Good morning, everyone.
This is meeting number 72 of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, Tuesday, February 26, 2013. Today our committee meeting is being televised, so I would encourage all members to turn off their cellphones or at least mute them.
We're having a briefing this morning on the report into issues of workplace harassment within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Our first witness this morning is from the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. The interim chair of the commission, Mr. Ian McPhail, is here.
We welcome you, sir.
We also welcome Richard Evans, the senior director of operations, and Lisa-Marie Inman, the director of reviews and investigations.
We thank you for appearing again before our committee. It's very much appreciated, as is the timely report that you've brought forward for us to study.
I would invite the chair to make an opening statement before we proceed into the questions and, hopefully, the answers for our committee.
Mr. McPhail, please begin.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. We appreciate the invitation and the opportunity to be here.
Mr. Chair and honourable members, thank you for the opportunity to share with the committee the results of the commission’s investigation into workplace harassment in the RCMP. You will recall that in the fall of 2011, several female RCMP members came forward publicly with allegations of sexual harassment, which raised questions in the minds of Canadians.
Given how fundamentally important public support is to the ability of the police to carry out their duties and responsibilities, I believed it was necessary to initiate a complaint and public interest investigation into the conduct of RCMP members regarding the handling of allegations of harassment in the workplace.
The investigation examined the adherence to RCMP policies and procedures, the adequacy of those policies, the thoroughness and impartiality of harassment investigations, as well as harassment-related training. In total, the commission reviewed 718 harassment complaints filed between 2005 and 2011.
Overwhelmingly, the problem we found was abuse of authority, in other words bullying. The investigation also revealed that most of the alleged harassment occurred between regular RCMP members. Over 60% of complainants and 70% of respondents were uniformed police officers.
The gender breakdown of complainants was virtually half male and half female, while respondents were predominantly male. The commission's review also found that most of the harassment complaints were dealt with in accordance with the RCMP’s harassment policy. However, that policy was capable of being interpreted in a number of ways, which resulted in it being inconsistently applied.
That said, the investigation also revealed that workplace conflict and harassment in the RCMP does exist. As such, the report urged the RCMP to take a number of concrete and measurable steps to improve its handling of workplace conflict and harassment allegations, including revising the harassment policy to be more inclusive; instituting a system of centralized monitoring and coordination of harassment complaints outside of the divisional chains of command; establishing an external mechanism for review of harassment decisions separate from, but not exclusive of, the RCMP’s labour relations process; and establishing timelines for the resolution of complaints facilitated by the new authorities granted by Bill .
The commission also recommended that the RCMP develop a comprehensive method to evaluate respectful workplace efforts that is both measurable and quantifiable, and that the evaluation results be made public. All of this is intended to enhance the transparency of the process.
Although the empirical data presented to the commission did not support the widely held belief that the RCMP has a systemic issue with sexual harassment, there is no proof to the contrary. And only if you have what RCMP members themselves see as a fair, open, transparent, and expeditious process will people be more comfortable in stepping forward.
Harassment is a complex problem requiring a complex solution. Policy statements and written procedures are not enough to address the issue. There must be an intent on the part of the RCMP to cultivate a more respectful workplace, and that intent needs to be followed up with actions.
I am hopeful that the commission's report and recommendations will help inform the RCMP in its efforts and further build on the commissioner's recently released gender and respect action plan.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McPhail, thank you for being here.
I would also like to thank Mr. Evans and Ms. Inman for joining us. It is extremely important, especially following the report we received.
Mr. McPhail, your report concluded that there was no concrete evidence of a systemic problem of harassment, but you yourself admit that the investigation was limited by the commission's mandate and powers. Your report depended on existing complaints and public submissions.
We know that sexual harassment often goes unreported and that more than 200 women filed a class action suit against the RCMP.
Do you think that your investigation was limited by your mandate and the powers available to you? Do you think the problem of sexual harassment within the RCMP deserves to be studied further?
Your questions actually go to the very heart of our recommendations, which is to begin by centralizing the record keeping.
