Good morning, honourable members of the parliamentary committee, Chair.
My name is Rae Banwarie. I am the President of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada. Thank you for the opportunity to address the committee regarding Bill .
I have been involved in the pursuit of collective bargaining and unionization of the RCMP since 2007. MPPAC is a national, non-profit police association comprising regular members and civilian members of the RCMP in every region of the country. We're seeking to become the certified bargaining agent for all non-commissioned members of the RCMP.
I will begin by speaking to some of the amendments we would like to see in Bill that are found in our brief, which everybody has. We are compared to civil servants in this piece of legislation. The restrictions found in Bill C-7 are from the PSLRA. Why, is the first question? We are not civil servants, yet we're being compared to civil servants. We are a national police agency and should be compared to large police agencies like the OPP, Sûreté du Québec, Toronto metro, Vancouver PD, or Winnipeg Police.
I'll talk about some of the points on page 2 of our brief. As everyone knows, and has been made painfully aware, we continue to lose members of the RCMP. We've had incidents like Mayerthorpe, Moncton, and St. Albert. The list goes on and on. In all of these incidents the components of inadequate resourcing, inadequate training, and inadequate equipment have caused death and injury to our members. The recent four charges still pending in Moncton support this fact.
Why would we have a collective agreement that will continue to place our members' safety and that of the communities we police at risk? When we undermine the member resourcing, the equipment, and the training by not having proper measures in place to safeguard these critical parts of our policing, we're placing our membership at risk and everybody in every community that we police at risk.
We're seeking to have minimum staffing levels. For example, article 22 of the collective agreement of one of the biggest police agencies, the Toronto Police Service, talks about minimum resourcing. That's contained in the brief. We're looking for the ability to have that covered in the collective agreement.
We are also seeking to remove the reference to equipment and their restrictions on the scope of bargaining found in this bill and to add new provisions to address this in a collective agreement. We have amendments that we suggested on page 3 of our brief.
We conducted a national survey for our membership. We did a snapshot of approximately 1,000 members: our members and civilian members who are not part of MPPAC. We have the results, and 94% of the membership we surveyed say they want this as part of their collective agreement: just this one point. That's significant.
I'll move on now to harassment. Canadians sadly have become aware of the issues of harassment, which continue to plague the RCMP. There is a class action in the certification process in British Columbia with over 400 past and current female members of the force. There is another class action led by Linda Davidson, which is seeking $500 million in damages.
There have been multiple cases over the past decades of harassment. Why would a significant issue such as this—which has caused harm to our members and led in many cases to PTSD, sickness, depression, occupational stress injuries, and in some cases, suicides—not be brought under a collective agreement, so that it can be dealt with in an open and transparent manner? Binding arbitration has a potential component for redressing these situations, just like our core values in the RCMP of transparency and openness.
Without harassment being included in the collective agreement, we are essentially assisting in furthering this issue and allowing it to reproduce and flourish in the RCMP. This issue goes directly to the culture of the RCMP, and we have to address it. If we don't address it, we're setting up our organization to continue to fail.
We must delete the reference to “including harassment” in proposed paragraph 238.19(c) of this legislation that we're studying today. I believe it can be brought and should be brought under a collective agreement so we can start to mitigate it and deal with it.
Our recommendations are found on page 3 of our brief.
That is my portion. I will turn the rest of the presentation over to Lee Keane, my director.
Mr. Chairman, honourable members of the committee, thank you for inviting me here to speak.
My name is Leland Keane. I'm a director of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, also known as MPPAC.
I've been involved in the pursuit of collective bargaining for members of the RCMP since 1995. I would like to draw your attention to page 4 regarding discipline in part of our brief.
We have concerns with Bill about the adequacy and independence of the current process regarding discipline. The commissioner has the authority for appointing conduct authorities and conduct boards, but the appeals from these bodies are decided by the commissioner. The procedure lacks any independence from the RCMP commissioner.
