1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 53
Monday, June 20, 2016
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker
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
Third Reading—Debate Adjourned
Senator Jaffer: Honourable senators, I want to thank the sponsor of the bill, Senator Campbell, and the critic of the bill, Senator Carignan.
Honourable senators, today I rise to speak to the amendments on Bill C-7, which will grant the RCMP members a union and the right to organize that had been denied for many years. Before I begin, I would like to read a letter from an RCMP member who reached out to me:
I simply wanted to take the time to thank you personally for the support you’ve shown to the members of the RCMP.
When I became a member almost 19 years ago I never envisioned the RCMP becoming what it has. I did my best to turn away from the politics and continue to do my job never thinking things would become as bad as they have.
The RCMP core values are integrity, honesty, professionalism, compassion, respect and accountability. I can say without a doubt that the majority of members on the front lines embody these values but have learned that our management do not. To deny us the basic rights to bargain on issues that every other police agency in Canada have the right to address simply was the last straw.
Thank you for being able to see beyond the lies.
Honourable senators, I rise today because I’ve heard from many voices of the RCMP members who need a good bargaining process. Until recently, RCMP members have not been permitted to unionize or engage in collective bargaining. They have been shut out of the labour relations regime governing the federal public service, and their own regulations render them unable to conduct effective collective bargaining.
In 2006, members of the RCMP representing its associations in Ontario and my province of British Columbia decided that this exclusion could not go on any longer. To them, the system was unfair. The RCMP rank and file believed that they too should have access to what is a right for all other Canadians — the freedom of association in the form of a meaningful collective bargaining process.
RCMP members went to court, and the Supreme Court of Canada agreed with the RCMP members that the RCMP had been denied the right to any meaningful process of collective bargaining, which is protected under section 2 of the Charter, the guarantee of the freedom of association.
The case should have been a huge victory for RCMP members. They had won their bargaining case, giving Parliament the mandate of creating the union that had been denied to the RCMP for so long. However, despite this mandate, the government has decided to table this bill, C-7, with several exemptions, which represents a step backwards in the process of giving RCMP members the “meaningful process of collective bargaining” that they deserve.
Honourable senators, RCMP members won a court battle, and then Parliament wants to deny them some of their hard-earned rights by introducing exemptions. Bill C-7 forbids RCMP members from bargaining many areas that are central to their work; these areas are law enforcement techniques; transfers from one position to another; appointments; appraisal; probation; discharges and demotions; conduct, including harassment; the basic requirements for carrying out the duties of an RCMP member or a reservist; and the uniform, order of dress, equipment or medals of the RCMP.
With the limited time I have, I wish to discuss some of the restrictions that I find particularly concerning. The first of these is the exclusion of transfers. Transfers affect the living conditions and the family lives of many RCMP members. I have been told that some senior officers abuse transfers, using them as a way to punish members who go against their will. While this may not be the case, I cannot in good conscience leave the ability to discuss transfers out of the bargaining process by the members.
Honourable senators, transfers should be part of bargaining rights of the RCMP members.
Another exclusion that worries me is the ability to discuss “the uniform, order of dress, equipment or medals of the RCMP.” Many of you likely remember the Moncton shootings from two years ago, where three RCMP officers were killed and two more were injured in a string of attacks. An internal review found that the officers’ deaths were preventable and that they had been given improper equipment. These officers lost their lives because they were left without the tools that they needed to properly do their jobs.
Worse yet, this tragedy was not an isolated incident. Rae Banwarie, President of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, stated before the committee that there were many other cases just like the Moncton shootings. There were Mayerthorpe, Spiritwood, St. Albert and Fort McMurray. In each of those places, RCMP officers faced similar life- threatening danger that could easily have been prevented if they had been better equipped. Mr. Banwarie said that even today, RCMP officers often find themselves at risk because they are often forced to go into the field without proper equipment.
Honourable senators, uniform and medals should be part of the bargaining of RCMP members. With those mentioned, the one exclusion that worries me most of all is the fact that an RCMP union will not be able to discuss any form of conduct at all, including harassment and sexual harassment.
