Former N.B. premier Frank McKenna to head search for next RCMP commissioner

The federal government has asked former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna to head a selection committee of up to 10 people to begin the process of finding the next commissioner of the RCMP, CBC News has learned.

Commissioner Bob Paulson announced June 30 retirement earlier this year

Frank McKenna, a former ambassador to the U.S. and New Brunswick premier, will head a selection committee to find the next RCMP commissioner. (Chris Young/CP)

They say Mounties always get their man — but former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna is going to help get the next top Mountie.

CBC News has learned the federal government has asked McKenna to head a selection committee of up to 10 people who will meet early this summer to begin the process of finding a replacement for Commissioner Bob Paulson, who is retiring on June 30.

The group will be asked to present a short list of candidates from which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will choose Canada's next top cop.

According to a letter informing some of his colleagues about the process and obtained by CBC News, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said that while the RCMP embodies the best of Canada in being upstanding, loyal and committed to the pursuit of justice, the force has major issues that need to be addressed.

"Internal challenges — including abuses of power, allegations of race-related biases, infringements on civil liberties, bullying and workplace harassment — have harmed its reputation and the morale of members," wrote Goodale.

He added that the selection committee's terms of reference would be made public soon.

Organization faces challenges

It is telling that, given recent reports recommending Parliament bring in civilian management and oversight of the RCMP, the government is looking for someone who will be able to spearhead organizational change.

Mounties are also on the cusp of forming their very first union. It is the only major Canadian police force that is not unionized.

The government is also listing as a vital asset for the job "leadership on issues stemming from mental health-related illnesses and post traumatic stress syndrome."

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson announced in March that he'll be retiring from the force on June 30. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The next commissioner will also be expected to advance gender equity, diversity and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

Over the last decade, many have complained that the force has struggled to make gains on all of those fronts.

McKenna, who served as New Brunswick's premier from 1987 to 1997, is a lawyer and businessman and a former ambassador to the United States.