Daphne Bramham (Vancouver Sun) – Coming up tomorrow: A senior RCMP officer will tell us how first nations, Chinese, South Asian and other ethnic minority officers need inner toughness to endure the harassment, bullying and intimidation that they can expect to find in the workplace.
The senior officer is expected to defend the RCMP’s right to be the only institution in the country where employees are expected to be resilient enough to put up with jokes based on stereotypes, offensive epithets and harassment by their superiors.
According to draft notes, the senior recruiting officer will remind minority employees that they knew when they applied that they were going into a predominantly white environment and that to succeed, they will have to “rely on that inner strength that we all have to put that to your advantage.”
The RCMP values diversity. But the officer is expected to say that people of different ethnicities, who are more likely to be “very quiet, introverted, withdrawn,” are not ideal candidates for front-line policing even if they are reflective of Canada’s demographics.
Okay, I made that up except for the quotes.
Nobody from the RCMP is going to say anything about minority recruits tomorrow.
In fact, if the RCMP stays true to its archaic management practices, that wouldn’t likely hap-pen for another decade or so. Of course, if nothing changes, it may not be necessary.
The only ones left will be white men and the odd woman tough enough to have survived such a hostile workplace.
What I didn’t make up are the suck-it-up-buttercup quotes and attitude toward female officers that was so eloquently expressed by Supt. Maria Nickel in an interview with my colleague Lori Culbert.
Nickel is in charge of recruiting for B.C. and Yukon. She likely doesn’t tell ethnic recruits that they’ll need “inner strength” and “resilience” to deal with harassment within the ranks. She’s no doubt aware of the public outcry if she or any other recruiter did.
Yet Nickel tells “the ladies” who apply that they do. She also doesn’t believe telling them that, or the number of harassment suits that have recently been filed, will deter the women.
Recruiters watch for sexist tendencies among the male applicants, she says. They tell the sexist applicants that they are not suitable candidates “at this point.” But the door is left open for them to re-apply.
A 35-year veteran, Nickel reflects the force’s anachronistic boys-will-be-boys mentality. And what’s so stunning is that she seems so completely unaware that RCMP detachments are the last outposts where sexual harassment results in no significant consequences.
Earlier this year, for example, Sgt. Donald Ray, who has a history of sexual harassment, wasn’t fired when he repeated his inappropriate behaviour. Instead, he was transferred to B.C.
Nickel spoke to Culbert before the federal and provincial governments filed a joint defence statement in a civil suit brought by Cpl. Catherine Galliford that alleges sexual assault and harassment by her police colleagues over nearly two decades.
The defence statement smacks of the bad old days when women’s testimony in rape cases was routinely undermined by the suggestion that they were to blame for their own misfortune.
It accuses Galliford of being an alcoholic who refused treatment, of failing to report the harassment and of “cohabiting” with one of the officers named in her civil suit.
Galliford’s case is only one of several – including a potential class-action lawsuit – filed by current and former members. Those lawsuits led Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens to admit in April that there is a “lack of confidence” that if a sexual harassment complaint is made, it will be dealt with appropriately or in a timely manner.
What’s so dismaying is that 30 years after Canada’s Constitution enshrined equality rights, the country’s national police force doesn’t seem to have a clue about it or the laws and attitudes that have flowed from it.
Amendments to the RCMP Act introduced last month would give the commissioner the power to fire anyone engaging in sexual harassment or other inappropriate behaviour and would establish a civilian review and complaints commission.
But even if the amendments are enacted, Commissioner Bob Paulson’s challenge is enormous. The day-to-day behaviour and attitudes of his 26,000 staff – nearly three-quarters of whom are men – needs to fundamentally change.
Of course, it’s not only men who need to be targeted.
Paulson needs to make it clear to women like Nickel that even though they sucked it up and endured the taunts, jokes and inappropriate comments in the past, no other women and no other minorities should have to.