POLITICS

Vic Toews Dismisses Concerns About RCMP Boss's Fiery Rhetoric

06/04/2013 05:23 EDT | Updated 08/04/2013 05:12 EDT
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OTTAWA - The public safety minister is dismissing concerns that Canada's top Mountie went too far in levelling harsh words at some disgruntled RCMP members.

In the House of Commons, Liberal MP Judy Sgro said Tuesday that RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson should apologize for chastising members who have complained of bullying and harassment.

At a Senate committee meeting this week, Paulson took exception to complaints aired publicly by three particular members and accused some Mounties of being out of step with his efforts improve the police force.

Paulson said he could not continually defend against "outlandish" and unproven claims, insisting they do not define the modern RCMP experience.

Sgro said that rather than fixing workplace problems, the RCMP boss — appointed less than two years ago — went on the attack by painting the complainants in a negative light.

"The commissioner's shameful comments demand a public apology at least," she said. "Given the fact that commissioner Paulson clearly crossed the line in attacking the victims, can the minister please tell me if he has full confidence in commissioner Paulson today?"

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews acknowledged that "harassment in the RCMP, especially harassment that is sexual in nature, is a problem."

But he sidestepped any concerns about Paulson's comments, instead urging support for a government bill that would revamp disciplinary procedures within the force. The bill cleared the Senate Tuesday and awaits royal assent.

The legislation gives the RCMP commissioner authority to establish a process for the investigation and resolution of harassment complaints.

The government argues it will allow the force to swiftly deal with grievances that currently fester for years, sapping workplace morale and putting careers in limbo. Critics, including the NDP, say the new measures place too much power in the commissioner's hands and will only worsen relations with members.

Several RCMP officers have complained of abusive behaviour and intimidation since Cpl. Catherine Galliford went public in 2011 with allegations of harassment.

In his remarks Monday, Paulson — like Toews — did not deny the force has problems.

But he took aim at some members, suggesting they were putting more energy into complaining than working to make things better.

Paulson singled out Cpl. Roland Beaulieu, a British Columbia Mountie on stress leave who wanted to testify before senators but ran into a snag: Beaulieu was told that if he was well enough to go to Ottawa, he should be well enough to return to work.

A separate Senate committee is now looking into whether the RCMP tried to muzzle him.

Paulson charged Monday that Beaulieu, who serves as volunteer secretary with the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada — a support organization for RCMP members — holds down the position "without any difficulty."

He directly accused Beaulieu of seeking money from the RCMP to go away quietly.

On Tuesday, Beaulieu told senators on the upper chamber's rights and procedures committee that he indeed made a proposal in a recent letter to Paulson with the aim of retiring from the force.

Beaulieu indicated such letters were a fairly common way of kickstarting such negotiations. "The whole idea was to open the door."

He found Paulson's public remarks about him startling. "That does upset me very much. I was very shocked and surprised."

Beaulieu says he became ill in 2001 when supervisors refused to properly deal with complaints he had made about issues including unpaid overtime and lack of promotion within the force.

He told the Senate panel his career with the Mounties is effectively over.

"I can't go back to the RCMP. No way. I can't do it, I just can't do it," Beaulieu said.

"I can't walk back in there and know that these officers would be looking at me as a troublemaker."

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