PoliticsThe Death Knell for the RCMP

The Death Knell for the RCMP

The Death Knell for the RCMP

By: Darryl Davies

This past week, Canadians learned of the tragic death of former RCMP officer Krista Carle who took her own life after battling PTSD that she acquired as a consequence of being bullied and harassed on the job. Her death came on the heels of a 1.1 billion dollar class action lawsuit that was filed against the RCMP by current and former members of the RCMP alleging harassment and bullying on the job. Despite these developments we have a Public Safety Minister who has said and done nothing of any consequence to address the issues affecting the RCMP. Whether its staff shortages, bullying on the job, mental health issues or systemic abuse by incompetent and callous managers in the RCMP, Ralph Goodale says he is studying the problem. 

This is the same pat answer he gave when reports were issued last year by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP and the former Auditor General Sheila Fraser. These reports called for major structural changes in the organization of the RCMP as well as the establishment of an independent Civilian Review Commission to ensure the RCMP are held accountable.  For the record, we have had a plethora of reports documenting the dysfunctionality of the RCMP for years and yet this government is so out of touch with reality that it naively believes appointing a new Commissioner is all it will take to resolve the deeply entrenched problems in the RCMP. To make matters worse the Liberal Government have chosen a Commissioner who thinks that the RCMP doesn’t need fixing while all around her members of the rank and file are dying and the organization is rapidly sliding into a big dark sink hole. 

In 2017 the RCMP had to pay out millions to settle a previous class action lawsuit related to bullying and harassment of its members and earlier this year the Force was convicted under the Canada Labour Act for failing to equip their front-line officers with adequate equipment such as patrol carbines and body armour to ensure their safety on the job. Despite these facts, we have a Commissioner of the RCMP Brenda Lucki who is nothing more than a puppet of the government intent on preserving the status quo. It is this mentality that is at the root of the problems in the RCMP. You have the same people being promoted in the RCMP who were part of the same inept and incompetent cadre of managers in the RCMP who for years did absolutely nothing to address the problems confronting the organization. Add to that a layer of Public Safety Ministers from successive governments that repeatedly turned a blind eye to the problem and you have the mess the RCMP are in today.

Shortly after the Liberal government came to power and before the new Cabinet was even announced I wrote an opinion piece in Ottawa Life Magazine (October 26, 2015) that documented problems facing the RCMP. In that article I called upon the new public safety minister to take action by making major changes to the management structure and accountability of the RCMP.  Sadly the new government proved over time that it was no different than the Conservatives and that the promises it made to Canadians for reform and change were hollow and  designed solely to win votes rather than bring about meaningful and positive changes. On May 29, 2017, Dan Donovan the Publisher and Managing Editor of Ottawa Life Magazine, Rob Creasser a spokesperson for the Mounted Police Professional Association and I held a press conference in Ottawa.  At that press conference we outlined the action that the government needed to take to address the problems with the RCMP. 

First, we called upon government to launch a judicial inquiry to review the conduct and decision making of the RCMP’s senior leadership before, during and after the 2005 police shootings that killed four officers in Mayerthorpe Alberta. We did so because the evidence was overwhelming that the previous reviews were tainted and not impartial.  A spokesperson for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada (MPPAC) Rob Creasser stated at the press conference: “In recent weeks Canadians have learned about the dysfunctional management culture within the RCMP, so it is now time for a judicial inquiry to find answers to safety questions raised by the Mayerthorpe shootings that remain unaddressed, to this day.” Second, we appealed to the Public Safety Minister to ‘not’ appoint a new Commissioner of the RCMP until a permanent civilian oversight body was established and operational. Third, we asked that a person from outside the RCMP be selected to oversee the force until the new civilian body was in place.  As with every other report and call for change, the Public Safety Minister pushed the default button with his tiresome refrain that he is going to study the problem.

What this government and Public Safety Minister does not understand is that the biggest problem with change in the RCMP is the inertia and failure by governments to take action and do the right thing. Goodale’s tedious response that he is studying the problem is the same logic that led to the conviction of the RCMP at the Canada Labour Code Trial in Moncton New Brunswick. The RCMP were convicted because they failed to take action when the problem was literally staring them in the face. Instead of acting on the recommendations of the Coroner’s inquest into the shooting deaths of four Mounties in Mayerthorpe back in 2005 and the plethora of reports produced for the RCMP post Mayerthorpe, the senior brass of the RCMP sat on their collective posteriors at RCMP Headquarters and did nothing.  At the trial the RCMP’s defence was that they were following due diligence and studying the issue. It was this inertia, ignorance and incompetence that ultimately led to their conviction under the Canada Labour Act. There is a lesson here that appears to be completely lost on Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

How many more members have to die on the job before governments recognize that their failure to take action is contributing directly to the problem?  How many more senseless tragedies have to occur before the federal government recognizes that the approach it has been following is flawed, counterproductive and harmful to the members in the RCMP? This is a government that said it would listen to Canadians but from my own personal experience this is not the case.  With all the scandals, lawsuits, needless deaths and bad morale in the RCMP you would think that there would be someone in Ottawa and in the Parliament of Canada who would have spoken out by now to demand justice and accountability for members of the RCMP and their families.  Instead what we are left with are the pathetic comments by the current RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki that the RCMP doesn’t need fixing and the repetitive and effete promise from Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale that he is studying the problem. If this doesn’t sound like the death knell of the RCMP as our National Police Service I don’t know what does?

