Bill to Amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board Act and Other Acts and to Provide for Certain Other Measures
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Campbell, seconded by the Honourable Senator Pratte, for the third reading of Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Public Service Labour Relations and Employment Board Act and other Acts and to provide for certain other measures, as amended.
Hon. Colin Kenny: Honourable senators, I apologize for the quality of what I'm about to proceed with. I'm going through a period of Ménière's reaction.
I've seen some of the speeches given last night. I thought they were very comprehensive and helpful. I'd like to say a few words about where we are today and how we got here.
The problems with morale in the RCMP go back, in my own experience, over 40 years. Harassment and bullying of men and women isn't new; shortage of personnel and problems with backup have been around for a long time, as have poor pay, the absolute power of the commissioner and there being no voice in how the RCMP is run by regular members.
In 1977, the McDonald Royal Commission was put in place. What most of us remember during that period of time was an RCMP that was "out of control." We all remember the barn burnings and the fact that the RCMP needed badly to be brought back into line.
If you fast forward 30 years, the Brown and McAusland reports came forward. To quote Mr. David Brown, the reason he was working on his report, which was referred to as "Rebuilding Trust," was because the RCMP's management was "horribly broken." That's a tough descriptor.
Mr. Brown's report had 46 recommendations and three very important ones: separate employer status, which wasn't enacted; a civilian board of management — no one took him up on that. It took until 2013 for Bill C-42 to come along and we got an independent complaints commission, but the commissioner doesn't have to take them seriously. He doesn't have to comply with their recommendations.
In 2015, after several court rulings, the Superior Court issued a decision on collective bargaining. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled that the RCMP could not unionize. It said, "Security issues mean the Mounties must be set apart from others." But in 2009, the Ontario Supreme Court ruled that the RCMP had a right to unionize.
In 2012, the 2009 decision was overturned by the Ontario Court of Appeal, and in 2015 the Supreme Court asserted the RCMP's right to collective bargaining in a 6-to-1 ruling. The justices said:
. . . freedom of association protects a meaningful process of collective bargaining that provides employees with a degree of choice and independence sufficient to enable them to determine and pursue their collective interests.
And it said that:
. . . the current . . . regime denies [Mounties] that choice and imposes on them a scheme that does not permit them to identify and advance their workplace concerns free from management's influence.
They went on to say that:
While the RCMP's mandate differs from that of other police forces, there is no evidence that providing the RCMP a labour relations scheme similar to that enjoyed by other police forces would prevent it from fulfilling its mandate.
Furthermore, they said that:
What is required is not a particular model, but a regime that does not substantially interfere with meaningful collective bargaining and thus complies with [the freedom of association].
It is my belief that only by passing the bill, as amended, will we have a piece of legislation that conforms to the Supreme Court's prescription of "meaningful collective bargaining."
I'm sure that all senators are aware that in May of this year the Staff Relations Representative Program was officially dissolved by Commissioner Paulson with the Supreme Court ruling that said the SRRP program was unconstitutional. It was replaced by the Members' Workplace Services Program, which incidentally doesn't comply with the Supreme Court ruling either because it continues to be employer controlled.
I'd like to briefly describe some of the problems with Bill C-7 that led to our committee's amendments. The section of the bill regarding union certification was dealt with very thoroughly by Senator Carignan, so I'll move directly to the nine exclusions that deny the RCMP the ability to negotiate on anything but pay and benefits and deny members the "meaningful collective bargaining" that the Supreme Court called for.
The exclusions mean that the union can't bargain on any issues relating to their pension; law enforcement techniques — how they go to work every day and what they do; transfers from one position to another and appointments. These are folks that can be transferred anywhere in Canada, anywhere in North America and anywhere in the world. The commissioner bragged about how far they could be posted.
The list of exclusions continues with appraisals — these are annual appraisals; prohibition; discharges or demotions — you can't have a union talk about that — conduct, including harassment; the basic requirements for carrying out the duties of an RCMP member or a reservist; their uniform, order of dress, equipment or medals.
This list, by the way, was written by senior RCMP officers. The commissioner told us that he had his people do the drafting for this part. By having this list of exclusions, the dice are loaded once again for management to continue the job they've been doing. Taking out these exclusions gives a union the opportunity to rebalance the RCMP.
It's important for honourable members, when they're considering this bill, to remember that the RCMP is the only police service in Canada that has exclusions like this legislated in place before they can even get to a union. The deck is being loaded.
One of the principal concerns that the committee had going through the hearings when we were working was that the RCMP is being treated by the government like it is any other department of government. The government had a choice. There were two paradigms it could have used. They could have compared the RCMP and set up a union just like every other department in the federal government, or they could have taken a look at other police services and modelled it to work like the other police services work.
Well, they decided they just wanted to fit the RCMP into a government model with no concern for the fact that these are peace officers and police officers and that they are not public servants like the rest of them.
Evidence provided before the committee shows that police officers have been ruled by the Supreme Court to be very different from public servants. Edward Aust, citing the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court in R. v. Campbell, which stated that a police officer is a public office-holder and that this distinction clearly sets the RCMP peace officer apart from a public servant. They're not public servants in the eyes of the Supreme Court, and they shouldn't be judged so when it comes to their bargaining status.
