Skip to main content

Brenda Lucki has been appointed Canada's first permanent female RCMP commissioner.Michael Bell

Brenda Lucki smashed a glass ceiling as she became Canada's top Mountie, and she has a mandate to smash the status quo at the national police force.

In April, commissioner designate Lucki will become the 24th Mountie to lead the RCMP – and the first woman to hold the title in a permanent role. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said she is entering the job with the full support of the federal government to bring widespread change to the organization, which has struggled for years to deal with sexual harassment and is under fire for its treatment of Indigenous people.

"As commissioner … I will not have all of the answers, but I definitely plan on asking all the right questions, and maybe some difficult ones," commissioner designate Lucki said in a speech to RCMP cadets on Friday at the RCMP academy in Regina. "I plan to challenge assumptions, seek explanations and better understand the reasons how we operate. This means that no stone will be left unturned."

Mr. Trudeau and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale clearly expressed their displeasure with the past failures of the RCMP as they announced the appointment.

In a speech at the announcement, Mr. Trudeau laid out the challenges the new commissioner will inherit, in addition to her responsibilities for traditional law-enforcement activities.

"She will also play a vital role in advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, promoting gender equality and equity, supporting mental wellness across the RCMP, addressing workplace harassment and protecting the civil liberties of all Canadians," Mr. Trudeau said.

Mr. Goodale, who has publicly mused about bringing greater civilian management to the RCMP, said this was the start of a "period of transformation" in the force.

"Internal challenges, like abuses of power, allegations of racial bias, infringements on civil liberties, bullying and workplace harassment, have harmed the RCMP's reputation and damaged the morale of its members," Mr. Goodale said.

Former RCMP officer Catherine Galliford, who settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with the force in 2016, said the time was ripe for a female commissioner.

"If she has come this far, I am going to suggest she can do this job if she takes action and walks the walk," Ms. Galliford said.

She added she is hoping that commissioner designate Lucki will take new steps to hold those abusing their colleagues in the force accountable through being discharged or criminally charged. She also urged the new top Mountie to surround herself with a "trusted inner circle" beyond the "old boys club."

Zofia Cisowski, the mother of Robert Dziekanski, a Polish immigrant who died after being tasered during a 2007 confrontation with Mounties at Vancouver airport, said she hoped the new commissioner would enact better training for officers dealing with troubled people such as her son.

Mr. Dziekanski was agitated after spending hours in a secured area of the airport. Speaking no English, he was unable to deal with bystanders before four Mounties arrived in response to the commotion.

"It's good to know we have a new commissioner," Ms. Cisowski said. "Maybe she will do a better job."

Walter Kosteckyj, a former Mountie who was Ms. Cisowski's lawyer during a public inquiry, said commissioner designate Lucki faces a "tough job ahead."

"There will be old-guard resistance to a woman in the top role. Some will see it as a move to political correctness," Mr. Kosteckyj said.

Commissioner designate Lucki joined the RCMP in 1986 at the age of 20, and has been posted in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the former Yugoslavia. Since 2016, she has been the commanding officer of Depot Division in Saskatchewan, where RCMP cadets are trained.

She was a dark horse in the race to become commissioner, but won over the selection committee with the breadth of her operational experience and her current role in the training of the next generation of Mounties. The 10-member selection committee provided a final list of three candidates to the government, without ranking them.

"She is a very impressive choice and was one of the names highly recommended by the committee," said Frank McKenna, the former premier of New Brunswick who chaired the selection committee.

The first female commissioner, Beverley Busson, headed the RCMP on an interim basis from December of 2006 to June of 2007.

Mr. Trudeau said gender was not a factor in the latest appointment. "I'm very excited about being able to appoint the absolute best person for the job to be commissioner of the RCMP, who just happens to be a woman."

The federal government has promoted women in leadership positions in recent years.

"Increasing the representation of women throughout the ranks, particularly in senior-level positions in all defence and security [organizations] is required to create meaningful change," said Meaghan Shoemaker, who is project co-ordinator at the Centre for International and Defence Policy's Gender Lab at Queen's University.

A Saskatchewan RCMP town hall near the farm where Colten Boushie was fatally shot in 2016 heard from rural residents on Monday about protecting their property. Police said residents shouldn't take matters into their own hands.

The Canadian Press

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe