Canada’s RCMP: History, and what it wants to change
As the RCMP marks a major milestone, questions linger over the legacy of Canada’s paramilitary police force, and how it fits into modern-day policing.
In its 150 years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has grown from 300 employees to 30,000, and evolved from a northern policing agency into a country-wide organization.
The agency has jurisdiction over 22 per cent of Canada’s population and works to prevent crime, enforce the law, investigate offences and assist with emergency situations. Currently, Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador are the only provinces in Canada that don’t use the RCMP as a provincial police force.
On top of the local and provincial policing the RCMP does, it also has a mandate to support the international community through police training and peacekeeping, as well as providing protective details for high-profile officials, including the prime minister.
As the RCMP navigates the 21st century and the changing demographics of the Canadian population, the goals and upcoming initiatives of the RCMP are crucial to understanding how it will evolve.
“We’re tackling head-on the issues that have been raised,” Nadine Huggins, chief human resources officer, told CTVNews.ca in a recent interview.
“We’re acknowledging the complexity of our history, and laying the foundation for us to ensure that legacy of the next 150 (years) is about modern, inclusive, respectful, dignified policing.”
CALL FOR ‘TRANSFORMATIVE’ ACTION
Huggins was asked about the organization’s evolution in light of recent years under a critical spotlight.
Recently, the force has been under scrutiny as reports of sexual assault, racism, internalized misogyny and homophobia plague the organization.
One such report, called “Broken Dreams Broken Lives” and compiled by Justice Michel Bastarache, notes a “toxic” culture within the RCMP. The report, published in 2020, digs into the “devastating effects” of the women who experienced poor treatment within their workplace.
Bastarache highlights the barriers preventing women from succeeding in the RCMP, calling for an external independent study of the future of the federal policing organization. He made 52 recommendations for change, including to training, recruitment, job postings, human resource policies and more.
A separate report by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security in June 2021 focused on how the RCMP can be reformed.
The committee said the “pervasive nature of systematic racism in policing” needed “transformative” action to ensure the safety of Indigenous, Black and other racialized people in Canada.
Additionally, the RCMP is battling a $1.1-billion lawsuit over bullying and harassment of its members.
The lead plaintiffs, veteran RCMP members Geoffrey Greenwood and Todd Gray, allege there was a culture of systemic intimidation and harassment in the force that was condoned by its leadership.
Critics look to the organization’s recent history, asking why multiple reports and damning allegations had to occur before the force took action.
Responding to this, the RCMP says those who are currently in leadership roles with the force are determined to make improvements.
“I think leaders do the best they can in the moments that they’re in their roles,” Huggins said. “And I know that this leadership team, at this time, is quite focused on ensuring that we set a solid foundation for the next 150 (years) of our organization.”
‘A MODERN RCMP’ IS A ‘LONG-TERM PROJECT’
Huggins said one of the current “core mandates” of the RCMP is that it is reflective representation of the communities in which it works.
“All through our organization, we’re holding folks accountable to ensure that we have an organization where sexism, racism, homophobia, discrimination, harassment of any kind… there’s no place for it in a modern RCMP,” she said.
To achieve this, the force is developing guidelines aimed at tackling each of its problems.
Reports detailing the toxic culture in the RCMP placed blame on the leadership team. To fix this, the RCMP says, it is eliminating barriers to the recruitment of diverse candidates, helping bring representation to the top.
As of October 2020, just 21.7 per cent of the regular members of the RCMP were female, and 12.1 per cent identified as a visible minority. Indigenous people represented 7.1 per cent of the RCMP’s regular members.
“One of the key things… is how we’ve changed our recruitment and renewed our recruitment approach,” Huggins said. “The organization has updated everything from its entrance exam to its assessment of new applicants. We’ve updated our exam so that it is bias-free.”
The exam is the first step to determine if the person holds the fundamentals of being an RCMP member. Huggins said if the organization sees people from certain demographics struggling with the same question, the administrators will go back to see if it holds a bias.
