Interviews underway for next RCMP commissioner

The federal government has whittled down the list of people it's considering for the position of RCMP commissioner. Its newly announced selection committee provides clues about what it wants in the new leader of the national police force.

Makeup of committee offers possible clues about what government wants in top Mountie

Deputy RCMP Commissioner Kevin Brosseau, left, and Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Strachan have been mentioned as possible candidates to replace Bob Paulson as RCMP commissioner. The members on the selection committee were announced this week. (RCMP/Canadian Press )

Interviews are underway this week for the next commissioner of the RCMP — and the government's newly announced selection committee provides clues about what the government is looking for in the new leader of the national police force.

Late last week, headhunting firm Boyden notified some applicants they were no longer under consideration for the opportunity to replace former commissioner Bob Paulson, who retired at the end of June, according to one person contacted by the firm who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity.

Earlier this week, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale unveiled his long-awaited selection committee, which is headed by Frank McKenna, who served as an ambassador and premier of New Brunswick.

The choices for the six-woman, three-man committee suggest what skills and attributes the government is prioritizing in the new commissioner.

The RCMP's change in leadership comes after another round of blistering reports about dysfunction in the national police force and recommendations that the federal government legislate civilian governance and oversight of the Mounties.

The RCMP itself will soon be sentenced for failing to provide adequate use-of-force equipment and training to the Moncton, N.B., Mounties who were killed or wounded while trying to stop gunman Justin Bourque in June 2014.

And Mounties are in the process of organizing their first labour association. Up until now, the RCMP has been the only major non-unionized police force in Canada.

Expertise in labour, change, diversity

That may explain why Goodale asked former Winnipeg police chief Devon Clunis and Barbara Byers, a former senior executive with the Canadian Labour Congress, to join the committee.

Canada's first black police chief, Clunis led a modern, unionized force for four years.

Before her retirement from the large labour organization, Byers was responsible for several high-profile issues at the labour congress such as workplace training, employees with disabilities and LGBT workers.

The commissioner's job posting also highlights the need for a leader with experience in cultural change, good governance and organizational wellness. In that vein, the government has appointed Manuelle Oudar, chair and CEO of Quebec's board of workplace standards, equity, health and safety.

Goodale has also appointed two former prominent female RCMP leaders to the group.

Marianne Ryan was the force's deputy commissioner in Alberta. Had the well-liked senior officer not retired earlier this year to become the province's ombud, the government may have tried to recruit Ryan for the top job.

As Canada's first female commissioner, albeit in an interim capacity, Bev Busson will also be well-placed to engage with candidates on questions of police operations and organizational culture.

Former RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson retired earlier this year. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Both women would also likely know some of the internal candidates whose names have been mentioned as contenders, such as Deputy Commissioner Kevin Brosseau and Assistant Commissioner Jennifer Strachan.

The posting also makes it clear the next commissioner will also have to demonstrate their knowledge of Canada's "Indigenous culture and a sensitivity to the issues relevant to the diversity of the Canadian population."

Tammy Cook-Searson, chief of Saskatchewan's Lac La Ronge First Nation, is among those on the committee who would be able to assess the candidates for those abilities.

Rounding out the committee are the prime minister's national security and intelligence adviser Daniel Jean, the deputy minister at Public Safety Canada Malcolm Brown and Status of Women Canada Deputy Minister Gina Wilson who used to serve at the department of public safety.

Informal consultation

In addition to the formal selection process, frontline Mounties and some of their relatives have told CBC News they've called committee chair McKenna directly, to tell him what kind of commissioner they want at the helm.

The Boyden recruitment firm has held similar meetings with interested parties such as members of the National Police Federation, which is set to become the Mounties' first union.