As an organization, the RCMP is functionally broken. I have said this before and say it again.
Last week a letter came to my attention written by a serving member of the RCMP. The letter was striking in that it was addressed to the Prime Minister and the Public Safety Minister who is responsible for the RCMP.
The author of the letter signed his name but I won’t use it for the purposes of this discussion. I have confirmed he has 23 years service and is serving in BC. I am also told his father served and was a 33 year veteran. He was, I am told, involved in two shootings, both of which were deemed justified.
The author praises the courage of Janet Merlo, Catherine Galliford and Krista Carle, who tragically committed suicide last week. These ladies, among others, have been at the forefront of the public complaints and lawsuits talking about the sexual harassment and bullying they faced as members. Carle’s suicide underlines the problem, chief among them is the denial, foot-dragging and lack of leadership that has existed and still exists in the RCMP.
The author says in discussing them, “The manner in which their complaints were handled provides a clear insight into the lengths that some in senior management have and will go to in an effort to isolate, discredit, demoralize and financially destroy those who dare to challenge them. I can tell you that these strategies are still very much in play by RCMP Management today. Management refuses to hold themselves to the very standard that they demand of the rank and file and it is no longer acceptable to allow this to continue without speaking out. Today I am doing just that.”
He also cites the crocodile tears of former Commissioner Bob Paulson when he tearfully apologized to these women at a national press conference and then promptly did the square root of bugger all to fix the problems. There are those who say Paulson was the biggest bully of them all.
The letter consists of more than 4,000 words. The frustration is palpable and the author outlines many issues where he has identified areas of concern to supervisors, the Commanding Officer of E Division (BC), even the Commissioner and has heard nothing back.
He says this, “My attempts to get any accountability and to get potential wrongdoing independently investigated has proven futile. Requests for documents results in heavily redacted useless pieces of paper or claims that no notes exist yet perpetrators are permitted to retire or are transferred. I am one of many with allegations that deserve independent inquiry / investigation from an agency separate and distinct from the RCMP. I, and others who have brought forward legitimate concerns have effectively been shunned and banished by RCMP Management including the current Commissioner and Commanding Officer of British Columbia and her staff here in ‘E” Division. This is either a failure of leadership or the result of legal advice that completely lacks insight into member health, safety, care and wellbeing. This lesson should already have been learned through the failures identified in numerous inquiries and commissioned reports. Why do we keep getting it wrong?”
He goes on, “I speak to members on a daily basis that are living one day at a time. I also hear from members on a weekly basis who are on the brink of suicide and have been left almost completely destroyed by management. What a sad waste of human resources.”
Sad indeed. Last week I spoke with Eddie MacDonald, a retired member who is on the executive of the National Police Federation, the organization which has applied to get certification to be the bargaining agent for the rank and file members. They have over 10,000 members who have signed on for their representation. Yet still they wait.
MacDonald told me things are so bad they have a group studying suicides and mental disorders of RCMP members in the last year. Every police officer knows someone who killed themselves due to the rigours of the job. “My source stated 40 + since 2006. Since October 2017 there have been 11 members, serving and retired, who have died at their own hand.” That’s stunning and it’s something neither the media nor the Force will talk about.
This week the Coroner’s office in BC announced there will be an Inquest into the death of Sgt. Pierre Lemaitre in July of 2013. Five years ago. What the heck took so long?
Lemaitre was the media liaison officer who provided the press briefing in the hours after the death of Polish traveller Robert Dziekanski.
The initial information he provided the media turned out to be inaccurate and he wanted to correct the record based on further information provided by investigators. He was over-ruled by the officer in charge of IHIT who had conduct of the investigation, Wayne Rideout. He was taken off the file and later reassigned to the Integrated Road Safety Unit (IRSU) and ultimately Langley Traffic. There he encountered a bullying, harassing supervisor who was the subject of many complaints for bullying and nothing was done.
Lemaitre became the media’s whipping boy in the weeks after the Pritchard video surfaced which showed the interaction between Dziekanski and the YVR Four. He was called a liar in the media when in truth he gave preliminary information to the media given to him by the IHIT media spokesperson and investigators. Like most of these things, preliminary information was incomplete and inaccurate and further investigation revealed more details.
The decision by Rideout not to allow Lemaitre to correct the public record was a brutal error. It directly resulted in the Braidwood Inquiry and ultimately the creation of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO). I believe it also resulted in the suicide of Lemaitre.
On the day Lemaitre committed suicide that supervisor was sent home by the RCMP and told not to come back. Fired, but not really. He was paid for at least two more years until he retired with a full pension. Another example of the lack of RCMP leadership and sweeping a problem under the buffalo skin so to speak.
My guess is the bullying became a part of the investigation of the Coroner but was stymied by the Force and thus the delay. It will be interesting to see if the Coroner’s Inquest goes down that path or if the RCMP has politically manipulated things so that it will not be on the table. On the other hand, a lawsuit has been filed against the RCMP by Lemaitre’s widow Sheila. That will be heard in open court unless the RCMP settles on the courthouse steps admitting liability.
Things haven’t changed in the RCMP. Leadership, such as it is, diminishes the junior ranks and won’t listen favouring instead the old boy’s club they protect at the expense of all else. Never ever do or say anything to tarnish the buffalo, (the centre of their logo).
I have long described the RCMP as more than a hundred years of tradition unhampered by progress. Sadly, even with a new commissioner, nothing has changed.
The BC member who wrote the letter to the Prime Minister anticipates he will be disciplined and perhaps even bullied for going outside the Force. Let’s hope that doesn’t occur. But my bet is that it will.