Big changes to RCMP Act tighten discipline powers

May 31, 2012
May 30 2012 OTTAWA - Legislation to modernize the RCMP's discipline process is coming soon, even though related issues are still before the courts, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Wednesday. He said he was pleased to see an open letter from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson earlier this week that expressed frustration about the antiquated discipline procedures in the RCMP Act. Toews said he has been encouraging Paulson to reach out to the public and admitted he had seen the letter before it was released.

May 30 2012

OTTAWA - Legislation to modernize the RCMP's discipline process is coming soon, even though related issues are still before the courts, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Wednesday.

He said he was pleased to see an open letter from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson earlier this week that expressed frustration about the antiquated discipline procedures in the RCMP Act.

Toews said he has been encouraging Paulson to reach out to the public and admitted he had seen the letter before it was released.

The letter fits perfectly with the government's communications plan, he told reporters.

"It's a good letter, and it's certainly consistent with the discussions that we've had,'' Toews said. "I've encouraged Commissioner Paulson to be out front with Canadians to communicate how important he believes reform of the RCMP is and this letter is very consistent with our general communications.''

Difficulties with the RCMP discipline procedures have been raised by Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who claims she was the victim of sexual harassment and abuse by male colleagues.

Toews acknowledged that the Conservative government tried in the last Parliament to give the RCMP more leeway to discipline wayward Mounties, but the government fell before the legislation could pass.

Since then, he said reforms have been held up by issues raised by collective agreements that are still before the courts.

"Unfortunately, I felt that would be resolved by now. It is not yet resolved. Quite frankly I am prepared to proceed without addressing that. I think Canadians should not have to wait any longer.''

In his open letter released on Monday, Paulson complained that his ability to discipline "bad apples'' within the force is hindered by a system that was set up 25 years ago. He said some discipline cases are bogged down in red tape for years.

Toews said he agrees with many of the suggestions Paulson has proposed.

Toews’ comments follow intense criticism of the force, sparked in part after disgraced Alberta RCMP officer Sgt. Donald Ray was transferred to B.C. instead of being fired.

“I am trying to run a modern police force with a discipline system that was current 25 years ago,” Paulson wrote in a letter posted to the RCMP website.

“Right now this framework limits my ability to ensure our members’ conduct is properly managed and corrected or, when necessary, to see to it that the rotten apples are fired,” he added.

“It’s unsatisfactory that we have to continue spending your tax dollars to pay individuals that don’t deserve to be in the RCMP.”

On Tuesday, Premier Christy Clark said she believes change is needed.

“I think citizens get incredibly frustrated when we see employees of the public who cannot be fired, apparently no matter what they do, and I don’t think that’s acceptable,” she said.

“I hope they can find a way to fix this,” she added.

“If they want to rebuild public confidence in the force, and goodness knows they need to, they need to fix these kinds of problems.”

B.C. Minister of Justice Shirley Bond said she began lobbying for change as soon as she heard Ray was being transferred to B.C.

“I have written a letter to Minister Toews urging him to make changes to the legislation if required, to policy and to practice to make sure that we remove any barriers that allow for the replacement of officers and for their removal rather than their transfer throughout Canada,” she said.

“We’re requesting the changes necessary and I think you saw a fairly frank and unprecedented letter from the commissioner and I think that British Columbia’s response to what happened here helped prompt that reaction.”

In a statement released by her office, Bond added she has been told Ray will not be serving as a member of the provincial or municipal RCMP force.

“Deputy Commissioner [Craig] Callens assured me that this RCMP officer will be under close supervision and will be working in a federal capacity,” she said.

“We intend to hold the RCMP accountable for the changes they have indicated are necessary to restore confidence both internally and in our province,” she added.

“To be clear, when egregious behaviour occurs, British Columbia wants the officers responsible removed, not recycled.”

According to a three-member adjudication-board decision reached in January, Ray, a polygraph operator, engaged in a “disturbing pattern” of activity affecting a number of women over a period of years.

The activity included consuming alcohol at work and encouraging subordinates to join him; exposing his penis to an employee and asking her to touch it and having sex with a woman in a polygraph suite at “K” Division headquarters during lunch breaks and after work; and having sex with a woman in a parking lot.

But the board decided against dismissal, swayed by a number of mitigating factors, including “strong” letters of support from colleagues, “sincere expressions of regret and remorse” from Ray, and his desire to admit the allegations “at the first available opportunity.”

(CP, Vancouver Sun)

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