RCMP examines legal options to remove serial sexual harassers from the ranks

The RCMP say they are investigating whether they can prevent other alleged perpetrators from retiring earlier.

The force says it is also seeking legal advice on the possibility of dismissing gendarmes convicted of more than one act of harassment.

Both ideas stem from last winter’s report by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache, who was tasked with assessing complaints filed in a landmark sexual assault and harassment lawsuit. His scathing final report called for changes in the culture and discipline of the RCMP.

“Like the Catholic Church, they just move them to another parish. I have a list [of RCMP officers] who have been convicted up to 15 times. These people have been promoted, ”he said during testimony before the House of Commons Public and National Safety Committee in November 2020.

He recommended that the penalties imposed on RCMP members caught harassing people in the workplace be made more effective. He said those sanctions should include longer suspensions without pay, demotions, removal of supervisory responsibilities for extended periods and bans on applying for promotions.

“A second finding of harassment should result in automatic dismissal,” Bastarache said.

Documents filed with the public safety committee and made public last week provide an update on how the RCMP is responding to the report.

In these documents, the RCMP says they already have a system to identify members who have been involved in more than one harassment case. He says he is seeking legal advice on the feasibility of “automatic layoffs”.

“General and automatic dismissal would not be enforceable in the current legislative context; however, previous misconduct is clearly an aggravating factor that is taken into account by the board in dismissal cases, ”indicates a document filed with the committee by the RCMP.

The RCMP said it was also seeking legal advice on its ability to prevent members from retiring before a disciplinary process is concluded.

“A huge slap in the face”

Labor attorney Muneeza Sheikh, partner of LSCS Law in Toronto, said the force could expose itself to liability if it interferes with the due process of an RCMP officer.

Sheikh also said the RCMP could better protect its employees by sending accused officers home with or without paid suspensions while the process unfolds.

“It’s an extremely toxic environment when you file your complaint and not only is your complaint not investigated in a timely manner, but what happens is you see your abuser climbing the ranks,” he said. she declared.

“It’s the opposite of making your complaint heard. And instead, it’s a huge slap in the face, because not only is the person not disciplined, not fired, but in fact life goes on for. she normally. “

Sheikh said the RCMP should speed up its investigations into allegations of sexual misconduct so that victims can feel protected and supported at work while respecting the rights of the accused.

“Put mechanisms in place to deal with these things quickly,” she said.

“I think what we really need to see is a change on the ground. And that means zero tolerance, sending people home on suspension if there are allegations against them, quickly mixing them up. reporting structures and ensure that where there are allegations of a serious nature raised against a senior employee, other subordinates are isolated from that person and they are not allowed to continue harassing while the first matter is processed. “

Fabrice de Dongo, spokesperson for the National Police Federation, says the federation supports obtaining legal advice by the RCMP. He said the federation is particularly concerned about what would happen to the pensions of RCMP officers in such situations.

He said the union’s goal is to protect a fair process for everyone.

Conduct also reviewed

A CBC News review of the public rulings of the RCMP Ethics Committee found that the reasons given for retaining an RCMP officer convicted of sexual misconduct can be quite subjective. These reasons may include in-service performance reviews, past allegations of misconduct, or expressions of remorse.

In the past five years, six gendarmes convicted of reprehensible sexual activity by the ethics committee have been dismissed for their actions.

14 other RCMP officers were punished for sexual misconduct while being allowed to stay; their conduct ranged from non-consensual touching to voyeurism to the beginning of a relationship with a minor.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki at a press conference in Ottawa on April 20, 2020 (Adrian Wyld / Canadian Press)

The RCMP said it would soon hire an outside expert to assess its conduct measures.

“The RCMP Code of Conduct has been in place since 2014 and, while it has improved conduct and disciplinary processes, it is recognized that there is a need to ensure that processes and sanctions are effective and responsive. to modern expectations, ”the RCMP said in the documents filed. to the committee.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has pledged to end sexual assault, harassment and discrimination from the ranks.

“It must be stopped and it will not be tolerated. There is absolutely no room for sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, bullying, sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia,” said she declared in November 2020.

“It is important that people know that this will not be tolerated.”

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