For example, it took us some time to be able to identify the various harassment files. I can tell you that the RCMP was totally cooperative in providing us with those files, but the files were in the various divisions. We believe it is important, if for no other reason than as a management tool, that senior management of the RCMP have access to this information, which until now they have not had. So we recommended that the maintenance of the files be centralized.
We also recommend that records be kept of cases of informal resolution. We advocate streamlining the process. We advocate the appointment of a senior officer of the RCMP, outside of the divisional chain of command, to be responsible for issues of harassment. We advocate subsequent outside review of the RCMP's handling of these matters.
All in all, our recommendations go to addressing how the process should be handled, with a goal of making it much more open, fair, transparent, and expeditious. It is our belief that if this is done, people with complaints will feel more empowered to step forward.
Welcome back to the committee, Mr. McPhail.
Obviously, there's a cost associated with your recommendations, but as I understand it, it wasn't really your role to cost out the implementation of the recommendations.
As an aside, these are excellent recommendations, and I hope the RCMP will devote the resources required to implement them fully—but again in an environment where there are cost constraints and the government is cutting the RCMP, and there are the other demands on the RCMP that we have heard about, especially in our study on the costs of policing. I have my doubts that the recommendations will be fully implemented to the extent you would like because of cost constraints. But that's not really for you to comment on, I guess.
Regarding recommendation number six, are there harassment investigators at the moment?
But that makes it much more complicated, I guess.
You mentioned informal reporting and how records should be kept of informal complaints. On the surface that, of course, appears to be an excellent recommendation. Have you thought about the law of unintended consequences? If you say you're going to keep records of all informal complaints, those could be anything from someone walking into their supervisor's office and saying they don't get along with the person sitting next to them and find them a bit rude, to....
Do you think the requirement to record informal matters might create a chill in the organization whereby some people might think that if they walked into the supervisor's office with a complaint, the next thing they would know is that it was then part of a file somewhere, which they didn't mean to happen, simply because it concerned a clash of personalities? I don't know if that's a legitimate scenario, but have you thought about that as well?
Thank you for being here.
In your office, 718 files have been opened. But according to popular belief and communications, for each complaint filed, there are 21 people who have not filed a complaint. With some quick math, that gives us a total of approximately 15,078 possible complaints.
When the systemic problem of harassment in the RCMP comes up, people often wonder if it is a myth or a reality.
On that, I will quote the conclusion of your report.
It states the following:
|| ...the simple perception of the existence of systemic poor treatment of employees by colleagues and supervisors regardless of gender, … is itself sufficient to have a negative impact on both public confidence and the manner in which the police are regarded.
Be it myth or reality, we can say that there is a systemic impact. I am a little stunned. In fact, it's always the same: the guilty parties are often better protected than the victims. Attempts are made to resolve the complaint before it becomes public and ensure that the people involved come to an understanding, so that there is no complaint and it doesn't go any further.
When someone steals a single litre of milk from a grocery store, that person is arrested. We go to great lengths for a litre of milk. This is a matter of harassment. It's serious, and not something to be taken lightly. The RCMP's overall reputation is at stake here. It's really serious.
You spoke about supervisors. How many of them are men? How many of them are women? And how many people are considered? Are any of the supervisors women and, if so, what percentage?
Please let me know if this an accurate statement. Your report notes that “allegations of harassment within the RCMP workplace are not a new phenomenon.” Indeed, in an internal survey conducted during the 1990s, a number of RCMP members reported they had been the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace.
If that's an accurate statement about sexual harassment in the workplace since the 1990s—and we're talking about a quarter century here, some 25 years—would you say that, based on your analysis and investigation, the incidence of sexual harassment is increasing? We have to use percentages because there may be more, and the RCMP is the largest employed police force in the world. Noting as well, simply by way of statement, that in society today people are more apt to report sexual harassment today than 10 or 15 years ago, is sexual harassment on the increase? Would you say that's correct? Please feel free to give reasons.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. McPhail and your staff, for appearing today.
