Civilian Oversight – Optical Illusion?

Well, it took about ten years from when RCMP management was called “horribly broken ; then a further two reports, one by Auditor General Sheila Fraser and the other by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission calling for change in 2017–all before Ralph Goodale in January 2019 announced the formation of a 13 member civilian oversight committee to “give advice on best ways to manage and modernize the Force”.

Commissioner Lucki called the announcement in practised dramatic tones, an “unprecedented journey”, which will lead to a “healthier and more diverse police force”.

Several more months of delay followed before in June 2019 they finally named the chosen 13. The numbers are reminiscent of the last Supper and the 12 Apostles. One wonders how they arrived at this number? Who is the tie breaker and gets to play Jesus?

Religious comparisons aside, this whole political play raises the rather obvious question as to whether this is a serious effort on the part of government, or is this the latest of some pre-election pandering to the unwashed masses? Is it a band aid when many believe surgery is needed?

If one is to make a decision, one must first consider the makeup and structure of this committee.

The estimated cost for this committee is $1.56 million per year, not an unusually high amount (about $120,000 per year per committee member); especially when one considers that just a few days ago the Mounties announced their latest thumb in the sexual harassment dyke; another $100 million for civilian members or public servants harassed or hurt by those old, leering, ass grabbing Mounties of the past.

Suffice to say the RCMP is not investing a lot of money on this righting of the administrative ship.

The structure of this effort is also somewhat puzzling.

It would appear that this ‘oversight’ group is there only to give “advice”.

It is not there to re-write or reform policy, but to tell Lucki and Goodale what they would recommend. Goodale had already gone on record in that the committee will not be dealing with any operational policing matters. Goodale stated that the committee will not “have any direct role in policing operations, which will remain the purview of the independent RCMP”.

This of course raises the obvious question as to the effectiveness of a group which only gives recommendations to a politician who always has his finger in the air testing the winds of change. When pressed by a reporter as to the effectiveness of such a committee, Goodale defensively added that the Minister could issue “directives” based on recommendations coming from the Committee.

Commissioner Lucki who is about to lead the Mounties on this “unprecedented journey” said that she would meet the Committee for the first time “sometime” in “the upcoming months”.

With young Mounties jumping around trying to get into the station wagon, clearly Mother Mountie is in no hurray to get going on this trip of a lifetime. Needing to pump up the value of this exercise, she obliquely added, “their advice will provide additional, valuable perspectives to help us make decisions that support our people and the communities they serve”.

She later said that she planned on meeting with this group 3 or 4 times a year. Quarterly in other words. Now anyone who has graced the corridors of HQ, or any government department will tell you that nothing, absolutely nothing, gets done without dozens of “meetings” usually choked down between bitter thermos coffee and chicken wraps. Meetings, often to arrange other meetings– never-ending discussions which often spiral into infinity, no resolution in site.

Finally, the mandate of this current group of committee members is a mere 18 months. One would have to assume that they are then to be replaced, by another group of committee members and the process could start anew.

18 months is about time enough to order office supplies, get new business cards printed, and get some cafeteria jello in your belly.

Nothing in government gets done in 18 months; it’s a political, logistical, impossibility. It took six months for the government to decide who was going to be on the committee.

As to the members of this new committee, well first and foremost you better be on the Liberal end of the political perspective, conservatives or any other political stripe need not apply. The eventual chosen could have fallen out of any Liberal convention gathering in Ottawa– all would be waving their brightly coloured red placards with stencilled slogans crying for diversity and inclusion.

So who are the lucky thirteen, in the apparent overwhelming number of applications that were received? (the Liberals said the delays were caused by the many applicants)

The thirteeen are; Richard Dicerni, Leanne Fitch, Randy Ambrosie, Elaine Bernard, Angela Campbell, John Domm, Ghayda Hassan, Maureen Darkes, Douglas Moen, Wally Oppal, Kevin Patterson, Keith Peterson, and Emoke Szathmary.

There are a couple of eyebrow raising selections in this group, but most of the membership is quite predictable, at least in terms of their backgrounds, even if their names are not easily recognizable.

Seven men and six women. Good balance on the gender teeter-totter keeping in mind that whoever is going to play Jesus will need to be standing in the middle.

Five list themselves as academics or public servants, so the ivory tower will be looming large over the proceedings, government jargon will rain down, political niceties will be evident, Senate committee style protocols will be observed.

There is some police representation, albeit a little suspect.

