The Current

'We have to eradicate this behaviour': RCMP commissioner tasked to reform workplace harassment

Brenda Lucki made history when she became the first female RCMP commissioner. Her task to reform the force's work culture and to foster reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is no small feat, but she says she's committed to the challenge.

Brenda Lucki says investigations need to be transparent for victims to trust system

New RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki is the first woman to lead the 145-year-old institution. She is tasked with having to diversify the workforce, improve relations with Indigenous people and address workplace culture. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

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When Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed Brenda Lucki as the RCMP's new commissioner in March, he said she was "the absolute best person for the job."

Lucki is the first woman to lead the 145-year-old institution, which has faced allegations of harassment, bullying and racial bias.

In the government's mandate letter to Lucki, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tasked her with diversifying the workforce, improving relations with Indigenous people and addressing a problematic workplace culture. 

In an interview with The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti, Lucki discussed her new role and its challenges.

What do you see as your priority as you begin your term as commissioner?

I narrow my priorities down to two major focuses: our people within the organization and our communities. My goal is to modernize our organization, making sure we have enough resources to do the job, making sure the resources are doing the right type of work, making sure employees are happy and healthy — both physically and psychologically.

And, of course, building relationships with Indigenous people and our communities and making sure that our communities are safe.

Numerous independent reviews of the RCMP revealed significant problems of harassment, bullying, even sexual violence. Why do you think there is such a problem in the RCMP?

I think we're a diverse organization. We cover coast to coast to coast.

The women that came forward in the Merlo and Davidson lawsuit, they showed a lot of courage showing that there were some issues. It's a good wake-up call for our organization, or any organization really, and we need to learn from it and ensure our policies and our training is in line so that it doesn't happen again.

Trudeau says Lucki is best person to lead the RCMP 1:02

On this issue, what message do you have for current, former and maybe even future Mounties?

I think it's important for people to be accountable for themselves — that's the easier part. I think the more difficult part of that equation is that people have to have the courage of conviction, to hold others to account, to say that is not acceptable, and owning the RCMP — it's our organization and we need to own it together.

Janet Merlo says she and others have begged for an outside independent oversight body to investigate complaints. 

Absolutely. We have to look at all the different options to ensure that we have good transparency when we do have incidents of harassment, bullying or intimidation. Victims need to trust the system that we put in place and we have to have complete transparency. 

My message to employees is if they don't feel safe to go to their supervisor for unacceptable behaviour then they have to go to the next level. And if they don't feel safe at that level, go to the next level. We have to eradicate this behaviour and that's the only way we can do that.

In your decades on the force, have you ever faced harassment or sexual misconduct?

I've had both positive and negative relations in my job, absolutely. I think I've been fortunate having good supervisors that helped me along the way.

I think any type of workplace has its positives and its negatives and that's to ensure that once that one bad thing happens, it doesn't repeat themselves. That's why I find it so unfortunate that our organization had to wake up to a lawsuit for us to come to terms with that — when we ought to have been more proactive in that area.

RCMP Academy instructors take part in a Kairo blanket exercise that is part of cadet training, as of Dec. 5, 2017, onward.

What can the RCMP do to contribute to reconciliation with Canada's Indigenous Peoples?

​We've done a lot of different things in that regard already. We're working side by side with the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry. We have a senior adviser reconciliation position that was created and the mandate is to promote the principles of truth and reconciliation and to champion, in a practical and everyday way, reconciliation.

We've brought in the Kairos blanket exercise to the RCMP training academy whereby we teach cadets how to learn about the history of our First Nations and Indigenous people and put themselves in their position to create that empathy so that there's a greater understanding.

It's not just a single event or a speech and it's not something we can take and check off a list — it's a constant reflection of the past and an ongoing dialogue into the future.

*This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.*

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page.

This segment was produced by The Current's Kristin Nelson.


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