In 2013, our National Security and Defense Committee tabled a report stating that the RCMP’s culture allowed for harassment to run rampant. Between 2005 and 2011, 718 complaints were filed by employees, with well over 45 per cent being from women, which spoke of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse.
Some of the stories that I have found were stories of women who would receive disgusting sexual comments and contact from their employers — women who were coerced into sexual relationships if they wished to keep their career afloat.
One of the RCMP’s highest-profile female members, Corporal Catherine Galliford, faced years of sexual harassment during her tenure, despite her very good position.
To say the least, this kind of conduct is unacceptable. However, despite that fact, RCMP investigations found that insufficient action had been taken to address the issue, and that the RCMP had even tried to fire two women who sued over this abuse. What is in place now is simply not good enough. Any RCMP union should have the ability to work together with management to try and find appropriate solutions that will end this culture of harassment.
Honourable senators, conduct and harassment should be part of the bargaining rights of RCMP members. Realizing challenges with bargaining rights that these exclusions could pose, the committee called upon RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to appear and to provide his rationale for these exclusions. When a member of the committee asked Commissioner Paulson if the removal of these exclusions would have any kind of significant impact, he simply replied “no.” When asked to elaborate on how this could be the case, he simply said that even if we remove the sections where the exclusions appear, other laws will serve the same function.
If that is the case, then there should be no problem with removing the exclusions from this bill. When it comes to matters that so closely touch the lives of RCMP members, we cannot afford to take risks by including exemptions that are, by the commissioner’s own admission, unnecessary.
Honourable senators, when we are given a mandate from the Supreme Court to provide RCMP members with legislation that will allow them to unionize, the least we can do as legislators is to provide them with the bargaining rights they deserve.
I know all of you respect the hard work done by RCMP officers, often risking life and limb to protect Canadians from those who would harm us. I believe it is our responsibility to give the RCMP members the bargaining powers that these members deserve.
I would like to conclude with the words of Shelley Wynn, whose testimony at the Legal Committee on another bill shows how much these brave members sacrifice for us Canadians and how we, therefore, have the responsibility to ensure that RCMP members also have a say in their working conditions.
Honourable senators, I want you to know that last week, when Constable Wynn’s widow spoke at the Legal Committee, there wasn’t one dry eye in the committee. She said the following:
. . . I want you to think of the one person in your life that you spend every day with; the person you see before you go to sleep; the last person you see at night; the first person you see every morning when you wake up; the person that you do everything with during the day; . . . and the person that you planned to spend the rest of your life with, making new memories and following your dreams.
She went on to tell the committee members to close their eyes and to take four seconds, and this is how she continued:
That’s exactly how long it took for Shawn Rehn to take away my husband: four seconds. That’s exactly how long it took for him to take away the last person that I saw at night, the first person that I see in the morning. That’s how long it took for him to take away the father of three sons.
I want you to take a moment and think about what it would be like to lose that person in four seconds. Just gone — everything gone. . . .
Dave was so proud of being a Mountie, and he was honestly the true meaning of a Mountie. He loved his job. That was probably one of the proudest moments of his life, on that day, and probably the proudest moment for his family, as well.
I think that he showed that he loved his job in everything that he did every day to protect the community of St. Albert. I think you can ask anyone in St. Albert, and they would agree with that. . . .
He was an extraordinary man, and I got to share my life with that extraordinary man.
In those four seconds, a constable was taken away from his community, a husband was taken away from his wife, a father was taken away from his three sons, and a son and a brother was taken away from his mother and sisters — in four seconds.
Every day I wake up wishing that I could take those four seconds back, but I can’t. There is nothing I can do to change that.
Every day I have to live my life alone, not have Dave by my side enjoying the moments we were supposed to have together as a family and as husband and wife.
Every day his children have to experience new things and new milestones without their dad. This Sunday is Father’s Day. They don’t have a father to spend that with. They don’t have any more chances to make new memories.
Honourable senators, the men and women we are speaking about are men and women who sacrifice their lives every day for us. I ask you to support the amendments that have been put in front of you because it is for the men and women who keep us safe, the men and women who put their lives at risk so that we are safe.