The RCMP complaints commission will not investigate the handling of some of the cases of alleged sexual harassment in the force that were raised in a recent series of CBC News stories because of its limited mandate.
On Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and new RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson announced that they've asked for an investigation by the chair of the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP into claims of sexual harassment at the national police force.
Ian McPhail, the interim chair of the commission, said he is initiating a complaint into the conduct "of those unidentified RCMP members who have been notified, at any time between February 1, 2005, and November 16, 2011, of allegations of harassment by members or employees of the RCMP."
But this means the mandate is limited and the commission won't investigate anything before 2005.
Cpl. Catherine Galliford went public last week claiming she's suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after years of sexual harassment since she graduated in 1991.
Galliford said she would testify about her experiences and hopes it leads to change, but that she "was told by a senior ranking officer, 'What you said is going to help future female officers but unfortunately it's probably too late for you.' "
Cpl. Patrick Meihan, president of the Mounted Police Association of Canada, which represents RCMP members pushing for collective bargaining and other new rights, said he's skeptical about the new plan to tackle harassment.
"There is no faith that anything that is going to change until we get an external body, or binding arbitration or a collective agreement that says we need to have this fix, this is how we fix it, and until then nothing is going to change.
After a CBC News report on Galliford's claims, another female officer came forward and said she was also sexually harassed and 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.
The details on how exactly the commission will proceed with the investigation is unknown, CBC's Greg Rasmussen said.
"What form it's going to take is not clear at this point," said Laura Colella, who speaks for the commission. "Our role is really looking at policies and procedures rather than individual cases."
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David Eby, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said he's particularly concerned the probe will only go back six years – meaning many important cases and people still working for the RCMP won't be examined.
"It's a farce to suggest you could investigate this issue without going before 2005," Eby said. "I'm extremely concerned that that is not motivated by the complaints, but rather by a lack of resources within the Commission for Public Complaints against the RCMP."
The BCCLA is urging the federal government to provide funds for a retired judge to look into the harassment claims, alongside a dedicated staff.
"Having a respected and impartial retired judge would provide the right credentials to get this done," said Robert Holmes, president of the BCCLA. "If it is left with the complaints commission alone, it will only get bogged down, with no answer, no action and no reform for years."