OTTAWA — The public safety minister says he has expressed outrage to the country's top Mountie over the latest allegations of sexual harassment within the police force.
Ralph Goodale says he told RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson he expects a comprehensive, transparent investigation, strong discipline, support for victims and a plan to end what he calls "this toxic workplace behaviour.''
The strong words come after CBC News reported allegations of unwanted sexual touching, bullying and rampant nudity in the workplace at the explosives training unit of the Canadian Police College in Ottawa.
In a statement, Goodale notes the prime minister has given him a clear mandate to ensure that the RCMP is a healthy workplace free from harassment and sexual violence.
In the House of Commons, the NDP accused the RCMP of having no respect for complainants.
Two members suspended
Goodale's parliamentary secretary, Michel Picard, confirmed that two RCMP members had been suspended in relation to the police college allegations.
Cst. Annie Delisle, an RCMP spokeswoman, had no additional comment.
The national police force has been beset by numerous cases of sexual harassment and bullying of both women and men.
"This issue is very serious,'' Goodale said in his statement. "All RCMP members, trainees and employees should feel safe and respected among their colleagues and superiors. Canadians expect professional and exemplary conduct from their national police service.''
Three years ago, the watchdog over the RCMP said the force must take "swift and effective action'' on complaints of workplace bullying and harassment to restore the shaken confidence of both members and the public.
"Harassment has no place in the RCMP.''
It called for a more independent process, strict timelines for responding to accusations and force-wide training on the issue.
Since then, new legislation has revamped the way such cases are handled within the force. Training has also been stepped up.
The watchdog said in 2013 its investigation did not point to a systemic problem of sexual harassment within the police force, despite intense publicity about difficulties and grievances. However, it said the simple perception of a pattern of poor treatment of employees was enough to rattle public confidence and tarnish the force's reputation.
In response, the force pledged "zero tolerance'' for such behaviour. "Harassment has no place in the RCMP.''
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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Force was created in 1873 with 150 troops. Today, the organization employs more than 28,000 people.
The officers were called the “North-West Mounted Police” until Feb. 1, 1920, when legislation merged the Mounties with other police forces across eastern Canada. They became known as the “Royal Canadian Mounted Police.”
In the 1800s, the NWMP uniform was similar to one worn by the British army.
The RCMP headquarters was originally located in Regina. It was moved to Ottawa on Feb. 1, 1920.
The ‘70s was a big decade for the RCMP. Women were first accepted as uniformed members in 1974. The period also brought an expansion to airport policing, VIP security, and drug enforcement.
Although they weren’t recognized as uniformed members, women were involved with the Mounties as early as the 1890s. The force employed women to escort female offenders, and to fill lab-research positions.
Before snowmobiles, Mounties serving in the north used dog sled patrols. Two teams with a total of 21 canines made the last official dog sled patrol in 1969.
The RCMP training academy known as “Depot” has been located in Regina since 1885.
The RCMP’s insignia — including a bison, maple leaves, and crown — hasn’t changed since 1954. The badge includes the organization's motto, “Maintiens le Droit,” which means “Defending the law.”
The bison, which has always been included in the RCMP badge, had a close association with the first Mounties who worked on the Prairies, who relied on the animal for food, fuel and clothing.
The largest RCMP detachment in Canada is in Surrey, British Columbia. Over 1,000 police officers, municipal employees, and volunteers serve a population of over 514,000 people.