23 May 2013
Hon. Grant Mitchell: Honourable senators, I would like to say that I have the pleasure of speaking on Bill C-42 on third reading, but I cannot say that it is actually a pleasure. I have some serious concerns about this bill. I have serious concerns about what this bill is intended to address, and particularly I have a serious concern because, in the final analysis, or maybe not even so final, it will not address that and it may actually make the situation worse.
There is no doubt that the RCMP, to some degree — although we do not know to what degree — is a troubled organization. It is not just me in the opposition saying that. The commissioner himself has said there are problems there. The minister himself has said there are problems there. The very existence of Bill C-42 is a reflection of their acknowledgment that there are problems in the RCMP.
The question that that begs is just what is the magnitude of these problems. There has been precious little effort put into establishing the magnitude of the problem by the senior staff of the RCMP. That is the first concern I have about this bill and about the debate more generally with respect to sexual harassment, harassment and the cultural problems in the RCMP. There was some witness testimony that addressed that question. There are two forms of magnitude here: The first is quantitative, how many problems are there, what is the depth of the problem in that regard; and the second is qualitative. I will address both.
We had very limited insight because we have had difficulty getting a broad range of witnesses before the committee for various reasons, in part because there has been some effort in the past at least to limit that from the government side on the committee.
There was a suggestion in one exchange in the committee that only 117 problems had ever been reviewed in the various processes that exist in the RCMP to review problems. I want to clarify that. There were 117 issues over a decade or so that had ever gone to the external review board. The external review board is just one avenue of review of problems in the RCMP. There are many other avenues. There is a grievance process; there is the quasi-external public review process of the CPC committee; there are the tribunal process, the adjudicative board processes and so on. Therefore it was very misleading to suggest that there really is not much of a problem because there are 30,000 people in the RCMP and only 117 cases ever got to this particular body. That is very misleading.
Honourable senators, we know some of the figures, but there are not enough figures because not enough effort has been made to assess this problem. First, we know that in the five-year period studied by the CPC, under Ian McPhail's direction, 718 cases were reviewed. They were cases that existed in that five-year period. That looks like 140 cases a year for five years, and some might say that is not a lot, but let us remember those were only the cases that got as far as the process where they began to record.
There is quite a step in the RCMP where cases can come up. Before they actually progress to a certain level they are never recorded at all. There are probably many instances — at least the question is begged — where cases have arisen and people have either given up before getting to the stage of filling out paperwork, or the cases have been resolved perhaps before they filled out paperwork, and so on.
The second reason for that figure being undoubtedly low is that there is tremendous evidence that many people in the RCMP, both regular and civilian members, are very afraid to raise a problem, to complain about a problem or to suggest a solution to a problem because they have seen what has happened to so many of their colleagues who have stuck their heads up, as it were, to do that. Again, the committee has not been allowed — because the Conservative members have prevented this — to have members who have been injured in this process come before us. I will get to talk a bit about that because I have certainly talked to many members who have been injured.
Honourable senators, the fact of the matter is we hear a common theme over and over again that many people are afraid to present and get into the process of a complaint about harassment or bullying because of what they feel will be the consequences: They will not be heard adequately, there will not be an adequate resolution and, in fact, they will be ostracized and there will be damage to their career and possibly damage to their mental health. That has happened very frequently.
Yes, we have 718 cases that the McPhail report viewed. Those are official cases. I should point out, first, that he did not audit the files of the RCMP; he was given those files by the RCMP, and therefore we have no guarantee that we even received all the files. Second, there are many cases that never get that far; and third, there are many cases that never even start because people are afraid to start them.
Honourable senators, we do have another process that was a good process in the B.C. region. It was undertaken by Simmie Smith, a civilian member, who solicited views, input and interviews from members in that region. I believe there are 6,000 civilian and regular members in that region. Simmie Smith set up a process that heard from 462 of those members. That is getting to be pretty close to 8 per cent or 9 per cent of the membership in that particular region where this was done.
Of those 462 members, only five were men since they excluded the men because the women were very restricted and concerned about speaking of this sexual harassment, which is so intimate and so personal that it was felt by Simmie Smith that this would impede the women's ability to be open and to express their concerns adequately in a way that fulfilled their need to express those concerns. Therefore, there were five men.