Huggins said the organization is also prioritizing younger people in recruitment. Two programs, one aimed specifically at Indigenous youth, and the other Diverse and Inclusive Pre-Cadet Experience, are bringing in new perspectives to the force.
“This is not an overnight thing, this is a longer-term project,” Huggins said. “It’s changing the fundamental so that the culture changes.”
The hope, according to Huggins, is that as new officers join the RCMP, the culture will shift.
“We’re building and flying at the same time,” Huggins said. “It comes to making sure that we continue to provide the services that we need and evolve our model, so that it is going to result in greater diversity amongst the ranks, but also into our leadership.”
FEAR OF SPEAKING OUT
Fear of speaking out against senior leadership is another problem the RCMP is trying to address.
A class action lawsuit about sexual harassment within the RCMP alleged that higher-ranking employees used their power to force sexual acts on others, particularly women. The allegations led to an independent assessor recommending 52 actions the organization needs to take.
“In June of 2021, we launched the Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution…which is arm’s length from the leadership of the RCMP,” Huggins said.
The centre addresses harassment prevention and resolves complaints as employees come forward.
When a member of the RCMP displays poor behaviour, the issue will be investigated, according to the force’s code of conduct, then the member will be issued educational and corrective opportunities before punitive actions are taken.
While the centre was created in response to complaints and is described as arm’s length, critics have pointed out its executive director was recruited and hired by the RCMP and reports to the force’s highest-ranking civilian officer. Additionally, the external investigators are former officers, rather than someone truly independent.
“They can’t fix themselves. There’s so much hurt and corruption that it cannot be fixed internally,” Shirley Heafey, former RCMP public complaints commission chairperson, told CTV National News on June 2021. “It’s just a stopgap measure. That’s all it is.”
Huggins said having ongoing conversations around removing barriers within the organization about reporting issues is something the force has committed to.
Women in particular have been at the forefront of the RCMP reports, with allegations of mistreatment ranging from gender-based discrimination in teams to penetrative sexual assaults and pejorative comments.
The RCMP says it is working to put more women in leadership roles within the force.
“Under the current commissioner (Brenda Lucki), we have achieved just about gender parity with regard to our senior leadership table,” Huggins said. “Are we perfect? No, we’re not perfect in all regards, but there certainly is a concerted commitment…to ensuring that we strengthen overall equity and inclusion in the workplace.”
While the current government has come to her defence in the past few years over her handling of certain high-profile incidents, Lucki’s future at the helm of the RCMP remains in question as she nears the five-year mark in the role.
‘THE CULTURE’: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE RCMP
Lucki was named the first permanent female commissioner of the RCMP in 2018, outlining her vision for a more diverse RCMP.
At the time, her experience with Indigenous relations was pointed to as an asset, given the force’s ongoing work to improve its relations with First Nations communities.
The RCMP was created on May 23, 1873. At the time, the landscape was hundreds of hectares of dense untouched land.
Indigenous communities were scattered throughout the country, and their languages and traditions were still largely intact before the Indian Act of 1876 forced assimilation.
The very fabric of what many think of today as Canadian culture was still in its infancy.
The RCMP was modelled after the Royal Irish Constabulary, Steve Hewitt, historian and police expert with the University of Birmingham, told CTV’s Your Morning in an interview earlier this month.
The force in Britain was used to “control” the Irish, Hewitt said, and in Canada, the RCMP was used against Indigenous people.
“I think that gives you an idea of the initial impetus of the force was to go westward to effectively take control of territory that had been Indigenous land to help displace Indigenous peoples onto reserves to prepare the way for European settlement,” Hewitt said.
As Canada became more diverse into the later 20th century, how the RCMP reacted to issues of racism became a focal point. Serving the people of Canada meant the organization needed to adapt values and protocols to the rapidly diversifying population.
However, discrimination persisted.
Between the 1950s and 1990s, the RCMP was involved in what’s become known as the LGBTQ2S+ purge that saw thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Canadians actively discriminated against, interrogated, and fired or demoted from their jobs in the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP and the federal public service.
