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RCMP Commissioner Paulson should publicly apologize or resign

Sep 20

While the RCMP self-implodes, politicians and pundits are engaged in a debate as to whether recent private e-mail exchanges that have become public between the Commissioner of the RCMP and some front line officers is in the best interest of the organization. From my perspective these discussions completely miss the point. Under normal circumstances, one could argue that washing one’s laundry in public is not a good thing. Indeed, Randall Garrison, the public safety critic for the NDP, thinks these e-mails are counterproductive because they don’t help solve the larger problems facing the force. I disagree with this logic for several compelling reasons.

First, there is no larger or more serious problem facing the RCMP than the lack of trust that exists between frontline officers and Bob Paulson’s management team. As Cpl. Loren Chaplin has stated to the media, people who think that RCMP managers, who were responsible for the force’s problems to begin with, can now fix those problems are delusional.  In short, the rank and file, rightly or wrongly attribute the problems in the RCMP to the very minions that Commissioner Bob Paulson has appointed to clean up the RCMP.

Second, the command and control structure that exists in the RCMP is directly responsible for the fact that bullying and sexual harassment has been allowed to persist as long as it has without anyone being held accountable. If Cpl. Catherine Galliford had not gone public with her allegations of sexual harassment does anyone really believe that the RCMP would have taken action to correct these problems before they resulted in a class action lawsuit?  Given the extent and nature of the allegations that have come to light no rational or logical person would believe such an assertion.

Third, the real issues facing the RCMP are not just structural but human in nature.  As Cst. Peter Kennedy points out in his e-mail to Bob Paulson, “There is bullying, intimidation, exclusion, veiled threats and more.”  Indeed human resource specialists will tell you that you cannot correct harassment within an organization by using words, language or behaviour that demeans, insults or ridicules employees.

Fourth, given existing policies in the federal government on the prevention of harassment in the workplace how would a reasonable and rational person assess Bob Paulson’s e-mail response to S/Sgt. Tim Chad?  For the record, when it comes to workplace harassment the RCMP is governed by Treasury Board Policy which states “that harassment includes degrading remarks, jokes or taunting, insulting gestures, displays of offensive pictures or material, and unwelcome enquiries or comments about someone’s personal life, as well as conduct, comments or gestures of a sexual nature that may offend or humiliate an employee and conduct, comments or displays that demean, belittle or cause humiliation or embarrassment to an employee, as well as any intimidation or threat.”

When the e-mails between Chad and Paulson became public, Kennedy was so offended he fired off an e-mail blasting Paulson for his comments: “I find your reply to [Chad] aggressive, insulting, arrogant, condescending and immature.”  It is therefore fair to ask how Paulson’s e-mail response to Chad that he is “living under a rock” and that “to inform yourself … it will take an effort” measures up in terms of the government’s harassment policy?  Are these words not insulting?  Are they not demeaning? Are they not intimidating?  In my view, Paulson’s e-mail reply to Chad constitutes a prima facie case of workplace harassment that violates Treasury Board Policy as well as the RCMP’s internal policy on human rights and harassment in the workplace.

Fifth, the RCMP’s internal policy states that it’s up to commanders or supervisers to prevent harassment. It further states that to this end they must take all necessary action to protect complainants; establish and maintain a work environment that is free of harassment, and take appropriate measures to resolve conflict and intervene in any situation that could develop into harassment. How would you evaluate Paulson’s compliance with the RCMP’s internal policy regarding his treatment of Chad?  The fact an Ontario judge recently wrote a letter to Paulson saying: They are not words I would have expected to read in correspondence coming from the Office of the Commissioner speaks volumes.

The argument that e-mail exchanges between Paulson and Chad should not have been made public defies logic. The number one priority assigned to Paulson by the Minister of Public Safety when he was appointed commissioner was to address bullying and harassment in the RCMP. It’s ironic therefore that in his e-mail to Paulson Kennedy wrote: “A man [Chad] asking for a little understanding and help was bullied by the very person who is supposed to help not only him but all of us.”  No matter how you cut it at the end of the day harassment is harassment is harassment. In my opinion, Paulson should publicly apologize to Chad or resign from his position as commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Darryl T. Davies is a criminology and criminal justice professor at Carleton University.
REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION FROM THE HILL TIMES
Published: Monday, 09/03/2012 12:00 am EDT The Hill Times

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