Considering the number of cases we know about in the McPhail report, there is about an even percentage that affects women and men. It is about 44 per cent to 49 per cent. For the remainder, we do not know who was affected because there no gender was indicated. If one considers that about 456 cases in the Simmie Smith study were women, and there is an even balance percentage-wise, you have another 450 potential men who would have had similar problems.
Honourable senators, we are now at 900 out of 6,000 people. That is getting to be a significant amount. That is 15 per cent. To some extent that again excludes people who simply would be afraid to come forward because they have no confidence that they will be treated in any way that is fair and just and that they will be heard properly. There is a huge magnitude.
Let us take it one step further. There is a class action pending of 300 members. Again, that is only women because in this case they have limited their class action to women. That is a pretty strong tip of the proverbial iceberg because, of course, if you are prepared to go through all of that process and the horror that many people have encountered in that process in the RCMP, and then you are prepared to invest the money involved in this kind of legal process and take the public exposure that is involved in very personal matters, clearly that represents, I would think, the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more cases below. We are not talking about hundreds of cases; we could well be talking about thousands of cases in an organization of 30,000 people. It is a significant percentage of cases.
We do not know, though. No one has done a baseline audit. The Simmie Smith study in B.C. was very good. Why was that not done across the country? We see some statistics in the Ian McPhail report; however, B.C. was not the highest percentage. It was not the worst region. I will not say which one was worse, but if it was bad enough in B.C. for the Simmie Smith study to be invoked, why would Commissioner Paulson not want to do that completely across the country to form a baseline so they would know what the nature of the problem was and they could deal with it?
What is begged in this whole process is the question, quantitatively, of what the magnitude of the problem would be. We have received some insight into the qualitative nature of the problem. When I say qualitative, I mean the problem, in several words, is of how the senior staff view these issues and the way in which they have not adequately responded to these important issues.
This, of course, by its very nature, is anecdotal, but there are some very disturbing observations. It is interesting, for example, that the commissioner said he needs this bill because he needs to be able to get rid of bad apples. However, they have had no problem firing people along the way who have made complaints.
When there is a complaint lodged by a woman against a man, it is often the woman who is fired. One case went to tribunal, and these are public facts. A male staff sergeant and a female constable had a relationship, an affair; they both lied about it; they both admitted it later. The male staff sergeant was docked 10 days' pay and the female constable was fired. That would underline that to some extent there is a bias in this process, if not a cavalier attitude or a prejudice that goes even deeper than that.
Second, despite the fact the commissioner said he could not really fire, it is interesting that he did specify when he first became the commissioner in late December 2011 that he wanted to crack down on cases like these. Good for him. Several weeks later the Donald Ray case was before the three-person board of adjudicators, RCMP officers, who were quoted in the media as saying that they considered firing him — which would mean that they could, so there are powers to fire — but they decided that they would not.
The case of Donald Ray, as I have explained before in this house and I will mention it again briefly, is sordid. He was convicted in the adjudication board of exposing himself in the office to female members on more than one occasion. He also brought liquor into the office and had sexual relations in the office. For all of that, he was docked 10 days' pay, reduced from staff sergeant to sergeant, and sent to British Columbia. That would say to me that there is a problem and that is that, despite the fact that the commissioner says he wanted Donald Ray or people like him dealt with differently and harshly, in many respects one could argue that those people on that tribunal really defied his initiative in that regard, and I believe that says something about the nature of the culture.
We have not been able to call witnesses before our committee, witnesses who have been victims. I would rather use the words "who have been grievously injured" as one cannot even say they are survivors yet because they are still going through it. If honourable senators could see and talk to these people, they would be profoundly moved.
MP Judy Sgro and I called hearings in Ottawa, where we had four presenters who had been injured, and we were joined by other MPs and senators. We also did the same thing in Vancouver last week, where we had five presenters and two in a private meeting because they were just too afraid at this point to come out, as it were. Their stories are immensely powerful.
One, for example, Sherry Benson, who appeared before the House committee, the one injured person who did so, related a story of profoundly consistent and devastating harassment. She was called names that I will not even use in this debate, they were so horrible, and she was repeatedly called those names, very diminishing for a female, very aggressive sexual names. They were used in front of the public with her. They were used over the radio system with her.
