OTTAWA – Canada’s top Mountie pledged Tuesday to increase the number of new female recruits, and to promote more women to senior ranks.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson made the commitment during testimony before the House of Commons status of women committee, the second of two parliamentary committees at which he appeared.
Paulson’s blitz of Parliament Hill followed the release of a report two weeks ago by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP calling for fundamental changes to the way the Mounties handle harassment complaints.
The commission stopped short of identifying a systemic problem of sexual harassment within the force, despite intense publicity about difficulties and grievances.
Paulson said he wants half of all new recruits to be women within two years to help reach the goal of having a national police force that is 30 per cent female by 2025.
Paulson stuck largely to a serious message track that focused on weeding out harassment of men and women, while preserving the integrity of the Canada’s much-maligned national police force.
He appeared to drop his guard slightly when asked by one MP to offer his opinion on what women bring to policing.
“The value of having women in a police role is that you take the interaction with a citizen away from the force dynamic, and you put it in the behaviour, thoughtful dynamic. It is quite a powerful force to be reckoned with,” Paulson said.
“We have this sort of traditional notion that we are wrestling people, jumping on people, putting handcuffs on people,” he added.
“The woman’s view of the world is a much more powerful, persuasive force than just an arm around the neck.”
Paulson might have gone further, but the NDP chair of the committee, enforced a strict time allocation rule.
“Mr. Paulson, I’m sorry I’ll have to cut you off,” said Marie-Claude Morin.
Ian McPhail, interim chairman of the complaints body, said in earlier testimony Tuesday the RCMP needs to do more to encourage men and women to come forward with complaints of harassment.
He said it is possible that many complaints likely go unreported because they lead to internal investigations that can take several years to resolve.
He said the RCMP needs to make male and female complaints more confident coming forward and “that they’ll be dealt with fairly and that their careers and lives will not be put on hold for years to come.”
The report by McPhail’s commission found that the simple perception of a pattern of poor treatment of employees is enough to rattle public confidence and tarnish the force’s reputation.
The RCMP has said they would examine the commission’s recommendations and implement them “as appropriate.”
The investigation found that 718 harassment complaints were filed by employees, representing 2.5 per cent of all staff, between February 2005 and November 2011.
Ninety per cent of the complaints involved allegations of bullying, while four per cent concerned sexual harassment.
Almost half the complainants were men, while 44 per cent were women.
The report recommended that the RCMP implement a national system of data collection to measure workplace conflict, including harassment.