In comparison, Ontario, for instance, has the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, which is much more independent. The first level of decision there on most misconduct issues is decided by the chief of police. Under section 87 of the Ontario Police Services Act, police officers or complainants can appeal that decision with the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, which is appointed by that lieutenant-governor. Further appeals would go through divisional court under section 88.
MPPAC calls upon the government to amend the current RCMP procedures for code of conduct and discipline matters to ensure a greater level of independence from the RCMP commissioner. We would like to see some civilian oversight.
On this fair dispute resolution process, RCMP members are precluded from striking. It's also in MPPAC's constitution. We don't want or seek the right to strike. Binding arbitration is vital to replace that process to make it fair and independent, which replaces our constitutional right to strike.
We have serious concerns about fairness and constitutionality of this dispute resolution in place. We understand the necessity for attracting and retaining personnel and Canada's fiscal circumstances, and the government's position is skewed in favour of that position.
In regard to arbitration, we want an arbitrator to independently consider all relevant factors and weigh those. Factors such as classification of employees would be something that we would be interested in having in the collective agreement. RCMP members are not civil servants, and it's not relevant to compare us to other civil servants.
MPPAC would propose such phrases “as between occupations in the public service” be deleted from the arbitrational factors in the PSLRA. We would like to see, on page 5, a paragraph (b):
||the necessity of offering compensation and other terms and conditions of employment in the public service that are comparable to those of other employees in similar occupations in the private and public sectors, including any geographic, industrial or other variations that the arbitration board considers relevant;
As a past president of the Mounted Police Association of Ontario, and a current director, I was one of the original people involved in the application before the courts that began in 2004 and 2005, in the preparatory stages, to be filed in 2006. That application by the Mounted Police Association of Ontario, supported by the British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association, has led this committee to this room. For 13 years, I have been committed to a piece of legislation whose spirit and intent was to be driven by officer safety and working conditions. This was never an application about pay, benefits, and issues like that.
I would like to tell you briefly about myself so you can understand what, who, and how is addressing you here today.
I am currently a sergeant in the RCMP. For the last three years I have been a member of the internal staff relations program. I have been a member of the Mounted Police Association in good standing for 13 years. I've sat on the board of directors of the Canadian Police Association, and I've been president of the MPAO. I am one of the co-founders and executive chairs of the new National Police Federation, which is another group seeking national certification to represent members of the RCMP. I am also a military veteran, and I proudly served in the Canadian Armed Forces in rotary-wing operations, Mr. O'Toole, just so we are clear. I've stood for Parliament and was the first serving member of the RCMP to run in a general federal election, in 2004. Because I am not on that side of the table, I think you know the outcome.
As a co-chair of the national officer safety committee within the RCMP, as well as a member of the national policy health and safety committee, I have been responsible for representing members of the RCMP on health and safety issues in accordance with the Canada Labour Code and in conjunction with RCMP management. Having had a seat at the table, I have a very good view of what's going on inside.
Because the spirit and the intent of this legislation, when we brought it forward as a legal challenge, were to improve the working conditions of the members of the RCMP, I am very concerned over the exclusions and the very limited scope of collective bargaining that have been included in Bill . Originally, we would have liked to see a Royal Canadian Mounted Police labour relations act. That didn't seem to come to fruition. There seem to be remnants, from our management and whoever was involved in drafting the legislation, that seem to mirror the former Bill . We have to work with what we are given, and as an appellant before the courts I appreciate the very strict timeline that this committee has been given to try to generate this.
As a result of that, and my having been one of the people who compiled this, there really was an overwhelming desire to improve officer safety and working conditions. Our application sought rights and the ability to influence and determine our working conditions. Once it was submitted, we fought for nine years before the courts, at every level: Ontario Superior Court, Court of Appeal, Supreme Court of Canada. We sought to right a wrong, which is often what police officers do. Our seeking to right that wrong was to seek the fundamental rights that every other Canadian had, that every other police officer in the country had, and that was to have a say in our working conditions, to be entitled to legally supported collective bargaining.