When she asked the people who were doing that to simply stop doing that — just asked, which is not an unreasonable thing to do — that is when the process of ostracizing her, pushing her out and isolating her began. It went on for years. At one point, she opened her locker and there was a dead prairie chicken bleeding in her locker. Could honourable senators imagine if that occurred in a locker of one of our employees? Can you imagine what would happen? No, nothing happened to anyone who did anything in that process.
We had Catherine Galliford. Many honourable senators will know her because she was the very articulate and presentable spokesperson for the RCMP during the Pickton inquiry. I think she also was in that role for the Air India inquiry. She presented us with a tale of devastating harassment over many years.
Jamie Hanlon and Krista Carle are similarly extremely articulate and very powerful. These are not people who will tell you they want money. They are not people who will tell you they want to hurt the RCMP. They are people who went into the RCMP because they believed so profoundly in that institution and the role they could play to make Canada better and serve the public. All they want to do is fix it. There is not a viciousness or recrimination there. They want to be heard and they want to fix it.
There is also this idea that things are getting better because some steps have been taken, but that is not immediately obvious either. As recently as about a year ago, a case was ruled on of a young woman who was in Depot in training. She was called in her hotel room one evening and asked by a regular constable, "Why don't you come down and join me for a drink?" She did; there was nothing wrong with that. She got there and there were 12 or 15 colleagues and, in front of them all, he touched her inappropriately. He made an offhand snide comment about her in front of these people. She sat down; what could she do? She was a recruit. She was new. She tried to tough it out, as so many of these injured people do. At the end of the session, he touched her inappropriately in front of them all again.
What happened to her? To the RCMP's credit, the adjudicator found that the constable was inappropriate in what he did and he had to apologize to this young woman, in Cree, so I presume she was an Aboriginal member. We would want to encourage, in any event, a female Aboriginal member of the RCMP. What happened? She was so ostracized in her unit and so isolated that she eventually asked to move.
I pursued that with Commissioner Paulson when he was before the committee. I asked, "Why would she have to move?" His answer was, "She asked to." Of course, she had no choice. What I would say to Commissioner Paulson is, "Why did you not pick up the phone and talk to that young constable and say, ‘You know what, I do not think you should have to move. You did not do anything wrong, so I am going to move the people who are isolating you and harassing you now and have ostracized you. We are going to make them move. We will find out who they are and make them move.'”
What kind of message would that send to the organization about changing the culture of this organization? I think it would be a very powerful message.
The fact that he would say "She asked" is again an indication, I believe, of a qualitative problem in the culture of that organization.
Finally, in assessing the qualitative magnitude of the problem we see the case that the Speaker ruled on last week or the week before of Roland Beaulieu, who we believe has a strong case to say he was intimidated from attending a Senate committee hearing by senior staff in the RCMP. What happened was that he was asked to come and he consented. He told his superior. He is on sick leave, but he told his superior. He soon received a letter from a doctor — a doctor who has never met him, never talked to him or examined him — who said, "If you are well enough to go and speak to a committee for an hour, then you are well enough to go back to work." It is almost incomprehensible that they would do that when they are under the kind of scrutiny that the Senate committee is trying to shine on them. It is incomprehensible. It verges on the unbelievable that they would do that.
If we have not been able to assess the quantitative nature of the problem because they will not do the studies that need to be done, then surely these qualitative ideas and observations underline that there is a problem in the culture at some level in some places. I am not saying everywhere; I do not want to taint all RCMP, by any means. Many — probably the vast majority — are excellent and conduct themselves in a way that is exemplary and above reproach; but when one begins to see this kind of thing at senior levels and decisions made in this way, it underlines that there is a cultural problem.
This is all about leadership. One does not solve cultural problems unless the leadership gets it and understands it. The first thing that the leadership needs to do is come to grips with the fact — as the military did, eventually, and successfully — that this is changing a culture and it is not done easily, which brings me to Bill C-42.
Bill C-42 has been construed by the minister and by Commissioner Paulson as the antidote to the problem, which they admit exists. They do not know how widespread it is, but they do admit that it exists. This is going to solve the problem. The commissioner says this will allow him to fire the bad apples, which he has not been able to do to this point.
Here is the problem: Almost every feature of this bill that will institutionally restructure the RCMP deals with problems after they occur. It will give the commissioner greater powers to fire, but one would only fire after a problem has occurred. It will give the commissioner greater power to restructure the grievance process, but the grievance process is only invoked after a problem occurs. It outlines more objective ways to investigate serious incidents involving RCMP officers, but again, that kind of a process, with the investigation of serious incidents, only happens after the incident occurs.
