By The Canadian Press
OTTAWA — The federal government is creating an external board of civilian advisers to help the RCMP modernize after years of grappling with internal bullying and harassment.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki announced the plan for a management advisory board today at a news conference in Ottawa.
Members of an interim board will be in place by April 1, with legislative changes coming this spring to make the board permanent.
Initially, the mandate of the board will focus on priorities such as supporting the development of a strategy that puts people first, RCMP business modernization and employee health and well-being.
Over time, it will expand its reach into other areas of management: effective use of RCMP resources, corporate risk and responses to address them, policies and management controls that support operations, human resources and labour relations, corporate and strategic direction, and performance measurement and departmental results.
The board will include up to 13 part-time appointees, including a chair and vice-chair.
The public safety minister will be able to direct the RCMP commissioner to seek the board’s advice and require that the commissioner report back, including on actions taken based on that advice.
The board will not be involved in matters relating to active law-enforcement investigations in keeping with the principle of police independence.
The announcement represents the Liberal government’s response to two critical 2017 reports.
In the first, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP said the force lacked both the will and the capacity to address the challenges that afflict its workplaces.
The commission urged the government to usher in civilian governance or oversight for the paramilitary-style police force.
The second report, a review by former auditor general Sheila Fraser of four harassment lawsuits from female members, also called for substantial reforms.
Goodale said today the government is accepting all of the recommendations in the two reports.
Lucki became the RCMP’s first permanent female boss last year when she took over the commissioner’s post from Bob Paulson.
Before he left, Paulson delivered an apology to hundreds of current and former female officers and employees who were subjected to discrimination and harassment dating back as far as four decades.
The words of regret came as the Mounties settled class-action lawsuits stemming from allegations that cast a dark pall over the force.
The Trudeau government has directed Lucki to modernize and reform the RCMP’s culture, protect employees from harassment and workplace violence, and foster reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
Goodale’s mandate letter to Lucki, issued last year, also asked her to make the force representative of Canada’s diverse population by embracing gender parity and ensuring that women, Indigenous members and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership.
Another priority is implementing measures to improve health and wellness after an auditor’s report found the force was failing to meet the mental-health needs of its members due to a lack of resources, poor monitoring and meagre support from supervisors.