Commissioner's Scrum - May 15, 2017

May 18, 2017
Ottawa, Ontario

Statement

Transcript

BOB PAULSON (RCMP Commissioner): … If it's me, we put data on the RCMP's website to show the changes we're… that they're starting in the RCMP. And in my opinion, we're making progress.

REPORTER (unidentified): Will it take civilians in the RCMP, within the executive staff?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: We have civilians in the RCMP.

RAYMOND FILLION: Because that… they're recommending that there be more.

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Everywhere like the… the poor… the poor Deputy Commissioner in charge of human resources in the RCMP, he is as qualified as anyone who does the function of… human resources. Because he is an RCMP officer, he is not unqualified to be in charge of human resources.

REPORTER: What do you think of the report?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Well I think that there's some good recommendations in there. There are some good findings. I think we'll take that under reflection, but as I was just explaining in French, you know, the... I said very often that the culture of the organization is a very, very difficult quality to change in the organization. I made commitments, not only to the force but to Canadians that we would change that. And in November 2014 with the coming into force of the RCMP Accountability Act -- we started to deploy a series of initiatives that we're tracking with data – that we're giving Canadians data. It's on the... it's on the Infoweb and not a lot of people check that out and comment on that or try to unpack that. There's some very positive data up there and there's some very questionable... not questionable data but problematic data that's informing the transformation. Even the author... or the presenter of the report this morning said cultural change takes a long time. I've characterized it as generational. Just as long as we can continue to demonstrate progress, I think we should give these things time. (Inaudible-crosstalk)

REPORTER (unidentified): Just to understand, you are… you are completely against the fact that they're bringing and requiring that human resources and finance positions be civilian. Because you were asked the question earlier, it wasn't clear. So you are against…

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: No, no, not against.

REPORTER: … the changes in the force for civilians. Is that it?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: No, no. I am for… individuals who are qualified, who are smart.

REPORTER: Well, it's been said just civilians…

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Let me… Let me finish. If it's a civilian… We have civilians. The person in charge of the… of finance for the RCMP is a civilian. Before, we had the woman who was in charge of strategic affairs for the RCMP, she's a civilian. We have civilians. Everywhere, look at the make-up of the force. We have civilians.

REPORTER: Sir, you were given a copy of the watchdog's report about a month ago, so why didn't you respond before today?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: It was an embargoed report.

REPORTER: And has anything changed in the month that you (inaudible). Were you able to a month ago start implementing anything?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Yeah, well we're looking at some of the recommendations that have... like, for example, in 2013 one of the recommendations was that we, you know, include... be more inclusive of the definition of RCM... of the harassment, and now they had comments on that today. So we're open to that. I mean, the thing is changing all the time. The Force is changing all the time, so we're looking at the things that we can do in the very near term and we'll implement those things that have merit.

REPORTER: So what would you define as harassment?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Well harassment is the unwanted behaviour of anyone in a workplace, unwanted and reasonably offensive to anyone, right? That's... that's the Treasury Board definition of harassment.

REPORTER: What are suggestions of the RCMP...?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Let me just go back to that because it's important to recognize that while we've adopted the Treasury Board definition of harassment, we've also made it a conduct measure. That was one of the key features of 2014 when we made those changes, so it's now not just a performance issue for the members in the organization but now it's a conduct issue. Now, we'll take some advice on how... they only looked at 69 reports since the study was... since the changes happened in November 2014. That's not a big sample to be able to draw too many conclusions from, but if there are things that we can fix... Ironically, one of the features of the organization that I'm very insistent on is that we be open, transparent, and responsive to criticism. And in both of these studies, I think both authors commented on how open we were. Like, if you've got some recommendations and they make sense and they're based on evidence, we're going to implement them, so... like, we're on that. But I think you need to give the changes time to work, you need to assess it based on evidence and you need to to be able to make intelligent decisions as the minister was describing to advance the organization.

(Inaudible crosstalk)

REPORTER: On civilian oversight, one of the suggestions from the (inaudible) report said that you potentially institute what they do at the NYPD which is they have a civilian... they essentially have a corporate structure with a civilian CEO and the top officer is the Chief Operating Officer. What about that kind of set up? So as far as civilian oversight goes.

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: You know, I probably have views as the commissioner for the last five and a half years about that, but it's not really for me... and I think Canadians and the government are entitled to deploy the kind of governance that they want to have running the RCMP. There's any number of models that exist including the existing one, right? It's the linkage between this harassment issue as it's understood today, for example, and the wholesale governance change to the Force... I'm having trouble making that jump. But if the government wants to have a different governance model, they will have that and there's lots of literature from the Brown Task Force and other places that examine the merits of various governance frameworks for the RCMP. It's a complicated organization. You have to understand that there are eight provinces, three territories, 115 municipalities and each one of those people have an interest in what goes on and with the new contract that we have, there are accountabilities to the provinces, the territories, and the municipalities, so that has to all feature in to whatever it is you want to do.