More than a year after the decision by the Supreme Court, it would appear that the legislation presented by way of Bill does not embrace the spirit and intent of the MPAO/BCMPPA application, nor of the SCC decision itself. The intention of the SCC included a key word, which I often do not hear repeated, and that is the word “meaningful”. It was to include choice and independence, to guarantee that we were able to participate in meaningful collective bargaining.
I am somewhat concerned that the input provided to the committee has relied heavily on the management perspective of the RCMP, because this bill, this legislation, is about empowering the members of the RCMP. Because of the information you've been given by management, I feel that—if I can use a euphemism here—somehow the foxes have installed a security system in the henhouse, if you will. I'd like you to consider what matters. When our officers are safe, the public is safe, and that is your responsibility as elected officials.
Now, I had very short notice to appear at the committee. Part of that was my fault. I have a written submission that I will be providing to the clerk through the weekend. It is important you realize that some things that were brought up at the meeting the other day.... I have put my position in the RCMP at risk speaking to you today, and I have brought the signed order of the commissioner of the RCMP with me, if you wish to see it.
That would be my timer, so I would stop at this point and answer any questions you like.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. Thank you for allowing us to speak today on behalf of the general membership of the RCMP.
I'll tell you a little bit about me. I am also a sergeant in the RCMP, presently stationed in Vancouver, British Columbia, but also on leave without pay from the RCMP to work in the National Police Federation as a co-founding chair.
Previous to my role in the National Police Federation, I was a staff relations representative. That particular body elected me to run as the chair of the staff relations representative program's health committee. We advocated on behalf of better health benefits and working conditions under the Canada Labour Code, as well as such supplemental benefits as dental care and massage therapies.
During my period in that role, between May 2012 and February 2016 just past, I was involved in a number of large initiatives. I'll just hit on a couple of them. One was the transition of the RCMP to provincial-territorial health care. Others were the discussions around changes to supplemental benefits, such as dental care and massage; the drafting and release of the RCMP's mental health strategy; the implementation of the Road to Mental Readiness training for members of the RCMP to increase their mental resilience; the outreach of Veterans Affairs benefits to members of the RCMP; and I was directly involved with the study of, the drafting of, and the implementation of the RCMP's internal determination process with respect to occupational injuries. I brought to that the perspective of a member on the ground.
I'll discuss the determination process, because it came up on Tuesday in discussion, and I want to clear up a few issues there. The need for this process came about for two reasons. The first was the change to provincial health care. The second was our position that the RCMP for many years had not dealt with members who got sick on the job in a timely fashion, allowing them to languish, perhaps fall through the cracks, and not return to work in a timely and effective manner. Our position was simple. The RCMP needed to adopt a national determination process for occupational injuries to treat all members equally, regardless of posting, division, province, or territory.
I will say that the idea of moving to a provincial compensation or a workers' compensation board idea was brought to the table by RCMP management. It was unequivocally, categorically, and vehemently opposed by me, by my committee, and by the entire SRR program. The reasons for that I'll go into now.
We are Canada's national police force. Our members should be treated equally everywhere in Canada, no matter their province of posting. Most of those members do not choose their province of posting. This brings in the area of concern over adjudication of occupational injuries and how provinces differ.
Some examples, and these are just the highlights, would be presumptive legislation for PTSD regarding first responders. Ontario just passed that. Ontario has it. Alberta has it. Manitoba has it for all employees. Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and B.C. have private members' bills out there that are seeking to get it, but we don't know if those will pass. Other provinces do not. Suffice it to say, then, that in today's RCMP, with the focus on the mental health and well-being of its members, I would suggest perhaps more study needs to be done in that area before pulling the pin.
Chronic stress claims resulting from workplace harassment vary significantly from province to province under workers' compensation. There is no clear benchmark. In my role as an SRR, I can attest that disciplinary proceedings have a significant impact on the involved member. The stress from protracted investigations and protracted discipline hearings can have a permanent impact on that member's life.
