The RCMP is launching an independent body this month that will have the power to investigate complaints of sexual misconduct and harassment within the national police force and recommend discipline after decades of struggling to address these issues.
The Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution will use external investigators “to ensure it is trusted and unbiased,” Commissioner Brenda Lucki told members of a parliamentary committee Wednesday evening. She also announced that the police force will undertake an external review of its processes and disciplinary measures.
The moves follow a report from retired Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache in November, 2020, which called the RCMP’s work culture “toxic” and said the force tolerated misogyny and homophobia. Mr. Basterache wrote in his report that for more than 30 years there have been calls to fix these pervasive problems.
His review stemmed from the Merlo Davidson Settlement, which arose from two-class action lawsuits alleging that female members of the RCMP had been victims of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation.
Mr. Bastarache made a number of recommendations, including that the RCMP create an independent mechanism where RCMP employees can report sexual harassment or misconduct, and which has the power to investigate, make binding findings and recommend penalties.
He said this body should have the authority to initiate workplace audits, without notifying the workplace being audited, to ensure compliance with harassment and sexual-misconduct policies.
Commissioner Lucki said the RCMP believes the centre “will improve trust and give people the confidence to speak out.”
The RCMP Commissioner said the police service has more to do, and will soon launch an external review of its processes and disciplinary measures, which the Bastarache report also recommended.
Commissioner Lucki raised other initiatives that the RCMP is undertaking, saying the force has improved diversity at the top, rolled out gender-based analysis across the organization, and launched its first equity, diversity and inclusion strategy. She said the RCMP has committed to a modern recruitment process, and are “identifying new tools to assess the characteristics we’re looking for, including to screen for things like racist and sexist beliefs.”
Many committee members expressed concern that while the new centre would help the RCMP move forward to improve support for survivors of harassment, little is being done to seek out the existing perpetrators that have not been held accountable.
Conservative MPs Shannon Stubbs and Glen Motz made reference to the fact that unnamed perpetrators were mentioned in the Bastarache report, illustrating the unresolved nature of some of the report’s findings.
Commissioner Lucki said there was no way for the RCMP to know who offenders are unless survivors talk to the force. “The conditions under which justice Bastarache went through the process, it was full confidentiality. So I have unfortunately no idea who the offenders are unless the survivors of that activity come forward.”
Commissioner Lucki dismissed the idea of having a special prosecutor look into allegations that women in the RCMP were assaulted by colleagues. She said those details were provided in confidence to Mr. Bastarache.
She added, “If that behaviour shows itself now, absolutely we’re dealing with that, and we lay charges in those instances.”
Conservative MP Damien Kurek asked Ms. Lucki if she is aware if any perpetrators of sexual misconduct have been investigated within the RCMP in the seven months since the release of the Bastarache report.
She said that in 2019, 50 files were initiated and of those, 16 were “established.” Of the established cases, said Ms. Lucki, some were resolved by individuals resigning, and 11 were dealt with through “serious disciplinary measures” such as demotion, financial penalties, transfer and dismissal.
At the end of the discussion, committee chair Liberal John McKay pointed out that there is no way of seeking justice after the Bastarache report other than for survivors, who spoke confidentially, to come forward again.
“And all we’ve got at this point is initiatives to go forward, which everyone on this committee would applaud. But the consequences for the perpetrators seem to be exceedingly modest,” he said.
Commissioner Lucki said the RCMP is committed to implementing the Bastarache recommendations.
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