Finally, with the new Public Complaints Commission, again, it will only review problems after they have occurred. What is not in this bill, and what is not anywhere else, I would argue, at least not dramatically and intensely enough in the RCMP yet — we have not had witness testimony to suggest there is enough of it yet — is an initiative to change the culture so that these problems do not occur in the first place, or far fewer of them occur in the first place.
The RCMP will tell us — and senior staff has — that they have the Respectful Workplace Program that will deal with problems at that level. I pursued that with the witnesses, and others did too. First, I asked if they have a budget. Senior staff could not tell us whether there was a dedicated budget for it. If there is no budget for it and if the people responsible for it do not know what the budget is, which is equally bad, then how could the claim ever be made that somehow it is a priority in the policy, the programs, the institution and the leadership of that organization?
I asked, "Have you done a baseline audit so we know what the problem is across the country, the nature, the level, the magnitude of the problem, so you can compare progress of your Bill C-42 against that?" Well, they have done something in B.C., but they have not done that all across the country, so there is no basis.
The person responsible for audits was before the committee. I asked, "Do you have a plan in place to audit the organization over the next months and years to see if you are making progress?" No, they did not have one.
If they do not have a budget, if they have not assessed the problem in a scientific baseline way and if they do not have an audit program to see whether they are improving and making progress, how much commitment is there to doing it, and why would anyone think it will be successful? It simply will not be successful. As much as anyone could stand here and guarantee it, I am standing here saying that it will not be successful.
Not only that, but it has been left to regional initiative to do. There are no national standards. There is no standard nationally to look at how to structure a program of that nature. Maybe one group will do it quite well, but the other four or five regions might not. There is no evidence of a process of establishing best practices. There is no real evidence of top-down direction and leadership. Otherwise, all of the elements of this program would be in place, and they are not.
In fact, my feeling is that not only will Bill C-42 not address the cultural problem in the RCMP, it may actually make it worse. If it so happens that it gives, and it will, more power to fire — as the commissioner has said, that will be delegated down the ranks of leadership — then what is to say if the culture has not changed, it will not just give the harassers more power to fire the people who have complained about being harassed?
There will be another conduct board process to replace the adjudicator board process to review decisions on serious discipline, but what is to say that the three people who sent Donald Ray to B.C. as his punishment, plus 10 days of docked pay, are not going to be the three people who show up on some of these new adjudicator conduct boards? There is nothing to say that will change at all, and this will not guarantee it.
My concern and the concern of many of the injured is that it will make it far worse for people in that organization who have a problem and want to deal with and present it.
There are a couple of specific issues here. For example, there are provisions in the bill to allow for certain techniques to be used in the investigation of RCMP members. Let us be fair to all RCMP members; this bill will allow for the continuation of telephone warrants. One can get a warrant to investigate an RCMP member's home over the telephone or through email. It says "other telecommunications techniques." If that were done to one of us, we would think that was a gross, desperate violation of our rights. I think it is only fair that if they are to be investigated, they should be investigated fairly. Certainly I think telephone warrants indicate that that is simply not appropriate.
Second, an RCMP member can be forced to give a statement that could be self-incriminating. There is no provision in the bill to allow them a period of time to prepare or the right to have counsel before they present. They could be in the thick of a terribly difficult incident in which they shot and killed someone. They could be forced to comment on that immediately in the stress and the turmoil of that situation, literally almost immediately. That is a weakness in this bill as well.
Repeatedly in reports from Justice O'Connor to David Brown and others there has been a recommendation and a great deal of discussion about the need to have a full-fledged, non-political, public police commission that would monitor and supervise the RCMP. Most, if not every, major modern city police force in Canada has one of those. The danger is that people might think the new complaints commission, the CRCC, provided for in this bill is actually being construed or will amount to that kind of public monitoring and supervisory board. It is not. It will simply have the power to investigate issues that are brought to it. It will have the power to initiate the investigation of certain issues. However, even those powers are gravely limited.
The commissioner can write a letter saying, "Sorry, I do not want you to do that investigation because it competes with an ongoing investigation internally." The commissioner can also say, "Sorry, I am not going to give you the information you are requesting because it is too sensitive, secret," et cetera. While there are some processes that can get around the latter problem, they are cumbersome processes.
