Thousands of Mounties have lost their bid to be allowed to form a union.
Ontario's Court of Appeal on Friday overturned a 2009 lower court ruling that said it was unconstitutional to prevent members of the RCMP from forming a labour association.
The Court of Appeal judges said the elected members of the RCMP's Staff Relations Representative Program, which is not independent of management and doesn't have the power to negotiate a collective agreement to regulate working conditions, nevertheless does a good job of settling work-related issues such as pay.
"[The ruling] acknowledged what we believed all along, that our form of representation is a valid and effective form to advance the interests of the members of the RCMP," said Abe Townsend, an executive of the SRR Program.
About 3,000 Mounties have set up independent labour associations across the country that are not recognized by the RCMP, in their bid to form a union. The RCMP is the only major Canadian police force that is not unionized, though the 1,250-member Canadian Forces Military Police is similarly prevented from forming a labour association.
"If a member [of the RCMP] comes forward and they're afraid of reprisal, they don't have an independent representative to fight hard and effectively for them. They have a representative that still reports to management," said Pete Merrifield, vice-president of the Mounted Police Association of Ontario, one of the associations that brought the original 2009 suit.
Merrifield said his members will need more time to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The 2009 decision by Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian MacDonnell gave the government and RCMP 18 months to implement a new labour relations regime.
The Conservative government appealed the decision, but introduced changes to the RCMP Act the next year to allow for collective bargaining and overhaul the force's disciplinary process. The government was granted a last-minute stay by the Court of Appeal before the 18-month deadline expired.
The bill ultimately died with the 2011 election call.
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said this week he would introduce new legislation soon to expand the RCMP commissioner's disciplinary powers, and create new civilian oversight of the force, but would leave out the union issue while the courts dealt with it.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson called for the expanded disciplinary powers in an open letter to Canadians this week, saying the antiquated disciplinary process is preventing him from dealing quickly with abuse allegations that have rocked the police force.