OTTAWA – The public safety minister says he has expressed outrage to the country’s top Mountie over the latest allegations of sexual harassment within the police force.
Ralph Goodale says he told RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson he expects a comprehensive, transparent investigation, strong discipline, support for victims and a plan to end what he calls “this toxic workplace behaviour.”
The strong words come 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.
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In a statement, Goodale notes the prime minister has given him a clear mandate to ensure that the RCMP is a healthy workplace free from harassment and sexual violence.
In the House of Commons, the NDP accused the RCMP of having no respect for complainants.
Goodale’s parliamentary secretary, Michel Picard, confirmed that two RCMP members had been suspended in relation to the police college allegations.
Cst. Annie Delisle, an RCMP spokeswoman, had no additional comment.
The national police force has been beset by numerous cases of sexual harassment and bullying of both women and men.
“This issue is very serious,” Goodale said in his statement. “All RCMP members, trainees and employees should feel safe and respected among their colleagues and superiors. Canadians expect professional and exemplary conduct from their national police service.”
Three years ago, the watchdog over the RCMP said the force must take “swift and effective action” on complaints of workplace bullying and harassment to restore the shaken confidence of both members and the public.
It called for a more independent process, strict timelines for responding to accusations and force-wide training on the issue.
Since then, new legislation has revamped the way such cases are handled within the force. Training has also been stepped up.
The watchdog said in 2013 its investigation did not point to a systemic problem of sexual harassment within the police force, despite intense publicity about difficulties and grievances. However, it said the simple perception of a pattern of poor treatment of employees was enough to rattle public confidence and tarnish the force’s reputation.
In response, the force pledged “zero tolerance” for such behaviour. “Harassment has no place in the RCMP.”