Appeal timelines in the workers' compensation world vary considerably between provinces. The lowest is a 30-day appeal for Nova Scotia. The longest is one year. Some provinces have different timelines according to what the decision was about.
Then there are the job search bonuses in case of a discharge—for example, if someone cannot return to active duty and they end up taking a medical discharge. The job search bonuses, whether you're actively seeking or not actively seeking, vary widely across the country, depending on the province you're in.
These are a few of the concerns, just the highlights, with respect to the inequality of care that exists today under WCB legislation across Canada. We have not even begun to discuss a scenario such as a member who gets hurt in Alberta, returns to work, and then gets transferred to New Brunswick. It's my understanding that the receiving WCB can ask to review the entire file of the approving WCB and alter, rescind, or modify treatment.
Not all avenues—
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want to begin by thanking each and every one of you for coming before this body today to provide some evidence and important testimony on what is I think a bit of a watershed moment for the RCMP and its members.
Just to give you a little bit of personal background, I'm a former federal prosecutor, with over 10 years of service with the PPSC, which before was the Federal Prosecution Service. In that capacity I was the president of the Association of Justice Counsel, which was the first association to represent DOJ civil lawyers and federal prosecutors at the bargaining table. So I just want to tell you there is light at the end of the tunnel.
I was there when we were certified and we had to go and compete for it. I was there when we did our first two rounds of collective bargaining. I was there when we regrettably had to actually engage in some litigation with the government. Hopefully it doesn't come to that. I think that your appearance today will be part of a productive and ongoing dialogue as we make our way towards your end goals, your workplace goals.
I've got three areas I'd like to focus on, and most of them can fall under the broad category of exclusions. I take it from your written submissions that this is an area of primary importance. I'm talking specifically about what I think is proposed subsection 238.19, where the exclusions...what would not be bargainable, if I can put in just more general language.
Let's talk quickly about harassment, and I don't mean to do the subject any disservice, but I know that there is a lot of history there. It's well documented. There is active litigation. It's a delicate issue. Can I ask, are there other collective bargaining agreements, that you have come across where harassment has been on the bargaining table? It really is an open question. I don't have anybody in mind in answering this.
Good day, honourable members. Thank you for the opportunity to present. I'll try to do this as quickly as I can.
My name is Roy Hill, and I live in St. John's, Newfoundland. You probably gathered that from the accent already.
My service was in several provinces, including Newfoundland and Labrador. I've had over 40 years' experience as a member of the RCMP, and I'm retired.
I had the privilege of serving the RCMP members as their elected labour relations representative for over 13 years in Newfoundland and Labrador. Prior to that I had an additional 13 years as a supplementary representative. Having received several awards during my service, I am most proud of the order of merit of the police forces, MOM, honouring my leadership, exceptional service, and distinctive merit, and also recognizing my contribution to policing, community development, and my commitment to the country of Canada.
Why am I here today? I'm here to speak on behalf of RCMP members, and to ensure they are treated fairly and equitably on any matter that affects their welfare or dignity. Specifically I'm here to represent the 16,500 RCMP members who made a voluntary decision to join and pay dues to The Mounted Police Members' Legal Fund, which since 1998 has been an important component of the RCMP's labour relations system.
I want to describe the extremely concerning and deteriorating situation RCMP members currently face in respect of their basic working conditions. I want to describe the actions that RCMP management is currently taking that are having a significant and detrimental impact on RCMP members, and particularly on their current ability to access any form of collective representation regarding workplace issues; and also the RCMP's serious concerns with the substance of Bill . RCMP members are concerned with the significant restrictions that Bill C-7 will impose on negotiations between RCMP management and the bargaining agent for RCMP members, and the fact that Bill C-7 would place RCMP members under the jurisdiction of the various provincial workers' compensation authorities in respect of occupational health matters.
