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When she talks about harassment in the RCMP, Commissioner Brenda Lucki does not dwell on her personal experience as a young officer in the 1980s and 90s.

Instead, she commends the first Mounties who had the courage to file formal complaints against their colleagues and superiors, pointing specifically to Janet Merlo in British Columbia in 2012 and Linda Gillis Davidson in Ontario in 2015.

“Over 32 years, I’ve had a lot of experiences, positive and negative, I won’t lie to you,” Commissioner Lucki said in an interview. “But first and foremost, the courage of those employees who came forward to tell their story, I know that was not easy. If we ignore that, then shame on us.”

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New RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki.Blair Gable/The Globe and Mail

She said she believes she can bring change to the RCMP only if the 30,000 employees under her command feel they hold the force’s future in their hands. As she seeks buy-in from the rank and file for her planned reforms, she makes it clear that she does not think the problems facing the force are unsolvable.

“We are not broken, so I’m not here to fix it,” she said. “Do we need to improve? Do we need to innovate? Absolutely. And it’s not up to me. Everyone needs to own it.”

On April 16, the Edmonton-born Mountie took over as the first female permanent commissioner of the RCMP, and the 24th since the creation of a national police force in 1873. In her first three weeks on the job, Commissioner Lucki has received briefings on everything that goes on inside the RCMP, met her counterparts in other security agencies in Ottawa and started to do outreach with Indigenous leaders.

She also gave a wide-ranging interview to The Globe and Mail in which she acknowledged joking as a cadet about becoming the first female commissioner, explained her management style and talked about her plans to be in charge when the RCMP celebrates its sesquicentennial in 2023.

“I call it ‘the road to 150,’ because in five years, we’ll be 150 years old. It’s really important to honour our past, but not get stuck in it, and move forward, modernize, evolve and learn from the mistakes we’ve made and be better for it,” she said. “You never get to be the best. You can always be better.”

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The federal government took the unusual step of preparing a mandate letter for Commissioner Lucki, publicly laying out goals she will be expected to meet. In the document, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale calls on her to focus on changing the workplace culture and diversifying the workforce, improving relations with Indigenous people and bringing greater civilian oversight of the police force.

“The RCMP must be a modern organization that reflects Canadian values and culture, and has the trust, confidence and enthusiastic support of the people they serve,” Mr. Goodale wrote. “In support of culture change, you will need to prioritize that the RCMP is free from bullying, harassment and sexual violence.”

In 1986, Commissioner Lucki was a 20-year-old heading to law school in Alberta when she learned she had been accepted to the RCMP. Women had been allowed to wear the red serge for only 11 years at the time, and all leadership positions were held by men. Still, she remembers joking with the other 32 cadets in her all-female troop that she would one day become commissioner.

“I wasn’t actually envisioning that at the time, I was just trying to get through training, but it’s a little scary when you think about it,” she said.

We are not broken, so I’m not here to fix it. Do we need to improve? Do we need to innovate? Absolutely. And it’s not up to me. Everyone needs to own it.

Brenda Lucki

Commissioner Lucki does not answer directly when asked if she has been harassed in her career. Still, she shows a glint of emotion when she states that, as a leader, she is able to relate to those who were abused and bullied.

“Everybody has a different journey, and my heart goes out to the ones whose journey wasn’t the one they selected when they chose the red coat of the RCMP. That saddens me,” she said. “There is a saying that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. All of the things, both operationally that I saw and within the organization, I think it made me a stronger person and it also makes me an empathetic person.”

There is internal and external pressure to change the way the RCMP deals with complaints of harassment, including calling on an outside body to carry out investigations. Commissioner Lucki said the matter is being studied, adding that for now, all Mounties must be able to speak out when they witness misconduct.

“We need to have that same type of attitude for people who are not treating people with respect, who are bullying or ostracizing someone from the workplace. We need to have that courage to say that’s not right and we won’t accept that behaviour,” she said.

Commissioner Lucki has had an uncharacteristic path to the top of the RCMP. Unlike many of her predecessors, she never held a senior position at headquarters. In addition, she jumped two ranks with her recent promotion, going from leading the RCMP training academy in Regina to overseeing some of her former superiors in Ottawa.

Calling herself a “jack of all trades and a master of nothing,” she said one of her strengths has always been an ability to generate new ideas. As Commissioner, she said, she will lean on the expertise of all of her colleagues.

“It doesn’t matter if I’d jumped seven ranks – you always have to rely on your team. Absolutely, they are a lot smarter than me when it comes to the business that they do. I don’t think it’s important that I know all of the answers, but I definitely have to ask the right questions,” she said.

RCMP commissioner Brenda Lucki says she will leave “no stone unturned” in modernizing the force.

The Canadian Press

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