million.
Paulson has also been wrestling with problems of bullying and harassment within the national police force, introducing a "respectful workplace" course, setting up employee advisory committees, encouraging settlement of complaints at the earliest opportunity and promoting more women to senior posts.
Yet complaints of on-the-job abuse continued and Paulson came under fire for public remarks he made that appeared to minimize the extent of the problem.
Hundreds of present and former female Mounties joined class-action lawsuits claiming harassment and discrimination. Two have been settled for a total of $100 million.
Paulson was heavily criticized for comments he made to a Senate committee in 2013: "I cannot be continually defending against outlandish claims that have not been tested or established but yet are being put forward as though they are gospel and representative of the modern workplace experience of the RCMP, because they are not.”
Paulson also said many of the complaints came from people who lacked the talent to be promoted.
"Let us face it. Some people's ambitions exceed their abilities. I cannot lead a force that accommodates and seeks to compensate people for those unachieved ambitions,' said Paulson.
That stood in stark contrast to comments he made at a press conference the week before, in which he fought tears while making an apology to the women.
"You came to the RCMP wanting to personally contribute to your community and we failed you. We hurt you. For that, I am truly sorry."
Liberal MP Judy Sgro and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May both criticized Paulson’s handling of the sexual harassment complaints.
"There was continual denial that these women were making up their stories, were over sensitive or maybe they shouldn’t have chosen the RCMP," Sgro said. "[Paulson] was finally forced to admit that we have a serious problem. When you have a class-action lawsuit, two of them, with over 500 women, you can’t dismiss this and sweep it under the rug."
Said May of Paulson: "Charitably, I could say that he didn't understand how bad it was.”
This story has been updated from an earlier version to clarify Paulson was referring to people who lacked talent, not women specifically.
Read the full text of RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson’s October, 2016 statement to CTV News regarding his committee remarks:
"Recent reports by CTV News that I dismissed 300 harassment claims as 'outlandish' at a 2013 Senate committee appearance are categorically false. An examination of the entire public transcript will reveal that in my opening remarks, I cited three cases where the claims of complainants (two male and one female) were being reported as matters of fact or omitted key details. I was expressing concern over having to publicly defend against some claims that had not been tested or established. Furthermore, to infer that my recent apology was anything short of sincere is deeply offensive to me. What I offered on Thursday was an unequivocal apology to all women who have ever suffered harassment as employees of the RCMP and some degree of compensation for what they endured. This will be determined by an independent administrator who will examine the facts of each case. The restorative settlement and my apology acknowledge all the past cases of gender harassment in the RCMP so we can turn the page to a better organization for the future and focus on keeping Canadians safe and secure. I expect CTV to correct the record."