With the legal fund, and recognizing the need to have the ability to research and challenge issues on behalf of the RCMP members, in 1997 the corporation was struck, separate and apart from the RCMP. The legal fund is totally independent from the RCMP. It is a non-profit corporation that promotes the improvement of members' conditions of employment or work. If the legal fund were not currently in existence, and available to its members, then those members who are facing challenges and request legal assistance to meet those challenges would face financial ruin and possibly the destruction of their character and career.
First, the commissioner has unilaterally cut off the process of automatic payroll deductions for membership dues that fund the work of the legal fund on behalf of the members. This notification came approximately three hours before RCMP management sent out a bulletin to all RCMP members advising them of this significant change. This was done without any discussion or consultation.
Second, the commissioner has announced a plan to replace the current SRR system with a much diminished member workplace service adviser. Under this program, RCMP members will not have any access to a form of collective representation in respect of workplace matters or other issues that may affect their dignity or welfare. Furthermore it will do so until a bargaining agent is certified under the legislative framework.
Why is this serious? It's serious because RCMP members say this is serious business. In the short term, the end of voluntary pay deductions threatens the very existence of this legal fund, and it's been on the go since 1998. RCMP management know that the legal fund depends exclusively on this payroll deduction to fund its work on behalf of RCMP members, and that arbitrarily stopping the deductions will have a dramatic adverse effect on the legal fund and its ability to assist members on their issues. In fact the end of payroll deductions could result in the end of the legal fund. By the way, the staff relations representative you heard from here today, as of February 5, 2016, and until May 16, 2016—that's their elimination date, I call it—cannot advocate on behalf of any member on any issue, and they can not communicate with the media, the , Parliament, the Senate, or the general public concerning any matter related to the RCMP, unless they get express permission from the commissioner.
To summarize, rather than improving RCMP members' ability to exercise their freedom of association, RCMP management's current course of action is to totally eliminating collective representation in the RCMP.
On this basis, the legal fund requests that this committee consider and ensure that the long-standing and voluntary system of automatic payroll deductions for legal fund members' dues be continued. In other words, Commissioner, get it back on track.
This goes to the heart of the matter. We would submit that RCMP's management and this government know how vulnerable the RCMP members are at this time. I've received written correspondence from our serving members of the RCMP saying, would you please pass on to this committee how vulnerable we are right now.
I just related to you some of the actions of RCMP management in stifling any form of representation of members.
Bill is intended to improve the working conditions of RCMP members as per the ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada. Instead, we have RCMP members across Canada enraged over the contents of this bill. Why are they angry?
One, they're angry because the legislation imposes restrictions on what would be the subject of negotiations in a new labour relations scheme and, two, it would place RCMP members under the jurisdiction of the provincial workers' compensation boards.
Some of the issues that cannot be negotiated in Bill include staffing levels and postings. Are they large and serious issues? You bet they are. Who is in complete control of these issues? Management. Was there any input from the members of the RCMP in respect of the development of Bill? No.
The only messages that the government hears are those of the commissioner and his senior management team, and I'd describe them as having powerful and unbridled positions. It is not from the grassroots, the women and men who are boots on the ground, 24/7, across Canada, who are serving in locations that no other agency would dare set up an office in unless an RCMP member is present. That's the reality.
Understaffing of detachments and offices is the norm, including the smaller detachments. Officer safety...and burnout are ever taking place, yet RCMP members continue to put themselves in harm's way to protect citizens.
The staffing levels are very much relevant and important, but they can't be negotiated. This makes no sense. RCMP members have to agree to serve anywhere in Canada if they want to enlist in Canada's national police force. This means that throughout one's career you could serve in several provinces and in various locations, but the details of this cannot be negotiated.
In other words, some of the most important working terms and conditions that apply to RCMP members cannot be negotiated under Bill. This is simply unfair and we would submit is at odds with the Supreme Court of Canada's decision.
