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Bill C-42: A Police Psychologist’s Perspective

Oct 06

The ability to sanction oneself plays a central role in the regulation of inhumane conduct. As we traverse the socialization process we form moral standards that serve as guides and deterrents for our behavior. Once we have developed this system of internalized controls we regulate our actions by the sanctions we apply to ourselves.

The system has a weakness however; our moral standards do not run on automatic pilot. In order to be effective we must engage these self regulatory mechanisms. Unfortunately, there are several psychological processes that we can use to disengage our moral standards from our inhumane actions. The mechanism of moral disengagement that is the focus of this brief article is related to the process of blaming or dehumanizing the victims.

In certain instances, the possession of sweeping, unchecked institutional power can change the users in ways that are conducive to dehumanization. This is most often seen when those in authority, like the Commissioner of the RCMP and his senior managers and executives, have coercive power over others, like the membership of the RCMP, and when adequate safeguards for constraining that power are lacking. The power holders can come to devalue those over whom they have control. You may remember the famous psychological experiment where well socialized university students were randomly chosen to play the roles of either guards or inmates in a simulated prison experiment. After only a few days the experiment had to be aborted when the guards, who had been given unilateral power, began to treat their prisoners in tyrannical and degrading ways. It seems that a role assignment that authorizes the use of coercive power can override personal characteristics in promoting punitive conduct. A great deal of study of relative influences similarly suggests that social influences conducive to punitiveness exert a much greater sway over aggressive conduct than do people’s personal characteristics.

All this to say, that Bill C-42 is not in line with contemporary organizational realities or with an effective, modern police service. The Bill will give the Commissioner of the RCMP increased and unchecked powers over the membership of the organization. With these powers he will perpetuate one of the major flaws in the culture of the organization; he will remain accountable to no one. Where are the avenues of redress for his, and his managers and executives, decisions? This sounds very much like coercive power over the membership without adequate constraints in place. This is a recipe for a labour relations disaster. I’m sure the Commissioner, the Minister of Public Safety, the senior executives of the RCMP, and much of the general public will be comfortable with Bill C-42. But we must remember not all RCMP members are Donald Ray or Monty Robinson! Many of them have genuine complaints, and no effective systems of organizational redress, that often result in “poor performance and absenteeism”. There is a significant chance that these members will be summarily dismissed rather than offered due process.

The legion of harassed RCMP members and their abusers, that have created the drive behind C-42, are the responsibility of a failed labour relations program within the RCMP; the Division Staff Relations Representatives program (DSRRP). This program has failed both the perpetrators and the victims; as well as the general membership that looks on in disgust. The DSRRP has been a dismal failure, is hopelessly compromised, and needs to be terminated.

I suggest that with the introduction of Bill C-42 the federal conservative government has fallen short. With increased power comes increased responsibility. The Commissioner remains responsible to no one for his decisions under this draconian labour legislation. If he is going to be given these sweeping powers, he must answer to someone. The contemporary realities of effective labour relations demand that along with Bill C-42 (in whatever form it takes) the RCMP membership be allowed to form an independent association that will create a collective bargaining agreement to hold the Commissioner to account.

Where are you Division Staff Relations Representatives? If there is another side to this position, let’s hear it. Or is silence agreement by other means?

Dr. Mike Webster, Registered Psychologist



From → Bill C-42

  1. anonymous permalink

    As a current serving member of the RCMP, I could not agree more. As a Federal Police officer, I swore to uphold our constitution in this free and democratic society. Unfortunately, as a member of the RCMP I live and am contolled by a Dictatorial brotherhood. The Constitution of Canada does not apply to me. A criminal in this country has more rights than I do.

    Time to leave the RCMP and be free like every other Canadian Citizen.

