'Unacceptable toxicity' at the RCMP needs to be cleaned up, says Ralph Goodale
'Canadians will not tolerate any half measures in the response here,' Goodale says
Canada's public safety minister says the latest allegations of harassment and bullying have made the RCMP "an embarrassment."
"This is the national police force, this is an icon of the nation and it's got to be remedied very quickly to Canadian satisfaction. Canadians will not tolerate any half measures in the response here," Ralph Goodale said in an interview with host Chris Hall on CBC Radio's The House.
The strong condemnation comes after CBC News reported allegations of unwanted sexual touching, bullying and rampant nudity in the workplace at the explosives training unit of the Canadian Police College in Ottawa.
"It's an embarrassment, and I think [RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson] is fully aware of that. That this kind of conduct and behaviour is simply unacceptable in the most absolute of terms and it's got to stop. It's got to be properly disciplined," Goodale said in an interview that is set to air Saturday morning.
Staff Sgt. Bruno Solesme, who used to be the unit manager, and Marco Calandrini, a civilian member of the force and a former Canadian Forces Joint Task force member, were reportedly fond of posing completely nude on each other's desks in a purported effort to shock each other; they also allegedly simulated oral sex in the office.
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Former members of the unit told CBC News that Calandrini often appeared naked in the corridors or announced he had just shaved his genitals before dumping the contents of his electric razor onto the table they all shared at meals.
One former staffer said Solesme regularly threatened to not renew his contract at the college, and that Calandrini jumped nude and uninvited into a single-person shower stall while he was showering.
"There's no humour to be found doing these kinds of lewd acts in a federal office. We're police officers!" one complainant told CBC News.
CBC News has agreed to protect the complainants' identities given the nature of the allegations and fear of reprisals.
The two Mounties in question have since been suspended from the force pending the outcome of two new investigations.
CBC News made several attempts to get in touch with Solesme and Calandrini but did not receive responses.
The RCMP has already carried out three reviews of inappropriate behaviour at the police college, but complainants have said investigators did not want to hear fulsome accounts. The RCMP has denied this.
The public safety minister said he spoke to Paulson Friday morning after the alleged misconduct was revealed.
"I expressed to the commissioner very clearly my outrage at this situation. He knows very clearly what I expect. I expect a complete transparent and comprehensive investigation. I expect strong discipline that suits the misbehaviour that has taken place," Goodale said.
"How could this have happened in a facility that is designed to train police officers?" he said. "I expect a clean-up of what appears to be unacceptable toxicity in the workplace at the RCMP, where people should expect exemplary behaviour, not this kind of bizarre and degrading kind of conduct."
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Peter Henschel told CBC News Thursday that he immediately ordered another review of the conduct.
"When this came to our attention, we were appalled at what the allegations were. I found it hard to believe that in this day and age that this kind of behaviour would take place in our organization or anywhere else," Henschel said.
"It is completely unacceptable behaviour. It's abhorrent."
'This is very, very urgent'
When asked whether he had faith in Paulson and his officers to carry out a thorough investigation — considering the RCMP has already conducted three reviews of the police college — Goodale said he would be personally following developments on this file.
"I have laid out my expectation and I fully expect the commissioner to deliver and I will be following this very, very closely.
"This is something where I expect to see results very quickly to the extent that there are investigative procedures that need to take place," the minister said.
"You've got to make sure the investigation is thorough and is conducted in a professional manner with all of the resources that are needed to get to the bottom of what went on. But both he [the commissioner] and I both understand this is very urgent."
Allegations of harassment and bullying are not new for the Mounties — the force has been rocked by hundreds of complaints in the last decade.
In 2012, after a long investigation, the RCMP public complaints commission found rampant bullying in the force. It unearthed 718 complaints filed by employees between 2005 and 2011, and found almost half were from men.
The watchdog's investigation said the widespread perception of rampant harassment had rattled public confidence and tarnished the force's reputation.