Health care coverage has been one of the pillars over the decades that attracted people to join the RCMP. It doesn't take long after your enlistment to appreciate that no matter the posting, the health services would be made available with none of the wrangling associated with dealing with provincial compensation boards. The radio talk shows, certainly in my neck of the woods, are flooded every week with calls from irate citizens who are frustrated with provincial compensation boards, the bureaucracy, and the constant struggle to be heard and dealt with fairly, including on their financial losses.
I would be doing a disservice if I didn't bring to your attention, with regard to service in the RCMP and the postings, those who are also a part of the package, as I refer to it. It's just not RCMP members being impacted; we're talking about spouses, partners, families, who are very much an integral part of these postings and where they serve. I know this because I've been there and I know what it is today.
In Newfoundland and Labrador you go across the Trans-Canada and I could tell you the places before you even visit where you've got no cellphone coverage and no radio coverage still in 2016, yet people are putting themselves in harm's way.
The children of these members are impacted largely, big-time. Personally, my three children were in three different schools in one school year. They were. To this day my three adult daughters often negatively refer to this very traumatic experience, which to them is unforgivable. Was it all that long ago? No. Is it still going on today? Yes.
I've read some emails from spouses of members and some of them have written to their members of Parliament. I commend them for doing that. One spouse went on to say the RCMP is a national police force and is unique from all others, and I think that's right on the mark. They deserve to have the benefits under the federal medicare coverage because they are told they will serve anywhere in Canada.
They deserve to be treated fairly at the bargaining table. They deserve to be taken care of when injured in the line of duty, protecting, me, my family, and you and your family, as well as the security of the nation.
Remember, a police officer is a peacetime soldier always at war. The members of the RCMP deserve your support and have earned what benefits that have been promised to them.
Mr. Chair, I hope I'm within time.
Mr. Chair, honourable members, ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.
I am Mark Gaillard. I am the executive officer and the national secretary, and the only full-time employee of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans’ Association.
It is an honour for me to appear before you on behalf of the board of directors and the many thousands of former members and employees of the force, as well as their families, as this association has been doing since 1886. Now retired, I served for a total of 40 years as a regular member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a foreign service officer in the public service, and as a commissioned officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, regular force and reserve. I am also academically trained as a legislative drafter, having graduated with a master of laws degree in legislative drafting through a joint program of the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law and the Department of Justice. So, I love to talk about legislation.
The position of the RCMP Veterans’ Association is unequivocal: the complete removal of clauses 40 and 42 of Bill . The purpose of Bill C-7 is to set up the legislative framework to provide for a collective bargaining regime for members of the RCMP and reservists as directed by the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada. Clauses 40 and 42 of Bill C-7 have nothing to do with this purpose. Although not formally defined as such in legislation, former members of the RCMP are veterans. The service and duties performed by members of the RCMP are not like those performed by other federal public sector employees. In terms of the risk to life and to health, both physical and mental, experienced in protecting Canadians 24/7 in every province and territory and abroad, members of the RCMP are in this respect more like members of the regular force of the Canadian Armed Forces than employees of the federal government. It is for this very reason that both members of the RCMP and the regular force of the Canadian Armed Forces have been excluded from the Government Employees Compensation Act, the GECA. By amending that act, clause 40 of Bill C-7 ends that exclusion of RCMP members from GECA.
Clause 42 of Bill , on the other hand, repeals a subsection of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act. The RCMP Superannuation Act was first enacted in 1959. The specific subsection Bill C-7 repeals was put in the RCMP Superannuation Act in 1998, in Bill C-12. Because we are the veterans of the RCMP who contributed to the RCMP pension plan over the course of our careers and receive retirement benefits for ourselves and survivor benefits for our spouses and dependants, it is easy to understand why we are very interested in any proposed changes to the RCMP Superannuation Act. RCMP veterans and serving members of the force who contribute to the pension plan today have not been notified, consulted, or advised about the proposed change to the RCMP Superannuation Act contained in Bill C-7. We have had no opportunity whatsoever to analyze, discuss, and provide our considered views on how this proposed change to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act will impact former and retired members of the force, the veterans, today and in the future. These changes are being made and are being rushed into law without even the pretext of consultation with stakeholders.
