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Mounties get new chief, begin probe of sexual-harassment allegations

Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews calls on a reporter as newly appointed RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson takes questions in the foyer of the House of Commons on Nov. 16, 2011.

Adrian Wyld/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canada's top cop, Bob Paulson, says he's no "yeller and screamer" and is promising to focus immediately on restoring the RCMP's tarnished image.

"These allegations do not represent the force that I joined and this condition cannot stand," the new RCMP Commissioner told reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons Wednesday morning.

He vowed that efforts to address sexual harassment in the workplace will be first on his plate.

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Several veteran officers and former members have complained recently about harassment and bullying. Among them is Corporal Catherine Galliford of British Columbia, who has gone on leave suffering post-traumatic stress disorder after years of alleged sexual harassment.

"I like the rest of my colleagues in the RCMP, indeed like all Canadians, am very concerned about these recent allegations," he said. "I will sort this out in a way that Canadians can have faith and trust in the RCMP."

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who introduced the Harper government appointee, has called on the RCMP Public Complaints Commission to investigate the allegations. Commissioner Paulson said he supports the move and will provide resources, centralized at the Ottawa headquarters, to deal with the investigation.

He said the national police force's reputation needs to be fixed so that it can get on with protecting the public and solving crime. And he acknowledged the Mounties have "had some issues" but he is optimistic they will be solved.

"I am not prepared to say that the image has been tarnished to the extent that there is no hope out there," he said.

Commissioner Paulson was also asked about his style of leadership. His predecessor, civilian William Elliott, had clashed vocally with senior officers.

"No, I am not a yeller and screamer," Commissioner Paulson said, adding that Mr. Elliott left him a strong management and executive team.

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In addition to the harassment complaints, the RCMP has also come under fire recently for its handling of diplomat Robert Fowler's kidnapping.

In his new book, Mr. Fowler accused the Mounties of treating his wife poorly during the months that he was held captive in Niger.

"This senior RCMP guy slams the table and points his finger across at her and says 'if you think that as long as I'm in charge of this case, one red cent is going to be paid to release a couple of high muckety-mucks, you're out of your mind,'" Mr. Fowler said in an interview with CTV.

A reporter asked about that comment and the behaviour of the officer in question on Wednesday. Commissioner Paulson said he believes Mr. Fowler was referring to him and he denies he ever said such a thing.

"Let me say abut the Fowler case ... I was very proud of the men and women in the RCMP and how we responded to that challenge." the new top Mountie said. "There was a huge effort made to free Mr. Fowler and I like to think that we played an important role there. As for whether I know who that person is, I'm going to be cute and say 'no' because I think he's talking about me and I didn't say that."

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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