Politics

RCMP watchdog agency hit with harassment allegations

Emails obtained by CBC mention 'harassing behaviour' and 'disparaging comments'

July 05, 2018

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission's function is to investigate allegations of poor conduct made against RCMP officers. Last year, it released a scathing report on the RCMP's workplace culture, calling out systemic bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment. (Valerie Zink/Reuters)

The watchdog body set up to monitor the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for wrongdoing has been rocked by its own allegations of workplace harassment.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission, which investigates the public's complaints against the RCMP, launched an investigation after hearing allegations of inappropriate workplace behaviour from within its own ranks, CBC News has learned.

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Documents released under access to information law show concerns were brought forward by "multiple sources," prompting the independent agency to approach an outside firm to investigate sometime between October 2016 and 2017.

"As a result of allegations of inappropriate workplace conduct at the CRCC, a preliminary examination of the facts was undertaken by an independent investigator, which led us to initiate a series of formal investigations. These formal investigations are currently underway," wrote spokesperson Kate McDerby in an email to CBC this week.

"The Privacy Act ensures that the personal information of individuals held by the government is protected and it would therefore be inappropriate to make any further comments."

The commission didn't offer many details about the case, but emails obtained by CBC mention "harassing behaviour" and "disparaging comments" and warn that "recent actions ... have intensified."

One person, whose name is redacted, pointed specifically to "disturbing emails." Another email writer noted that, despite blocking an alleged harasser's phone number, the harasser "left three voicemails on my personal phone."

'Can't stumble on this'

"I understand that this is a painful situation and I hope to be able to make this process as pain free as possible for you," wrote Julie-Eve Picard, the commission's human resources manager, to one of the unnamed complainants.

A simple handwritten note drafted within the CRCC and dated May 1, 2017 offers a glimpse of how seriously the commission took the allegations: "Can't stumble on this."

Guy Bujold, former president of the Canadian Space Agency, is filling two positions on the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission on an interim basis. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The commission's job is to investigate allegations of poor conduct made against RCMP officers. Last year, it released a scathing report on the RCMP's dysfunctional workplace culture, calling out systemic bullying, intimidation and sexual harassment.

The commission's final report recommended, among other things, that the police force improve its harassment policies, procedures and training.

The commission falls under Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale's portfolio.

"While we do not comment on personnel matters or matters under investigation, we can assure Canadians that any allegation of inappropriate workplace behaviour is taken very seriously," wrote his spokesperson Scott Bardsley.

"Harassment is completely unacceptable. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale is committed to ensuring that all the agencies in his portfolio, including the CRCC, are workplaces free from harassment."

The commission underwent a change at the top in late 2017. Guy Bujold quietly took the reins as the commission's acting chair in the fall of 2017 after Ian McPhail, chair of the agency since 2010, took a leave of absence. McPhail left the commission in November.

According to the 2017 public service employee annual survey, 14 per cent of employees at the CRCC indicated that they have been victims of harassment on the job over the past two years.

"Employees of the CRCC have been under a lot of pressure and stress for the past six months at least," says the survey report.

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