Skip to main content
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
Get full digital access to globeandmail.com
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
A scary good deal on trusted journalism
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
SAVE OVER $140
OFFER ENDS OCTOBER 31
// //

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki speaks during a news conference in Ottawa, on Oct. 21, 2020.

The Canadian Press

Brenda Lucki should not resign as Commissioner of the RCMP. All of us – and that includes newspaper columnists – need to curb the impulse to demand that the person in charge be fired whenever things start hitting fans.

The RCMP is a deeply troubled institution. Commissioner Lucki has been on the job less than three years. Neither the force nor the Canadian public will be served by her resignation. She has some lessons to learn from recent missteps. Here’s hoping she learns them and then gets back to work at reforming the national police force.

Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, is leading the call for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to dismiss Commissioner Lucki, on the grounds that the RCMP failed to protect Indigenous fishermen in Nova Scotia who were exercising their constitutional right to fish lobster. Protesters allegedly committed assault and destroyed property, a flagrant violation of the rule of law.

Story continues below advertisement

“I am asking the Prime Minister to remove Commissioner Lucki and to replace her with someone who will focus their attention on public safety and combating racism,” Mr. Bellegarde said in a statement.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh supports that demand.

“Commissioner Lucki denied the existence of systemic racism in the RCMP – then admitted it, but couldn’t define it,” Mr. Singh tweeted Friday. “Now, she’s defended the failure of the RCMP in Nova Scotia.”

He was referring to Commissioner Lucki’s controversial remarks in June, when she said: “I have to admit, I really struggle with the term ‘systemic racism.' … I think that if systemic racism is meaning that racism is entrenched in our policies and procedures, I would say that we don’t have systemic racism.”

She later backtracked, as she should have. Intolerance by white people toward those who aren’t white is bred in the bone of Western institutions, especially police forces. That is why it is so difficult to eradicate: Most people who aren’t affected by it can’t see it. But there is no reason to believe Commissioner Lucki did not learn from the incident.

Commissioner of the RCMP is one of the most difficult jobs in this country. Commissioner Lucki’s predecessor, Bob Paulson, called it “soul destroying.” Commissioner Lucki, the first permanent female commissioner, was chosen, in part, to address harassment within the force that Mr. Paulson had failed to eradicate.

His predecessor, William Elliott, was the first commissioner chosen from outside the force. Charged with reforming the RCMP, he left in 2011 with the mission not accomplished, and after a failed mutiny by senior deputies.

Story continues below advertisement

Under Mr. Elliott’s predecessor, Giuliano Zaccardelli, the RCMP was heavily criticized for political interference and low staff morale.

There have been so many controversies: accusations of rampant bullying; handing Maher Arar and others over to the Americans to be tortured; pepper spraying protesters at the 1997 APEC summit – these show just one example from each of the past three decades, which is why someone is always calling for the head of the RCMP Commissioner.

But how would replacing Commissioner Lucki accelerate efforts to confront and purge racism within the RCMP? How would it promote the full equality of women in the force? How would it improve the quality of officer training? How would it bolster morale?

There is good reason to investigate why the RCMP failed to protect Indigenous fishermen in Nova Scotia. Was that failure motivated by racism, or were there simply not enough officers available at the time to deter the assailants?

But unless that investigation reveals that Commissioner Lucki, as a result of decisions she made, contributed to the conditions that led to the violence, then there is no need for her to step down.

The Commissioner does need to watch her language. She needs to remember that defending your officers, an instinctive response for any police chief, can be seen as an intolerant refusal to acknowledge failings.

Story continues below advertisement

Most important, Commissioner Lucki needs to show demonstrable progress in reforming the RCMP: making it more responsive to community needs, with its officers better trained and its culture more tolerant and diverse.

If she fails at that, then Commissioner Lucki should leave. In the meantime, the rest of us should let her get on with the job.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies