Paulson’s apparent retreat perturbing

The conduct of the RCMP has been “under the gun” in recent years across Canada....

The conduct of the  RCMP has been “under the gun” in recent years across Canada and for us in BC their history has been a particularly troubled over in the last decade.

The force has just renegotiated its policing agreement with the province and now, with a new cop’s cop  in charge nationally who started out by saying all the things the public wants to hear, there’s an opportunity for the RCMP to begin rebuilding its reputation.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson’s appointment day response was that out-of-line RCMP officers could expect to have the book thrown at them – but by the time he was addressing a Senate committee on defence and national security last week, his responses lacked the ebullience of his first day.

While he said he would not hesitate to use third parties to investigate “serious harassment charges”, he declined a Senator’s suggestion that a “public enquiry” was needed to clear the air on sexual harassment.

My question becomes one of who then gets to decide when a sexual harassment charge is serious enough to pursue independently.

I certainly questioned this last week while reading newspaper reports of the case of a senior officer in Vancouver, Staff Sergeant Travis Pearson, who has pleaded guilty during an internal  conduct hearing, to what his counsel, another RCMP officer, characterized as “a consensual affair” and as “an indiscretion that should not hinder Pearson from continuing his career with the RCMP.”

Cst. Susan Gastaldo and Staff Sgt. Travis Pearson both admitted having sex in a police car and exchanging intimate messages in 2009, while Gastaldo worked for Pearson in the “Special O” surveillance unit.

But other elements of Gastaldo’s story differ dramatically from Pearson’s. She has filed a civil suit in BC Supreme Court claiming Pearson used his power and her vulnerable mental condition to sexually assault her and coerce her into sexual relations – serious allegations indeed.

The same sentiments were expressed in other testimony in the same hearing by another RCMP employee. However, those allegations were only heard in the context of Gastaldo’s defence. They do not come within the disciplinary scope of the hearing, surely a discriminatory circumstance.

In this matter, notwithstanding the court action, both officers pled guilty, The consequence is that both could be docked 10 days pay – surely not a satisfactory solution with such serious allegations still unsettled.

It may be that this is out of Commissioner Paulson’s hands already since it is filed in the BC Supreme Court. So too may the allegations and the complaints of another BC officer, Cpl. Elisabeth Couture, who has also filed a lawsuit against the RCMP, accusing Mounties of demeaning and belittling her and forbidding her from making some work-related phone calls. When she complained, she claims she was told she was being watched.

Her lawyer, Marjorie Brown, says the abuse wasn’t sexual, but Couture suffered through an atmosphere of fear and control. “Cpl. Couture faced the problem of having the harassment face her at the hands of her superiors, so it was very difficult for her to achieve any resolution while she was working,” Brown said.

Meanwhile, there’s the outstanding case of  Cpl. Catherine Galliford, formerly a high-profile RCMP public spokeswoman, who came forward to claim that she was driven to sick leave because of constant sexual harassment by superior and other male officers.

She has made even more serious allegations that important evidence in the investigation of serial-killer Robert Pickton, has gone “missing.”

Paulson promises to root out problem officers guilty of “dark-hearted behaviour” like excessive use of force and lying.

“We’re going to fire people, we’re going to suspend people immediately, we’re going to seek their dismissal through a formal procedure and we’re going to suspend their pay,” he said.

Strong words, but there’s a difference between “dark hearted” behaviour and incompetence, abuse of power, excessive use of force such as tasering, shootings and perhaps and deliberate interference with evidence in a multi-million dollar court case.

Harassment charges are only a small part of the range of systemic problems that Paulson agrees face the force under his new command

So, I was perturbed that his responses to the Senate committee seemed to be less forceful than his media reactions in November.

“Some (harassment) cases don’t merit a harassment response, some of them merit criminal proceedings, others merit Code of Conduct proceedings, but some of them merit ‘take it back to work, and smarten up,’ he told the committee.

His own response to the harassment scandal is driven by a “theory” he said he espouses that within the RCMP, as a paramilitary organization, “what’s wrong is how power has been misunderstood for authority.”

He told the senate committee, “The peace officer world is one where there’s authority and power over citizens and consequently officers are not always able to manage that in how they manage their colleagues. So that’s the theory according to Bob.”

But Paulson said fixing it depends on “how we manage our leadership program, how we manage our officers, how we hold officers to account.”

He’s right about that – and there have been so many serious incidents in BC alone that if no significant action is seen to be taken in a prompt manner, the RCMP’s reputation will continue to suffer – and Paulson’s with it.

