I think I saw Commissioner Lucki on the call, and Minister Blair is here.
With that I call to order the 32nd meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
The meeting is pursuant to the motion adopted December 7. It is resuming the study of the final report of the implementation of the Merlo Davidson settlement agreement. Mr. Justice Bastarache appeared before the committee and I don't think there was any one of our members who was not shocked by what he had to say. Therefore, I'm grateful that the minister and the commissioner are able to appear.
We will be going for two hours. We've arranged for that, but we've also arranged for a 15-minute in camera session after the appearance of the commissioner and the minister to discuss what we've heard.
With that, I propose to ask the minister for his seven-minute presentation, followed by, I'm assuming, Commissioner Lucki, and then we'll get right into questions. The minister will leave after one hour and we will continue on. I see really no benefit in interrupting the flow of questions, so we'll just keep on moving through the questions round after round.
With that, Minister Blair, welcome once again to the committee.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thanks also to the committee members for the opportunity to come before you today and to speak on these very important matters.
If I may, Mr. Chair, I would like to begin my remarks by expressing my sincere and deepest sympathies following the revelation of the 215 children's remains found in an unmarked grave at a residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia. These children were taken from their parents, forced to attend a residential school and never returned to their families. The tragic legacy of residential schools and the Government of Canada's role could not be more profoundly illustrated than through the discovery of the children's graves.
In addition, I want to acknowledge the clear and unavoidable RCMP role in that tragedy. I also acknowledge the role of the government in which we all serve. Over the past two years—and even today—I have spent considerable time discussing with Commissioner Lucki the RCMP's work towards reconciliation. The commissioner has assured me that the RCMP will offer its full support as we seek to learn more about the events in Kamloops. It will provide assistance as required in communities right across Canada.
As Canada mourns with the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc first nation and all indigenous people, I think it's very clear that we must continue to strive to improve upon the services provided to indigenous people and communities across Canada. Thank you for allowing me to speak to that issue.
I am here today in response to the committee's study on issues surrounding ’s report on gender- and sexual orientation-based harassment and discrimination in the RCMP.
The Bastarache report highlights far too many cases of workplace harassment and sexual misconduct that have deeply affected women and the LGBTQ2S+ members within the RCMP. Notwithstanding the many that were reported, we know it is likely that many went unreported.
Let me also state unequivocally that all Canadians deserve to feel safe from harassment and violence. That is why our government has explicitly mandated the commissioner of the RCMP to protect all employees of our organization, civilian and sworn, from this type of harassment and violence. After all, the women and members of the LGBTQ2S+ community who experienced this harassment had to consider how it would affect their careers, their chances of promotion and even their personal safety if they reported it.
I spoke with the commissioner as soon as the report was released. I emphasized that these unacceptable patterns of behaviour must end and a comprehensive plan must be implemented to address the report’s findings and recommendations.
I have also reached out and spoken at some length with Justice Bastarache to inform him of my commitment to support the commissioner in bringing about the necessary changes as well as in overseeing the reform of the RCMP, which will be guided by his recommendations.
Today I am very encouraged to report that implementation of many of the recommendations in the final report is well under way. I know that Commissioner Lucki will speak in greater detail on that progress and on forward priorities to address crucial issues of equality. However, if I may, I would like to highlight a few key points.
First of all, a new independent centre for harassment resolution will begin operating later this month to help ensure impartiality and consistency in decision-making and disciplinary action. Prior to 2019, cases of sexual harassment tended to be handled entirely internally within the RCMP. This approach did not enable survivors to feel heard or believed, nor did it give rise to the belief that offenders would be held accountable.
With the establishment of the ICHR, through external investigators, we seek to increase trust, address concerns of retribution and bias, and ensure that appropriate discipline is taken—up to and including termination of offenders. It will also work to address gaps, including consistency of decision-making and timeliness of investigations. It will also address the lack, in many cases, of well-trained investigators, follow-up, early intervention tools and informal conflict management.
The ICHR will align with the new Canada Labour Code workplace harassment and violence prevention regulations under Bill . Unfortunately, measures alone cannot be applied after the fact. We also need to invest heavily in preventing harassment from happening in the first place.