In the case of SIRC's review of CSIS, the members have a very high level of security clearance. They can get the information.
Not only does this board not do what we have heard over and over again needs to be done, which is a full public monitoring and supervisory board, but to the extent it is even being construed as having the opportunity to do a somewhat independent inquiry, its powers can be limited, believe it or not, by the commissioner, who could conceivably be the subject of the inquiry.
As an example of how a public supervisory board might work effectively — and does work — in the case of Edmonton, the police commission is fully civilian. It is responsible for developing the budget of the police force each year, in consort with the chief. It is responsible for developing that budget and for developing the plan each year, in consort with the chief, but it has that responsibility. It presents the budget and it presents the plan to city council. It is also responsible for hiring the chief.
City council can overrule them. They had done that once, apparently, but it is a big decision. Again, we see the difference between a body that has a managerial and a supervisory, literally, almost a day-to-day role in the management of a police force versus this new board that is being created that will be very after- the-fact, can only review issues and certainly does not have anything to say at all about budget matters.
Another restriction is that there must be the money for it. Who controls the money for it? The government controls the money for it. The budget of the RCMP controls the money for it, which again is a limiting factor to its power.
I think our investigation of this bill and further study of harassment more generally in the RCMP has really been limited by virtue of the fact that we have not been able to call injured witnesses. The concern was that it would be a witch hunt.
It is not. I have talked to them, and they have presented in public. They do not mention names. These are highly sophisticated people, good enough and smart enough to be hired by the RCMP in the first place. They get making public presentations on matters of legal import, they get libel and all of that, and they have been treated so unfairly that they are reluctant to be unfair in their treatment of others, I would say.
There is certainly heightened awareness of that in the presentations that we have had, many of which were public and on the record. Our two round tables were exceptionally good, and they would lend a huge amount of context and motivation, I believe, to the Senate committee in its ability to embrace this issue, to understand it fully and, therefore, to be better able to come up with recommendations to fix it.
The case of Roland Beaulieu again is sufficient evidence that we had a witness we wanted to see, and they would not let us see that witness. Maybe that witness has something we really needed to see that would have a bearing on Bill C-42 and our appreciation and assessment of it. It would have a bearing on the harassment study, so significant that the RCMP went to great lengths allegedly to intimidate this witness from coming to speak to us. How could we legitimately proceed to endorse and support a bill that has been subjected to that kind of interference with someone who might have been a very crucial witness?
Another weakness in this bill is something that it forgets to do again. It will not deal with the problem of people being afraid to come forward. So many of them feel that they cannot trust the grievance process they have now, and we have heard much witness testimony on this. They cannot trust it. They cannot be confident that it will really represent their interests adequately, and they are fearful that they are so exposed when they enter that process that they become ostracized and are treated in ways that are almost incomprehensible at times because it is not a process that is objective enough to give them the security and confidence that they require.
This process is called the staff relations process. It has representatives. They are from the RCMP. They are in the chain of command. Their budget is established by the RCMP. They say that they too, therefore, would be to some extent vulnerable in a way, for example, that a union rep might not be, more outside the process, to pressure from management, from the leadership.
There is a great deal of testimony that has thrown into question the objectivity, security and safety of the current review process. There is no guarantee that just redoing the grievance process, which would be in the hands of the commissioner, will solve that problem in any way. It raises the question of whether or not there should be a union. I am not saying definitively there should be a union, but right now, there is no provision for that even to be explored in a structured, proper way.
Pretty much every major police force in the country has a union, and there is a great deal of evidence that that union can make things better because, through the process of collective bargaining, one can define behaviours and punishments, and one can ensure processes so that if disciplinary action is to be taken against a constable, that constable will be very well and adequately supported and represented from an objective point of view.
I raise that issue because it has come up in witness testimony, and certainly, there are models that could be studied. As part of solving and addressing this problem, I think it is evident that these models need to be studied. At the very least, what would be required, and we received witness testimony to this effect, would be an independent appeal process that is final, outside, at the end of the line. It would be the last resort. One could appeal, and that appeal — an arbitration, really — would be final. It could not be overruled by the commission.
