IN his final report released on Thursday, “Broken Dreams Broken Lives,” former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache, appointed to administer the Merlo Davidson Class-Action Settlement Agreement, recommends that the Government of Canada conduct an external, independent and in-depth review of the future of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). He also makes 52 recommendations which seek to address aspects of the systemic sexism and homophobia embedded in the RCMP’s culture.
Assisted by two additional assessors, Lynn Smith and Marion Allan, both former judges of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Bastarache assessed 3,086 claims and conducted 644 interviews with current or former female employees of the RCMP who had experienced sexual harassment and discrimination based on their gender or sexual orientation, according to the Office of the Independent Assessor, Merlo / Davidson Settlement.
Claimants were required to meet specific criteria agreed to by the parties and approved by the Federal Court in the settlement agreement to qualify for compensation. A total of 2,304 women were compensated, and 782 claims were denied. In all, $125,266,500 was paid to claimants.
“What I learned led me to conclude that a toxic culture prevails in the RCMP. This culture encourages, or at least tolerates, misogynistic, racist, and homophobic attitudes among many members of the RCMP. The problem is systemic in nature and cannot be corrected solely by punishing a few “bad apples”,” said Bastarache.
Bastarache noted that the problems faced by women in the RCMP have been known to the RCMP and to the Government for at least three decades. Both the multiple legal proceedings seeking damages for sexual harassment against the RCMP and numerous reports issued in the past 30 years have highlighted issues of harassment and discrimination in the RCMP workplace. Despite some improvement, neither legislative changes nor administrative reforms have succeeded in eliminating the toxic aspects of a culture deeply embedded in the RCMP.
“It’s time to discuss the need to make fundamental changes to the RCMP and federal policing. I am of the opinion that the culture change is highly unlikely to come from within the RCMP. The latter has had many years to proceed, has been the subject of numerous reports and recommendations, and yet unacceptable behavior continues to occur,” he said.
Bastarache also underscored the courage shown by the women who spoke with him: “During several interviews, I heard the women say that if they presented a claim, it was not only to obtain monetary compensation, because no amount would enable them to overcome the harm they suffered, often with their families, but rather because they felt the desire to contribute to a change within the organization and to protect other female members. We must not brush their experiences aside.”
“No financial compensation can repair the damage that the assessors witnessed. If no concrete measures are taken, the RCMP will be in the same place again in a few years,” he warned.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki’s statement
Earlier today, the Honourable Michel Bastarache released his Final Report on the Implementation of the Merlo Davidson Settlement Agreement. The report details violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination experienced by women employed by the RCMP between 1974 and 2017.
The women who came forward wanted nothing more than to provide services to their communities. They are our colleagues. Friends. Fellow police officers, some of whom set the path that I have walked – and we failed them because they were women.
These employees experienced clearly unacceptable and often appalling and sometimes violent behaviour because of their gender or because they identified as members of the LGBTQ and Two Spirited community in a place that ought to have been safe and healthy: their workplace. This behaviour was clearly in violation of our Code of Conduct and not what we are as an organization.
The report by Justice Bastarache was difficult to read. I continue to have a number of emotions including feeling ashamed, frustrated, saddened, and angry.
I am angry for what these women and their families experienced. But I am also grateful for the courage they showed in coming forward.
While their stories are very hard to hear, acknowledging and understanding these experiences and how they were allowed to happen is critical to the process of change.
To all of the women who experienced this type of behaviour in the RCMP, I am so very sorry.
Harassment of any kind is unacceptable and it is against our Code of Conduct. I know we mean it when we say it. But the facts are, despite all the reports, recommendations, and changes over the last three decades, this behaviour continues to surface.
It must be stopped. It will not be tolerated.
There is absolutely no room for sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, bullying, sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia in the RCMP. Let me say it again, let me be clear…. There is absolutely no room for sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, bullying, sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia in the RCMP. It will not be tolerated and employees will be held to account.
With the support of my management team, I am committed to meaningful change so that I make this organization better than when I joined.
I was appointed as Commissioner with a very clear mandate to modernize and reform the culture and management practices of the RCMP. And, in just over two years, we have made progress.
My senior executive team is a daily example. What was once a male-dominated team now has gender parity and expert civilians in key corporate roles.
We are working very closely with our Management Advisory Board on modernizing the RCMP.
These changes have fundamentally impacted how we discuss issues and arrive at solutions in the RCMP.
I have implemented a comprehensive modernization strategy, our Vision 150, which sets the path towards a healthy and inclusive RCMP.
Vision 150 aligns with the key themes identified in this report: harassment and culture change, systemic barriers, how we recruit and onboard new members, and training and leadership.
Many of our actions are aligned to the recommendations made by Justice Bastarache, and others before him.
We know that we need a trusted harassment resolution process. Over the past 18 months, the RCMP has worked with experts to develop a model for a new independent, civilian-staffed harassment regime outside of the chain-of-command, to ensure employees have access to a trusted, consistent process that is accessible, timely and accountable.
I am pleased to announce that the new Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution will begin operation in Summer 2021.
We are prioritizing key initiatives to advance culture change and to remove systemic barriers.
The RCMP is using Gender-based Analysis+ as an analytical tool to look at systemic issues, and to help us find solutions. We are using GBA + to look at our training, our selection processes, and our policies around maternity and parental leave, to name just a few in order to eliminate barriers for women and diverse groups.
We have launched the RCMP Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Strategy, to articulate a firm stance against racism and discrimination. Both inside the organization and the communities we serve.
Our employees are our greatest asset. But w e must create an environment that allows each person to maximize their potential, to flourish and to grow. We need to attract and recruit the right people — diverse candidates that are strong in character and skill.
We are re-vamping our recruitment process to ensure it is modern, inclusive and barrier-free. We are undertaking a review of attributes and characteristics needed for modern policing, and we will use screening measures to detect racist, sexist and discriminatory beliefs.
The training model at the RCMP Academy is under review, and a new Chief Learning Officer and Commanding Officer will guide its modernization in consultation with key experts.
Leadership development continues to be an organizational priority. A leader’s character is as important as their competencies and we will ensure that this is reflected in our processes.
We are rolling out a Character Leadership approach, to develop “people skills” and good judgment alongside operational know-how. This will be integrated across recruitment, training and all promotions.
And we are continuing to enhance training to prevent and address systemic discrimination for all employees. This includes new mandatory anti-racism training, being developed with outside experts.
We have a lot of work ahead of us, and I am committed to fully implementing my mandate.
There is no place in my organization for discrimination, sexual assault, harassment, bullying, sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia.
As Commissioner of the RCMP, I lead one of the most iconic organizations in Canada. We need to recognize and name the dark parts of our history in order to move forward – and we are moving forward.
Every employee must come forward and speak out against this behavior, and our leaders and supervisors must take immediate action to stop it.
I am deeply concerned by this report — for the women and for all our people. I am concerned about how this report will be received by our employees and their families, their neighbours and our communities. Like I do, I know our employees love the RCMP. And like I am, I know they are proud of the work they do for Canadians.
I would like to thank Justice Bastarache and his team for their work. This is an important matter and I will be meeting with him to discuss the findings and recommendations. We must reflect on the issues and recommendations, and face them head on. I know we are on the right track.
While I cannot fix the past, I definitely can make a different future. To the women in our organization, to those who may seek to join it, and to everyone in the RCMP–you have my personal commitment to doing all in my power to ensure you can work and thrive in a safe workplace.
I believe we will emerge a stronger, better organization that serves the needs of all Canadians.