To that end, a GBA+ review is being performed on the training curriculum. This is in addition to a review of the paramilitary aspects of training at Depot. This is in an effort to affect a cultural change in attitude towards workplace harassment and violence within the organization, beginning at the very start of a member’s career.
To prevent retaliation or recurrence, managers and supervisors are being provided with the necessary tools and resources to perform workplace restoration activities. To promote greater accountability, these will be tracked in the conflict resolution plan as part of the overall case resolution process.
The RCMP must effectively identify, correct and eliminate misconduct in their ranks. As the commissioner will shortly explain, the RCMP will launch an external review of their conduct and disciplinary processes. The commissioner and I have not been satisfied to this point with the pace of change that is expected in a modern law enforcement body. Canadians expect that the worst behaviour in the RCMP will result in serious disciplinary action on a consistent basis. As minister, that is my expectation as well.
I'm also happy to report that the RCMP has launched a comprehensive equity, diversity and inclusion strategy to address systemic barriers for diverse groups. This will work to establish transparent and accountable practices; stronger education, awareness and training regimes; and the foundations for culture change within the RCMP. I also know that Commissioner Lucki will describe how the RCMP is modernizing the recruitment and onboarding processes, including introducing new tools to assess character and detect bias.
We have a duty, all of us, to do the necessary work to prevent harassment and discrimination from ever occurring again. Women and members of the LGBTQ2S community must feel safe in coming forward to report all forms of harassment. They must know that they will be heard, believed and supported. These difficult calls must be met with a transparent investigation, with tangible consequences for those responsible, while actively supporting survivors who have the courage to speak out.
We know that we have to work hard to change the culture that persists not only in the RCMP but throughout all policing and paramilitary organizations. The commissioner shares my conviction that the culture must evolve and it must change. I will support her throughout to address root causes and modernize the training as we work to prevent the unacceptable incidents of behaviour outlined in the Bastarache report from ever occurring again.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I look forward to an opportunity to answer the questions of committee members.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee.
Thank you for the invitation to speak on the important issues raised in the final report of the independent assessor.
I would like to acknowledge that I'm speaking to you on unceded Algonquin territory.
Later today, I will have with me Gail Johnston, our chief human resource officer; Kevin Stringer, our chief administrative officer; and Nadine Huggins, our executive director for HR policies, strategies and programs. We are all excited to speak to you today about the progress we're making at the RCMP.
The independent assessor's report was hard to read for many, including me, but I am so grateful to Justice Bastarache and his team, and to the women who came forward despite the pain it caused. As a woman with 34 years of experience in the RCMP, I come to this role with a lot of first-hand experience.
I have seen a lot of change, and I know that a lot is left to do. I am privileged to get to be part of moving us forward.
As Justice Bastarache said—
As I said, Justice Bastarache said in his report, “This is a long-term endeavour that requires vision, leadership and determination over a decade or more.” This means taking strong action now to set the foundation to support long-term change, and that's exactly what we're doing.
I was given a mandate to modernize the organization and its culture, so preventing harassment and bad behaviour of all kinds means establishing the foundation to attract and retain the right people, because we have a healthy workplace that is barrier-free. We need to support our employees to deal with workplace issues at the earliest point, and create a culture where people are not afraid to speak up.
This will not be accomplished by checking a box on the latest report. We need to challenge our norms. We need to be creative and open. We need to listen to the people most affected, build relationships of trust and stay focused on the long term.
Since I took the chair, we have set a more holistic path forward. My goal is to ensure that, no matter who sits in this chair, change will continue because we've set up the right foundation. We have focused on four areas: accountable governance; inclusive leadership; equity, diversity and inclusion; and trusted resolutions mechanisms. By staying the course, we have already moved the yardsticks on many of the themes identified in this report.
I won't get into a long laundry list, but I do want to focus on what I sincerely believe to be the most significant areas of change.
First, we have improved the diversity at the top. It has both symbolic and real impacts. Not only can diverse people see themselves in our most senior leaders but our decision-making is much better. My senior executive team is more diverse and more balanced, whether it be gender, civilian or other forms of diversity.
More than 50% of our commanding officers are female, as an example. It has improved the discussions we have and changed how we approach issues in the RCMP. We're also working with our external management advisory board, which brings even more expertise and diversity.
