Speech given by Mr. Ian McPhail in Edmonton, Alberta on Leadership and the CPC

Edmonton, Alberta - 2010-03-18

"K" Division POWPM 2010

Recognizing that the mere mention of the Commission's name may cause the sudden onset of indigestion for some of you, I nevertheless wanted to ensure that my first opportunity to speak publicly as acting chair of the CPC was to RCMP members directly.

You may know little about me beyond the media description of me as being a "real estate lawyer."

It's true that I run my own law practice which does, amongst other things, include real estate law.

While it's not in my nature to talk about my own accomplishments, my colleagues at the CPC have insisted I push my Scottish reticence to the backburner on this occasion to offer up some insights into my background and firm belief in the importance of public service.

Clearly, I am in room full of kindred spirits when it comes to public service commitment.

Frankly, I would never seek to compare my experience with any man or woman who dons the uniform and commits to Queen and Country, willing to sacrifice everything up to and including their lives.

For that fact alone you all have my admiration.

My own uncle was a Mountie.

Unfortunately he was injured in the line of duty and invalided out and died shortly afterwards leaving a young widow and a one-year-old son.

I was brought up in a family strongly committed to public service.

Some family members went the route of elected office—as liberals, tories and the CCF.

My grandfather was elected mayor of Sault Ste. Marie.

His cousin was the first female member of the House of Commons—Agnes Macphail—representing the old CCF party of Tommy Douglas.

My path has taken me towards service to community.

More specifically the Toronto Chinese Community Services Association, the Cabbage Town South Community Association and the Toronto Grace Hospital.

Professionally, I've been a practicing lawyer for 30 years.

What is probably of greater relevance in terms of my new appointment is my experience running government agencies.

I spent 5 ½ years as chair or acting chair at three Ontario Agencies—the Environmental Review Tribunal, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission, and TV Ontario.

I am very proud of the work we accomplished at each agency. I believe I brought solid leadership to each organization.

I was honoured to have been approached for the post of part-time CPC vice-chair and acting chair.

My motivation in accepting the position was based on being asked to play a role in helping a key organization transition to a new mandate—a mandate which I believe is as important to the RCMP as it is to Canadians.

I will speak to this momentarily.

Given that I am speaking to a room full of leaders, I want to talk about my approach to leadership and my approach to running an agency like the CPC.

Fairness and impartiality needs to be fully demonstrated through actions. Leading by example is merely the starting point.

Regardless of whatever pressures come to bear, an agency with tasks—such as those given to the CPC—has to ensure its actions begin and end with fairness and impartiality.

While I was chair of the Environmental Review Tribunal of Ontario, let me assure you, there was no shortage of groups and special interests.

I wanted to expand the public's access to the review process.

Merely opening hearings to all concerned at a Toronto facility was of little value or convenience if you lived on Pelee Island, Windsor or the Niagara Escarpment.

Expanding access meant doing so through meaningful actions.

The Tribunal therefore went on the road to locations where those most likely to be affected by the issue at hand could fully input into the process.

Greater public access was demonstrable and it made the process more credible. Procedural fairness alone is not enough.

Process and access has to be easy to understand and readily available.

With regards to the relationship between the RCMP and the CPC, I believe it is fair to say that we can all generally agree that public trust is keystone to the effectiveness of any police force in the world.

Commissioner Elliott has reiterated this very point on many occasions—as have my predecessors.

How does the CPC help the RCMP with gaining the trust of the Canadian public you may ask?

Well, our organizational motto says it best: "Building confidence in policing for citizens."

This is our objective.

This is what motivates the staff at the Commission.

The CPC and the RCMP share the exact same goal when it comes to improving and sustaining the trust of Canadians in our national police force.

Few would argue that the past few years have not been challenging for the RCMP in the court of public opinion.

The CPC for its part has been forthright in identifying deficiencies—be they institutional or individual.

As an independent review body and informed interlocutor, the CPC is uniquely positioned to bring the public's perspective to critical policing issues which can heavily impact the RCMP's standing in the public eye.

Taser use and the police investigating the police are two such topics.

When we are accused of being too soft on the RCMP by critics, and being too critical by your boss, we know we probably have it about right.

That said, despite how the media may on occasion portray the relationship between our two institutions, and as hard-hitting as some of our reports may have been, the RCMP in fact has accepted the vast majority of our recommendations aimed at improving the performance of the Force.

Evolution and adaptability are the hallmarks of success for any organization, and it's clear from the overall transformation initiative that the RCMP has strongly embraced this concept.

President Reagan once said that "there is no limit to what we can accomplish if we don't care who gets the credit."

My view is that the RCMP and the CPC share the same goal.

The CPC is proud of its record of fairness and impartiality.

Without either, we could not do our job effectively.

A credible and effective regime of civilian oversight of the RCMP is an essential mechanism for the public and the RCMP itself.

To quote the Commissioner again, "the more credible the independent oversight review of the RCMP is, the more credible the Force would be, or will be."

I could not put it better.

I've given you my views on fairness, impartiality and access.

These will be the driving forces behind all actions and activities at the CPC.

It's also important that I acknowledge the innovative way you here in Alberta are dealing with conduct-related issues.

First, in recognition of the real concerns that the public has about the police investigating the police in serious cases, you've embraced and continue to work cooperatively with ASIRT.

Also, I have heard that your early intervention program is quite unique in that it attempts to "red flag" certain behaviour before it becomes a problem both internally and in interactions with the public.

The public appreciates these efforts and I am hopeful these successes will be mirrored in other provinces.

In terms of my vision for the CPC in the short term, it is simple: I want to consolidate the excellent work of my predecessor by maintaining strict service standards in response times to complaints and reviews.

I want to strengthen the complaints and review processes and I want to make it easier for citizens to access the system.

There is another important objective I have as acting chair; and that is to ensure that the working relationship between the CPC and the RCMP rests on a solid foundation of mutual respect and trust.

There will be occasions where we will just have to agree to disagree.

We have our role to play, but it's one that fully recognizes the fact that the RCMP Commissioner is responsible for the management and operation of the Force.

In terms of the future, as has been consistently recommended by CPC chairs over the years, by the O'Connor Commission, the Brown Task Force, various Parliamentary and Senate Committees and of course, the RCMP itself, the creation of a new oversight regime was announced in Budget 2010.

As acting Chair I am optimistic that a strengthened mandate will indeed address what has been referred to as a "credibility challenge."

We understand that the public expectations of accountability from their public institutions, and particularly from their police forces, have evolved, and the bar has been raised significantly.

My longer term vision is to ensure that the CPC as an organization is prepared for the change to a new mandate.

I will seek the advice and cooperation of Commissioner Elliott in assisting both organizations to transition to the new oversight regime with the least amount of disruption possible.

I also seek your cooperation and support in the field.

On a final note, I believe the RCMP is an institution vital to the safety and well-being of Canadians across this land.

We've all grown up in a country where the Red Serge and Stetson were unique Canadian symbols of pride.

One only need look to the Mounties raising the flag during the Olympics to know that the RCMP brand remains synonymous with Canada itself.

Canadians want the RCMP to succeed.

At the CPC, we believe we can play a role in helping the RCMP define policing excellence.

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