I want to start by saying that on this side we in no way question the integrity of the commission or its best efforts in compiling this report. Given the tenor of some of the questions you were asked a moment ago, I have to use a bit of an analogy: if you're walking along, looking down at the sidewalk and looking for potholes, you'll find no evidence of a post in front of you but you will still run into that post. I think that's what we have in this report.
You've done a very good job within what you call your terms of reference, in looking at a certain aspect of this problem, which is how the RCMP deals with the complaints it receives. You have not been able to look at the broader question, which has resulted in somewhere between 200 and 300 women filing cases in court about sexual harassment within the RCMP.
Given that you are an interim chair and a part of an organization that lost two personnel last year as a result of a reduction in its budget, were there resource constraints that caused you to limit your terms of reference?
Thank you, witnesses, for coming.
Through the chair to you, first of all, I guess that looking at some of the numbers can certainly get some people very upset about this. My background is in human resources. I worked for an international petrochemical company. This goes back quite a number of years, but as part of a similar process, we started sensitivity training for harassment, sexual harassment, and so on.
I'm just wondering if you know how far back any particular training may have started in the RCMP, or if it is just something fairly new.
We will suspend for a minute, allow the witness to take their exit, and welcome the next guests to the committee.
Okay, we'll call the meeting back to order.
This is the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. This morning we're having a briefing on the report into issues of workplace harassment within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Our witness this hour is Commissioner Bob Paulson of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Our committee thanks our commissioner for always making himself available to return to our committee to help us in our deliberations, whatever they may be, as much as they involve the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We know that you've testified here a number of times and we've always appreciated it.
So welcome, and we look forward to your comments. If you would then take some questions from our committee, Mr. Commissioner, that would be appreciated as well.
Members of the committee, good morning.
Last fall the RCMP completed the gender-based assessment that I had requested. The aim of the assessment was to objectively look at our practices and policies for gender bias. This was one of many transformation initiatives launched to bring about positive change in the force. Two weeks ago our action plan in response to that assessment was released.
We have organized our planned work along two themes: work to address the culture of the force and work to address the composition of the RCMP.
Our plan includes 37 action items that will, among other things, significantly increase the number of women recruited into the force—with a goal of reaching 30% female regular members by 2025.
We're taking steps to address the lack of faith and transparency in the promotion process, in an effort to build a more welcoming and respectful workplace.
Longer term retention of women in the force is also being addressed.
This plan is transformative and quite forward-looking. It will challenge us to meet our goals and require us to be innovative. Every employee has a role to play. I'm confident we will deliver on this action plan and ultimately succeed in meeting Canadians' expectations of the RCMP.
Recently, the Commission of Public Complaints released its report into RCMP workplace harassment, for which you have invited me here today.
We all share the view that independent, effective civilian review is absolutely essential for ensuring public trust and confidence in the police force. The CPC's report offers an objective and independent assessment of our performance in this area. The RCMP accepts the findings of the CPC in this matter.
I do find it necessary, however, to emphasize the CPC concluded that:
||The empirical data gathered by the Commission based on formal harassment complaints do not substantiate the supposition that the RCMP is experiencing a systemic problem with gender-based or sexual workplace harassment.
The CPC has identified, as I think many of us had, serious harassment, discipline and workplace challenges that exist within the RCMP.
While they worked on this important review of harassment in the RCMP so did I, effectively reaching the same conclusions. I've already implemented much change in this area, which addresses the CPC's recommendations—and where I haven't, I'll be working swiftly to do just that.
The commission has made 11 recommendations to help us provide a respectful workplace for our employees. Notionally, I accept them all.
The RCMP has already advanced on most of these items. This includes centralized oversight of the harassment complaint process, as well as the development of service standards to guide the harassment process.
The centralization of the harassment oversight process that I requested last year, supported by a case management tool, has already improved monitoring and reporting capacity, while increasing accountability at every level. It also provides my staff and me the opportunity to see trends and to deploy strategies to avoid future problems.
A new guide on how to deal with harassment will be distributed internally in the coming weeks. This guide will help employees analyze situations that they believe may be workplace harassment, while emphasizing the importance of addressing situations early. All RCMP cadets receive instruction on this topic and the importance of encouraging a respectful workplace during their training at Depot.