Second, we have worked hard to develop a new model to deal with harassment complaints. I am glad to say that the independent centre for harassment resolution will be launched by June 30, 2021. It's in line with the recommendations. It's outside the chain of command, and it uses external investigators to ensure it is trusted and unbiased.
We believe this will improve trust and give people the confidence to speak out. The centre is also focused on prevention, providing informal conflict management tools to deal with things at the lowest level and to analyze what works to prevent such behaviour.
We have more to do. We will soon launch an external review of our conduct process and disciplinary measures to make sure our sanctions are effective and in line with modern expectations.
Third, we have new tools to detect and eliminate systemic discrimination. Gender-based analysis plus is an approach we rolled out across our organization, starting with our senior decision-making. It gives us the lens we need to identify barriers faced by women and diverse groups, and to see things in a different way.
The GBA+ has led to many specific but meaningful changes: Our uniforms are more inclusive. Our promotion process is more equitable. Our awards and recognition policies now recognize leave without pay for parental leave when counting years of service, and we've removed barriers in our recruitment process for our northern applicants.
These are just a few examples, but together they really do amount to a lot.
We also recently launched the first-ever RCMP equity, diversity and inclusion strategy to guide and measure improvements across the RCMP.
Fourth, we have made a commitment to a modern recruitment process, and we are taking the time to get it right. It starts, obviously, with figuring out who we're trying to attract in 2021. Times have changed, and so have expectations.
The role of a police officer is complex, and we know it requires a wide range of skills. We've worked with external experts to define the attributes and characteristics needed for modern policing. We're identifying new tools to assess the characteristics we're looking for, including screening for things like racist and sexist beliefs, which was brought up by this committee in a previous session.
We have made changes to our recruitment strategies to make sure our recruiters reflect the diversity we seek. We continue to review each part of our recruitment process to make it modern and barrier-free.
Lastly, we made a commitment to building leaders. Leadership and the tone at the top is one of my biggest priorities. Having a more diverse set of leaders around me has been so important. We have started to implement a leader character approach to our leadership development and training.
In the past, we've done a good job at measuring and developing operational skills, but now we need to do the same to help us assess and develop overall character and good judgment. We think the “leader character” model will be a game-changer in ensuring we have the right people doing the right job. It's an approach that we want to integrate from the start with applicants and continue to build throughout our employees' careers.
My vision is an RCMP that attracts great people into a workplace that welcomes and includes them and embraces diversity. This is the key to delivering excellence in our organization.
I've given you just a few examples of where we've implemented real changes. I feel and I see the changes every day. I also acknowledge that there are still key issues to address in our organization and in our society as a whole to achieve equity. The independent assessor touched on a few, such as better support for parents, which is important to women's participation in the workforce and in any sector.
Our vast geography, however, creates even bigger challenges, and it can be hard to find the supports and the resources we need to fully support our employees. We need to have creative solutions, which are not always about more resources but about finding new ways of doing things. For example, we look at different service delivery models that will benefit both communities and our employees, like the fly-in models we use in some northern jurisdictions.
I don't have the full set of solutions here today, but I do know that we won't achieve equity unless we work together and address these larger issues. I am so committed to continue to advance change and modernization, as is my entire senior executive team. I'm committed to listening to the people most affected and continuing to expand that circle.
I am committed to partnering with others to explore what we can do to address these issues, so I do truly welcome your comments, ideas and suggestions. Your expertise and influence will allow my team to find solutions. I look forward to your discussion today.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Commissioner, for being here.
Bill, thank you very much for being here and providing this level of testimony to our committee.
I'm pretty sure I heard you say in your remarks that efforts were under way to address the paramilitary efforts within the RCMP.
I'm new to this committee and I'm finding that the other members of this committee certainly have an awful lot more background on this report. However, to me, the idea of tearing somebody down to rebuild them in the way that you want them is kind of archaic, and I can't imagine it not leading to major issues down the road. When my colleagues were studying this report, they heard from many witnesses and experts about the need to address this.
I wonder if you could speak to the committee today about this paramilitary structure that you and the RCMP will be addressing.
Thank you very much, Darren.