    Ashamed to be in the RCMP

    • Anonymous permalink

      Honestly, aside from harassment, mobbing, COE-segregation-attempts, benefit clawbacks, draconian-based politics that hired little napoleons to the senior ranks, it just seemed we took so many steps back to the point where you can’t do your job and you fight extensively for your existence to be realized that it was just time for me to go. I do much better without this organisation. I too was not only “ashamed” but “embarrassed” to be associated with the Farce’CMP. You’re correct that as a member of the force, you ‘in-some-ways’ forfeit your rights as a human being. As a member, you’re bound by the RCMP act which supersedes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – so if something is covered under the RCMP act then it applies to you, but if not, only then the Charter of R&F apply to members.

      While CMs will be amalgamated into the Federal Gov.t’s-Shared Services Centre (SSC), the only benefit to this is that CMs will be supported by a union (will success RCMP decisions as they’re not bound to the RCMP act anymore, only PSAC) but will lose vacation time and some other benefits with the transition to PSAC.

  2. Anonymous permalink

    As a former member, I agree. A big problem is this allows the commissioner and his “delegates” to be ‘judge, jury and executioner’, of officers accused of wrongdoing, although suspect this is more a smokescreen to get rid of members who don’t tow the party-line or possibly used as a tool to get rid of members that are ODS or that they don’t like. I’m curious if his “delegates” are going to be all the commissioned ranks (inspector and above) or will this be limited? The problem with this is they are not “judges” and would rather be ‘judged’ by ‘judges’ whom are much better versed in the law to perform this, objectively and independently from the RCMP ‘boys club’ – the very people that are 90% or more of the problem, and we’re going to put more power in their hands but who watches them? Nobody. What’s next? Maybe the commissioner will declare martial law whenever he wakes up on the wrong side of the bed? You know, if top brass wants to get rid of you, they don’t need bill c-42, they can do this quite easily with other tactics so there is no value to this bill but only for them to acquire more power. I don’t think the idea of giving the RCMP separate employer status (as an addition), to work independently of the federal government is a good idea either, as they’ve never proven that they can independently manage their financial and human resources, as this site and posted articles showing the force’s current scandalous state reveals this.

    It never seems to matter whether it’s the brown task force, some inquiry, a new commissioner or bill c-42, as it’s only another way to rearrange the deck chairs on the titanic (while sinking), to make it ‘public’ perception that things have changed or will for the betterment of the RCMP and public, but inside the force, irregardless of a re-org, people-shuffle or new process, the internal operations never change coupled with the power and socio-culture of the force continuing to remain stagnantly in the hands of force senior management.

    “Attention all RMs, this is your stewardess speaking, please do not return all trays to the upright position, but break them off and use them as shields. We have an officer walking around throwing ‘bill c42’ throwing stars against the detachment walls because he can. Try to deflect if you can, but if not, you’re gone. Cheerio… of luck”.

    Another concern is what this does to the civilian member population. While the ‘category of employees’ has been an item of interest for years, it sounds like bill c-42 will facilitate throwing civilians out with the bath-water. That’s a shame. I don’t think the force realizes what power they will relinquish when civilian members transition as members under the RCMP act to members under the Public Service Alliance of Canada (that will now be bound to the public service act that will clash with the intended goals of police operations required under the RCMP act). The benefits will be somewhat clawed back for CMs under PSAC. Will CMs retain the same clearances or will these be downgraded. There were a lot of benefits to RMs when they needed special skills required of CMs for forensic analysis, computer-related, or other, because they had the right clearances. Many CMs do a lot more than just their job, and under PSAC, they will be regulated under a union, by a union steward/rep as to the scope of their duties, not the RCMP. PSAC members work there 40 hours, must be paid O/T after that period, and not sure if the force will have the luxury of calling them 24/7 as off-duty calls required under their operations, should they be needed for certain projects/investigations? A converted CM to public servant, might be disciplined for performing voluntary O/T work if a union steward catches wind of this, as it effects the ability of other public servants to take advantage of fully paid O/T. The force won’t like this as they love to take advantage of people this way and hide behind the smoke screen of ‘esprit de corps’, and rob them of their personal time. I don’t think this will happen with CMs converted to PSEs under PSAC. Bill c-42 boasts increased efficiencies, but really only another tool for further segregative status between the regular membership and everyone else.


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