11/23/2012 11:31 EST | Updated 01/23/2013 05:12 EST

Vic Toews, Public Safety Minister, To RCMP: Come Up With Plan On Female Recruits ASAP

OTTAWA - Family, willingness to move, and work-life balance are the key factors affecting whether Mounties seek promotion, says a new RCMP report released amid concerns of sexism and harassment within the force.

These considerations affect both men and women but "have a more pronounced effect on females," says the report completed this month by the RCMP's national program evaluation services.

"Additionally it was found that after 20 years of service, females are more likely to leave the organization than males."

The report also uncovered a perception among Mounties that one must "belong to a 'club' in order to be successful" on the promotional ladder — another factor that "has a more pronounced impact on female representation."

The research became public Friday following word that Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is giving the RCMP three weeks to come up with a detailed plan to bolster the ranks of women in the force.

A clearly frustrated Toews made the demand for concrete goals on recruitment, promotion and retention of female members in a letter Thursday to Mountie commissioner Bob Paulson.

Currently, about 20 per cent of RCMP members are female, consistent with other police forces across the country.

The minister wants the RCMP plan — to be delivered by Dec. 11 — to include measures for ensuring 30 per cent of Mounties are female in the "immediate term."

"Now is the time for action," Toews wrote to Paulson, named to the top RCMP job only a year ago.

"The plan should include specific, objectively measurable, milestones. Each milestone should have a target date. Only in this way will we be able to determine whether we are succeeding or failing in resolving this problem."

The pointed letter, widely released to media outlets, is a clear sign the Conservative government is willing to publicly prod and even shame its appointees into carrying out tasks according to the government's timeline.

The letter says Paulson recently gave Toews a draft report indicating the number of female cadets at the RCMP training depot had dropped significantly since 2008-09 despite the need for more female officers.

"In many ways the analysis confirmed issues that we have all known to exist within the Force," Toews wrote.

While it is true the number of females enrolling in the RCMP has dipped in recent years, so has the overall number of recruits, says the report.

The proportion of women among new recruits actually climbed to 27 per cent in 2011-12 from 18 per cent in 2008-09.

And the percentage of women among RCMP depot graduates rose to 22 per cent in 2011-12 from 17 per cent in 2008-09.

"The proportion of females enrolled and graduating from Depot has increased," says the report.

Still, the report found the two primary concerns raised by members who opted not to seek promotion were "the lack of transparency in the promotional process" and the desire to be promoted based on merit.

Overall, the report found that the RCMP's policies on recruitment, promotion and officer development are "predominately gender neutral."

"The challenges identified in this assessment are not exclusive to the RCMP and are issues faced by other police forces in Canada," adds the report.

It recommends the force gather, track and monitor gender-related information in order to "maintain momentum" towards achieving more balanced representation in the force.

In his letter, Toews chided Paulson for "pre-emptively discussing" the matter with the media and "proceeding on a piecemeal basis" rather than presenting a plan the RCMP and the government could offer to Canadians.

Several female RCMP officers have come forward with complaints since Cpl. Catherine Galliford went public last year with allegations of harassment within the force in British Columbia.

Men have also complained of abusive behaviour and intimidation.

Toews' letter also calls for efforts to reduce the number of complaints, shorter timelines for addressing them and improvements in satisfaction among regular members and civilian employees with respect to their working environment.

NDP House leader Nathan Cullen accused Toews of ignoring warnings for years.

"Suddenly, the minister decides that he wants to get tough and start ordering the RCMP commissioner around," he said Friday. "The government's got to take some ownership for this thing. They helped create the environment that women have found so offensive.

"This is not new. We’ve known about this for years."

The RCMP said Paulson would not be speaking publicly Friday about the letter. In statement, the force said, "The commissioner understands the minister's letter and the RCMP and the minister are on the same side of this issue."

Paulson recently told a House of Commons committee that sexual harassment complaints account for about three per cent of the 1,100 harassment grievances filed within the RCMP since 2005. The remainder involve misuse of authority and personal behaviour issues.

When he took over as commissioner late last year, Paulson said that ridding the force of dark-hearted behaviour was one of his priorities. But he soon expressed frustration about the bureaucratic hurdles to doing so.

Currently, any serious cases — those requiring more than a reprimand — must be referred to an adjudication board composed of three senior officers who follow a heavily regulated process.

Resolution can take up to five years and the manager is largely cut out of the loop.

Under proposed new legislation, managers would get more responsibility to deal with day-to-day disciplinary issues.

The New Democrats say they will vote against the legislation because the new system would not be a truly independent process.

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