This, I submit, is egregious. It flies in the face of the mandate letter to the . As part of a different style of leadership, that mandate letter directed the minister to engage in constructive dialogue with stakeholders, including the not-for-profit and charitable sectors. The RCMP Veterans’ Association is a not-for-profit corporation, first registered as such in 1924.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are deeply disappointed that we must report to you that no such constructive dialogue has taken place regarding clauses 40 and 42 of Bill . The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans’ Association hopes that this committee will see fit to remove these clauses from Bill C-7.
The Chair: Mr. Lewis.
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm Ron Lewis. I'm the chief advocate for the RCMP Veterans' Association. I appreciate this opportunity to appear before you today to speak on behalf of approximately 17,000 veterans and for future veterans of the RCMP who as a result of a medical discharge will become a veteran the next day. This is all in regard to Bill .
I served over 35 years with the RCMP. During the last 10 years of my service, I was an elected, full-time staff relations representative, the same as Peter and Brian, who appeared just before us. Part of my responsibilities during that time was on a medical review committee for members on sick leave due to illness and injury as a result of their service. Prior to that time, I was a staff member of the Canadian Police College, responsible for delivering labour relations training to all police services of Canada except the RCMP, because we were exempted.
I'm also the co-chair of the RCMP Veterans Women's Council, dealing with their harassment situation that's ongoing. Operationally, I've worked in every province and territory in Canada except for Nunavut and overseas. I'm the author of This Is Not the RCMP I Joined: the RCMP Pension and Insurance Scandal.
Clauses 40 and 42 of Bill are not related to the Supreme Court's decision and direction. I can only speculate why these extraneous provisions have been included. However, I can clearly state that if these clauses are not removed, there will be a dramatic and detrimental effect upon occupational, health care, and disability benefits for RCMP members, reservists, and veterans. It is ironic that prior to the legislative process to provide a collective bargaining framework for RCMP members and reservists, as directed by the Supreme Court of Canada, the federal government, through the RCMP commissioner, disbanded the elected staff relations representative members, leaving the serving members and reservists without a voice to speak to this enabling legislation.
I have to applaud Brian and Peter. Peter may lose his job tomorrow as a result of what he did on the direction of the commissioner. Brian took a leave of absence without pay. He's taking no pay because he thinks this is very important.
Consultation was undertaken directly with the RCMP members prior to crafting Bill . However, changing occupational, health care, and disability benefits were not included in that process. There was no consultation whatsoever on that process. The inclusion of clauses 40 and 42 appears to be a pre-emptive strike on the new collective bargaining process for RCMP members and reservists to limit and alter existing benefits. This has all the appearances of an unfair labour practice. What kind of message does this send to the employees for future negotiations?
Clause 40 of Bill is clear. RCMP members and reservists will fall under the provisions of the government employees care act, usually referred to as GECA. The occupational, health care, and disability benefits will be transferred to provincial workmen's compensation boards. The benefits vary greatly from province to province. I can address this matter in more detail through your questions. There is a document available, at 340 pages, that just describes the differences between each province.
Clause 42 of Bill repeals subsection 34(1) of the RCMP Superannuation Act, our pension plan. This would dilute or negate disability benefits and services under the Pension Act that had been available to members and veterans since at least 1948.
Clauses 40 and 42 should be removed from Bill . It's premature, it's unstudied, and it should be allowed to go before a collective bargaining process to get the best deal for the members and reservists of the RCMP.
I'd be honoured to answer questions, particularly related to the adverse effects these health care and disability provisions will have on future RCMP veterans.
[Technical difficulty—Editor] because I grew a close affinity for Newfoundland, Labrador, and Newfoundlanders in particular, so it was good to hear your lilt, Mr. Hill.