REPORTER (unidentified): On the harassment investigations, will it have to be a little like what they decided to do in the army, that it be outside the chain of command?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Completely open to that. Completely open. That, that's up to the government to give us the… the support to hire civilian forces, to do harassment investigations. I was never against that. It's complicated for example, because we have… RCMP members throughout Canada. In the North, in the big cities, in British Columbia. But if we're able to have the money, it will cost money to do that. I am completely open. We already did that. We already asked individuals outside of the force… to come into the force to open an investigation.

REPORTER: How do explain the (inaudible) given today's report?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: I didn't see in the report too many specifics. I heard some mention at the presentation of the report as to some representations of failing to do back-up and so on. Is that what you're referring to?

REPORTER: Yes.

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: I don't know (inaudible) what they're talking about. Those are serious allegations. I think we would like to have those particularized so that we can look into them.

REPORTER: The report also said that there are a number of leadership issues when it came to harassment cases and as the leader for the last five years as you mentioned, is there anything you would have done differently in cases of harassment?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Well I don't actually individually investigate, right? I need to develop processes and systems that satisfy a number of interests, not the least of which is the complainants and the idea of fairness in the workplace. If you look at the 2013 report, there was a representation of where the RCMP fit in the sort of broad public service as to how many complaints they have and there was no such representation here. Like, you know, this is not an excuse and it sounds like I'm giving excuses. Proportionately, the number of harassment complaints in the RCMP, in particular sexual harassment complaints, are low. One is too many, I get that, but I think, you know, if your question is: would I have done anything differently, we put a lot of effort in, you know, in terms of the criticism of the historical failings of the organization, I take no issue with that. We tried to sew those all together in November 2014 and go forward with a plan to transform the culture. That has been working. There's data available. There's evidence to demonstrate that some things are working and some things aren't. We need to give that time.

REPORTER: (Inaudible).

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: I would have done it maybe a little bit earlier but the machinery and (inaudible) new laws and so on is a complex (inaudible).

REPORTER (unidentified): Have you yourself ever experienced harassment in the force?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Have I experienced it?

REPORTER: Yes, you personally.

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: If I was a victim?

REPORTER: Yes.

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Harassment is generally understood in a case where you… you have confl… fights in the… workplace. Yes, I experienced some and then you could talk to people who… maybe offended me when I was young, but I was a poor supervisor… a poor leader. But it's complicated in our workplace, it's complicated. Well, I was never… Yes I had complaints against me… that I was… a harasser.

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: (Inaudible) I'm not quite sure what the question was. It was whether I've ever experienced harassment.

REPORTER: (Inaudible).

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: As I've said numerous times, years ago when... particularly when we were bringing forward the new legislation, I said, you know, I have been the victim of harassment and I've also probably engaged in activity that people probably didn't appreciate. But it's representative of trying to develop leadership styles and... you know, a culture of inclusiveness, of tolerance, of understanding other people... that is what we're trying to do and I think that there's evidence that we're succeeding in some regard there.

REPORTER: I just want to clarify one thing there. When you say on civilians, I understand, but you do not see the necessity of changing the RCMP's organizational structure? That's what I would just like to understand.

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: It's not up to me to make that kind of decision (inaudible). In my opinion, if someone were to ask me for advice, I would say look for the evidence, look for the data, make fairly serious decisions like that on… on the… on the investigations and the data that are strong and clear. It takes… proof, evidence, you know?

[AUDIO CUTS OUT]

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COMMISSIONER PAULSON: It's not my place to say. In my opinion, we have to give (inaudible) time to work. And look, go on the website and look at our data, look at the stats that are there. There are a lot of them. And no one… there has never been a question about our stats that are posted on the… the website.

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: What is the question exactly?

REPORTER: Do you think that it's necessary to have like a structural change?

COMMISSIONER PAULSON: Well, I mean, we've always got to be reacting and we've always got to be ready to make adjustments to what the reality is, but I think that the organization has received a lot of structural change. One of the criticisms is that we're piecemeal in our response to some of the… some of the recommendations and, you know, it follows too that there's a sort of piecemeal and a chronic series of studies and reports that have kept the organization sort of reeling, so it doesn't fall to me to make those decisions and I think the government will need the best possible advice they can get with the absolute best amount of data.

[AUDIO CUTS OUT]

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COMMISSIONER PAULSON: ... by giving us some advice on HR, on finance, on how we conduct ourselves in the workplace, that's always valued, so it would be foolish of me to say that we wouldn't benefit from a civilian's advice as we do now. How that's structured is up to the government.

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