Former RCMP Atlantic harassment coordinator threatened with dismissal for reporting harassment complaints
Staff Sergeant Cheryl Gravelle was misled by the Professional Integrity Officer,
told by Commissioner Paulson, “Some day you will have to come out of your rage”
OTTAWA – It’s been more than a year since The Toronto Star first reported the harassment complaints of RCMP S/Sgt. Cheryl Gravelle, the former Atlantic Region Harassment Coordinator who herself was bullied by management after being injured at work and was threatened with dismissal after reporting it, and the situation remains unresolved. In light of changes to RCMP Human Resources policies released on November 26, Gravelle is speaking up again to raise public awareness about ongoing collusion and bullying in the upper ranks of the RCMP.
Under proposed changes to the RCMP Code of Conduct and human resources policies stemming from the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act, the Commissioner will have the authority to discharge or demote members on the grounds of unsatisfactory performance, transfer of work, promotion of economy and efficiency and “other” grounds, not for conduct, where cause exists; this may include mental or physical disability. Discharge and demotion boards or hearings will no longer exist, and the Commissioner’s decision will be final and binding.
On behalf of and in conjunction with S/Sgt. Gravelle, whose requests for assistance were ignored by the Staff Relations Representative program, the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada (MPPAC) has requested meetings with Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to discuss A/Commr. Craig MacMillan’s inappropriate and unethical handling of Gravelle’s complaints and to ensure that Gravelle is treated justly in the future. Commissioner Paulson declined a meeting and no further response was received from the Minister’s office. (Read the letters at http://mppac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/mppac-letter-to-blaney-OCT-29-2013.pdf and http://mppac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/mppac-letter-to-commissioner-OCT-11-2013.pdf.)
S/Sgt. Gravelle is a regular member of the RCMP with 22 years of service. Until September 2012, when her position was civilianised, she was the designated Harassment Coordinator for the Atlantic Region and worked directly for the Employee and Management Relations Officer and the Human Resources Officer. Gravelle sustained a back injury, which required surgery, on duty fighting a deranged suspect who entered her Nova Scotia office site and was subjected to extreme abuses of position and process by her direct supervisors while trying to receive treatment and when she returned to duty in January 2012.
In April 2012, Gravelle filed a complaint through the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA; aka the Whistleblower Act) with the RCMP Professional Integrity Officer (PIO), A/Commr. Craig MacMillan, as she feared retaliation for complaining against four senior commissioned officers. This was a process Commissioner Paulson had sanctioned for those who wished to file a complaint outside the chain of command.
On August 1, 2012, Gravelle received a letter summarily concluding her PSDPA complaint. However, the PIO did write that he would forward her allegations of misconduct to the Responsible Line Officer and that Gravelle’s disclosure raised questions regarding the policies and practices for Return to Work, Workplace Accommodation and the Integrated Services Committee. MacMillan stated on two separate occasions that reviews of these processes were being undertaken. On the same day Gravelle received the letter from the PIO, she was personally served with a written order to report for a health assessment within 24 hours or else administrative discharge proceedings would be commenced against her. Gravelle viewed the timing of the order as retaliation and collusion between the named respondents and the office of the PIO, but she attended the Health Services office pursuant to the order. In an email to Commissioner Paulson dated June 10, 2013, Gravelle wrote, “During the ordered meeting I was advised that it was not actually a health assessment, but that ‘management wanted to see where I was at’.”
After having been obfuscated and stalled by Commissioner Paulson’s direct subordinates, Gravelle followed the chain of command and brought this misconduct to the Commissioner’s attention in June 2013. Paulson responded to her email in July, stating, “the PSDPA process was deemed not to be the path through which your complaints ought to have been examined.” His remedy of conducting a “review” prior to initiating a Code of Conduct investigation against four senior commissioned officers did not follow the legislated procedures, as conduct allegations must be examined in accordance with the requirements of the RCMP Act.
Gravelle replied, “Regardless of whether or not the PSDPA was the correct process, A/Commr. MacMillan knew that an unlawful and retaliatory order threatening Admin. discharge had been issued against me and did nothing. It is everyone’s responsibility to address wrongdoing/harassment and he just abdicated any responsibility…. I have accused the PIO of collusion twice and he has never refuted it.… It would seem that I have been punished for having sustained a duty-related workplace injury…. You have asked me how we can fix this mess. You can start by holding your PIO to the same accountability standards that you have promised the Canadian public that you expect of the general membership.”
On September 12, 2013, Paulson wrote: “You may feel misconduct has occurred, and you may disagree with my findings, you are entitled. I have decided that no misconduct occurred. Some day you will have to come out of your rage. Let me know if I can help.” (Read the original email string at http://mppac.ca/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/full_paulson-mirastry_email_string.pdf.)
An Access to Information request shows that no records exist with respect to any of the reviews that the PIO indicated were underway back in 2012. The PIO stated in writing that “work continues” on “the general review by Human Resources of Return to Work, Duty to Accommodate and Integrated Services Committees policies and procedures.” MPPAC and Gravelle have grave and serious concerns about the personal integrity of the RCMP’s Professional Integrity Officer. A/Commr. MacMillan was in charge of spearheading the RCMP’s new Code of Conduct, implementing changes arising from the Enhancing RCMP Accountability Act and the Professional Ethics Strategic Plan, as well as administering the Public Service Disclosure Protection Act for the RCMP. His mantra to the membership is “strong ethics – strong organization.”
Despite having written evidence of unethical behaviour, Commissioner Paulson has completely dismissed serious allegations of wrongdoing by his direct report. Paulson is saying one thing to the Canadian public about ensuring RCMP accountability, yet doing another when it involves himself and his senior managers. As the Commissioner stated to RCMP members in his respectful workplace conversation interview on November 22, “I’d like everybody in this organization to feel empowered, in fact, expected to be able to take action on any sort of behaviour which was contrary to the respectful workplace.” Paulson continued, “You need courageous leaders in the workplace to encourage debate, to take criticism, to give criticism, to initiate active, helpful discussions about workplace issues.” MPPAC agrees. We need to work together to bring accountability and transparency back to Canada’s national police force and we demand the Commissioner and his direct reports abide by the policies and core values of the RCMP. Members of the RCMP expect this, and so does the Canadian public. MPPAC will seek the dismissal of anyone entrusted with leading the RCMP who willfully brings disrepute and dishonour to the organization by their actions.
The RCMP is currently the only police force in Canada not permitted to unionize. MPPAC was established in 2010 to fight for the right to engage in collective bargaining through an independent association on behalf of RCMP regular and civilian members across Canada. We strive for excellence in our conduct and obligations. We provide leadership to all of our membership, in affiliation with the Canadian Police Association, on justice issues which affects the quality of life of all Canadians. The Association does not seek or support the right to strike. To learn more, visit www.mppac.ca.