Like a 1950’s child running to meet the postman for the Sears catalogue, one wonders whether Ms.Lucki dashed to greet the postman who was delivering her new “mandate” letter.
If you were bored, frustrated, killing time waiting for shift end, or enjoy a little masochism, then you too may have read with anticipation the Honourable Ralph Goodale’s “mandate letter” to Commissioner Lucki.
The document is surprisingly brief from the illustrious Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It was likely “ghost written”, by a high placed bureaucrat and screened by a legal team, nevertheless it is still revealing. With a little in-between line reading, if there were any doubts as to why Commissioner Lucki rose to the surface and became the cream of the crop in the view of that Liberal august selection committee, then this document should remove that doubt.
What is interesting is what is missing, what was not worthy of mention. If you want to believe that operational policing is the soul of the future RCMP under Commissioner Lucki, you may be wrong. If you think terrorism, cyber crime, white collar crime or child pornography are occupying the minds of the RCMP management in the endless future meetings at 73 Leikin Drive in Ottawa, you will likely be disappointed.
The letter begins with a reference to Section 5(1) of the RCMP Act where the Commissioner of the RCMP has the “control and management of the RCMP and all matters connected to the Force”, but of course at the “direction of the Minister”. He goes on to say that “police independence underpins the rule of law and ministerial direction”, that he will rely on the “advice and input” to “help me” establish “strategic priorities.” Blah blah blah.
All that requisite dribble aside, he then goes on to outline what Commissioner Lucki’s “role” will be. Which will be to “reinforce” and “support” the organization in its effort to “modernize and reform the RCMP’s culture”.
Its future “transformation”, as envisioned by that old sage Goodale will include the “health and safety of the RCMP employees”… “including from harassment and violence in the workplace”….and of course “enhancing its role in reconciliation” with “Indigenous peoples”.
All predictable of course, in light of Justin Trudeau and his cabinet recurring themes, but stark all the same in its simplicity.
The next paragraph mentions “internal and external governance structures and practises”, no doubt a reference to a future civilian administrative oversight.
Then the letter returns to clearly its main preoccupation. “You will need to prioritize that the RCMP is free from bullying, harassment, and sexual violence” and that she should prepare an extensive response to the reviews that were outlined by Sheila Fraser from the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission. She will need to “ensure that the RCMP is representative of Canada’s diverse population, including gender parity, and that women, Indigenous Peoples and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership”.
Mr. Goodale ends by reflecting on Commissioner Lucki’s previous posting of Training Branch in Regina, and he lauds her for her commitment to training, including “diversity, inclusion, and a respectful workplace”.
So where does this leave us? Like any change in power, whether it be in government, or in a government agency, it is helpful to look at the scope and focus of the change and try and determine who are the winners and who are the losers. Who are now in favour, and who have fallen out of flavour. Here are some predictions.
If you are indigenous in the RCMP, or if you are even partially indigenous, or if you can claim a distant ancestry to anything resembling an indigenous group you are a clear winner.
If you are a member of the First Nations Policing Program in 2018 the Liberals have already invested $291 million in the program over the next five years. You are a winner. This group which is overseen by this same Ministry is designed to “enhance the effectiveness of policing services in First Nation and Inuit communities.”
What “enhance” means in government speak can be anybody’s guess, but lets face it, they will likely be able to reach that goal.
If you want further proof of the constant indigenous theme, don’t stop at Ms. Lucki, look at the rest of the Senior Executive Committee of the RCMP management. Besides, a clear background tendency to the Federal policing side, you will also constantly see the theme of indigenous relations and its level of importance.
Even the more vocal and somewhat rebellious indigenous groups in Northern Manitoba are winners. Commissioner Lucki worked and resided in that area and received an Order of Merit for her “efforts to improve relations”. It doesn’t say that she did improve them, just that she made an effort of course.
The second clear winner are female officers. With a relatively pristine record, and if you have more than 15 years of service, your odds of becoming management have become markedly greater.
This is not new. The trend for more women officers has been moving along at a high clip since the 1980’s when they first became the hiring priority. In 2006 there were only 6% of officers were female, in 2016 that number has increased to 21%; more than a 250% increase. In 2016 as well, 13% of senior officers in policing were women. There will need a massive advancement of female officers in the next few years to have a visible measurable impact, one which Lucki can hold up as evidence of success. Expect demands for more flexible work hours, greater considerations for pregnancy and eventual return to work accommodations.
If you self identify as a member of LGBTQ during the recruitment process or a member of any of the visible minorities, then you too should be a winner.
If you have a claim under the sexual harassment class action you will be a winner. There is little likelihood that this Liberal free-spending government will be eager to deny any claims even if some may be spurious and would normally warrant some authentication. There has been an exponential growth in claims, so expect that to continue.
If you are a farmer or resident of the North Battleford area of Saskatchewan which enjoys the highest crime rate in Canada you are a loser, and you should not expect any improvements in policing for the next few years. You are in the way for those who will be pushing the indigenous agenda, so therefore you are politically expendable.
If you are an officer in Chase B.C. or Dauphin Manitoba, hoping beyond hope, that a replacement will be found to fill your position, you are a loser. The current staffing consensus indicates that there are not enough new people to even fill the retirement levels. Lack of manpower has been the theme for a few years, but expect this to continue as it never even gets honourable mention anymore. Clearly, they have given up on the phrase “more for less”, as its marketability has become more irritant than salve for the masses.
If you are optimistically expecting a pay raise to bring you back into contention in the police universe, you are a loser. The Federal government is clearly sitting back and waiting for the union process to get settled. Is it necessary to also point out that manpower and wages are not mentioned in the mandate letter? They haven’t quite figured out that morale, quality of life and optimism are directly linked to these issues.
Are we making too much of this mandate letter? Is this the thin edge of the knife?
The concern of course is that there has always been a curtain drawn, a line not crossed when it comes to the relationship between the police and the State. Goodale even makes reference to “police independence” in the beginning of the letter. However in real terms policing is at a crossroads. In the U.S. Donald Trump is trying to wrest control and direction of the FBI with political shenanigans only impeded by a robust 5th Estate, and an unwilling to go along attitude of the Justice Department and the FBI themselves.
Has Canada, the docile and compliant country that we are, now entered into a relationship between the police and the state which is a little too close for a properly running democracy? Have we now rolled over and woken to a new political RCMP, one wholly directed and run by the authorities?
Has that line been crossed? Is Commissioner Lucki now no different than the other Ministers who rely on the government of the day for their survival?
Maybe we are reading too much into it. Maybe the RCMP bureaucracy is so stultified that nothing will ever get done, maybe we can rely on bureaucratic incompetence to keep us safe.
But there is little doubt the RCMP is teetering, in fact it may be too late. It may have already become a fully engulfed political institution, part of government, not separated from it, no longer an ethical divide between them and the governing party of the day.
In the end the ultimate winner may be Commissioner Lucki herself.
After all, if she succeeds in pleasing her political masters in the next few years and if the Trump of the north continues to reign, who knows, maybe the Liberals will make her a Senator too; for a job well done of course, a job done as directed.
Photo Courtesy of Flickr Commons by elPadawan Some Rights Reserved