(CBC News) – Canada’s top cop is signalling Mounties to stop airing their worplace grievances in the public eye, after a week when reports surfaced about an RCMP Inspector accused of groping his co-workers, and allegations of workplace bullying on the Prime Minister’s protective detail.
In an interview airing on CBC Radio’s The House, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson told host Evan Solomon “one of the trends that I have seen is this propensity to go public on every sort of beef that happens in the workplace.”
An internal RCMP management report leaked to Radio-Canada this week revealed there were internal concerns about workplace bullying by Supt. Bruno Saccomani, a senior RCMP officer responsible for Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s security detail.
Earlier in the week, Paulson called the leak “unlawful.”
While the RCMP Commissioner conceded there may be a good reason why Mounties may be going public in the first place, he also suggested that going outside of the chain of command to air their dirty laundry doesn’t necessarily solve the problem either.
“I suppose you could argue that is a result of having no confidence in the internal processes and systems, but the fact is that the RCMP is very central in the public discussion these days. Any sort of issue relating to affairs within the RCMP is noteworthy and people exploit that,” said Paulson.
Last November, Cpl. Catherine Galliford came forward to CBC News with complaints of continual sexual harassment during her career in the RCMP.
Since then, a former Nanaimo, B.C., RCMP officer Janet Merlo has filed a class-action lawsuit for alleged sexual harassment against the RCMP. Her legal team has told CBC News that up to 150 women are ready to join the suit with their own claims of sexual harassment.
Although Galliford is not part of the class-action lawsuit, she has filed an internal complaint with the RCMP.
Men have also complained about abusive behaviour and intimidation.
Paulson, PMO defend senior officer
With respect to the concerns raised about Saccomani in the leaked management report, Paulson told Solomon it’s “a workplace issue, a management issue, there wasn’t any discipline attached to that.”
Paulson called Saccomani “a fine officer whose done a good job throughout all of his career.”
The RCMP is “working with him,” Paulson said.
“We have coaches and mentors, and systems to try and help him hone his leadership and management style such that his employees love coming to work, which is the case in most RCMP officers.”
An internal memo sent to Conservatives by Harper’s office on Monday praised Saccomani’s work, underlining that the prime minister and his family “have witnessed first-hand a dramatic improvement in the unit’s performance, an improvement due largely to [the detail's] strong leadership in recent years.”
The internal memo urged Conservatives not to discuss the issue publicly.
New bill to end ‘outrageous’ Mountie behaviour
Paulson says a government bill introduced this week will give him additional powers to deal with “outrageous” behaviour Canadians have come to see from members of the RCMP.
Paulson told Solomon that Bill C-42 will amend the RCMP Act to give him the ability to appeal a decision where “the sanction” awarded in a case of employee misconduct comes up short of personal or public expectations.
In May, Sgt. Don Ray, an RCMP officer from Edmonton, was demoted and transferred to B.C. after admitting to harassing and engaging in sexual relations with subordinates in the workplace.
Paulson said the new bill would give him “the ability to appeal a decision like that.”
The bill, introduced in Parliament on Thursday by Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, proposes a new centralized system for investigating harassment. It would also add additional powers with which to discipline or fire what Paulson has referred to as “bad apples” within the force.
“You can’t just go to Costco and buy a new culture,” Paulson said.
However, NDP Public Safety critic Randall Garrison said the new bill “doesn’t appear to address the larger problem of changing the culture in the RCMP.”
Garrison also raised concerns about the proposed civilian commission, which he said is “not independent” and would report to the minister instead of reporting directly to Parliament.