Canada's top Mountie is retiring, passing the torch to a new commissioner who will pick up the fight against systemic harassment, sexual abuse and discrimination in the national police force.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson announced he will step down June 30 to focus on his family.
Paulson's retirement will come after 39 years of service, including 32 in the RCMP. He has served as commissioner for more than five years.
Before joining the RCMP in 1986, Paulson served for almost seven years in the Canadian Armed Forces.
In a notice to staff, Paulson said the RCMP has many challenges ahead, including tackling systemic harassment and mental-health issues in the workplace.
"We must try to resolve these historical yet persistent harassment claims," he said. "We will continue to build, expand and improve our nascent mental health strategy to preserve and restore our employee's mental and emotional wellness."
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tweeted praise for Paulson, thanking him for decades of service and "dedication to protecting the safety of Canadians."
Thank you @CommrPaulson for your decades of service and your dedication to protecting the safety of Canadians.— @RalphGoodale
Conservative public safety critic Tony Clement praised Paulson's "exemplary record," and said he leaves big shoes to be filled by his successor.
"Certainly whoever replaces Commissioner Paulson will have a lot of challenges on her or his desk," he said. "Certainly national security is a big issue these days and the role of the RCMP to help bolster that is part of it."
Last October, Paulson delivered a historic apology on behalf of the RCMP to female officers and civilian members, and announced a massive settlement over harassment, discrimination and sexual abuse claims that could cost up to $100 million.
Paulson teared up during a news conference in Ottawa as he apologized and praised the women for their courage.
About 20,000 current and past employees who have worked for the RCMP since 1974 could qualify for compensation, but it is expected that about 1,000 will seek payments.
The settlement agreement deals with two separate class action cases that have been ongoing for nearly five years.
Labour code charges
Paulson also referenced the trial scheduled for April, when the RCMP will face labour code charges arising from the shooting deaths of three Mounties in Moncton, N.B., in June 2014.
Charges relate to equipment, training and supervision, and each carries a maximum fine of $1 million.
The RCMP pleaded not guilty to charges the force violated four health and safety provisions of the Canada Labour Code, and chose to be tried by a provincial court judge.
In his statement to staff that announced his retirement, Paulson said there is a need to:
- Improve the workplace for employees by focusing on respect, inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity.
- Pursue equitable pay and provide modern labour relations framework for employees.