The RCMP must target its culture of bullying and intimidation to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace, Commissioner Bob Paulson says.
Speaking at the Commons public safety committee Tuesday for the first time since CBC News revealed several incidents of sexual harassment at the Canadian Police College in Ottawa, Paulson insisted the force is dealing with those and other allegations of misconduct.
"Yeah, we had a bullying problem, there is no question about that, and we are working on that, and recent events notwithstanding, I am here to tell you we are doing better at it," he said.
"It can't be understood as a sexual harassment problem — sexual harassment has no place in the organization, don't get me wrong — but it's the culture of bullying and intimidation and general harassment which I think needs everyone's focus and attention."
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Paulson's visit to the committee saw the commissioner questioned extensively over the CBC's exclusive account detailing allegations of unwanted sexual touching, bullying and rampant nudity in the workplace at the explosives training unit of the Canadian Police College.
CBC News spoke with four former members of the unit who said Staff Sgt. Bruno Solesme, who used to be the unit manager, and Marco Calandrini, a civilian member of the force and a former Canadian Forces Joint Task Force member, were reportedly fond of posing completely nude on each other's desks in a purported effort to shock each other; they also allegedly simulated oral sex in the office.
Allegations include reports that Calandrini often appeared naked in the corridors or announced he had just shaved his genitals before dumping the contents of his electric razor onto the table they all shared at meals.
One former staffer said Solesme regularly threatened to not renew his contract at the college and that Calandrini jumped nude and uninvited into a single-person shower stall while he was showering.
Women in the RCMP
Paulson agreed with Liberal committee member Pam Damoff that one way to combat sexual harassment in the RCMP was through promoting women into the higher ranks, explaining that Mounties had a target of 30 per cent female members by 2020.
"Women do not want to get promoted because they are women," said Paulson. "They want to get promoted because they are good. What we are doing is looking at the women that are good, and we are bringing them along, attaching them to senior leaders, both men and women, in the organization to feed that group."
Paulson said that one way to attract more women to the RCMP was to "avoid the kind of public display of behaviours that have been on in this last week or two."
The RCMP will face even more scrutiny for harassment among the ranks. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is using his authority under the RCMP Act to ask Ian McPhail, chair of the Mounties' Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, "to undertake a comprehensive review of the RCMP's policies and procedures on workplace harassment."
Furthermore, Goodale wants McPhail to assess how well the Mounties have implemented all 11 of his recommendations made in the commission's 2013 Public Interest Investigation Report into RCMP Workplace Harassment. McPhail's office has confirmed he is eager to conduct a follow-up investigation.