That is another weakness of the CRCC, the complaints board that is being established here. The commissioner does not have to take the recommendations. He can just deny the recommendations. Some police forces have a final appeal board that is definitive, outside the process, and makes the ruling, and someone who is in jeopardy or feels they have been mistreated knows he or she has that, at least, as an objective step. That is not provided for in this bill either.
One other specific issue that has big ramifications for fairness and justice is the treatment of civilian members of the RCMP. A provision in the bill will cause civilian members in the RCMP to be transferred to the status of former public servants. There are concerns that these are very specialized roles, such as the technologies involved in forensic investigation. There is an argument that they do and should have a separate status within the RCMP. The fact is that even if one could argue that they should be transferred in their status to the public service, none of the details have been worked out. It can have huge ramifications for what they will be paid, their benefits — pension benefits in particular — and these details have not yet been worked out. Why could the government not simply hold back and work out the details and then, when they are worked out, bring in legislation to make the transfer, knowing it would be fair, not arbitrary, and will not hurt people in a way that simply is not fair?
That is the range of weaknesses in Bill C-42 that gives me great cause for concern.
I think the minister really wants to fix this problem. I think he may have been convinced, for whatever reason, by whomever, that Bill C-42 will fix the problem. Bill C-42 will not fix the problem. The problem is a cultural one that needs to be addressed at a cultural level, and that cannot be done with one piece of legislation, particularly with a bill that in almost each of its facets provides processes to deal with cases after the fact. We need a strong and profound commitment in the leadership to create a culture that will inhibit the existence and the occurrence of these problems long before they ever occur.
There are things that can be done. One thing that should be done would be a very specific analysis of what occurred in the Canadian military. Senator Dallaire, of course, was instrumental and integral in the process of recreating and curing the culture of the military. I think no one would say it is perfect, but it is way better. It could not be perfect since Senator Dallaire has left. However, it is significantly and immensely improved.
They went through the same kind of process that is occurring now. As Senator Dallaire would say, they were good at deflecting the puck, but they had no idea how to change the game. That is what we need: a game changer. I am paraphrasing Senator Dallaire. I take no credit for that. It is a very good way to capture what is going on.
The government brings out Bill C-42 and says, "Look, we are doing something that will solve the problem, but it is just deflecting the puck. It is not a game changer. It has not gotten to the profound root of the problem.
Eventually, because of the pressure built so incredibly in the military and, ultimately, the Somalia affair, the leadership realized they really had to do something fundamental. One of the major steps they took was to set up a public/civilian monitoring and supervisory board that I think existed for six years. It ran the military. It took a lot of responsibility outside of the military and ran the military. There were six civilian advisory groups established to supervise different facets of the issues that were related to the cultural problem.
They looked profoundly and in a significant way at the education of the military. They restructured the curriculum at the Royal Military College in Kingston for officers. They set up a new master's program for officers. They required not just technical engineering education but also liberal arts education, where you think about philosophies, ideas and ethics in different ways. Today, 90 per cent of military staff officers have post-secondary degrees; 50 per cent have graduate degrees. It makes an immense difference to the way they view the world and the way they can lead other people.
On the other hand, we do not know what the education level of the officer corps of the RCMP is. I have a written question on the Order Paper on that, to which I have not received an answer. I will give you a little example that is perhaps indicative of the premium or lack thereof put on education.
There are two programs for senior staff. One is called the supervisor development program and the other is the manager development program. These are courses that involve, among other things, how to deal with culture and harassment. Over the period for which I saw figures, only about one third of the staff finished the supervisor development course, and just over 40 per cent finished the manager development course.
These courses are held out to be part of the solution to the problem, but it is not mandatory to take them. When I raised that with Commissioner Paulson, he said that it could be mandatory for promotion, but he did not say it was mandatory. Make it mandatory for promotion. I now have a written question on the Order Paper asking for the written policy stating that it is mandatory for promotion to have finished at least these two courses.
I think there is much to be learned from the military. Senator Dallaire was responsible for rewriting the entire structure for the development of the officer corps there, which now includes much more than education.
They should be bringing in outside expertise. In that regard, I think they should be bringing in outside expertise on how to change culture. I am sure that Commissioner Paulson and his senior staff are exceptionally good police officers, but this is a $3- billion organization with 30,000 people over 14 jurisdictions. This is not a small police detachment. To change the culture in an organization of that magnitude requires a great deal of depth, and I would be surprised if people who have spent their life in the RCMP, albeit doing great things, would have the experience and depth to do that effectively. There is no evidence that they brought in outside help.