We have implemented a mandatory online harassment awareness and prevention training course for all employees, and currently 94% of employees have completed it.
New supervisors and managers are provided with additional training on managing workplace relations, promoting a respectful workplace, and applying our harassment investigative process. We've finalized and are prepared to distribute our code of ethics, including an industry-standard workplace relationship reporting requirement. Meanwhile, of course, the RCMP continues to face the challenge of working with a legislatively enshrined code of conduct system for members of the force that is antiquated, adversarial, and long on process.
The federal government's proposed , the enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police accountability act, if passed, will establish a fair and efficient human resources system that will focus on addressing conduct issues quickly and at the most appropriate management level.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, I'm here to tell you the RCMP is making progress. We have much to do to truly modernize this institution, but we are doing it. Canadians should recognize that while we are making these changes, we are continuing to deliver on our core mission of keeping Canadians safe in their homes and in their communities.
It is somewhat akin to changing the engines in the avionics of a big airliner. It's made a little bit more challenging by the fact that it's flying while we're doing it. I'm confident that the men and women of the force are up to it.
I'd be pleased to take your questions.
Our goal, as I've stated in the action plan, is to at the very least be compliant with Treasury Board expectations on how these things are to be managed, and they basically shoot for a 12-month process from start to finish.
But let me talk for a second about that four-year horror story which, I think, is the product of a system where in the earliest moment of that issue, people were not able to come to terms with it and deal with the substantive issue that was causing the problems. So at every turn of the harassment process, at every turn of the management response, grievances were filed.
If we're not successful at intervening at the outset of these conflict situations, then what we see is the extreme polarization of both parties—management and the employee—and we're locked in a legal battle that goes on forever. We have a four-year harassment situation that you've mentioned, but we have people who have been off on sick leave for 10 or 11 years, mad at the organization, suing the organization, which is just not sustainable and not a way to manage a police force.
The zero tolerance approach needs to be elucidated.
They have been told about it. What I have told my managers, starting from my deputy commissioners on down, is that leaders have to engage in managing their workforce. What it means is that there are going to be consequences for managers and leaders and supervisors who don't act when they observe traits and behaviours of people in the workplace, but also don't act when people make complaints.
That's our approach to the zero tolerance idea, but what we're really shooting for is a fully engaged workforce with all employees alive to the issue of workplace conflict and harassment and who are willing to intervene at the outset when these things are known or can reasonably be known.
As a result, I think we're seeing a much more active management approach to this. I had expected that we would see a spike in some of the complaints, and we may yet, although we have not thus far. But I think we're succeeding in getting the message out to people that you can't just stand by and watch these things happen and not act.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Commissioner Paulson, thank you very much for being here. We greatly appreciate it, especially when the topic is as important and as sensitive as the one we're studying today.
First of all, you spoke a little at the start of your remarks about 37 action items that you want to present to increase the number of women in the RCMP. The Minister of Public Safety sent you a letter last November, I believe, on that very topic, on increasing the number of women in the RCMP.
Do you think you currently have the resources you need to implement these 37 measures that you presented in your plan?
Thank you for your question.
I think so. We don't need a lot of resources to do it. We need to change the mentality and change how things are managed.
In other words, I think that it's not necessarily dependent on resources, although some resources will have to be put to it. For example, I recently authorized the full implementation of our new leadership training regime in the organization. That requires resources, but they are resources that are available to me from within the organization. Our recruiting initiative, which will have to target specific groups, particularly women and employment equity groups, may require the injection of some additional people, but they can be found within our HR environment.
So there will undoubtedly be a resource cost to it, but I think it's more dependent on the manager's ability, first, to read the plan; second, to implement the plan; and third, to report on its implementation. So it's more about a changing of a mindset within the organization than it is about pouring more money at it.
Yes, we will undertake actions. For example, presentations will be made in schools and for women's groups.