I don't believe that a single member of the Senate hasn't received an email from an RCMP member detailing complaints of harassment, bullying, class actions or the unusual or unfair punishments that abound in the RCMP.
If Bill C-7 is passed as amended, RCMP members will be able to unionize and face the challenges of the force, but it's not limited to harassment, whistle-blowing, protection, poor working conditions or fair representation. All of these will be addressed. It would improve both the morale and the cohesion of the force and the public perception of the RCMP.
These changes won't happen overnight, but giving members the opportunity to sit down with management and have a say in the issues that affect their lives and their work can only be salutary.
Dozens of Mounties spoke to the committee about issues in the RCMP. They felt they needed a proper union and they needed it to address these problems.
One of the most serious ones is the lack of rapid backup. If you're in a city like Toronto or Calgary, you can get backup from a place right around the corner. It comes within minutes, if not seconds, if a police officer is in danger. If you're in the RCMP, you can be in a detachment that has to wait many hours for backup to fly in to provide you with support.
The regular members want us to help them correct that problem. Simple things like equipment, such as the complaints that came to my office about carbines. For years, the RCMP did not move on providing carbines. These are longer rifles that are much more effective than a sidearm if you want to deal with a bad guy at a distance. They clearly are needed. They might have made a difference in Mayerthorpe; they might have made a difference in Moncton. These are life and death needs that the RCMP has.
Cop to pop ratios — I don't know how many of you are familiar with that phrase, but it's a good way to examine short staffing. If you look at "E" Division, and that covers almost all of British Columbia, the RCMP has a cop for every 723 citizens — one policeman and they're protecting 723 citizens. Compare it to Victoria: They have a cop to pop of 1 cop for every 425 citizens. It's the same province. The city manages to have 40 per cent fewer people for each cop to take care of. Take a look at Vancouver: There's one police officer for every 499 citizens in Vancouver; 30 per cent less than what the Mounties have across the whole province.
Cop to pop isn't the only measure of workload, but it's an indicator, broadly speaking, of an organization that is short- staffed when you see these big differences in the ratios.
On the committee we heard from many members who lack confidence in their body armour. It's 25 years old in most cases. It won't stop a bullet well.
The Hon. the Speaker: Excuse me, Senator Kenny, your time has expired. Are you asking for five more minutes?
Many members want a darker uniform. They want it all to match and look the same. They're afraid that somebody shooting at them will aim at the lighter colours that aren't covered with a proper vest. I can't imagine that we've got folks out there and we're not giving them proper vests.
We have a situation where too many members are overworked. It produces stress. It comes from not sufficient funding from our government. We have a peculiar situation of too few cops on the street and too much paperwork. It's an unexpected by-product of the Charter of Rights. When the Charter came into effect, in 1982, the amount of paperwork that police had to do grew exponentially. They were forced, because of the court cases, to provide all sorts of data.
Well, a 30-year study was done by the University of the Fraser Valley, and it demonstrated just how much the paperwork had blown up. For example, this is between 1983 and 2003, but it continues until today: Break and enter cases, which might have taken an hour before the Charter arrived, now take between five and 10 hours to do the paperwork. You wonder why you don't see the cop on the street. He's in typing up something for the appeal that's going to go on in the court. Drunk driving cases used to take an hour and now they take five hours to do the paperwork. Domestic assault cases used to take an hour. They now take between 10 and 12 hours.
In 2007, David Brown reported understaffing — this is the guy who did the study — of 25 per cent to 30 per cent in every detachment that he visited over the course of his three-year study.
In the Senate, we had a group of senators who did a report called Toward a Red Serge Revival, and it came to the conclusion that the RCMP was 5,000 members short. That's a lot of members. That's almost a third short.
I have a lot to say about protecting whistle-blowers and how to deal with promotions. The most important thing with promotions, because we've included that in one of the exemptions, is that in 2012 the RCMP "Gender and Respect" report pointed out that only 70 per cent of competitions in the RCMP were advertised. What about the other 30 per cent? No one was told. No one could apply for those jobs. Suddenly there was an announcement that was sent out saying so-and-so has just been promoted to inspector, what about me?
We have a situation where a major organization goes ahead and promotes people and doesn't tell people that they can even compete for the job. A union is going to make short work of that, I promise you, and it will be worth having.
I'd like to wrap up, if I could, Your Honour, by saying that it's clear to me that we've been shortchanging RCMP members for years, and this bill, as amended, is an opportunity to start bringing them up to date on matters relating to their pay, safety, working conditions that are important for their morale and for the effectiveness of an institution that's very dear to all of us.
It's clear that only by eliminating the nine exclusions will RCMP members have a fair chance to address these crucial issues, and without support for the bill, as amended, I fear we will continue to have business as usual in the force.
The Hon. the Speaker: Are senators ready for the question?
Some Hon. Senators: Question.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Motion agreed to and bill, as amended, read third time and passed.)