It's a really important issue, and not just for the RCMP but for all police organizations right across the country. I think the RCMP recognizes that in a modern police service they have to address the entire merit criteria they apply in hiring people.
I believe that the RCMP recruits outstanding people to their organization. However, it's important that we look at the recruitment, training and deployment of the members to ensure that the culture is more welcoming to diverse people and to women in the organization. I think that's critically important, and that is the work the RCMP is undergoing.
We talked about the diversity and inclusion strategy they are implementing. One of the things I wanted to highlight for the committee is that we actually recruited the commissioner because of what we believed to be her outstanding ability to bring about change in the organization. However, let me acknowledge, because I've done this in another police service, that it's a very difficult challenge.
We've given the commissioner a very explicit mandate, and she's been working tirelessly. It really begins with leadership—as she's already indicated—and she's made significant changes within the leadership of the RCMP. I think it sends a very strong signal about the importance of diversity and inclusion, a diversity of perspectives, in policing.
It is going to result in and necessitate—as Justice Bastarache indicated—a significant reform of police culture, which he referred to as a “toxic culture”. That reform is well under way under the leadership of the commissioner, and I believe it's our government's responsibility—and all Canadians' responsibility—to support the RCMP as they go about those important changes in addressing the culture that Justice Bastarache expressed very understandable concerns about.
The commissioner has been working tirelessly with her entire team. Change is steady but slow, and we want to continue to work hard on it and continue to accelerate that work.
As the minister alluded to, I was given a strict mandate to modernize the RCMP and to transform its culture. Therefore, we've been engaging with numerous external and independent bodies and individuals to address issues around workplace culture.
Of note, first of all, we have the RCMP management advisory board, which was established by the government in 2019. They are there to provide an external advisory function to me on the management and administration of the RCMP. It was given a specific responsibility to provide guidance and advice on workplace culture, and that's the very issue that Justice Bastarache outlines in his report.
Since its establishment, the board has challenged the RCMP's thinking and provided thoughtful advice and guidance on a number of areas. Most importantly, it's been instrumental in the development of the independent centre for harassment resolution, and they had a specific task force just for that.
There are several initiatives I've launched in the past three years that have brought culture and management modernization. We've been engaging groups, individuals and experts, including the Association of Black Law Enforcers. I have a commissioner's diversity advisory committee. I have a national indigenous advisory committee. I have a lived experience indigenous committee. I have the Government of Canada joint employment equity committee, the Serving with Pride group, the Federal Black Employee Caucus and the Women's Executive Network.
With that, there has been a lot of consultation, and the EDI strategy provides that clear structure for the concrete actions under way to address racism and discrimination, and to promote that inclusion in the RCMP workforce and how the organization will provide service to communities.
We're trying to hit as many people who are impacted by the decisions we make as possible, so that our decisions are better decisions and more in tune with those people.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to the Minister for joining us. My thanks also to the Commissioner, Ms. Lucki, for her very interesting opening remarks. This is a matter on which, sadly, we see that a lot of work remains to be done before we can talk about inclusion and diversity, and can eliminate the toxic masculinity and the sexualized culture.
As a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, I am sometimes discussing these problems in relation to the Armed Forces. But we are realizing that the culture is also to be found within the RCMP, as the Bastarache Report unfortunately proves.
Mr. Minister, in your opening remarks, you said that, despite all the efforts and the work that has been done, you regret that the RCMP is not the modern body you want. Could you tell us more about what, in your opinion, would make the RCMP more modern?
Thank you very much, Madam Larouche, and I think it's a very important question.
The RCMP is iconic in Canada and well respected around the world, but we have seen incidents. The Bastarache report, I think, revealed to us very clearly that there are elements of the work environment within the RCMP that are not as supportive and welcoming as they need to be for women and diverse people in the organization. I think the commissioner has been engaged in some very positive work in this regard, but I wanted to acknowledge that there's a great deal of work that still needs to be done.
We see it as well in our relationship, and it's something we are very much seized with. Recent events, I think, have brought it home for all of us. The relationship between the RCMP and diverse people, particularly indigenous people in this country, is troubled by a long and difficult history between the RCMP and indigenous people in Canada, and notwithstanding that there's a great deal of progress that has been made, there remains a great deal of work to do.