We're targeting where the desired group is. For example, I'm not too concerned about going to an intake of 50% women within two years, although many people have been critical of that idea. It's very ambitious. Some people quote the labour market availability numbers as being in the area of 27% or lower. But I don't think it's just a question of issuing a press release saying that we're hiring more women; we have to get into our schools, get into our young ladies' groups, where ladies get together in our communities, such as Girl Guides and other areas, and target these people.
I can tell you that I just did a youth encounters group for the RCMP a couple of weeks ago. There were probably 200 youth in the audience. I'd say that 80% of them were women from across this country. I don't think as much as some people do that the recent headlines and the controversy have scared off women. In fact, I'm seeing increased interest of women in the organization.
But to answer your question specifically, we need to target groups and we need to overcome the impediments that we've been victim of in the past, such as being overly mindful of our contract obligations to try to recruit fairly from across the country. If in reality our target group of women comes from two or three provinces, and numbers are available there, that's where we go.
That's a bit of a foggy answer. I'm sorry about that.
Mr. McPhail's report indicated that he could not find—and he was rather specific when he was here just before you—evidence of systemic workplace harassment in the RCMP. I wonder whether you could make comment with regard to that.
Would you also say that as an investigative rule, if you begin an investigation with a certain premise in mind and only ask questions that reinforce that premise and not ones questions that might lead you down another path, or if you ignore certain evidence, you will find evidence? I'm referring to a case in which, if someone wants to say right off the top that there is a systemic problem in the RCMP and only goes with that in mind, they're going to come up with that. But in an independent, objective investigation, one comes up with a certain result.
I'm asking you, I guess, whether from your perspective you feel that in the RCMP there is systemic harassment, sexual harassment in particular.
And have you looked at other police organizations with regard to best practices in delivering education, in delivering training, and in training investigators and developing those policies and principles?
I would say that I don't feel that there is a systemic problem of sexual harassment in the RCMP. There are some very public and well-known cases of allegations of sexual harassment in the RCMP, and that is a blight on the RCMP, frankly.
I do feel, and I've said consistently since I've been appointed, that we have some issues with how we manage authority. I think that's borne out by the CPC's findings. I think we have to modernize that and make changes in how we treat each other in the workplace.
I'm sorry, but I forget the last part of your question, but I had an answer.
Here is one, very quickly: I complain about the way you are asking me questions; I feel that you are harassing me. So the chair comes in and has a look at it and says, no, I don't think it's harassment; I think you guys just don't understand one another and I'd like you to work it out.
You then, say, grieve the chair's decision, saying that it is a bad decision and that you have a grievance. It has a separate form, a separate system. We're managing a grievance and we're managing the harassment claim.
Then, perhaps, after the grievance goes forward, we conclude the harassment file, and any decision that's made in that harassment—
Mr. Francis Scarpaleggia: Right.
Commr Bob Paulson: So every sort of positive action or negative action gets grieved.
Thank you for the question.
Yes, it's possible, but it's important to try to conduct the investigation as quickly as possible.
Most of the investigators, once we're in the investigative stage of an harassment case, are external to the unit that they're in. Occasionally they're not—they may be in the detachment, but they wouldn't be in the work unit. That goes back to my comments earlier, Mr. Chair, around this notion of having external investigative responses to all harassment complaints. I do like your suggestion about committees.
In the west right now, we do have some employee committees that take an active interest in how the harassment complaints and workplace issues are being managed. I think that bears more examination, but it's a tricky area for one to commit to having external investigations in every instance, because it's just not feasible.
—I'm sorry, 30%—not only are they going to have to feel that the workplace is harassment-free, but so are the males. It's not a gender issue; it's an issue, if you're going into the RCMP as an occupation, of feeling comfortable that you're not going to be harassed in the workplace.
There are two problems, as I see it: one is within the force, in making certain that this is dealt with, and I think Bill will help, and this report hopefully will help; the second one is that you have a major problem of confidence among the public you're serving, the problem of making sure that they feel confident this is taking place within the force.
From that perspective, could you comment on both of those sides and on how you're going to get there? Recommendation 11 says that there will be a comprehensive method of evaluation to make certain that it takes place, and that you'll report on in that matter to the public.