It's good to see you as well, Mark. Thank you for your advocacy and particularly that legislative passion you have, which was helpful in the veterans' context.
From the big picture, I think we have to remember that the Supreme Court decision said two key things.
They said the old labour relations, staff relations, were insufficient. They also said there needs to be employee choice, and we're fighting for that. There needs to be independence, and I think we've heard that. What they also said is the old Wagner model does not need to apply to every context. There's not a one-size-fits-all collective bargaining construct, and the unique nature of the RCMP is a great example of that.
Mark, if I could, in the veterans' groups submission you focused on clauses 40 and 42, which is our area of focus. You didn't mention some of the areas excluded. Are you okay with the exclusions, or are clauses 40 and 42 more of your priority? What are your thoughts on the fact that not all elements of the unique nature of RCMP services will be subject to collective bargaining?
Thank you all for coming here today.
I want to follow up a little bit with Mr. Hill on one of the points that he raised. I'm an electrician, not a lawyer, but my understanding is that part of the Supreme Court decision was that the SRR system was unconstitutional because there was no way for employees to organize; there was no choice that they had. That's still the case with the new system up to the May 17 deadline. There was no need to get rid of the SRR system or to go after the legal fund in the interim, and even after that deadline there's still going to be a time before successful certification.
It doesn't seem to me that the Supreme Court ruling actually rules out having the old SRR system, once there's a choice, and then, if members chose another system because they had certified, it would supersede the SRR system. It seems to me that the RCMP management decision to deep-six those tools for members was premature.
I think it's wrong, in the context of a bill, to tell your members that you can't speak to parliamentarians. I think it's wrong for employers to intimidate their employees during certification processes.
I'm just wondering whether you can speak to the vulnerability felt by RCMP members from not having a decent representation structure and not having access. One of the differences, for RCMP members, if I understand correctly, is that they don't get the same presumption of innocence when certain kinds of charges are brought against them. This means they can be suspended without pay; it means it's very hard for them to fight legal battles in the event that they are charged with something, and that's part of the role of your fund, if I understand it correctly.
Can you just speak to that feeling of vulnerability and what it could mean in the context both of this bill and then of a certification drive?
I think the situation right now is very grave, and it's getting worse because we have social media, in which not everything is accurate, but there's enough interest. For example, there's the one Facebook site with about 3,000 members on it and spouses saying, if my spouse can't speak, then I need to speak, because it impacts me, our children, whatever. What you have is a large vacuum.
I agree 100% with your comment: there was absolutely nothing in the Supreme Court of Canada decision stating that the existing system couldn't stay in place until such time as a bargaining agent is in place. It's just common sense to me that you would have to have some system in place, to have some collective representation of the members' concerns and advocate on their behalf; in other words, business as normal until such time as a bargaining agent is in place, and then you're set down. But that's not there.
I speak passionately on it both because I recognize it and as one of the architects with respect to The Mounted Police Members' Legal Fund. The nail in the coffin was for the commissioner to say and give it in a decree on February 18: you're done as of the end of March.
We wrote to him on February 18, never to get a response from him. We got a response from one of his assistant commissioners on March 31 saying no, we're not even going to talk to you.
Members are without representation, and the ability to do things on a member's behalf has just been wiped out. As we stand here today, unless there's some new revelation in the last hour since I came in here, there's nothing to assist and represent the RCMP members, and God only knows when that will take place whereby some agency is finally set up.
It's sad, and it's pre-1974—and I was around before there was anything of any type, and I know what the conditions were like then. I feel terrible that stuff like this is happening. It's shameful, really, but you're not hearing from the grassroots. You're hearing from people like me and the previous witnesses, saying to you on behalf of those grassroots people: “Committee members, please pay attention to us, because right now we're vulnerable; we're in the crosshairs of the commissioner and his senior administration”, who at this point in time, in my humble opinion, can do just about anything, and who's going to challenge it?