I think it's important to the principles of reconciliation, but also, there's nothing more important in the relationship between the police and the public they are sworn to serve and protect than trust. Earning the trust of the people you serve is work that needs to be done every single day, and it could be lost in a single unfortunate incident or an individual's inappropriate conduct.
I know that the commissioner remains very strongly focused on being worthy of Canadians' trust, and we recognize that, in a large paramilitary organization, there needs to be continuous progress towards reform. That includes bringing in a greater diversity of perspective within the RCMP, people with different lived experience, women, indigenous people and people from racialized communities. That diversity of perspective will help the organization progress. The RCMP and the commissioner recognize that, and they have lots of work to do through recruitment and training on how we treat the people within the organization.
As I've already mentioned to Mr. Motz, I also think that police services must be transparently accountable to the people they serve, and that's why we're working on improving the governance structure for policing in the RCMP right across the country.
Thank you, Mr. Minister, for joining us. I know your colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour called you Bill. I'm happy to do that in private and socially, but since you're here in your official capacity as minister of the crown, I will call you minister. We are looking to you as the person responsible to speak on behalf of the government and respond to the serious circumstances we're dealing with.
In response to your question from my colleague from the Bloc, you said that Mr. Justice Bastarache found that the RCMP were not as supportive as they needed to be towards women. I would perhaps call that the understatement of the year, but the year is very young.
The committee's response to Mr. Bastarache was quite different from that. In fact, he said about the RCMP that the workplace included systemic patterns of discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and race, including toxic workplace cultures characterized by misogyny, homophobia, racism and interpersonal violence including sexual violence. He said that women and LGBTQ2S people were prevented from receiving promotions, training and work assignments on an equal basis with other applicants. They had retribution exacted for attempts to bring forward complaints.
That is not exactly the kind of characterization you gave it.
He went further, and I want you to address this particular point. He said that he was not confident that change could take place inside the institution itself—and I think the committee members were struck by the force of that comment that he had no confidence—and that there was no way forward without some form of sustained, independent and external pressure.
I want to suggest to you that this shouldn't be coming from members of Parliament and parliamentary committees. This ought to come from a structure of governance, which you mentioned in relation to the contract policing for the RCMP. What about the RCMP itself? What about an independent oversight board such as those that civilian police forces across the country are governed by?
Would you be supportive of that as a way of ensuring that there was sustained, ongoing and independent external pressure to seek the changes that are necessary?
You can understand that this seems a bit curious. Canadians would be looking to you for leadership, especially given that, with your government, the and cabinet ministers have shown a certain propensity for having no problem getting involved in the decisions of public prosecutions. However, we'll let your answer stand as it is.
You've mentioned the independent review body being launched on June 30. First of all, I note that when Justice Bastarache was at the committee, which was one month after his report had been made public—it was seven months ago—he hadn't yet spoken to you. I'm glad to hear, as you said in your opening remarks, that somehow you've managed to make that happen in the last seven months. I also note that he said he had spoken to Commissioner Lucki already. He said:
She recognized that there had been a lack of leadership, and she told me of her willingness to address all of these issues and of how she was trying to set up a stronger support for herself in the central administration and even in the supervision.... In that sense, there was a better understanding, I think, within the RCMP of what has to be done.
Just for clarity, that's what Justice Bastarache said about the RCMP response to the report when you had not yet spoken to him.
Can you confirm what you will do, then, to ensure that there is a review, that action is taken and that there are consequences, by either the new body that is being set up or some body, for the 3,000 complaints, 131 legitimate cases and 15 repeat offenders?
Commissioner Lucki, you shared a quote with me by Kwame Christian:
The best things in life are on the other side of a difficult conversation. If we can have the conversation in a better way, we can make meaningful change in the world around us.
I don't know that we could be having a more difficult conversation than the one we are having following the Bastarache report.
I applaud the work you've done and the changes in the senior ranks and the independent centre for harassment resolution. I guess my concern is with the rank and file. I just read an article from the CBC that the RCMP has lost 100 indigenous officers over the last three years and there are questions of racism.
I read Janet Merlo's book, and much of the harassment she received when she reported I would call “microaggressions”. How can you ensure that the rank and file of the RCMP are moving along with you? The changes you've made are important, but when we read about these things and we hear about these things, you need to ensure that the rank and file is moving with you.
