An alliance of organizations focused on women’s rights is calling for the federal government to establish an external review of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to address the force’s treatment of women.
The Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) released a new report Monday on the national police force, saying it has a “toxic culture” when it comes to misogyny, racism and violence against women. FAFIA is an alliance made up of more than 60 organizations, including advocacy groups and research institutes.
The report was written by four authors: Shivangi Misra, a senior manager with the alliance; professor Pam Palmater; lawyer Ashley Major; and alliance co-founder Shelagh Day.
“The RCMP, Canada’s national police force, is regularly violating the human rights of the women it employs and the women it is intended to protect,” the report states, adding that the force has been made aware of its failings over many years. “External review and reform is required now because the RCMP has shown that it is unable or unwilling to make the necessary reforms itself.”
Allegations of a poisonous culture inside the RCMP have been documented previously, including two years ago by a former Supreme Court justice who also called for an outside review of the organization. Observers believe the persistent allegations have tarnished the reputation of the force, which some regard as a symbol of national pride in Canada.
Despite documented concerns, an outside look of the RCMP has not been initiated by Ottawa. Meanwhile, an external examination looking at the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces is under way, after the military was plagued with allegations of sexual misconduct. Another former Supreme Court justice, Louise Arbour, is expected to issue that report on May 20. The work was conducted at the request of the Liberal government.
In a letter to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino and Marci Ien, Minister for Women and Gender Equality, the chair of FAFIA’s steering committee said that evidence of systemic discrimination and violence against women “perpetrated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is shocking, and it is growing.”
“An independent, external review of the RCMP, its practices, structure and future, is needed now,” chair Barbara Cameron wrote.
In a statement, Mr. Mendicino said Monday there is “absolutely no place for misogyny, harassment or violence within the RCMP or Canadian society.”
For too long, there has been a culture within the RCMP that is “permissive of systemic inequities” which has led to “misogyny, discrimination, harassment and workplace violence,” he said.
Mr. Mendicino cited changes, such as a transformation of the internal grievances process and the work of a board to provide the commissioner with external advice on the management and administration of the force.
The report also says that it is time for an “extensive restructuring or dismantling of a police force that is no longer a national symbol of pride, but a manifestation of Canada’s failure to uphold its human rights obligations to women.”
On Monday, Ms. Misra, one of the authors, said the situation is made worse by the fact that there is, in her view, no effective accountability and oversight mechanism to investigate complaints against the force. The federal government must take steps to set up an independent body that can hold the RCMP and individuals to account, she added.
She called the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) – an independent agency created by Parliament in 1988 – a “broken system.” The CRCC conducts reviews when individuals are not satisfied with the RCMP’s handling of complaints; it is not part of the force.
The RCMP said in a statement Monday evening that it is aware of this report and that it is subject to review by a number of external review bodies. The force also said it welcomes any examination that could improve operations, but maintained that the RCMP has been active in implementing change, including recommendations from the 2020 report from former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache, such as an independent centre for harassment resolution.
In his report titled Broken Dreams, Broken Lives, Mr. Bastarache said the national police force routinely tolerated misogyny and homophobia within its ranks. The report stemmed from a settlement of two class-action lawsuits alleging female RCMP members had been victims of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.
Mr. Bastarache’s report said an in-depth, external and independent review of the organization – and its future – was required.
NDP status of women critic Leah Gazan said Monday her party is pushing the Liberals to launch an independent internal and external investigation “into RCMP violence.”
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