From the policing world they chose a female, Leanne Fitch from that hotbed of city policing–Fredericton, New Brunswick. There are a total of 113 officers on the Force there, and Ms Fitch recently gained headlines in that city by not replacing retiring officers in a budget cutting initiative. But she is female and was named officer of the year by the Atlantic Women in Law Enforcement and the International Association of Women. Goodale could not possibly ignore the opportunity to hit so many boxes in one move.

There is also John Domm, a former Chief of Police for the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service. At the time he was the Chief of Police they were not even a fully mandated police department which did not occur until 2018. He is also a member of the First Nations Chiefs of Police Association. Two more checks for Mr. Goodale.

Doug Moen, a lawyer and public servant helped establish the Saskatchewan Commission on First Nations and Metis Peoples and Justice Reform. Check.

Keith Peterson was a former member of the legislative assembly for Nunavut. Check.

Elaine Bernard is an academic and according to her listed resume is a “proponent of the role of unions in promoting civil society”. Actually, this could come in handy when members begin trying to figure out the union dues they will soon be paying. Check.

There is Emoke Szathmary, the former president of the University of Manitoba, an advocate for “diversity, inclusion and accessibility”. Check.

There is the head scratching appointment of Randy Abrosie, a former member of the CFL and the current commissioner of the CFL. Apparently he has “championed diversity”, which may explain his selection, but maybe he just needs to stick to making the Toronto Argonauts viable again and avoiding any talk of concussions. No check mark here.

Finally there is Wally Oppal, who I am going to proclaim as Jesus for the time being, as he miraculously walks over water into another government contract. The 79 year old Wally just does not seem to want to retire, but one has to wonder whether he represents a new, modern voice. This savant of double dipping goes on; and on, and on.

One must not get the wrong impression. All of these people are well educated, accomplished in their professional lives. They should have some good “suggestions” in areas where the senior management Mounties have proven themselves utterly of no consequence.

But there are many questioning this Committee and its ultimate effectiveness.

The always available for a quote Robert Gordon of Simon Fraser University said “I don’t think the mandate, at this point, is to undertake the significant restructuring and reform of the RCMP that is required…It’ll be settling problems that have arisen inside the house as opposed to problems that have arisen as a result of the structure of the house”.

Other questions arise. Will Mr. Goodale be still around after October 2019?

Will Commissioner Lucki turn into some sort of leadership firebrand, able to forge ahead without her political Prairie brother in arms, while relying on those Executives who now encircle her, many of whom who have contributed to this mess?

Maybe she underestimates the problems.

On May 30th, 2018 Ms. Lucki appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. Her primary testimony was about indigenous, harassment and diversity issues, which seems to be the focus in Ottawa, seemingly oblivious to the myriad more substantial issues facing the RCMP.

She ended and summed up her testimony this way: “I tell my staff, don’t ask me how to fix it because my answer is going to be “”We’re not broken””. Because we are not broken”.

“Do we need to innovate, and do we need to modernize? Absolutely…”

“We’re not broken and I am not here to fix it but we need to move forward from those past experiences, and if we don’t, shame on us. If you have a great idea of how you can help me to navigate things, don’t be shy to call me”.

Well Ms. Lucki, many believe that the RCMP is in fact kinda broken and actually we expect you to fix it.

So maybe call that Committee and maybe meet them every week, or every day, and not just in a few months; then listen to those voices who are from outside the RCMP, listen, and then have the courage to lead.

For all the rest of you out there, her phone number is 613 993-7267, because apparently she would like you to call with any ideas you may have.

(If that doesn’t work, the website tells yo how to fill out a “contact form”)

Currently, this committee in both form and structure looks like a political stop gap measure, one which garners a few headlines, speaks to the liberal left, and holds out little hope for the working officer.

So maybe Canadians should be calling 911 and not waiting for a callback from the Commissioner’s office.

Photo Courtesy of Matty Ring via Flickr Commons – Some Rights Reserved

One thought on “Civilian Oversight – Optical Illusion?

  1. The last supper & Jesus reference had me giggling for hours. Too funny. Another Gov’t committee formed to give the appearance of doing something when they’re really doing nothing! My vision of all these “experts” executing their recommendations is equal to the old game of “pin the tail on the donkey” you had to be blindfolded, can’t you just visualize all these inept politicians (some in the lava stage) with their arms outstretched, feeling the dead air space, bumping into chairs/walls/doors and basically achieving nothing! Probably showing my age because I don’t think that game even exists anymore, does it?

    Like

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