The next commissioner of the RCMP will be expected to restructure the national police force, including dealing with greater civilian oversight and reforming the handling of sexual-harassment complaints, said the head of the selection committee for Canada's new top cop.
In an interview, former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna said all candidates who made it on the short list for the high-pressure job are focused on the modernization of the RCMP.
"Almost by definition, the next commissioner will be a change agent," said Mr. McKenna, who chaired the 10-member selection committee. "The organization is changing and it is an imperative that gender diversity be respected, that workplace, mental-health and harassment issues be respected, as well as the diversity of Canada and sensitivity to Indigenous communities."
Mr. McKenna did not discuss any names during his discussion with The Globe and Mail to protect the confidentiality of the ongoing process. A new commissioner is expected to be named in the coming weeks.
However, other sources said the next commissioner will likely come from inside the organization, with the candidates on the short list being either women or representative of Canada's ethnic diversity.
There is speculation inside the RCMP and government that the top candidates for the job are the deputy commissioner for contract and aboriginal policing, Kevin Brosseau, who is of Métis descent; assistant commissioner (federal policing criminal operations) Joanne Crampton; and assistant commissioner (Ontario division) Jennifer Strachan.
After looking at more than 50 candidates and conducting in-depth interviews, Mr. McKenna's committee put together a short list of three to five candidates just before Christmas. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has interviewed all of the candidates and will be providing his advice in short order to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will make the final call.
The successor to Bob Paulson will inherit a police force facing a number of challenges that go well beyond the changing threats to Canada's security.
RCMP officers have won the right to unionize and are looking for large pay raises to catch up to other police bodies across the country. Low pay has had a large impact on morale inside the force, meaning the next commissioner will have to find a way to get increased funding from the government, Mr. McKenna said.
The issue of sexual harassment continues to haunt the RCMP more than one year after Mr. Paulson apologized to female officers, who first entered the force after 1974, and announced a $100-million settlement that put an end to two class-action lawsuits.
Mr. Trudeau has made it clear that the issue needs to be resolved in the RCMP, with Mr. McKenna suggesting that new mechanisms will likely be put in place to deal with the issue.
"Some [of the candidates] would suggest a different process, one that might be outside the formal review processes within the force, some suggested even an external agency … might be mobilized to assist the RCMP leadership in dealing with this issue," he said. "All of them have witnessed the evolution of this issue and all of them had their own unique ideas about how to deal with it. But make no mistake, we found a high level of resolve to deal with this issue."
Mr. Goodale publicly mused last year about creating permanent civilian management in the RCMP after two external reviews concluded the national police force failed to deal with long-standing workplace-harassment problems.
In scenarios that are being considered in Ottawa, the RCMP would work under a new civilian board of management, or see all administrative and financial functions placed under a civilian boss. Either way, the commissioner of the RCMP would remain in charge of police operations, but would have to forsake other responsibilities that have traditionally been in the hands of uniformed officers.
Still, the federal government is expected to give the new commissioner time to determine what would be the best solution for the RCMP and win internal support for reforms.
Mr. McKenna said that all candidates for the commissioner's job acknowledge that the RCMP will have to operate under greater civilian oversight in the future.
"There was a wide degree of unanimity amongst candidates that they would welcome more civilian involvement and oversight," Mr. McKenna said.
Mr. McKenna added that he was greatly impressed by the quality of the candidates who applied for the job, as well as the unsolicited input that he received from Canadians over the future of the RCMP.
"We felt we had a really strong and deep field of final candidates, and that some of these people might be more ready a little down the road than they are today, and that the government of Canada should be looking at ways of managing its succession planning," he said.