Female members of the RCMP are still afraid that they will be the ones to suffer if they report cases of workplace harassment and bullying.
An internal report obtained by The Globe and Mail – a survey of 426 members of the RCMP’s “E” division in British Columbia – has found that female members do not trust the force’s system to deal with harassment complaints and frequently avoid reporting instances of perceived wrongdoing.
“Participants strongly expressed that they were fearful of coming forward to report harassment as it could hinder promotional opportunities, have a negative impact on their careers, and possibly cause them to become a scapegoat for anything supervisors wanted to find fault with,” the report said. “The opinion was also expressed that the RCMP is known for moving the complainant rather than dealing with the problem.”
The report, dated April 17, was commissioned after last year’s installation of Commissioner Bob Paulson, who has prioritized the fight against harassment after a number of damning media stories. Many of the allegations of workplace harassment have come out in B.C., the location of the RCMP’s biggest division, housing about one-third of the entire force.
Commissioner Paulson has vowed to root out what he calls “dark-hearted behaviour” in the RCMP, which is facing a number of lawsuits over allegations of widespread sexual harassment.
However, the internal report makes it clear that there remains much work to be done inside the RCMP to solve a problem that has persisted for decades in the quasi-military organization.
The author of the report, diversity strategist Simmie Smith, pointed out that there is confusion within the RCMP between harassment and bullying. In addition, the report points out the majority of respondents did not feel that harassment was “rampant” inside the force, but they still expressed frustration at the handling of existing cases and the high number of unreported cases.
A majority of the respondents “expressed that they have no faith in the current reporting process,” the report said.
The RCMP report added that the common perception among Mounties is that in the event of a complaint, “the harasser will simply be moved to another unit or promoted.”
The Summary Report on Gender Based Harassment and Respectful Workplace Consultations decried the “significant failure to report incidents” by Mounties, adding that the lack of formal complaints has resulted in “pent up” frustrations in the force.
“This perception of no real consequences left participants feeling that coming forward was not worth it,” the report said.
Almost all of the participants in the study were female, but the report added that follow-up interviews might be necessary. “There has been a groundswell among some male members who felt they should have been included,” the report said.
The participants in the study said they were encouraged by the RCMP leadership’s current stance against harassment, although there were concerns that the efforts to get rid of the problem would die down along with media interest.
The solution to the problem starts with a fact-based reporting system that includes a definition of harassment and a process to deal with it, the report said. The system must be confidential and independent, and be able to deal with complaints quickly, according to the recommendations provided to the RCMP brass.
Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, commanding officer of the B.C. RCMP, responded to the report by sending more than 100 officers for training to ensure “greater timeliness and follow up to complaint investigations,” the RCMP said in a statement.
Still, the RCMP must also deal with the perception about the existence of an “old boys club,” in which members protect one another from complaints. “There is a belief that in some cases, if you are a friend of your supervisor, you never have to worry about being held accountable,” the report said.
Participants in the study reported cases of sexual harassment ranging from “inappropriate innuendo” to indecent exposure.