New RCMP commissioner to tackle harassment scandal in national force

November 18, 2011
Nov 16 2011 OTTAWA - Incoming RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson steps into his new job with a daunting task - get to the bottom of harassment within the national police force. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews introduced the veteran Mountie to media Wednesday and immediately announced that the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP will investigate the issue that has dogged the force for years. The new commissioner endorsed the move wholeheartedly and said stamping out harassment will be the first item on his plate.

Nov 16 2011 OTTAWA - Incoming RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson steps into his new job with a daunting task - get to the bottom of harassment within the national police force.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews introduced the veteran Mountie to media Wednesday and immediately announced that the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP will investigate the issue that has dogged the force for years.

The new commissioner endorsed the move wholeheartedly and said stamping out harassment will be the first item on his plate.

"This does not represent the force that I joined and this condition cannot stand,'' Paulson said.

"I will sort this out in a way that Canadians can have trust and faith in the RCMP and, just as importantly, that employees of the RCMP can thrive in a healthy, productive and harassment-free environment.''

Paulson, a bilingual native of Lachute, Que., and former member of the Canadian Forces, takes on his new job amid a controversy that was rekindled last week when a high-profile female B.C. Mountie said she spent years being treated as a potential sexual plaything by some supervisors.

Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the spokeswoman on the Air India and Robert Pickton investigations, said she finally broke because she had no where to turn to for help and is urging the formation of a union to represent the rank-and-file.

Mistreatment within the RCMP is not limited to sexual harassment.

In May, three years after Alberta Mountie Gerry Hoyland's complaint was dismissed by the force, the independent review body that handles grievances from RCMP officers found he was the target of insults and threats.

His file was sent back to the RCMP for further review and Hoyland wasn't expecting a resolution any time soon.

"They're not handling the employment issues, and they're dragging their feet on everything,'' Hoyland told The Canadian Press in July.

Paulson said he will deal with the concerns.

"It is my intention to address this problem so that the RCMP once again has the confidence and loyalty of all Canadians,'' he said Wednesday.

Paulson opens a new chapter for the storied police force following a difficult and turbulent stretch.

The new commissioner has had a distinguished 25-year career with the RCMP, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a statement.

"As a senior police leader with broad experience across the RCMP's complex mandate, he brings with him a deep understanding of the challenges facing the force.

"Mr. Paulson will provide the leadership necessary to strengthen our national police force now and into the future.''

In his news conference introducing Paulson, Toews met the harassment issue head-on.

"Recent allegations of sexual harassment within the force have caused me great concern,'' he said.

After discussions with Paulson, Toews said he asked the RCMP complaints commission to investigate allegations of systemic failures to "deal appropriately with sexual harassment within the force.''

"This is not about dealing with individual complaints but getting to the bottom of a system that seems to be failing members of the RCMP.''

Paulson said that while the force has the means to investigate individual complaints, and will, "we agree, something more is needed in this circumstance.

"I want a full, fair and thorough look at how we handle allegations of sexual harassment so we can get to the bottom of the problem, fix it and get on with the critical work of keeping Canadians safe.''

He also promised a "comprehensive review of each and every complaint.''

Paulson was formerly deputy commissioner for federal policing for the force, overseeing everything from protection of key officials to investigation of organized crime.

He replaces William Elliott, who announced his decision to step down earlier this year after an often-stormy four-year tenure.

Paulson spent most of his policing career in British Columbia before moving to Ottawa in 2005. He has a son and two daughters.

Elliott's tenure was marked by shakeups within the iconic police force and a revolt last summer by senior officers. He is to begin a new job as Interpol's representative at the United Nations in coming days.

Long-serving Mounties bristled at Elliott's brash management style, complaining of abusive temper tantrums. Paulson said that's not his style.

He has led several high-profile investigations and oversaw a major reorganization of national security operations in recent years.

Paulson will be tasked with trying to complete the force's transformation from a rigid paramilitary-style organization into a modern organization that puts more emphasis on the well-being of its members.

Elliott, a lawyer, former political aide and former national security adviser to the prime minister, was appointed to help overhaul a national institution in crisis.

In 2005, the Mounties were rocked when four of their members were gunned down on a farm near Mayerthorpe, Alta.

A 2006 commission of inquiry said information the RCMP passed to the United States was likely responsible for Maher Arar being shipped to Syria, where the Ottawa man was tortured into false terrorism confessions.

Elliott had been on the job for only three months when a bewildered Polish visitor died after being Tasered by Mounties at the Vancouver airport. That led to an inquiry and sparked concerns about how RCMP stun gun use.

His domineering approach and the slow pace of reforms did little to bolster morale within the RCMP.

A number of recommended moves intended to modernize the force - such as appointment of an outside management board - have yet to take place.

Quick sketch of Bob Paulson, new head of the RCMP

OTTAWA - New RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson rose from street cop to top Mountie.

Born - Lachute, Que. Age 52.

Career - Joined the Canadian Forces in 1977; joined the RCMP in 1986; started as a constable in Chilliwack, B.C.; by 1995 was a corporal with major crime unit and unsolved homicide unit; in 1999 promoted sgt.; promoted inspector in 2001 and was major case manager for organized crime investigations; promoted superintendent 2005 and moved to Ottawa to work on enhanced aboriginal and community policing; by 2008 he was assistant commissioner for national security criminal investigations; 2010 deputy commissioner federal policing.

Major case - In 2004-2005 he oversaw the E-Pandora investigation, a 23-month operation which led to the arrests of a number of members of the Hells Angels in B.C., along with the seizure of quantities of drugs, weapons and cash.

Family - A son and two daughters.

For the record - "I want this job because I am enormously proud, enormously proud, of the RCMP and the work that we do.''

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