Publié par le sénateur Colin Kenny le 07 octobre 2010
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One of Canada's most important institutions -- the Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- is unravelling, and nobody seems to care.
Canadian politics features too many public spats about milk that has already spilled, rather than debating serious problems crying out for solutions.
The Conservatives rant about the billion dollars the Liberals spent on the gun registry, but that's history. The only question should be whether the registry can be made workable at a reasonable annual cost now and in the future.
The Liberals rant about the billion or so dollars the Conservatives spent on the G8 and G20 summits. Dumb spending, sure. But history nonetheless.
Meanwhile, one of Canada's most important institutions -- the Royal Canadian Mounted Police -- is unravelling, and nobody seems to care. This is something this government could fix. But the snooze button appears to be on.
It would take more words than any editor will allow to document the problems of the RCMP over the past decade. Suffice it to say that public trust in this sacred institution has taken a number of body blows -- the tasering death of Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport was only one of many cringe-inducing incidents.
Official report after official report has revealed major flaws in the RCMP's ability to serve the public. The main points that have emerged are that the service has had a dysfunctional command structure that values bullying over respect, and that the RCMP is badly underfunded, so too-few stressed-out people are trying to do too many difficult jobs with too few resources.
One of the solutions to these problems is a no-brainer: the federal government needs to give the RCMP a much more money -- first to fund the transformation process needed to revamp the force, and secondly to perform the RCMP's growing array of duties (which Parliament keeps adding to every time it passes new laws that deal with crime and security).
Recommendation 49 of the Task Force on Governance and Cultural Change in the RCMP (the Brown Report, December 2007), which called for a virtual overhaul of the service, was this: "Sufficient resources must be dedicated to the implementation of these recommendations so that no additional burden is placed on the already overburdened workplace of the RCMP."
David McAusland, chairman of the Reform Implementation Council, set up to oversee the reform process, keeps reminding the government that the RCMP process is going nowhere without additional funding.
One would have thought that these core messages would have hit home with Stephen Harper's law-and-order government. After all, anyone acquainted with the penal system knows that it is far cheaper and more effective to invest in prevention (such as more cops on the beat) than in prisons (which tend to be graduate schools for criminals).
So what has the government committed to? Increased RCMP funding? Not much. A multi-million-dollar program to build and maintain more prisons? Yup. Perhaps the government is counting on a lack of effective policing to produce the criminals it will need to fill its new jails.
The RCMP's budget rose by seven per cent between fiscal 2008 and 2009. That's not enough to turn this organization around, especially with all the RCMP's growing responsibilities for things like national security issues, borders and migrants.
There are plenty of good job applicants knocking on the RCMP's door, but they can't come in. The service graduated 1,572 cadets in 2008-09, but it will only process 912 this year and 560 next year. Why? Because even if the RCMP were to keep training cadets at a rate that would bring the size of its work force in line with its responsibilities, the government hasn't given the RCMP sufficient money to hire them.
The other major recommendation of the Brown and McAusland reports was that a board of management be set up to offer the RCMP commissioner long-term guidance on non-operational matters. The commissioner would be in charge of making day-to-day policing decisions, but would meet regularly with a board of respected civilians with experience in management, to make sure the police service was continuing along the track to reform.
Establishing such a board would cost next to nothing. But it's been three years since the initial recommendation, and still no board. One suspects that people in government just don't like the idea of a civilian board stepping anywhere between them and their turf. How useful would such a board have been at sorting out the prickly relationship between Commissioner William Elliott and a sizable number of his senior staff? Unfortunately, we'll never know.
Because the government has refused to rise to the occasion and pay more than lip service to the rehabilitation of the RCMP, its reform process is in grave danger of stuttering to a halt.
To me, the government's seeming indifference to the RCMP reform process amounts to what Treasury Board President Stockwell Day would call an unreported crime.
Liberal Senator Colin Kenny is former chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.