OTTAWA – The top Mountie has decided the time has come for him to step down.
In a message to the force on Monday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson said he will leave at the end of June to focus on his family more after spending 32 years with the force, the last five as commissioner.
He said it is a profound honour and privilege to serve with the Mounties.
However, there are still a multitude of issues the force must deal with, including historical, yet persistent, harassment claims and mental health concerns for employees, Paulson said.
He also pointed to safety and training questions from the murder of Mounties in Moncton in 2014. The force is to go on trial in April on labour code charges stemming from the tragedy.
And there is still the outstanding issue of unionization, with a government bill on the subject sitting idle in the House of Commons after the Senate sent an amended version of the legislation back to MPs in June.
The tough list of issues will land on his successor’s desk and make for what Paulson calls a busy and challenging spring.
“We will — as we do — persevere in order that we can keep delivering on our primary mission: keeping Canadians safe and secure,” Paulson said in his message.
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale tweeted his thanks to Paulson for his years of service.
The long-time Mountie took the helm of the force in 2011, vowing on Day 1 to tackle concerns about sexual harassment and bullying accusations inside the RCMP. The issue would be one that dominated much of his time in office and remains a persistent problem.
Most recently, an Ontario Superior Court ruling against the RCMP laid out a blistering critique of the how senior officers mercilessly harassed a sergeant and damaged his career after deciding he had lied to them about his unsuccessful bid to run for the federal Conservatives in 2005.
The judge in the case awarded Sgt. Peter Merrifield $141,000 for his mistreatment and denounced the RCMP’s conduct as egregious.
Paulson testified at the trial, saying he had been led to believe Merrifield was a disgruntled employee whose accusations against his superiors were groundless.
Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked if he still had full confidence in Paulson following the ruling.
Trudeau responded by saying that he and Paulson have taken a hard line against harassment of any kind, but admitted that there is still work to do on the issue.