In Surrey, B.C., Thursday to discuss Bill C-42 with police and municipal leaders, Toews told reporters that problems within the RCMP can be fixed.
“I don’t believe [the force] is inherently sexist,” he said.
Toews agreed with the suggestion that B.C. appears to be the source of a majority of RCMP sexual harassment complaints.
“It’s certainly the most vocal to the extent concerns are being raised.”
Toews noted that B.C. is the largest RCMP division and that more Mounties work there than in any other province, but said that he was not making excuses for mistakes that had been made.
“Simply because it’s a large organization, there isn’t an allowable number of wrongdoings that you can have,” the minister said.
Toews says legislation to modernize the force means officers found to have committed sexual misconduct will be fired, possibly along with their superiors if they’re found to have condoned bad behaviour.
“Under this new legislation, the commanders cannot allow a negative cultural attitude or climate to continue or they will be held responsible.”
The minister also wanted to assure officers who step forward to complain about harassment or bullying will not be victimized again for speaking out.
The mayor of Langley, Peter Fassbender, whose son is an RCMP officer, was among those who met with Toews Thursday, and Fassbender said he is relieved the minister is taking sexual harassment and misconduct seriously.
“I think the new legislation goes a long way to not only hold those accountable who are the are perpetrators of that act, but also their supervisors,” Fassbender said.
Fassbender also said that under the new 20-year RCMP policing contract with B.C. municipalities, mayors now play a role in management of the force at the local level and can make their views known if they’re not happy with the way any future misconduct is dealt with.