After facing allegations of widespread sexual harassment, the RCMP has drafted a new code of conduct that includes a specific provision against such behaviour.
“Members treat the public and colleagues with respect and courtesy and do not engage in acts of discrimination or harassment,” the document says.
But an association that represents rank-and-file Mounties says that adding the word “harassment” to its code of conduct will do little to change discriminatory attitudes toward women. It argues that the RCMP needs a sweeping culture shift, including at its most senior levels.
“I don’t think it really does anything to address the issues that have surfaced over the last little while,” said Rob Creasser, a retired RCMP officer and spokesman for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, which advocates for collective bargaining for Mounties, who cannot form a union.
“Even prior to all these sexual abuse allegations and other harassment issues coming forward, the RCMP supposedly had a zero-tolerance policy to harassment.”
Others disagree, saying the draft code will help raise awareness of sexual harassment.
“It places focus and attention on the importance of having that healthy workplace where everybody can succeed,” said Staff-Sergeant Abe Townsend, national executive for the staff relations representative program, the force’s official labour relations department.
The proposed code of conduct, which has been sent to Mounties across the country for input, also warns officers not to speak out publicly if their comments could damage force morale.
“Members avoid making public statements that could reasonably be interpreted as having an adverse effect upon the morale, conduct, operation, or perception of the Force,” the document says.
Such a provision is not new. The current code of conduct says members should not “publicly criticize, ridicule, petition or complain about the administration, operation, objectives or policies of the Force, unless authorized by law.”
But Mr. Creasser, who argues such bans are against the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, said RCMP brass now appear more eager to take action against members who speak out of turn.
“The impression that I’m getting is that they’re quite prepared to enforce this, which to me, I think would lead to certainly a Charter challenge,” he said.
Staff-Sgt. Townsend said the new language is “somewhat of concern,” but added that whistle-blower legislation, such as the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, protects Mounties who come forward.
Two years ago, Corporal Catherine Galliford filed a civil lawsuit against the RCMP alleging sexual harassment and bullying spanning nearly two decades. Her complaints prompted dozens of similar allegations and heralded legislation to modernize discipline procedures.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson wrote an open letter in March, 2012, that expressed frustration about the antiquated discipline procedures in the old RCMP Act. Commissioner Paulson said his ability to discipline “bad apples” within the force was hindered by a system that was set up 25 years ago.
Then-public safety minister Vic Toews introduced new legislation, which has since received royal assent, saying it would change discipline procedures involving wayward Mounties.