Work is ongoing within the federal government to improve inclusivity and rebuild trust, with survivors recently calling out the RCMP specifically.
“If you look at the historical records, they fought tooth and nail to persecute LGBT people,” said Douglas Elliott, an activist and the lead lawyer for the purge class action, during a news conference on Parliament Hill in October 2022.
HOW TO EVOLVE ‘A COLONIAL INSTITUTION’
Some elements of the RCMP past are factors in how it currently operates – from the way it’s set up to core mandates.
Critics wonder whether it’s possible for the organization to evolve, moving away from the harm it caused in the past.
“You’ve got effectively what is a colonial institution, a paramilitary institution that still (operates) in the 21st century,” Hewitt said. “I’m just not sure paramilitary values in the 19th century work so well in the 21st century.”
He said the problems surfacing now are not unfamiliar – but there is a key difference.
“These issues are not new. The difference is obviously through social media, through lawsuits, things such as that, we’re much more aware of them than we would have been in the past,” Hewitt said.
The RCMP acknowledges that in order to move forward, “a lot of work” is needed to address the problems within the RCMP. It has known this for years, according to its CHRO.
“While the organization certainly is proud of its traditions, it is also eager to be a policing service for the future,” Huggins said. “Our culture change, our new core values, our focus on de-escalation, all speak to how we have taken what is useful from our paramilitary tradition and wedded it to the modern vision that we have for ourselves.”
With files from CTV News’ Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello.
Biden in Canada: Replay coverage of the U.S. president's trip – CTV News
After a day of meetings on Parliament Hill, U.S President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced updates on various cross-border issues. These include plans to bolster Norad and expand the Safe Third Country Agreement.
CTVNews.ca breaks down Biden’s first presidential visit to Canada, as it happened. Scroll down for our reporters’ real-time coverage of the second day of Biden’s trip to Canada as it unfolded.
Canadians can also access the latest stories on Biden’s trip via CTV News’ social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter.
Canada extends support for those fleeing Russia's illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine – Canada.ca
March 22, 2023—Ottawa—As Russia continues its illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine, Canada will remain steadfast in its support for those who have been forced to flee. This includes helping people find a temporary safe haven in Canada and providing them with the support they need.
Today, the Honourable Sean Fraser, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, announced that the Government of Canada will extend the Canada-Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET). This means that:
- Ukrainians and their family members will have until July 15, 2023, to apply overseas for a CUAET visa free of charge;
- Anyone holding a CUAET visa will have until March 31, 2024, to travel to Canada under the special measures; and
- CUAET holders who are already here in Canada will have until March 31, 2024, to extend or adjust their temporary status through these measures, free of charge.
Settlement services will remain available to Ukrainians and their family members after they arrive so that they can fully participate in Canadian communities while they are here. Ukrainians and their family members will also continue to benefit from the one-time transitional financial support, as well as from access to emergency accommodations for up to 2 weeks, if needed after they arrive in Canada.
The Government of Canada continues to work closely with provincial, territorial and municipal partners, as well as settlement service providers and the Ukrainian-Canadian community, to welcome Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s illegal war.
These measures build on the Government of Canada’s previous actions to support Ukraine’s security and resilience and to hold Russia accountable for its atrocities and crimes. We are closely monitoring the ongoing needs of Ukrainians and will adapt our response as needed.
Calling for closer Canada-U.S. ties, Biden says 'our destinies are intertwined and they're inseparable' – CBC.ca
U.S. President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned speech in the House of Commons Friday, saying the Canada-U.S. relationship has never been stronger while calling for even closer ties to take on the challenges of our times.
Standing in front of the Speaker’s chair as hundreds of MPs, senators and dignitaries looked on, Biden said Canadians and Americans are “two people” that “share one heart” — bound together not only by geography and history but shared democratic values.
In his nearly 40-minute speech, Biden said that, together, the two countries are an unstoppable force that can tackle climate change, a changing economy and an increasingly dangerous world, where authoritarian countries like Russia are bent on defying international norms.
