RCMP commissioner tells MMIWG inquiry she doesn't think force will reach full gender equity

The hearing on police policies and practices continues Tuesday. It's part of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

12 witnesses to speak at institutional hearing

Missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. (CBC)

The head of the RCMP says she doesn't think the force will get to 50 per cent gender equity.

Commissioner Brenda Lucki said Tuesday the fact that Mounties mainly police rural areas makes it difficult for the force to recruit women, who she said may not want to take their families to, or start a family in, rural locations.

"The RCMP is primarily rural police so it's very difficult," Lucki said while being cross-examined at the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Regina. Tuesday is the second day of testimony at the hearing on policing policies and practices. 

"It's difficult if you are mobile and you're leaving your family structure behind."

During 2016-2017, slightly more than one in five RCMP regular members were women, and 22 per cent of the the force's new hires were women over that period.

Over the same time, the Toronto Police Service hired 48 per cent women.

Lucki says comparing Toronto to the RCMP isn't a fair comparison due to its urban environment.

"You're dealing with an urban environment where you're primarily recruiting in an urban area where people aren't, there's no mobility concerns as far as people being able to stay their entire career in Toronto," Lucki said.

"The RCMP is primarily rural police, so it's very difficult."


Beth Symes, who acts as council for Pauktuutit and four other Inuit organizations, questioned Lucki during cross-examination.

Symes said it is "utter nonsense" to brush off the comparison between RCMP hiring practices and those of the Toronto police.

It is essential that the number of women in the RCMP as regular members has got to equal the population.- Beth Symes

"There are lots of Canadians and women that are quite prepared to work and do a pretty exciting job outside of Toronto and other major centres," she said.

Symes said it would be wrong if the RCMP does not achieve full gender equity.

"It is essential that the number of women in the RCMP as regular members has got to equal the population," Symes said.

 "She (Lucki) is going to have to change how she does policing in order to achieve that. But to say that we're stuck at 22 per cent is just a no go."

Lucki said in a perfect world the RCMP would be more diverse in each of its detachments. She added you can never go wrong with having a more diverse organization.

"We need to be representative of the people we serve so in the North, the population is Indigenous so we need to be representative of that population," Lucki said.

Symes said the RCMP needs to rethink its recruiting approach from top to bottom. Someone who is six feet four and 200 pounds isn't the only candidate for the job anymore.

She added that women do policing differently and generally more successfully.

RCMP commissioner apologizes to families

There are twelve witnesses scheduled to speak throughout the week at what's been called an institutional hearing. On Monday, Lucki was the first to speak.

She began with an apology to the family members of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and said the RCMP could have done better in the past.

A new panel, titled "developing and fostering relationships with Indigenous communities, families and survivors of violence," is scheduled to begin mid-afternoon. 

Former Saskatoon police chief Clive Weighhill is slated to be the second witness of the afternoon. 

With files from CBC's Kendall Latimer