We were told that they have consulted some police forces. Commissioner Paulson wants to modernize the police force so he talked to other forces, but every major police force he would have talked to would have a public police commission and a union. If you want to modernize the police force, surely you would accept at least that a public police commission is integral to doing that.
As I mentioned, we need to look at civilian oversight as a solution. We need to give strong consideration to a union. I am not definitively coming down on either side of that, but it needs to be considered in a structured way. The existing models must be viewed and analyzed. We need to look at the education levels and the curriculum that the officer corps in the RCMP goes through.We need to have an external review process that is completely independent and definitive with a final appeal for police officers who have concerns. There are any number of other lessons that the RCMP could learn by looking at what was done in the military.
It is important, and Commissioner Paulson is right: The RCMP needs to be modernized. We do not know the magnitude of the problem that makes modernization necessary because it has not been adequately studied, and it should be. I asked the staff relations person who appeared before the committee whether they had undertaken a study and audit of the baseline. The answer was no. I said that if they had a union, they would have done it.
It has not been assessed properly. There are any number of indications that there is a problem with the leadership grappling with the intensity with which they need to approach this. Unfortunately, there are weaknesses in the bill that cause me to have real doubts about it.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Mitchell, are you prepared to rise to ask for more time to answer questions?
Senator Mitchell: I am happy to do that. Thank you.
Hon. Roméo Antonius Dallaire: In the extensive review that the honourable senator presented to us today he spoke of the background of the discussions on Bill C-42, the limitations that we had on getting into certain elements of it, and the responses we got from the minister and the commissioner. However, he never raised the question of why the RCMP should continue to be a paramilitary entity. It does provincial police work, municipal police work and national police work, but it is police work. We are no longer in the 19th century with the North West Rebellion when the RCMP were ex-military people and their commander was an ex-artillery colonel.
Was there any indication that anyone wanted to look at that dimension, which may itself be a significant cause of problems, because it is not military and it is not police but rather somewhere in between?
Senator Mitchell: I am very glad that the honourable senator raised that point. We are so accustomed to the way the world is that we often do not realize that there is a question on a particular feature that we should be asking. I am not sure that in the witnesses' testimony we got anything explicit on that. I know that the honourable senator had mentioned the concept.
I have learned from talking to people in the force that there is a sense that they are a paramilitary organization. It begs the question of why. The majority of the staff involved in the RCMP today are in municipal and rural police forces. In this day and age of modern policing we do not need a paramilitary organization in the sense that I believe Senator Dallaire is speaking of. In fact, it may run contrary to the philosophy of policing that has evolved successfully in Edmonton and Calgary where it is not a force. They are police services.
It may be that that value is a remnant of the past that needs to be considered seriously and probably done away with in the modernization of the force.
Senator Dallaire: The idea was not introduced of perhaps becoming a gendarmerie? That is a structured, specific police capability that some countries have, particularly Franco- countries. Consideration was not given to checking out how they do things.
Nearly 10,000 people who are part of the RCMP are civilian staff. The honourable senator said that the RCMP has decided to streamline its HR problem of having three or four types of civilians in the RCMP by simply dumping them all into the public service. The answer that we got from Treasury Board on that was just about that clear, that they are going to dump them on us and we will try to figure out how to pay them, structure them and classify them.
The public servants in the military are exceptionally loyal. They are often kept at lower classifications than they would be in other ministries. Their commitment to those who serve in uniform is unequalled. I have never had that problem.
In the RCMP they brought those civilians inside their realm. They are special civilians; they are RCMP civilians. There is a loyalty from them to those in uniform, to the RCMP. Does the honourable senator think we have a problem here of the RCMP being loyal to its civilians by simply wanting to make an administrative change that can fundamentally change the culture of those civilians within that organization and put that at risk?
Senator Mitchell: Honourable senators, I think that we have not got anywhere near enough information and that they have not done enough work to work out the details of this transfer, first, to assess or convince anyone that is necessary and has been adequately studied; and, second, to make absolutely certain that we are treating those staff members fairly.
Just because we have a government that may not like government, it does not mean that it should be dismissive of the people who work for it. It is their employer ultimately and they should be sure that they are treated fairly and there is no indication.