RCMP updates its 'core values' for the first time in 25 years with commitments to reconciliation, diversity

The RCMP is updating its statement of "core values" for the first time in a quarter century by adding references to "reconciliation," "diversity," "honour" and "empathy."

Ethics officer says force recognizes its history is ‘not all shiny’

A member of Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) takes part in a special performance of the Musical Ride. For the first time in a quarter century, the RCMP is updating its core values statement. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters)

The RCMP is updating its statement of "core values" for the first time in a quarter century by adding references to "reconciliation," "diversity," "honour" and "empathy."

Insp. Alex Laporte, the RCMP ethics officer leading the team working on the new guiding principles, said the document is meant to act as foundation for the entire organization and could influence RCMP policies — even recruitment.

Laporte said it's no coincidence that the first change to the RCMP's core values statement since 1997 is happening at a time of fierce political debates about the role of police.

"So society's changed, [the] policing landscape has changed. So for us, it only made sense to revisit and renew our core values," he told CBC News last week.

"We're aware of a number of trust-altering events throughout the world, and as well in Canada, that [have] eroded and affected public trust in policing."

The change was ordered by RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and also follows recommendations from the RCMP's Management Advisory Board, an outside body that provides advice on institutional transformation and workplace well-being.

North-West Mounted Police officers of the "B" Division, circa 1900. (Library and Archives Canada)

Laporte said the RCMP consulted with its members and outside groups — including Indigenous elders and groups representing LGBTQ +, Black and racialized Canadians and people with disabilities — before crafting the new statement.

The new values statement pledges that Mounties will "conduct [themselves] ethically and do so with honesty, dignity and honour."

"We care for each other and the communities we serve by approaching each situation with empathy and a genuine desire to help," reads the statement.

"We value and promote reconciliation, diversity and inclusion by being considerate of the democratic rights, history and lived experiences of others."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president Union of the B.C. Indian Chiefs, addresses a news conference in Vancouver, B.C. on January 15, 2020. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Laporte said embracing those values means recognizing the RCMP's role in that history — especially when it comes to Indigenous people.

While images like the Mountie in red serge on horseback are part of Canadian mythology, the RCMP has had a fraught and complex relationship with Indigenous people that remains a source of controversy to this day.

"We're deploying employees throughout the country. It's important for us to understand the history of the communities and also understand our own history," he said. "That was something that was brought up in our consultation — understand your own history.

"It's not all shiny. We know this. We acknowledge it."

Exercise is a 'waste of time,' says grand chief 

But Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, calls the document update a "waste of time."

"There are much more serious issues within the RCMP organization than changing its statement of values," he said.

"The RCMP have been so egregiously involved in deaths in custody, in shooting unarmed civilians and brutal tactics, dealing with protesters, things of that nature, not to mention the internal issues of sexual assaults of their own female members."

Phillip said one way for the RCMP to make amends is to hold its officers to account.

"When RCMP officers shoot and kill civilians, there should be very harsh consequences. When they injure civilians with undue force, there should be consequences and they should go to jail," he said.

A woman in an RCMP uniform stands in front of a Canadian flag.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has said that "systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included." (Chris Wattie/The Canadian Press)

He said he's not convinced the force can fix its reputation.

"It's beyond reform," he said

The update to the core values statement comes as the RCMP attempts to face up to its past treatment of Indigenous communities.

Systemic racism in the RCMP

Just a few years ago, Commissioner Brenda Lucki told multiple media outlets she was "struggling" with the definition of systemic racism and how it applies to the national police force.

She later amended her statement.

"I do know that systemic racism is part of every institution, the RCMP included," she said back in 2020. 

"Throughout our history and today, we have not always treated racialized and Indigenous people fairly."

Those comments came after a number of incidents in which the RCMP was accused of using excessive force against Indigenous people.

The national police force has been under fire this month for its response to an alleged hit-and-run at a march honouring residential school survivors in Mission, B.C. last weekend. Police said four people were hit, two of whom were taken to hospital

WATCH:  Mission march organizers claim RCMP left them vulnerable

Mission march organizers claim RCMP left them vulnerable

10 months ago
Duration 1:54
Organizers for the residential school awareness march in Mission last weekend attempted to have the RCMP on site for traffic control. But their request was denied. During the march, witnesses say a pickup truck drove into a number of those in attendance.

The RCMP's release initially attributed the hit to an "impatient driver" who could not pass the marchers.

But witnesses told CBC News a man in a pickup truck threatened to run over children and made racist remarks before plowing into the marchers.

Update replaces the word 'professionalism'

The new RCMP core values statement removed the section on "professionalism" and replaced it with a commitment to serving "with excellence." That change drew some criticism on RCMP social media.

Laporte defended the move, saying that core values go beyond image.

"It's one thing to show up in a professional way, having a uniform, having a way to deport yourself," he said.

"Looking professional does not necessarily equate to professional behaviour."

The RCMP is now engaging members on the new values statement and reviewing RCMP policies and practices that might need to be updated to align with the statement.

"Change can be uncomfortable for some," said Laporte, who came to Ottawa after 12 years serving in the North.

"We've heard that, that words are just words until they are put into action. Aligning our words and actions is going to be key moving forward."


Catharine Tunney is a reporter with CBC's Parliament Hill bureau, where she covers national security and the RCMP. She worked previously for CBC in Nova Scotia. You can reach her at catharine.tunney@cbc.ca