After Bastarache report, dismantling the RCMP sounds like a public service

    Nov 25, 2020

    OTTAWA—Last week, the Final Report on the Implementation of the Merlo Davidson Settlement Agreement was released by former Supreme Court justice Michel ​Bastarache, and its contents were appalling.

    “One of the key findings of this report is that the culture of the RCMP is toxic and tolerates misogynistic and homophobic attitudes amongst its leaders and members,” it reads. Wish I were surprised.  

    The Merlo Davidson Settlement Agreement is based on the lawsuits by Janet Merlo in British Columbia in 2012 and in Ontario by Linda Gillis Davidson in 2015, who alleged the “RCMP failed to exercise its responsibilities to ensure employees could work in an environment free of discrimination, intimidation and harassment.” 

    Upon learning about her organization’s grotesque behaviour that includes everything from sexual assault, to retaliation for making a complaint, to a “friends and family” promotional structure, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki spoke about the embarrassment and sorrow she felt for those women who had experienced gender-based violence from an organization whose mandate it is to *checks notes* “enforce the law and support victims/survivors.” What a farce. 

    Lucki was promoted by this Liberal “feminist” government in April of 2018 to commissioner of the beleaguered police force, as a sign that the glass ceiling had been smashed. Lucki was the first woman to be a permanent commissioner and was given the job to institute change to the RCMP which, according to The Globe and Mail, “has struggled for years to deal with sexual harassment and is under fire for its treatment of Indigenous people.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was more targeted in the description of Lucki’s role: “She will also play a vital role in advancing reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, promoting gender equality and equity, supporting mental wellness across the RCMP, addressing workplace harassment and protecting the civil liberties of all Canadians.” In every aspect of this statement, Lucki has failed. 

    This is not only a systemic failure, but also a leadership failure. Lucki has lost the plot. Lucki, she is not. 

    And she is not the first. In 2013, then-commissioner Bob Paulson released an action plan called, “Gender and Respect,” that promised the same institutional change that Commissioner Lucki promised in her response to the most recent report.

    “This behaviour was in violation of our code of conduct and not what we are as an organization,” said Lucki of the findings of the Bastarache report. Apparently, it is. Or it had been documented as so since 1974, according to the Merlo-Davidson settlement. It is impossible to believe that Commissioner Lucki had no clue this was the culture of the RCMP, especially given Canadian taxpayers have already forked out $100-million each on two sexual harassment class action lawsuits in the last four years. (This must be all that value-for-money I keep hearing about with regards to taxpayers’ money.) If this comes as a shock to her, then her suitability for her job is again in question, no matter how much Bill Blair defends her. 

    And defend her he did, when her ignorance over systemic racism was revealed in the summer during a Public Safety Committee hearing, where she “offered an inaccurate description of the issue,” and according to this paper, “had admitted that she struggled to define systemic racism before acknowledging that it exists in the institution she serves.” But no need to worry, she’s been listening and learning and now Lucki has a plan. 

    “They include the development of a system to collect data on police encounters with racialized and Indigenous people, mandatory anti-racism and cultural awareness training for all employees, and the creation of a new office dedicated to Indigenous collaboration and accountability,” reported The Toronto Star. 

    Seems similar to the action plan put forward by former commissioner Paulson in 2013; it must’ve been dusted off the shelf and presented as change. 

    The RCMP is a paramilitary organization that, in my opinion, works to implement and support white supremacy by any means possible. And where white supremacy is stationed, misogyny is its bunkmate, so it’s no surprise that the organization hasn’t changed with the merry-go-round of commissioners with new faces but old tactics. Additionally, the arrogance and temerity to believe that Lucki, who just learned to Google “systemic racism” two minutes ago, could build a plan to rid a racist organization of its 147-year history of racism and misogyny is a joke in and of itself.

    It doesn’t matter how many faces are different, the whole point of racism being systemic is that it doesn’t matter who is in the system, or whether they are anti-racist, the system will produce disparities based on race. This is why neither diversity/cultural awareness training, nor anti-bias training works. In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, “anti-bias training can actually activate biases” and so organizations have to make practical systemic changes. That is, if they even know what systemic means, which according to Bastarache’s report, “the RCMP leadership or membership either does not understand what systemic racism is, or if they do, they do not believe that it exists within their organization, or they are willfully blind.”

    Defunding and dismantling this institution sounds like a public service that would live up to the feminism and anti-racism this Liberal government loves to use as marketing. 

    Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.