Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson announced Wednesday morning that they've asked for an investigation into claims of sexual harassment at the national police force.

They made the announcement on Parliament Hill as Paulson was officially introduced as commissioner for the Mounties.

'This is not about dealing with individual complaints, but getting to the bottom of a system that seems to be failing members of the RCMP.'—Vic Toews, public safety minister

Toews said recent allegations have caused him great concern and that he's asked the chair of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP to look into allegations of "systemic failures to deal appropriately with sexual harassment within the force."

"This is not about dealing with individual complaints, but getting to the bottom of a system that seems to be failing members of the RCMP," said Toews. "It is vital that the force get on with the incredibly important work of protecting Canadians, (and) as such, matters which affect the ability of members to discharge their sworn duties must be addressed without delay."

Toews said all members of the RCMP must be free to face the challenges of their daily work free from harassment or fear of mistreatment from their colleagues.

"I know that Commissioner Paulson shares these concerns and wants to address any systemic issues," said Toews.

Paulson said addressing the harassment claims is his first order of business and he's already taken additional measures in addition to supporting the investigation by the complaints body.

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Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, left, and new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson announced an investigation into the force's handling of internal sexual harassment claims Wednesday. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

He has ordered a "comprehensive review" of outstanding complaints of harassment to ensure they are being addressed, that offenders are dealt with and victims are supported.

"Further, I have directed that the management of the process for responding to all harassment allegations across the force be centralized here in Ottawa and resourced appropriately."

He said he wants a "full, fair and thorough look" at how complaints are handled, and he promised co-operation at all levels for the investigation by the complaints commission.

"I, like the rest of my colleagues in the RCMP, indeed like all Canadians, am very concerned about these recent allegations," Paulson said. "These allegations do not represent the force that I joined and this condition cannot stand. I will sort this out in a way that Canadians can have trust and faith in the RCMP, and just as importantly that employees of the RCMP can thrive in a healthy, productive and harassment-free environment."

Other complainants come forward

Interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel welcomed Paulson's pledge to tackle the problem.

"We heard a lot about sexual harassment cases and he promised he will attack this part and he has our full support," Turmel told reporters in the House of Commons foyer Wednesday.

Liberal interim leader Bob Rae said it's important that the probe into the allegations be done by an independent body. The public complaints commission is an independent agency created by Parliament that is separate from the force.

CBC News has been reporting on Mounties who allege they experienced years of sexual harassment on the job. In an internal RCMP complaint, Cpl. Catherine Galliford makes serious allegations about misconduct inside the RCMP.

After a CBC News report on Galliford's claims, another female officer came forward, and said she was also sexually harassed and she was assaulted. Krista Carle said she knows of other women who have faced harassment and that when she tried to complain about her own experiences, management tried to cover up the complaint.

Opposition MPs raised the allegations in question period Monday, and Toews, the minister responsible for the RCMP, responded the matter would be the first priority for the new commissioner.

"I am very concerned about these very troubling reports," Toews told the House on Monday. "We expect all members of the RCMP to carry out their duties with integrity and professionalism. Our government is committed to providing all women in the RCMP a workplace free of sexual harassment."