Liberals have a long way to go to fix RCMP, criminal justice system

Darryl T. Davies is a criminology instructor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Carleton University. The views expressed are those of the author in his personal capacity

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When the Liberals were elected on Oct. 19, 2015, I like most Canadians believed that somehow things would be better.

Justin Trudeau reached out to the public by offering a different vision of Canada. He promised to establish a government that would be more caring, sensitive, and compassionate. In short, he offered Canadians an olive branch and said he would provide a more open and transparent government and one that will listen to the views and concerns of all Canadians. Nowhere was this needed more than when it came to the subject of crime and justice.

The Conservative government advocated a “get tough on crime agenda,” despite the fact that crime was at its lowest level in 20 years, and under Harper, a retributive ideology trumped research evidence when it came to dealing with crime.

The Conservative government had set back progressive criminal justice reforms in Canada by at least 10 years.

So when Trudeau’s Liberals swept to power on Oct. 19, 2015, people were optimistic that the draconian crime policies adopted by the Conservatives would be quickly rescinded.

As a Canadian criminologist whose area of expertise is in policing, I was very concerned about the widespread bullying and sexual harassment that had been occurring in the RCMP. On Oct. 26, 2015, I published an online article in Ottawa Life Magazine titled, “New government should start by making the RCMP more accountable.” The article called upon the new government and specifically the new public safety minister, to take action and address a number of major problems including the harassment issue within the RCMP. The article also called upon the government to immediately replace Bob Paulson, the commissioner of the RCMP. As the article pointed out, the RCMP was in a state of crisis and many people felt it was due largely to Paulson’s inept leadership.

Demands for Paulson’s removal came from many quarters, including the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, who called for his resignation on Feb. 29, 2016. Morale in the RCMP is at an all-time low and there was considerable disenchantment with Paulson from within the rank and file. Many pundits felt that the RCMP was failing to equip its officers with body armour and patrol carbines and it was failing to take concrete measures to address the allegations of bullying and sexual harassment in the RCMP.

I was pleased therefore when the new cabinet was announced Ralph Goodale was designated the minister of public safety. On Nov. 16, 2011, the very day Paulson was appointed commissioner of the RCMP, I had a telephone conversation with Goodale. I told him how Paulson had completely disregarded a report that I authored for the RCMP on the patrol carbine in March 2010. The report titled ‘Aiming for Safety’ recommended that the RCMP immediately adopt and implement a national patrol carbine program so that every RCMP officer would have access to patrol carbines and would be adequately trained in their use and deployment in active shooter situations.

So following the election of the Liberal government and the appointment of Goodale, I had renewed hope and optimism. Finally, we would have a government that would take immediate action to address the issues of sexual harassment and bullying in the RCMP and replace Paulson as commissioner. In early December 2015, I sent an email to Goodale and, shortly after, received a very positive response from a senior assistant to the minister. In January 2016, I spoke to the assistant by telephone and was informed that the chief of staff would be debriefed and that they would try and schedule a meeting for me with the minister.

I was informed that my email to Goodale would be addressed and that some time in the new year I would have an opportunity to raise my concerns in a face to face meeting with the minister. In February 2016, I sent an email to the minister’s assistant as a follow-up to our email correspondence in December. What is extraordinary is that from that point going forward I never had any further communication from Goodale’s office. This was a disappointment because I thought the new government that Trudeau had championed while running for office was going to be different and was going to listen to Canadians. In fact, he even went so far as to spell this out in a mandate letter that he sent to the minister of public safety posted online.

As I worked in the public service for more than 10 years, I am well aware of the importance that ministerial correspondence is assigned in a government department. The fact I never heard back from Goodale on the issues I was raising was very shocking. But I quickly realized that the issues I had raised concerning the RCMP were not going to be addressed by Ralph Goodale.

On Dec. 19, 2016, exactly one year after I sent my initial email letter, I received a response. It was a form letter with a machine reproduction of Goodale’s signature. The letter said he cares about our national police force and that he appreciated my comments.

Reference

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