Before I begin this post, I want to be clear that I have the utmost respect for the individuals who put their lives on the line to protect their fellow Canadians. As we know from the recent Moncton shootings, working for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) can be dangerous and, sometimes, devastating work.
Unfortunately, the RCMP is also a fallible organization. No matter how great intentions may be, things are bound to go wrong when there isn’t enough accountability. Lately the media and the RCMP itself have been looking into just what can and has been going wrong. It’s pretty disconcerting, and I’ve outlined three of the major issues for you below.
Sexual harassment often seems to be an issue in jobs that are still socially considered “men’s work”, just look at the military in both Canada and the U.S., for instance. But this is the RCMP we are talking about. This is the organization people are supposed to feel safe reporting their own experience of sexual assault to. How are individuals who have been sexually assaulted supposed to feel safe reporting their case to an organization that has a reputation for harassing their female members?
Over the past few years more and more cases of sexual harassment have been filed against the RCMP by female members. One of these cases is that of former mountie Janet Merlo, who filed a class action lawsuit in 2012. Since then “almost 300 current and former female Mounties have come forward to join [Merlo’s] class-action lawsuit alleging harassment within the ranks of the RCMP.”
In the interview below Catherine Galliford, another former RCMP member who filed sexual harassment complaints against the RCMP, outlines some of the reasons sexual harassment has been allowed to flourish in the force. One contributing factors she outlines is the lack of a union, which meant that she had no one to report the incident to but her superiors (some of whom also happened to be the men harassing her).
Corruption is the big story you may have been hearing about in the news recently. Apparently, an “internal RCMP study found 322 incidents of corruption within the national police force over an 11-year period — including a dozen examples involving organized crime.” According to an article by the Star, the report revealed
– Many cases of improperly sharing police information involved misuse of confidential details in police databanks, sometimes to family, friends or known criminals.
– Fraud cases often included doctored expense claims or abuse of government credit cards.
– Examples of interference were ticket fixing, perjury, falsifying evidence or protection of illegal activities.
– Twelve incidents involved organized crime and another 20 included officer dealings with known criminals.
It’s actually an exciting story, because it means that the RCMP themselves are aware that they need to change some of their practices. Unfortunately, it also means that a lot of crap has been happening under the radar for a long time.
Both sexual harassment and corruption can be traced back to an internal culture of bullying. The RCMP is one of the oldest bureaucracies here in Canada. As such it has developed an “old boys’ club” mentality that allows senior members to band together against complaints made by less powerful members. After growing complaints of sexual harassment, the RCMP public complaints commission launched an investigation of the organization in November 2011. The report released in 2013 looked at “718 harassment complaints filed between 2005 and 2011, representing about 2.5 per cent of all employees at the RCMP.”
According to Ian McPhail, chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, “about 90 per cent of the complaints involved bullying. Only four per cent of the complaints dealt with sexual harassment. Overwhelmingly the problem was abuse of authority, bullying…”