The partnership, he said, extends to space — three Americans and a Canadian will soon be headed for the moon as part of the NASA Artemis program.
“Our destinies are intertwined and they’re inseparable,” Biden said.
“I mean this from the bottom of my heart. There is no more reliable ally, no more steady friend. And today I say to you, you will always be able to count on the United States of America.”
WATCH: We will find ‘no more steady friend’ than Canada: Biden
Together, Biden said, Canada and the U.S. will confront the “scourge” of opioid overdoses.
He vowed to partner with Mexico to tackle the illicit trade in fentanyl, which has wreaked havoc on vulnerable communities throughout North America.
Trudeau, Biden reach agreements during two-day visit
- Canada and the U.S. will expand the Safe Third Country Agreement to the entire land border — a move designed to halt illegal border crossing by migrants. Canada will instead accept up to 15,000 migrants from the Western Hemisphere through legal channels.
- Canada will invest $420 million to protect the Great Lakes as part of a binational effort to defend one of the world’s largest sources of freshwater.
- Canada made a $7.3 billion commitment to air defence to support the continued functioning of NORAD.
- Canada agreed to provide $100 million to support the Haitian police.
- The U.S. will commit roughly $250 million to Canadian and U.S. companies that mine and process critical minerals for electric vehicles and stationary storage batteries.
- Canada and New York-based IBM signed a deal to expand domestic research and development and advanced packaging of semiconductors.
- Biden expressed support for Canada joining the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework
Referencing a deal on migrants, Biden said Canada and the U.S. will safely resettle asylum seekers through a new, more organized process that discourages illegal immigration.
“We believe to our core that every single person deserves to live in dignity, safety and rise as high as their dreams can carry them,” Biden said.
On semiconductors, critical minerals, advanced manufacturing and a pivot to a cleaner, greener economy, Biden said Canada and the U.S. are up to the challenge — ready to work in concert to challenge the dominance of countries like China in these areas.
“After two years of COVID, people began to even wonder, ‘Can we still do big things?’ I say we sure in hell can,” Biden said to thunderous applause from the assembled crowd.
While there are irritants in any relationship, Biden said, Canada and the U.S. are determined to “solve our differences in friendship and with good will, because we both understand our interests are fundamentally aligned.”
WATCH: ‘I like your teams, except the Leafs’: Biden addresses Parliament
Biden joked about the Toronto Maple Leafs (“I like your teams, except the Leafs,” he said to laughter and scattered boos from the crowd) and razzed some MPs who failed to stand and applaud after he praised Canada and the U.S. for having gender equal cabinets.
“Even if you don’t agree guys, I’d stand up,” he said.
He also raised a recent Gallup poll that found Americans have an overwhelmingly positive view of Canadians.
The poll found 88 per cent of U.S. respondents think highly of their neighbours to the north — up from 87 per cent last year. “I take credit for that one point,” Biden said.
In his introductory speech, Trudeau hit many of the same points. He called on Canadians and Americans to come together as storm clouds gather in other parts of the world.
“It has never been clearer that everything is interwoven,” he said. “Economic policy is climate policy is security policy. People need us to think strategically and act with urgency, and that is exactly what brings us together today.”
WATCH: U.S.-Canada border is a ‘meeting place rather than dividing line’: Trudeau
As conflict rages in Europe and inflation bears down on working people, Trudeau said the two countries have faced all of this before.
Citing a 1987 address by former U.S. president Ronald Reagan, who called the Canada-U.S. border a “meeting place rather than a dividing line,” Trudeau said the border is “not just a place where we meet each other. It’s a place where we will meet the moment.”
Touting recent investments in a Michelin tire plant in Nova Scotia, and plans to retool the Defasco steel factory in Hamilton, Ont., Trudeau said Canada is ready to work with the U.S. to take on economic competition from “an increasingly assertive China.”
“We must continue to show resilience, perseverance and strength,” Trudeau said, citing the example of Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, the two Canadians who suffered arbitrary detention in China for more than 1,000 days.
Kovrig and Spavor were on hand in the Commons for Friday’s events. Trudeau thanked Biden for his help in securing their release.