I just wonder if you could talk about that a bit.
First and foremost, within the rank and file, part of our initiative involves training, so we have brought in the cultural awareness and humility course. We've brought in trauma-informed approaches to victims, as well as anti-racism training. What is interesting with the anti-racism training is that the only reason we haven't rolled it out is that it's being done by Canadians who have been impacted by racism, so we want to make sure that this is very powerful training. That's part of it: training.
Then, of course, we've rolled out our equity, diversity and inclusion strategy. That is part of my mandate and the objective to change the culture and transform the RCMP. There have been a lot of activities under that umbrella.
We have to make sure, though, that when things happen in the RCMP and people aren't acting in accordance with our core values, they will, in fact, be held accountable. The interesting thing about core values is that we're actually reviewing those core values, and we're reviewing our core mission statement. They are actually building that from the bottom up instead of from the top down, so that there are actually these massive consultation sessions with various employees from all of the rank and file so that they will be part of this.
It's interesting. I didn't think that we would actually make change, but when I see some of the emails I get.... For example, I see that they're talking about “Vision 150 and Beyond”, and they are quoting some of the things we are doing.
I spoke to Linda Davidson. As she's reached out to me, I've reached out to her on several instances. One of the recent ones was with regard to the independent centre for harassment resolution, and I was so happy to hear her comments. We let her review the policy from start to finish and all the parts that are included in that, and she was very pleased with the progress. She felt that it was giving justice to things that weren't there for the RCMP, so that tells me that we're doing something right.
I see it in the tones of the emails. I see it in behaviours, but the statistics, once we start looking at it.... We're not looking at it as far as the statistics right now. We're building those foundations, though, like I said in my opening remarks. When I come and go.... There is nothing worse than doing something and, as soon as I leave, it's gone. No, it's all about the foundation and building that strong so that the next person can continue.
Thank you for that question.
If you're speaking specifically to the harassment complaints, the ICHR has been set up as a separate entity. Any other complaints outside the harassment process go through our code of conduct process. Of course, criminal complaints go a whole different route.
With harassment specifically, what we've done with the ICHR is to bring it out of the chain of command. We've brought in external investigators. The external investigators aren't part of the RCMP. They've been procured through government processes. They will do the complete investigation. They will come to a conclusion. Once the conclusion is made, it will be brought back to a conduct authority outside of the chain of command if there is, in fact, discipline to be dealt with. If there is no discipline to be dealt with.... Obviously we try to deal with things at the lowest level through a referral to an informal conflict management program if we can, but if not, it goes through that whole investigation.
It's important that this process is accessible, timely and supports that accountability. The biggest part of it, as well, is the restoration of the workplace. In the initial instances, we may in fact move people out of their workplace. We may have to move individuals who have allegations of this behaviour against them out of the workplace to restore it the workplace and make sure it is safe.
That's the process in general terms. I could pass it over to Mr. Stringer, our chief administrative officer, who was instrumental in creating this process with our management advisory board, if you need more information.
Before we go on to Mr. Stringer, I have a second question. Afterwards, Ms. Johnson and Mr. Stringer can chime in as well.
First of all, it seems that not many people came forward, as you said yourself, until it was completely confidential and someone on the outside was doing the investigation. A lot of the women made reference to the fact that they didn't feel they could come forward because they would be punished. They felt that the people doing the harassing were actually getting rewarded and it was some sort of clique, an old boys' club type of thing.
What—concretely—is being done to counter this? I mean, you spoke a lot about the culture and the things that you're doing at the top to change things so that once you're gone, the next person who takes your seat can continue the change. Obviously, we want the change to continue.
What—concretely—is being done to make people feel comfortable, feel like they can come forward and feel like they aren't going to be punished for coming forward? How can you entice and encourage women to come forward if they are afraid that their career is in jeopardy or that no one is going to be on their side?
For some of our statistics, if I go to 2019, for example, when I talk about sexual misconduct files, there were 50 files initiated, and out of those 50, 16 were established. Out of those, we had some voluntary discharges where people resigned or quit the RCMP, and in those cases, we had 11 that were dealt with in serious disciplinary measures, which can go from demotion to greater financial penalties, permanent transfer or dismissal.
