Too Little Too late: Why a Public Inquiry is Needed into the Harassment and Abuse of Officers Within the RCMP
Photo: RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulso. (SEAN KILPATRICK / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)
On October 6, 2016 the Commissioner of the RCMP Bob Paulson issued an apology to the hundreds of victims in the RCMP who had endured years of abuse, sexual harassment and bullying in the RCMP. Unbelievably there were some people who thought that the apology was genuine and sincere. For others it amounted to nothing more than the willing suspension of disbelief.
People who know the dark subterranean passages of the RCMP such as the rank and file will see this apology as nothing more than a sham and an expedient way to muzzle the victims of abuse in the RCMP. Every agreement victim’s sign will contain a non-disclosure clause that will prevent these individuals from revealing any details of the settlement they receive and from speaking out about the abuse they suffered and the harm it has had on their mental health and the lives of their families.
In short it’s a convenient way for Senior managers in the RCMP including Bob Paulson to avoid being held accountable. This is not good enough. Why should Canadian taxpayers be on the hook to pay for the abuse and harassment that took place for years in the RCMP while the very perpetrators who are responsible for that abuse are allowed to keep their jobs and fat pensions? In some instances members who complained of abuse were threatened with dismissal while the very perpetrators were promoted. What kind of message does that send to the rank and file? What message does this send to the Canadian public who have to pay out this money when everyone knows it’s being paid to silence the victims? What does this say about openness, transparency and accountability in the federal government?
What is worse is that within hours of being sworn in as the new Commissioner of the RCMP Bob Paulson was accused of allegedly bullying Diplomat Bob Fowler’s wife. In five years Paulson has been Commissioner his track record has been nothing short of disastrous. Instead of addressing the problem from the onset and taking action he has done nothing but attack the very people who were victims of harassment, bullying and sexual abuse. Shortly after the new government came to power three of those victims petitioned the Public Safety Minister to stop their firing before their cases even went to court. How many other victims were taunted, threatened with termination and relegated to menial assignments because they spoke out about the harassment.
All you have to do is examine Paulson’s performance at the Senate Committee in June 2013 when he was asked question about the class action lawsuit against the RCMP. First he says he wasn’t aware of the problem and then he says he can’t be responding to every outlandish allegation. In May 2016 when appearing before the Senate Committee Paulson stated: “The irresponsible representation of the facts” from within the RCMP before allegations have been fully investigated is giving the national police force a bad rap.”
Does this sound like someone who is genuinely concerned about addressing the issue?
Members in the RCMP are not the only victims. Consider the case of Dr. Michael Webster a prominent psychologist in British Columbia who was treating RCMP officers who were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder related to workplace abuse and harassment. When Dr. Webster told the media that the RCMP was a toxic workplace environment that would make people sick he was fired by the RCMP. Paulson then sent a letter of complaint against Dr Webster to the BC Psychological Association. The Association dismissed the complaint but the fact Bob Paulson signed the letter of complaint against Webster speaks volumes about how he regards people who have spoken out about harassment and abuse in the RCMP.
Consider the case of Sgt. Chad. When he wrote to the Commissioner about the problems facing the RCMP he was arbitrarily dismissed by Paulson. Chad filed a bullying complaint against Paulson and the complaint was upheld. Paulson was reprimanded by then public safety minister Steve Blaney. Blaney went so far as to demand that there be a three year monitoring of the situation to ensure that Chad was not re-victimized or subject to any retaliation by Paulson. Does this sound like someone who should be leading the RCMP in the 21st Century? I don’t think so.
How can members in the rank and file take comfort knowing that the perpetrators of the abuse and those senior officers in the RCMP who were aware of it and did nothing will will now not be held accountable? What message does this send to members of the RCMP? What does it say about how the RCMP responds when the problem involves senior officers in the RCMP who abuse their power?
If Paulson was genuine in his remorse at the press conference then he should have done the right thing and tendered his resignation. Cpl. Galiford who was the first female officer to speak out about the abuse said recently that the RCMP is too big to fix. In my view the organization can be fixed but it requires new leadership and a massive shakeup of the senior ranks at RCMP headquarters.
How can the victims, rank and file or Canadians believe an apology from someone who himself has been the source of bullying and intimidation in the RCMP? In the Canadian justice system we still hold people accountable when they break the law even if they show remorse and apologize for their actions. Why should the perpetrators of the abuse in the RCMP be given special treatment? No private corporation that had to pay out millions of dollars in damages because of the actions of some of their employees would maintain the status quo. The CEO would be given the boot as would those employees who were responsible for the dysfunctional behaviour. Why should the Commissioner given his background and the perpetrators of the abuse be allowed to keep their jobs?
In the short term the payment may be seen to meet the test of fairness but it certainly won’t and will not be seen as either a just or final resolution of the problem. At the end of the day people who conduct themselves in such a shoddy and unprofessional manner need to be held publically accountable for their actions. The government of Canada can’t preach openness and accountability to Canadians on one hand while actively avoiding applying these same principles to how it manages and governs its own operations. Until the government demands Bob Paulson resignation and there is a public inquiry into the harassment scandal in the RCMP, there never will be justice for the victims, the rank and file or the Canadian public.
In my estimation that’s the ultimate abuse.
Darryl T Davies is an instructor in criminology and criminal justice, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, at Carleton University.