Can you give us your perspective on how you're going to accomplish this and then how you're going to report it?
Sure. Thank you for that question.
Our action plan addresses many of the issues identified in the CPC's report. We plan to report frequently on our progress. That's an ingredient toward re-establishing and reacquiring the public trust that, as you've described, has been impacted by these unfortunate, unnecessary, and outrageous behaviours.
That's my plan, frankly: to implement the action plan, to report to government and to Canadians on its progress. But I really feel also, going back to my comment around fixing an airplane in flight, that if we concentrate on delivering our core business to Canadians, which is keeping them safe in their homes and their communities—delivering on our operational obligations—that too will begin to re-establish trust and confidence in the force.
The public aspect, demonstrating progress, will be there—as the CPC recommends as well—and we'll see whether we're making progress or not making progress. We've made some benchmarks of reducing harassment complaints, and we'll be held to doing that.
Thank you, Commissioner, for being here today.
Certainly, we do welcome the Gender and Respect report. We may have some questions about gaps in reporting. Also, I wish you luck in doing it without proper resources. However, it's a bit like some of the questions I had for Mr. McPhail, in that the report tends to look down rather than at the broader context.
On page 4, you say that the RCMP stands to gain little by denying the obvious. I think there are two big challenges that aren't really addressed here directly and that will in some ways determine the success of your plan.
One of those is the fact you have more than 200 women in class action lawsuits against the RCMP. They don't show up in Mr. McPhail's report because he didn't look at them, so that makes it easy for people to say that there really isn't a problem with sexual harassment that's systemic. I don't care whether the word “systemic” is there or not. There's a problem.
We have that one, and you have also have the recent human rights report on missing and murdered aboriginal women, which says, whether you agree with the report or not, that women don't come forward because they don't trust the existing system.
I guess that's my question. How do you plan to address these two really big challenges that provide a context which would seem to me to determine whether you can succeed in recruiting more women in the RCMP?
Let me start right away by separating those two issues that you've linked together there. I see them as completely separate. I can see how you might want to bring them into the same sentence, but women in the organization need to have confidence in a safe work environment, and that's the thrust of our action plan, not just for women, but for men, for all employees.
When I say that we're not going to deny the obvious, I haven't been denying the obvious. I know we have a problem, and we're trying to fix it. The idea, though, that we can have allegations made and not yet established forming the basis of some big revamping of processes and systems is foreign to me. That doesn't make any sense. That's why I wanted to have that gender-based assessment. I need objective facts on which to formulate a response.
I have a vision for the organization. We're going forward. These things pop up. I need to understand them to fix them. That's the internal mechanism around some of these lawsuits and so on.
I know women in the organization who have been harassed. I've met with them. I've cried with them. It's terrible what has happened to some of them. We need to make that right, and we're trying to make it right.
Let's park that for a second and let's talk about Human Rights Watch. There again, I think, the idea that women are afraid to come forward, I need to understand that. I need to understand if that's true. That's not my experience. It's not my experience that complainants are afraid to come forward out of fear of reprisals from the RCMP. That's foreign to me, so I need more information, and I need to get that. I think we really need to be careful around going too far out on a limb on some of those cases.
There are some terrible cases. There's a case in that Human Rights Watch report that is before the courts right now. An officer is alleged to have struck a young woman in the face during an arrest. We charged him. He's before the courts, criminally charged, right now. We didn't wait to do that.
We have to be careful, I think, as we go forward. I want to hear all the information. I want to understand this. I want to have colleagues and my partners understand it, and if something needs fixing, we're going to fix it.
Thank you, Mr. Hawn. Your time has basically elapsed.
Mr. Commissioner, we want to thank you for attending our committee today and for your response to this timely report. Thank you for your commitment to live up to and fulfill the recommendations in this report.
Certainly we wish you all the best. I think all Canadians want to see some of these new recommendations put into practice so that they can feel confident in and appreciate, as we do, the work that you and the RCMP do.
Thank you very much, committee.
The meeting is adjourned.