CBC Investigates

Men-only RCMP Facebook group crosses line of conduct, say female RCMP members

Female RCMP members say a secret Facebook group restricted to male RCMP members reinforces the boys' club nature of the force at a time when it is facing harassment lawsuits.

Force says employees must avoid 'disgraceful' behaviour in private as well as public lives

A new Facebook group restricted to rank-and-file men from the RCMP has raised concerns among female colleagues. (CBC)

A new Facebook group purportedly created by and restricted to rank-and-file men from the RCMP contains sexually suggestive material that has raised the ire of female colleagues.

CBC News has seen a number of screen captures of the posts.

One shows a painting of a fictional frontier scene with an RCMP officer in uniform with a burlesque dancer in costume performing what appears to be oral sex on him, although the placement of the officer's hat obscures anything graphic.

Some crude comments followed the post. "Should be in the backseat of a (police cruiser) under a surveillance camera," said one.

Another commenter wondered whether "white shirts" — officers above the rank of staff sergeant — should be allowed into the Facebook group because that might trigger codes of conduct investigations, indicating they knew they were crossing the bounds of appropriate behaviour.

A photo of this painting was posted on a secret, men-only Facebook group for RCMP members, and was commented upon by several of those members. (Artist: Halin de Repentigny)

"I have no issue with a male group. However, this one was created in anger and comments under that [painting] corroborate that," said one female RCMP officer, who requested anonymity for fear of retribution. "Even with the shift in the rest world, we remain in hell with these Neanderthals."

Linda Duxbury, a professor at Carleton University who specializes in organizational culture and is an expert on policing, said the Facebook group reinforces the boys' club nature of the RCMP, which has been under fire in recent years for its mishandling of sexual harassment complaints.

Group kept secret

The group began as a closed group that was searchable by any Facebook user, although the posts were hidden. Its status has now been changed to "secret," which means the group can't be found except by members.

The RCMP wouldn't comment on this specific group, but said it is "aware of some Facebook groups that may have been created by current or former employees that contain content that is inappropriate."

Last November, several women started a Facebook support group called RCMP Sisterhood. It's a secret group with more than 2,500 members across Canada and CBC News has seen some of its postings.

It is open to current and former female officers and civilians who worked for the force. It shares information on coping with harassment, how to register to be part of the current class-action settlement and even Christmas gift ideas.

In January, some male officers who appear to be working out of British Columbia decided to set up a parallel "Men's Only" Facebook group. Within weeks, someone in the group posted photos of female buttocks under the heading of "hump day," and another posted the frontier painting.

The group also contains cartoons and comments about genitalia, gender identity, race and rank, as well as posts about post-traumatic stress.
The secret men-only Facebook group was apparently set up by RCMP employees in B.C., but has members from across the country. (CBC)

It is unclear how many members of the secret men's group are currently RCMP officers, but CBC has been able to confirm that administrators for the group request regimental numbers before adding people to it.

Public or private same: RCMP 

The RCMP said that when it comes to proper behaviour, the same rules apply whether an officer is in public or on social media.

"Both on- and off-duty, members are required to behave in accordance with the Code of Conduct… A member's use of the internet for social networking is also subject to these standards," said spokesperson Staff Sgt. Tania Vaughan in a statement from Ottawa.

She didn't discuss this particular group, but said "RCMP members must avoid compromising the integrity of the RCMP or portraying themselves or the organization in a disgraceful or discreditable manner."

She also said concerns about disrespectful content should be brought forward to the RCMP, as employees have already been subject to code of conduct investigations for inappropriate comments on social media.

The men's group, which now numbers more than 700 members across Canada, was at one point renamed "RCMP Brotherhood" and then "Brothers of the Force." (For a while, part of the titling included the words "Why the F Not.")

Changing culture at a large institution such as the RCMP isn't easy, said Duxbury of Carleton University. Sensitivity training doesn't do it, she said.

"You don't talk — talk is cheap. You don't change culture by talking. You change culture by firing people who don't live the values of the organization," she said.

Since being hit in recent years by claims of inappropriate behaviour by some of its employees, the RCMP has has been trying to raise awareness among its employees about sexual harassment, racism and general conduct.