I do say, though, for many people, when it gets to that part of the hearing, there are people who resign.
Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to speak to you today.
I will just be talking about our strategy for equity, diversity and inclusion.
I'll say that the commissioner has spoken a lot about foundation. The EDI strategy that we've developed actually is one of the core bricks in our foundation. Like many institutions across the public service and across Canada, we've been on a path and now the RCMP has set a place and it's building a new foundation for our organization.
The EDI strategy is established along four pillars. One is around providing the appropriate leadership and governance. Second is to be clear, accountable and transparent in the tactics that we're putting in place. Third, we are enhancing the education and awareness of our organization from the ground up. All of these, taken together, will contribute to the culture change that the commissioner has been talking about.
That will change the culture of the RCMP. We have taken the time to really reflect on it, to hold discussions with independent experts, employees and external committees, in order to develop a document and adopt an approach to equity, diversity and inclusion that will truly change our organization.
Commissioner Lucki, I'm glad to have an opportunity to speak to you.
I have to say, I am a little shocked that you were shocked at Justice Bastarache's report.
I've had a look at your bio and you and I are both graduates of the University of Alberta, which is wonderful. I see you have 35 years of experience in the RCMP. You've been decorated with the Order of Military Merit and various other decorations in a considerably great career in the RCMP.
Janet Merlo's book was written in 2013, and there were other women speaking out at that time about difficulties in the RCMP.
I'm just wondering, when Justice Bastarache says there was a toxic culture of misogyny, homophobia and racism, including sexual violence, and talked about retribution as part of this culture against people coming out with complaints, how could you be shocked? Did you miss that along the way? It's an honest question. I am just curious about that.
I was shocked, I think, by the scale of it. I was shocked by the fact that so many women were too scared to come forward, and it took this to come forward. I was shocked by the fact that nobody listened.
When I talked to Linda Davidson, it was a game-changer for me. If you talked to her, you wouldn't even know that she was one of the survivors. She just said, “You know what, Commissioner? Nobody was listening.” I was shocked by that because I said, “How can that happen?” How could people not listen to things like that? That's disgusting and we need to change that. How can we make it safe for those people to come forward?
It really put fuel in my fire, that report.
We've been working on a lot of things. Most of the recommendations in those reports, we've already been working on because the recommendations were not a shock.
What was a shock was some of the stories and the fact that we don't have a mechanism where people feel safe to come forward. That's why you have my full commitment to that and to making our RCMP the most inclusive and the most diverse we can be, and to making it a place that's welcoming and that allows people to flourish in our organization so that not only will they come to our organization, but they will stay and they will flourish and they will not leave because they're dissatisfied, or they will not leave hurt and broken and sad, and treated like that. That can't happen.
Thanks for being here, Commissioner Lucki.
I still want to know what will be done about the people, the cases identified in Justice Bastarache's work. Here's the question I'm wondering about: Can you foresee or would you commit to figuring out a way that this independent body that's going to be...? I guess you can't relay whether it's going to be independent, but for whoever is giving input into how this independent body is going to work, can there be some consideration that it be given the power to retroactively deal with the findings in Bastarache's report?
Tangential to that, if you can't comment on that part, do you think there is insufficient information or insufficient evidence in Bastarache's report to launch an internal investigation within the RCMP, particularly with regard to these 15 repeat offenders? I think it's literally the business of the police on a daily basis to identify repeat offenders.
I'm very glad to hear about the work going forward, and I look forward to ongoing reporting about that, but I'm still concerned about doing justice for those people.
Yes, I agree with you. I am absolutely concerned as well.
I notice that one person spoke about the investigations in Bastarache. There was no investigation. These were testimonies. Some were hand-written and submitted, and when they got to a higher level, there were interviews, but they weren't your classic interview that we would do for evidence. They were determining the level of harm that the person experienced. It wasn't evidentiary, and besides that, all of those interviews and any paper documents have been destroyed.
That was part of the agreement. It was completely confidential, so we don't know who came forward. They were all numbered and it was under lock and key, so to be able to follow up on that is impossible. That's why internally we've asked people to come forward. Some of my internal broadcasts have been put on Facebook for some of the females to see, with the help of Linda Davidson. There has been talk also since the last time I spoke about Bastarache.
