Holding the Line – For our Members – For our Public

The Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada (MPPAC) applauds the move to lay charges against the RCMP under the Canada Labour Code inconnection with shooting deaths of three RCMP members and injuries to two others, in Moncton back in June of 2014. MPPAC called for an independent inquiry into the shootings last summer, when debate arose around the RCMP’s readiness for dealing with the gunman. “The RCMP moved quickly to paint this as an unfortunate event, but members had doubts. We had been through the Mayerthorpe tragedy, we knew what we should be doing as an organization to protect and prepare members, but it wasn’t getting done”, said MPPAC spokesperson Rob Creasser.

One of the key recommendations following the Mayerthorpe tragedy was to equip general duty members with high-powered, mid-sized rifles, namely the Colt C8 patrol carbine, a gun used by many other law enforcement agencies due to its precision, higher magazine capacity and effectiveness at great distances. Carleton University criminology instructor Darryl Davies had already recommended the immediate adoption of carbines back in 2010, in a report commissioned by the RCMP. Then Assistant Commissioner Bob Paulson, who was responsible for the National Use of Force Program, inexplicably rejected the report and stalled in implementing the roll out. Members have speculated that the RCMP was not keen to prioritize arming members when the RCMP was facing negative publicity on other use of force issues – a political trade off that
may have contributed to the Moncton tragedy.

“I’m clearly elated that finally somebody is holding the organization to account for the safety not only of the RCMP members, but also of the public as well,” said Rob Creasser. “Members continue to be vulnerable to the political choices made by management. Right now, members have no say. When health and safety collides with political interests, members lose out”.

MPPAC points to the recent decision by the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, finding that members’ private medical and mental health records were improperly disclosed by the force. The RCMP had determined that psychologist Dr. Mike Webster, who had built a career in treating members, had become too outspoken, and decided to remove him from the list of approved practitioners covered by RCMP health care. It went further, and launched a complaint to the College of Psychologists, providing members’ medical records, disclosing their
identity, diagnosis’, treatment plans and prognosis. The Privacy Commissioner of Canada found this disclosure to constitute a serious breach of privacy. For members being treated by Dr. Webster, it was more than a violation of trust. The RCMP not only sought to delist Dr. Webster as a service provider, but to prevent him from continuing to treat members, many of whom it had identified as extremely vulnerable. In fact, internal documents obtained through access to information disclose that the RCMP’s Occupational Health and Safety department, together with the Employee and Management Relations Section of the force, assessed the risks of delisting and bringing a complaint against Dr. Webster. Among the risks to members identified in the assessment were “Suicide” and “Deterioration of Medical Condition”, as well as the likelihood of negative publicity. Despite a paucity of risk-mitigation options, management determined to pursue the dual course of delisting Dr. Webster, and pursuing its complaint to the College. Documents also show that the decision was made at the very top, with Commissioner Paulson reviewing and approving the submission to the College.

“For MPPAC, there is a parallel between the choices the RCMP made about rolling out carbines and the choices it made about Dr. Webster. Each time, it weighed its own political interests against those of the members, and each time, the members lost. For us, we see the force trying to protect its reputation rather than its members, which in a policing organization is the worst kind of leadership failure. Our members deserve better”, said Creasser.

While the prosecution process under the Canada Labour Code is just beginning, the members’ struggle for a voice in matters affecting their safety is ongoing. MPPAC is hopeful that the charges will open the door to a new approach to member health and safety amongst senior management. Said Rob Creasser, “We are looking forward to a more open dialogue on issues of members’ health and safety. We cannot let tragedies like Moncton continue to occur without learning everything we can, and implementing changes where needed. Unfortunately, it has taken charges against the RCMP to move that process forward.