 

 

 

 

ahewitson@telus.net

 

 

Just Posted

Coast Mountains School District No. 82 acting superintendent of schools, Janet Meyer, talks about policies and procedures relating to the death of Diversity Morgan, a LGBTQ+ student. (Black Press file)
School District 82 to revisit policy after transgender student’s death

Diversity’ death has created a deeper resolve for CMSD 82 to continue doing the work they started

FILE – Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, takes part in an event on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous Peoples Day must be a ‘call to action’, says Assembly of First Nations chief

Discovery of children at Kamloops residential school site must lead to change, Perry Bellegarde says

Outside the Kitimat RCMP police station, Diversity Morgan’s family and Kitimat RCMP come together for a pride flag-raising ceremony. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
With heavy hearts, the Kitimat RCMP hosted a pride flag ceremony to highlight the RCMP’s commitment to inclusion and diversification, as well as honouring the passing of 15-year-old transgender student, Diversity Morgan, from Kitimat.
Speeches were given by Staff Sergeant Graham Morgan, Mayor Phil Germuth, Haisla Nation Chief Councillor Crystal Smith, and Diversity’s father, Mike Wilson.
“We are gathered here for the pride flag ceremony, but in my mind, we’re gathered here in solidarity for anyone who’s ever experienced prejudice or discrimination. […] Today we celebrate what makes us all unique individuals,” Mayor Phil Germuth said in his speech at the pride flag ceremony.
Struggling to get the words out, Crystal Smith, Haisla Nation’s chief councillor, emphasized her condolences to Diversity’s family in her speech sharing her similar experiences as well as acknowledging the need for education around these subjects.
Diversity’s father, Mike Wilson, said he wished that everyone was there under different circumstances but was grateful to see the turnout and the support from the community.
In honour of Diversity, the Kitimat RCMP also lowered their Canadian flag to half-mast, to bring awareness for people who are experiencing discrimination and are in need of additional support.
The Kitimat RCMP also stated that they will be lowering their Canadian flag around this time every year as a visual representation of LGBTQ+.
Kitimat Save-On-Foods also donated water and snacks for the ceremony.
Kitimat RCMP host pride flag ceremony in memory of Diversity Morgan

“We’re gathered here in solidarity for anyone who’s ever experienced prejudice or discrimination”

(Haisla First Nation logo)
Haisla Nation host walk for strength and series of virtual sessions for Indigenous History Month

The purpose of the walk is to bring Haisla Nation members together and show their collective support

The District of Kitimat will be awarding business owners with a store front up to $5,000 to cover up to 50 per cent of exterior renovations. (Norhtern Development logo)
The District of Kitimat is awarding $5,000 to storefront owners for exterior renovations

The district has set aside $20,000 this year and non-profits are also eligible

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

The Sacred Hearts church on PIB land burned Monday morning. (Theresa May Jack/Facebook)
Two churches on First Nation land in South Okanagan burn to the ground

Sacred Hearts church on Penticton Indian Band land was reduced to rubble

Tl’etinqox-lead ceremony at the site of the former St. Joseph’s Mission in Williams Lake, B.C., June 18, 2021. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
‘We are all one people’: Honouring residential school victims and survivors

Love, support and curiousity: Canadians urged to learn about residential schools and their impact

Indigenous rights and climate activists gathered outside Liberty Mutual’s office in Vancouver to pressure the insurance giant to stop covering Trans Mountain. (Photo by Andrew Larigakis)
Activists work to ensure Trans Mountain won’t get insurance

Global campaign urging insurance providers to stay away from Canadian pipeline project

In the first election with public money replacing corporate or union donations, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau and B.C. NDP leader John Horgan take part in election debate at the University of B.C., Oct. 13, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)
B.C. MLAs ponder 2022 ‘sunset’ of subsidy for political parties

NDP, B.C. Fed call for increase, B.C. Liberals have no comment

Investigators use a bucket to help recover human remains at a home burned in the Camp fire, Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, in Magalia, Calif. Many of the missing in the deadly Northern California wildfire are elderly residents in Magalia, a forested town of about 11,000 north of the destroyed town of Paradise. (AP Photo/John Locher)
‘Forever War’ with fire has California battling forests instead

Five of the state’s largest-ever blazes seared California last year, as authorities tackle prevention

Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto and IOC President Thomas Bach, on a screen, speak during a five=party online meeting at Harumi Island Triton Square Tower Y in Tokyo Monday, June 21, 2021. The Tokyo Olympics will allow some local fans to attend when the games open in just over a month, Tokyo organizing committee officials and the IOC said on Monday. (Rodrigo Reyes Marin/Pool Photo via AP)
Tokyo Olympics to allow Japanese fans only, with strict limits

Organizers set a limit of 50% capacity — up to a maximum of 10,000 fans

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Most Read