The Mayerthorpe massacre. Maher Arar. The Air India bombing investigation. RCMP pensions.
The Mounties have suffered severe problems over the past few years that have eroded the confidence of RCMP officers in their leaders and threaten to hurt public confidence in the force, former senior officers say.
And they have little faith that a task force announced by Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day can fix the Mounties’ broken internal management structure.Problems affecting the RCMP are so sweeping that a new commissioner must be appointed from outside its ranks to overhaul the force, Clyde Kitteringham, a former RCMP superintendent for Ontario, said Monday.
The government should also update the RCMP Act and strictly enforce it, he said.
“Morale is such a mess in the RCMP. Harassment is rampant from senior management,” said Kitteringham, a retired 39-year veteran of the force.
“When you have an organization that is dysfunctional, if you are just going to promote somebody from that same subset, that same culture, that same group – I don’t have a lot of confidence in that.”
It has been more than two years since a crazed gunman murdered four lightly armed junior Mounties in a bloody ambush near Mayerthorpe, Alta.
While the case remains under investigation, there has been no public report on RCMP procedures that day – one of the worst mass killings of RCMP in Canadian history.
Mayerthorpe is symptomatic of a failure of Mountie leadership at the highest levels, he said.
“We have still not had any form of public accounting. It is just ridiculous.”
The scandal over mismanagement of the $12-billion RCMP pension plan is just the latest example of problems within the force, he said.
Allegations that senior officers ignored problems in the fund, thwarted disciplinary action against perpetrators and cracked down on lower-ranking whistleblowers has Canadians shaking their heads in disbelief.
The cumulative impact on the public of the scandal, along with the RCMP handling of the investigation into the 1985 Air India bombing and the botched Arar affair, cannot be denied, he said.
Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was awarded $11 million in compensation by Ottawa after faulty information provided by the RCMP resulted in the U.S. deporting him to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured for a year.
Former RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli was forced to step down over the scandal.
“The RCMP is now held up to ridicule as an organization,” Kitteringham said. “It is in disrepute.”
Greg Bell, a former RCMP inspector who spent 33 years on the force, said the Mounties are saddled with an antiquated management system that has somehow lost touch with core values such as integrity and respect for its members.
Careerism, where leaders are promoted into positions to learn instead of to lead, is turning people within the force off, he said.
The public is also getting a jaundiced view of the Mounties when questions about serious issues go unanswered.
Bell said the inquiry into the fatal shooting of a Houston, B.C., man by an RCMP officer is a case in point.
Ian Bush was shot by Const. Paul Koster during a struggle while in police custody on Oct. 29, 2005. No charges were laid.
“The public wants answers. We saw that in the death of the chap out in the cells in B.C. … in the attitude and the outcry of family and the media when they didn’t get answers,” Bell said in a phone interview from Cornwall, Ont.
“I think it is affecting morale. I think it is affecting people’s desire to join this outfit. I think it is affecting the fact that members are taking retirement.”