Remarks by Minister Goodale announcing an Interim Management Advisory Board to help drive RCMP modernization

Speech

Ottawa, Ontario
January 16, 2019

Good morning everyone.

Since this is my first opportunity to be in Ottawa since the tragic bus crash last week, I want to take this opportunity to express heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of those who were lost, and deep concern about the victims who were injured and their families, and about colleagues and friends throughout the public service. Several employees in the Public Safety portfolio were directly impacted and our thoughts and prayers are with them all.

I am pleased to join RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki today to announce next steps toward fundamental modernization in the governance of this extraordinary police force.

Last spring, when the Prime Minister announced Commissioner Lucki's appointment, we said there would be more action to follow. Today is part of that ongoing effort.

Let me make a couple of preliminary points by way of background:

First, through 145 years of history, tradition and indispensable service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are part and parcel of Canada's national identity. An iconic symbol of our country, the RCMP is recognized around the world and highly respected for the quality of its work.

Its single greatest asset is its people, and Canadians place enormous and complex demands on the 30,000 women and men who serve in this organization.

Across the second-largest landmass on the face of the earth, they are the local police force in 150 municipalities, large and small, and in hundreds of Indigenous communities. They are the provincial police force in eight provinces and three territories. They are the federal police force everywhere. They provide technical support services nationally to all other police forces. And they are Canada's link to Interpol, international policing and peace-keeping.

Other factors add to the complexity. One is our vast Canadian diversity – we pride ourselves on being the finest example of pluralism and inclusion the world has ever known. And people need to see all that fairly reflected in their national police force. That also includes Indigenous reconciliation and, of course, gender balance and equality

In addition, the nature of police work is growing constantly more difficult, driven by such factors as transnational, organized, white-collar and financial crime, the deadly scourge of opioids, the threat of global terrorism and extremist violence, and powerful new technologies like those that enable criminals to hack our cyber systems and operate with impunity on the Dark Web.

Much police work is also inherently dangerous. On a regular basis, frontline officers are called upon to confront distressing and traumatic situations. That stress can extract a heavy toll. For them (and their families), strong supports for occupational health and safety in a safe and healthy workplace are vital imperatives. The mental health of members and employees must be a fundamental priority. Similarly, there can be no room and no tolerance for workplace harassment, bullying or sexual misconduct - or misconduct of any kind.

We need to ensure that the RCMP is fully positioned to deal with all of this – because doing so is critical to their ability to keep Canada secure and Canadians safe, while safeguarding our rights and freedoms in an open, diverse, inclusive democracy.

These are among the points that I made in the Mandate Letter which I sent to Commissioner Lucki at the time of her appointment last spring. Building on the best of the RCMP's heritage, her task is to transform and modernize the Force's governance and culture – to serve Canadians in the best possible manner and to ensure the internal well-being of its personnel. Changes in governance and culture are not a singular event, like flipping a switch, but rather a process over time that demands diligent effort.

To that end, in 2016, I commissioned two external expert reviews to examine harassment issues in particular – one by the CRCC, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, and the other by former Auditor-General, Sheila Fraser.

Together, they made a total of 13 recommendations, and they were made public. I want to thank the CRCC and Ms. Fraser for their good work, and I'm pleased to announce that the government and the RCMP have accepted all 13 recommendations.

The pivotal ones called for serious civilian involvement in the overall management of the RCMP, to enhance both expertise and accountability, and so we are taking steps immediately this winter to put in place a new civilian management advisory board.

To move as quickly as possible, we'll use existing legislative authorities to create an interim Board of up to 13 members who will reflect an extensive range of useful backgrounds, experience and competencies. We will follow-up with formal amendments to the RCMP Act to make the Board permanent.

The Board will, of course, have no role in respect of specific police operations and investigations. It will focus instead on the best effective, modern management and administration – providing Commissioner Lucki with advice and support as she leads the RCMP through its transformation and modernization. At the outset, employee health and well-being will be immediate priorities.

The Commissioner has been absolutely unwavering in her commitment to this endeavour. Anticipating the RCMP's 150th anniversary in 2023, she has developed a five-year roadmap called "Vision 150" – to implement her Mandate Letter, including the CRCC and Fraser recommendations.

Specifically with respect to ensuring a respectful workplace, the process of reform and serious change is already underway:

  • the Force has formally acknowledged and apologized to women working within the RCMP who experienced abuse or discrimination in the workplace, based on gender or sexual orientation;
  • in addition, the RCMP has implemented the Merlo-Davidson settlement agreement, which includes an independent claims process and compensation for past victims;
  • a new procedure is in place to provide better advice and guidance on issues related to gender, sexual orientation, harassment, equity and inclusivity;
  • annual reports on these matters are prepared and issued publicly;
  • the Force is ensuring that it is in full compliance with the government's new Bill C-65 which sets standards for how harassment is identified and dealt with government-wide;
  • the Commissioner is also preparing for the potential of unionization within the RCMP as envisaged by a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada and enabled by our Bill C-7;
  • and this spring, we will take any other steps required to fulfill the expectations of the CRCC and Ms. Fraser with respect to credible, trustworthy, independent investigations and the use of civilian expertise to improve harassment complaint procedures.

But even more important than these remedial measures after-the-fact, our common goal is to prevent the problem before it occurs. As I mentioned, modernizing the governance and culture of a far-flung, 30,000-member policing organization is not a quick or simple proposition. But a good and meaningful beginning has been made – for the people who work in this organization, and for the communities they work to keep safe.

I want to pay a particular tribute to those courageous individuals within the Force who started this process by having the personal strength and fortitude to speak out.

Both the Government of Canada and the RCMP are determined, together, to maintain a modern, healthy, safe and truly respectful work environment for all employees.  Given what they do for Canada, they deserve nothing less.


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