With two of its citizens in captivity, Trudeau said, Canada did “not capitulate, we did not abandon our values — we doubled down. We rallied our allies. The rule of law prevailed and the Michaels came home.”
“God bless ya,” Biden said as he recognized Spavor and Kovrig in the gallery above.
Earlier today, Biden was escorted by Trudeau into the West Block where he briefly greeted dignitaries, including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, other party leaders, senators, the House of Commons Speaker and parliamentary clerks.
Poilievre introduced himself as the leader of his “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition,” which prompted Biden to quip, “Loyal, huh?”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May then handed a bemused Biden a chocolate bar made by a Syrian refugee before he was whisked away for a one-on-one meeting with Trudeau.
The busy day followed an intimate gathering last night at Trudeau’s Ottawa home, Rideau Cottage. Trudeau, with his wife Sophie and their three kids, hosted the president and his wife, Jill.
This is the first non-summit overnight visit by a U.S. president in nearly two decades.
It was billed as a chance for Biden and Trudeau to continue their efforts to renew the bilateral relationship, which was marked by some tension in recent years.
The Trump years were a trying time for Canadian officials.
But Biden’s decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline, promote protectionist policies like Buy American and withhold some vaccine supplies were also irritants in the early days of his presidency.
Since then, there’s been meaningful progress on key files: a deal to protect the NEXUS trusted traveller program and a plan to include Canadian-made vehicles in a U.S. electric vehicle tax credit program.
WATCH: U.S. and Canada reach deal on closing Roxham Road border crossing:
And now there is a deal in hand that will allow Canada to close the Roxham Road site, where tens of thousands of refugee claimants have crossed the border irregularly in recent years — a political headache for Trudeau.
The U.S. has been eager to see Canada take a leadership role in efforts to restore order in Haiti, which has descended into chaos in recent months as gangs have tightened their grip on some parts of the Caribbean country.
So far, Canada has resisted pressure to deploy troops.
But after meeting with Biden, Trudeau commited roughly $100 million to the Haitian police.
The funding comes after the UN expressed grave concern for Haiti, saying “extreme violence continues to spiral out of control.”
Biden and Trudeau also had the economy on their minds during the visit.
Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — which was really a climate-change bill, despite its name — includes major tax breaks for companies that pursue green-friendly projects.
Canada is racing to compete — and there may be a role for Canadian businesses to play as the U.S. retools its economy to make it cleaner and greener.
Speaking to reporters at a press conference following his address, Biden said the IRA shouldn’t be seen as a threat to Canada.
He said the U.S. plan to spend billions through the IRA and CHIPS Act, which offers tax breaks to semiconductor companies that manufacture in the U.S., will have spillover effects for Canada.
“We each have what the other needs,” Biden said. “I’m a little confused on why this is a disadvantage for Canada.”
He said U.S. businesses need to tap Canada’s abundance of critical minerals — an industry that currently is dominated by China, an increasingly unreliable business partner.
“We don’t have the minerals to mine, you can mine them. You don’t want to produce, I mean, turn them into product,” Biden said.
WATCH: Biden, Trudeau speak to media in Ottawa
Canada would dispute Biden’s characterization of the critical minerals file.
The federal government has raced to sign multi-billion dollar contracts with major car companies like Stellantis and Volkswagen, which will use Canadian natural resources to manufacture components for electric vehicles.
The economist Harold Innis once described Canadians as “hewers of wood and drawers of water,” a reference to Canada’s long economic dependence on resources.
Trudeau said Friday Canada doesn’t just extract minerals and ship them off.
“The world is understanding they can no longer rely on places like China or Russia,” he said. “They can rely on Canada to not just be a purveyor of ores, but of finished materials.”
WATCH: When U.S. presidents came to Parliament
The Biden trip comes just after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited with another authoritarian leader in Moscow — Russian President Vladimir Putin.
While China cozies up to Russia, Biden framed his trip as a way to bolster relations with a close ally and friend, a democratic Canada.
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