Presentation to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women

Ottawa - 2013-02-26

Delivered by Ian McPhail, Interim Chair of the CPC

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Madame Chair, Honourable Members, thank you for the opportunity to share with the Committee the results of the Commission's investigation into workplace harassment in the RCMP.

Given how fundamentally important public support is to the ability of the RCMP to carry out its duties and responsibilities, I believed it was necessary to initiate a complaint and undertake a public interest investigation following the widespread reports that female RCMP members had faced systemic sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Commission's investigation focused on the handling of alleged workplace harassment – it included all forms of harassment, not just sexual harassment.

The Commission examined:

  • the adherence to RCMP policies and procedures;
  • the adequacy of those policies;
  • the thoroughness and impartiality of harassment investigations;
  • as well as harassment-related training.

In total, the Commission reviewed 718 harassment complaints filed between 2006 and 2011. We did not make findings in respect of individual harassment complaints, as that is not within the Commission's mandate. Nonetheless, we assessed the handling of each complaint filed.

The investigation found that, overwhelmingly, the problem was with abuse of authority – in other words, bullying. The investigation also revealed that most of the alleged harassment occurred between RCMP members.

Over 60% of complainants and 70% of respondents were uniformed police officers. The gender breakdown of complainants was virtually half male and half female, while respondents were predominantly male.

The Commission's review also found that most of the harassment complaints were dealt with in accordance with the RCMP's harassment policy. However, that policy was capable of being interpreted in a number of ways, which resulted in it being inconsistent application.

In undertaking this review, the Commission was cognizant that the formal complaint files we received from the RCMP may not reflect all instances of harassment, as some people may be reluctant to file a formal complaint, for various reasons.

In an effort to address potential under-reporting, as well as to elicit feedback, a call for public submissions was made. The Commission received 63 submissions, and in turn, conducted a number of interviews with interested parties.

Although the empirical data presented to the Commission did not support the widely-held belief that the RCMP has a systemic issue with sexual harassment, there is no proof to the contrary.

Moreover, the simple perception of the existence of systemic poor treatment of employees by colleagues and supervisors, regardless of gender, has a huge impact on both public confidence and the manner in which the police are regarded.

In addition, and perhaps more importantly, for those employees who suffered harassment or workplace conflict, there is a very real human cost. There is also a tremendous drain on the organization when such serious issues are not addressed in an effective and timely manner.

As such, the Commission's report urged the Force to take a number of concrete and measurable steps to improve its handling of workplace conflict and harassment allegations, including:

  • revising the harassment policy to be more inclusive;
  • instituting a system of centralized monitoring and coordination of harassment complaints, outside of the divisional chains of command; and
  • establishing an external mechanism for review of harassment decisions, separate from, but not exclusive of, the RCMP's labour relations process.

The Commission also recommends that the RCMP develop a comprehensive method to evaluate respectful workplace efforts that is both measurable and quantifiable. The results of such evaluation must be publically reported.

All of this is intended to enhance transparency of the process. Because only if you have what RCMP members themselves see as a fair, open, transparent and expeditious process, will people be comfortable in stepping forward – and the public will have confidence in its national police force.

Harassment is a complex problem requiring a complex solution. Policy statements and written procedures are not enough to address this issue. There must be intent on the part of the RCMP to cultivate a more respectful workplace. And that intent needs to be followed-up with actions.

I am hopeful that the Commission's investigation will help inform the RCMP in its efforts and further build on the Commissioner's recently released action plan.

With that, I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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