RCMP Face Denial of Basic Rights
MPs Called to Speak Out Now
Elected officials are being called upon to speak up immediately in the House of Commons and Senate with concerns about Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act (Bill C-42) as details emerge about regulations being drafted which would see RCMP members facing a Code of Conduct investigation having fewer rights than other Canadians charged with crimes.
Why don’t RCMP members have the same constitutional rights that are accorded to all citizens? “Our political representatives must stand up now and stop this from happening by asking the questions in the House and Senate that desperately need to be addressed,” asserts Rae Banwarie, president of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada (MPPAC). “As we become aware of how C-42 will be implemented through the regulations now being developed, we are extremely concerned, and members are understandably nervous. It appears when someone accepts employment as a peace officer in the RCMP, they relinquish their civil and constitutional rights at the door,” Banwarie states. “The Act does not pass the Charter of Rights test.”
Details emerging from the Regulations drafting process have the MPPAC particularly concerned about three areas:
- Under the new Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act, RCMP members facing a Code of Conduct investigation relinquish rights afforded other Canadian citizens who have been charged with a crime. The Government’s Legislative summary states that, in the case of an RCMP Conduct Board conducting a Code of Conduct investigation, the member could be tried in absentia. Also, if the member is directed by a Conduct Board to attend a medical assessment and fails to, that hearing may also be conducted in absentia of the member.
- RCMP Commissioner Paulson has stated that the organization wants to increase the gender intake in the RCMP to a 50/50 split. Yet Section 31(1.2) will continue to foster sexism since the new Act would prohibit an RCMP member from filing an internal grievance claiming the “right to equal pay for work of equal value.”
- While it has long been the case that an RCMP member cannot refuse to answer a question on the basis of self-incrimination during a Code of Conduct investigation, Section 50.(1) (2) makes it a summary conviction offence for an RCMP member who, as a witness or otherwise, refuses to answer a question – even if it is self-incriminating. The punishment is a fine of up to $5,000 or six months in jail, or both.
These concerns are being echoed by Sebastien Anderson, the founding lawyer of Labour Rights Law Office in British Columbia. Anderson, who has more than 12 years at the bar in British Columbia and Alberta, and has represented dozens of RCMP members and those of other police agencies such as the Transit Police Professional Association and the Port Moody Police Services Union, says “the recipe for curing rampant labour relations problems within the ranks of the RCMP does not lie in dispensing with procedural fairness for the sake of an ill-conceived ‘quick fix.’ Systemic problems within the RCMP have led to a workplace culture in which bullying, harassment and sexual harassment has not been meaningfully addressed by management. Members dealing with such situations need greater protection in the form of natural justice and procedural fairness, not a short-cut to being ‘shown the door’.”
Anderson believes the amendments are extremely outdated and demonstrate a “profound lack of insight” into the underlying labour relations problems. “These legislative revisions offer no creative, meaningful solutions from a labour relations perspective,” he concludes.
MPPAC has grave concerns that the new Act and pending Regulations would significantly add to stressers already in thework environment and may increase the occurrences of PTSD and suicides. “In addition to the daily challenges and dangers of policing, members will be compelled to make statements and produce documents without sufficient protection. Discharges will be done with relative ease and with minimal procedural protections, or members could be muzzled, fined or jailed. Our members are understandably fearful about how these powers will be deployed, and we need our elected officials to voice their concerns on all these matters.” Banwarie says that RCMP members “need strong leadership from our elected officials, leadership that they can place their faith, trust and futures in.”
In the Spring of 2014, Senator Grant Mitchell, who was recently elected Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, was speaking to the Committee when he said: “Many with PTSD – because of sexual harassment and bullying and unbelievable cases of it that have been documented by the RCMP’s tribunal processes – are now receiving their notices to be released, often from boards of inquiry or boards of review that they’re not even allowed to attend. Now we see the development of regulations that will actually allow people to be released before the grievance process is finished,” adding, “I share the skepticism of Bill C-42.”
Noting the positive differences the association has made in every member’s case they have been involved in, Banwarie urges RCMP members to consider joining the MPPAC. “Our membership deserves an independent, professional police association that is recognized by management and engaged to protect members’ interests.”
The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada (MPPAC) was established in 2010 to fight for the right to engage in collective bargaining on behalf of RCMP regular and civilian members across Canada.
The Association does not seek or support the right to strike. For more info, visit www.mppac.ca
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