RCMP commissioner calls for patience as force grapples with workplace harassment

The newly appointed commissioner of the RCMP is vowing to rid the force of a toxic workplace culture.

'I took the job to make change but I'm the most impatient person'

Brenda Lucki has taken on the role of RCMP commissioner as the force grapples with accusations of bullying and workplace harassment that dates back for decades. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Brenda Lucki, the newly appointed commissioner of the RCMP, is vowing to rid the force of a toxic workplace culture but warns that change will take time. 

An unhealthy culture has been deeply ingrained in the RCMP over decades and changing attitudes for the better will require patience, Lucki said — a level of which she is struggling to find, she added.

The task is overwhelming, she said. 

"I don't think it can be forced," Lucki said in an interview Thursday with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM. "It didn't happen overnight and it's not going to change overnight.

"I took the job to make change but I'm the most impatient person when it comes to that. I need to take a breath and hopefully the employees will take a breath along with me."

Lucki was named commissioner in March, as the organization continued to grapple with accusations of rampant bullying and harassment including alleged abuses of power and racial bias within its own ranks.

She began serving in her new role in April, as the force faced the prospect of a new union for RCMP members and the fallout from a class action lawsuit over harassment.

'It's unacceptable'

Now having served 100 days in the office, Lucki said her first priority in her new role remains addressing the internal strife at the RCMP — and holding abusers to account.

"We're dealing with the various lawsuits, most of which are dealing with past behaviour," Lucki said.

"We have to learn from that and move forward and make sure it doesn't happen again and make sure members who do such behaviour are held accountable. Because to me, it's unacceptable."

A 32-year veteran of the force, Lucki was born and raised in Edmonton and received her degree at the University of Alberta. She has served in Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan, has worked with United Nations in the former Yugoslavia, and has trained units for the UN Civilian Police Mission in Haiti.

She has been awarded the United National Force Commander's commendation for bravery, two UN protection forces medals and the Canadian peacekeeping service medal.

Lucki is the first woman to be named commissioner on a permanent basis.

'If it festers, it will only get worse'

When asked how she dealt with harassment on the job, Lucki acknowledged that even her illustrious career hasn't been immune.

When faced with conflict at work, Lucki said she confronted it head on. She wants all Mounties under her watch to feel empowered to do the same.

"I've had both good and bad experiences along my journey, but I've never been afraid to have those conversations," she said.  "If it festers, it will only get worse.

"I want the people in my organization to hold others to account and have the courage to say, 'That's inappropriate.' "

Lucki said her department is taking the necessary steps to create a more inclusive, welcoming workplace. That will include new cadet training, advisory committees and "people-centric" policies.

"I really want to see this change. That's why I took the job," she said. "I'm committed."