The only thing I can do is to call on people to come forward. If anything criminal has happened to you, please come forward to your police of jurisdiction. You don't even have to come to the RCMP. If you need help or you need support, you should come to us and we will give you that help. We will give you that support.
I have had people come forward with events, but they haven't been part of the Merlo Davidson settlement, just separate ones, and they now have the courage to come forward because they are seeing action. They're seeing a process that will be able to deal with them. It's something that we're taking seriously, absolutely.
I wish I could say.... We did do a scrub-down when we heard that. When Justice Bastarache testified and said that there were repeat offenders, we did a scrub-down of our entire process for anybody who had been in the system, but of course if Bastarache is referring to people who have behaved badly and haven't been reported, investigated or put through any process, then we don't have it. We've only done the scrub-down of the ones who were in the system.
I'm glad you asked that question because Depot is a regular member's first experience of the RCMP. It's where our culture does in fact start. When recruits learn at Depot, how they learn it will impact them as a police officer. We need to get that right, absolutely.
We started off with a new chief learning officer who has been appointed to strengthen the national standard, the coordination and the oversight for the RCMP learning, including the Depot modernization. That chief learning officer has been mandated to work with experts and conduct what we call a full level-three evaluation of the cadet training program. That's to ensure that the curriculum is reflecting the needs in the field. It will also include that GBA+ lens that we like to use to ensure the content is inclusive, doesn't intentionally reinforce stereotypes and reflects modern reality.
We do have plans as well. We're very lucky that we have the First Nations University of Canada right there in Regina. We're partnering with them to review all of the indigenous content and the cultural awareness curriculum.
When we do anything with gender-based violence, missing and murdered women or anything indigenous, we always bring outside experts in to present the material, so that people get a better sense of how the people are impacted by what police do each and every day.
We're also working to assess that paramilitary aspect that we spoke about. We're ensuring that we can look at some of the paramilitary parts. If parts promote pride or team building, we'll look at those and keep those. If they are not promoting things that are conducive to our core values, we will not keep them in our curriculum.
To answer your question about the ICHR, yes, in fact the cadets will be able to report complaints.
I'd like to throw it over to Gail Johnson because she's actually the person in charge of our training academy. She's done a lot of work on that.
I see that as the cards dealt when we deal with civil litigation, which isn't remedial or isn't forward-leaning that way. It is simply a reimbursement for harm that has been caused.
For me, the silver lining to this is the report, getting at least some of the ideas. The recommendations weren't surprising, but they reinforced what we needed to do. There were some things that came forward that we weren't specifically focused on but that we are now focused on.
It really gave the survivors a voice, and that was why it was so confidential. It was interesting. I gave Justice Bastarache the opportunity. I asked him, through the lawyers, of course, if he was going to do a draft report that we could respond to, so that we could give him some context on some of the issues, and he absolutely forbade that.
I couldn't understand why, because all the different kinds of reviews that we get through audit committees always do that. I understand now. If he had refuted some of the voices because of some of the information I gave him, that wouldn't have given them their voice. That was what this activity or this lawsuit was about, giving those members a voice.
It came out loud and clear again when I talked to Linda Davidson about how she finally had a voice. She was finally able to tell her story in hope that it would result in changes in the organization, and that's where I come in.
Chair, if I may, I want to thank you for expressing that. I think that's the frustration of many Canadians who have read this report and understand where we're at.
Yes, the victims need a voice and I agree with that, but we still have the potential and the possibility that there are continued victims currently in the RCMP, because those perpetrators remain in the RCMP, and in some cases, as the report has indicated, their actions are serial in nature. As Mr. Harris and others have mentioned, and you as well, Commissioner, there has to be a way—there has to be a way—besides your internal memos to your members, that we can get rid of this scar and that those who are responsible can be held responsible in some way.
We won't get all of them, and I appreciate that the evidence threshold is totally different in this context as opposed to the report that he put together, but I would encourage you to do everything moving forward, as the chair has indicated, so that those responsible for these actions are held accountable and that any further ones who come under the new process face the full extent of the law and face those measures.
Thank you for your time, Chair.