Darryl T Davies is an instructor in criminology and criminal justice in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.  He authored a report in 2009 for the RCMP which called for a national roll out of patrol carbines for all uniformed members of the RCMP and he was a crown witness at the Canada Labour Code Trial in Moncton that led to the conviction of the RCMP. The views expressed are those of the author in his personal capacity.

Comments (7)

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Gavin Bérubé July 15, 2018 9:11 am

Greetings, Excellent article. It generated mixed feelings as I read it. I served 34 years as a Mountie, and I was proud of it.....until I became a Chief Superintendent. I got promoted 4 times during a period of 6 years or so, never receiving a negative performance evaluation. I had gone back to school and secured Bachelor and Master degrees. My career seemed to be just fine. Then I stood against a certain direction. If you are looking for information, my opposition was relative to the PRIME project in BC vs the RCMP IPIRS, now PROS. The decision was going to add millions to manage two systems, rather than one. BC's objective for one system could be met with one RCMP system for the country. I am told still today this is significant cost center for the RCMP and Canadians to bare. My career hit a hard stop. I was told I would be transferred. I filed grievances that went nowhere. I sued the Force & Commissioner of the day. We later settled and that was the end of it. I continued to work, went from one project to another applying the skills I had acquired at University to help out different initiatives. Having a Chief Superintendent doing this kind of Consulting work was a way to shame me. So in November 2006 I resigned and worked in three other Departments since. Given we settled out of Court, I am not looking for anything, but I am contributing to the story, if it will help improve the RCMP. There is no doubt there is harassment and bullying in the RCMP. I don't understand why the "Sexual Harassment" seems worst in the RCMP than anywhere else. That is sad. I cannot understand why the "guys" do that. But with regards to harassment and bullying in general, is it worse than anywhere else? If so what are the root causes? I have worked now 4 Departments including the RCMP. I would say they can all be improved as to how they work, how they are governed etc. Why does it take so long to improve them? Your article seem to touch a key point. It seems that the political level needs to be more action oriented in identifying the root causes, not symptoms, and addressing prioritized issues needing solutions sooner than later. Why isn't this happening then? Is it the too broad or too wide variety of issues needed specific competencies to address them to their root causes? Is it the lack of those skills at the political level? Is it a question of dollars vs priorities? Often issues to be fixed compete for the same resources. In short, an excellent article, harassment and bullying does occur in the RCMP. It sad Krista took her life. By all accounts she was a special person appreciated by many. If this story helps bring about long lasting change in the Force, then great. If it does not, but something else does, that is fine too. If the RCMP gets properly reformed, then I think Canada wins. It is a great organization, some egos making it to the top may not have all the required competencies to manage organizations in the complex world of Technology disruptions that is occurring. The "digital" expanses will force new business models, new Organizational Design that seems to elude our leaders today, and the RCMP Act will need to be amended to ensure the RCMP Governance is multidisciplinary and agile. Gavin Bérubé

Dale Smith July 14, 2018 7:13 pm

I am also a retired member and the sad news is no one is listening..........Study after study, inquiry after inquiry and nothing is changed to any great degree. I still have pride in the organization, however, the one in which I served - cared about the members. Nowadays it seems there are too many wishing to get ahead to the Officer level and jumping on bandwagons rather than making effective change. Many choose to criticize and charge members rather than help them. Too many of those in charge have forgotten their roots and choose to side with management rather than show concern for members. The sad part is that sometimes radicalization is needed for change, however, the Force has a way of ensuring those not on that party platform are quashed. Officers can enter an program by-passing several ranks and that's a shame as most never will learn how to deal with real people nor supervise a variety of members. There is little hope for change based on what I have observed. It is high time these things are being brought to the forefront and I commend you for your article.

barbara stewart July 14, 2018 11:07 am

John Walker you should be ashamed of yourself. Thank god you are not in the RCMP anymore. I served this country for 30 years as a regular member and now I am back as a PS and will retire in the fall with 35 completed. I was an auxillary before I joined for 3 years, so 1978. I stood for this country before that as a member of the military. How dare you say the force started down hill when females joined in 1974. Who are you to make such a statement. There is a place in the RCMP and everywhere in the world for all people. I had to work twice as hard and then some to get even the same amount of recognition that a male member did. You have no idea how the woman in the RCMP were really treated. You were no doubt one of the ones who treated woman so unfairly. I feel sorry for the woman in your life. There is a special place in Hell for you Sir.

Scott Saunders July 12, 2018 5:48 am

RCMP needs to be disbanded. All Contract Policing needs to be ended, and Provincial Police Forces formed. RCMP should be a small force for Forensics and Federal work in Ottawa.

John Walker July 11, 2018 8:10 pm

I’m a former retired member after serving 31 years. (1960 to 1992) Whether we like it or the start of the deterioration of the RCMP started when female members were allowed to serve. And, now for god sake, have a look the individuals that are being recruited. It doesn’t matter, gays, lesbians, transgenders ........and get this......one doesn’t even have to be Canadian. It’s time to change the name, get rid of the horses, different uniform etc etc BECAUSE the “image” is no more.