OTTAWA — The new RCMP Commissioner says his first order of business will be looking into allegations of systemic sexual harassment within the force.
Bob Paulson, a 25-year veteran of the force, told reporters Wednesday that he was very concerned about these recent allegations.
“I want a full, fair and thorough look at how we handle allegations of sexual harassment so we can get to the bottom of the problem, fix it and get on with the critical work of keeping Canadians safe,” Paulson said.
While the force will investigate individuals complaints, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews announced he had asked the Chair of the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to investigate allegations of systemic failures to deal appropriately with sexual harassment within the force.
“This is not about dealing with individual complaints but about getting to the bottom of a system that seems to be failing members of the RCMP,” Toews said.
“It is imperative that all members of the RCMP be free to face the daily and expected challenges of a day’s work without harassment and without fear of mistreatment by cowokers and seniors. I know that Commissioner Paulson shares these concerns and wants to address any systemic issues,” Toews also said.
Paulson pledged the Commission would have the full co-operation of each and every member of the RCMP “at all levels.”
The new RCMP Commissioner said he has ordered a comprehensive review of any outstanding complaints so he can be satisfied that complaints are being addressed, complainants supported and offenders dealt with.
“This is not the RCMP I joined, and this cannot continue,” Paulson said in perfect French. “I will sort this out so Canadians can have trust and faith in the RCMP and just as importantly that employees of the RCMP can thrive in a healthy, productive and harassment-free environment.”
Paulson pledged to have a different style than his predecessor, a civilian, former commissioner William Elliott, whose behaviour drove talented RCMP officers to leave the force.
“I am not a yeller and a screamer,” Paulson said.
Toews said, “One of the many things that makes this commissioner the right person for the job is that he recognizes that change is necessary.”
“His leadership skills, experience and policing knowledge will be instrumental in helping him successfully manage an organization as large, complex and diverse as the RCMP,” Toews said.
A frontline female officer told The Huffington Post, “I think the general consensus (within the force) is we are optimistic about the future.”
NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel said her party supported Paulson's appointment.
"He knows the inside so that might help him, I hope. And like I said, he has been chosen, we have to give him a chance to do his work and he has our support so we will help him if necessary."
Paulson joined the RCMP in 1986 in Chilliwack, B.C., after spending nearly seven years with the Canadian armed Forces.
Toews trumpeted Paulson’s past policing experience municipally, provincially and federally and his stints in aboriginal community policing, working on unsolved murders and investigating organized crime.
His last job was as deputy commissioner in charge of federal policing.