RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson is getting new powers to fire rogue Mounties who engage in sexual misconduct and other types of misbehaviour that have recently dragged down the reputation of the national police force.
Applauding the government's proposed Bill C-42 to amend the RCMP Act, Commissioner Paulson said it will speed up the current disciplinary process that has prevented him from getting rid of what he has called "rotten apples" in the force.
Commissioner Paulson said he cannot arbitrarily dismiss anyone and that due process will still occur. Still, he will have the ultimate power to beef up disciplinary measures that are imposed on his underlings under the new system, including firing an officer.
"I become the final authority on that," he told a news conference. at a news conference
RCMP brass have complained for decades that the RCMP Act does not allow them to impose swift and effective punishment against Mounties who lie, misuse their powers or get caught committing various crimes.
The current system does not offer any type of punishment beyond 10 days of unpaid leave, apart from dismissal that can take up to five years to work its way through the system.
The need for more effective disciplinary measures became evident as the RCMP was hit in recent months by a wave of allegations of sexual harassment and a systemic failure by the force to deal with the matter.
Under the new system, disciplinary measures will be administered by local officers who will have a greater variety of sanctions to impose, including suspensions, further training or deferral of promotions.
"People misbehave sometimes," Commissioner Paulson said. "Our challenge is to separate behaviours that can be corrected … versus those that attract the most horrendous and outrageous condemnations from everybody."
As he presented the new bill, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews acknowledged that Canadians' faith in the RCMP has been "tested over the past few years." He promised strengthened civilian oversight of the RCMP by creating a body that will have greater powers to compel evidence during its investigation into complaints against the force.
However, the NDP said the new system does not go far enough, saying the promised Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP should be more independent and report directly to Parliament, instead of the Minister of Public Safety.
In addition, the NDP said the new Complaints Commission should have the power to make binding recommendations on the RCMP.
Regarding changes to the RCMP's disciplinary system, the NDP said the new powers should go further as the force deals with allegations of systemic harassment. "The government is not dealing with the unhealthy internal climate in the RCMP," said NDP MP Rosane Doré Lefebvre.
At the news conference, Commissioner Paulson addressed a leaked report that showed concerns among Mounties working on the Prime Minister's security detail, especially regarding the management style of the person in charge, Superintendent Bruno Saccomani.
Commissioner Paulson He said that the release of the document was unlawful, adding that the management issues are being resolved. "It's not a discipline case. The underlying need here is to correct behaviour, not to punish people."
Former members of the PMOPrime Minister's Office, meanwhile, came to the public defence of Supt. Saccomani, saying he has beefed up security and imposed greater professionalism among his officers.