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RCMP must take ‘drastic actions’ after report details toxic, sexist culture: author

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OTTAWA —
The author of a report that found a toxic, misogynistic culture in the RCMP says the police force must take some “drastic actions” right away to restore confidence.

Former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache told a House of Commons committee Wednesday that people expect genuine change that shows a willingness to make tough decisions.

Bastarache recently released an independent report on harassment of women in the RCMP that said fundamental reform is needed to eliminate tolerance of hateful and sexist attitudes.

Bastarache said it is well past time for the federal government to take meaningful and radical action to address these issues, which have caused incalculable damage.

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He was the assessor who oversaw the provision of millions of dollars in compensation to 2,304 women involved in a class-action settlement covering several decades.

His report, “Broken Dreams Broken Lives,” concluded that change cannot come from within the RCMP, but must be initiated from the outside.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki has expressed deep sadness and outrage at the findings.

But she has not fully endorsed Bastarache’s recommendation of an externally led overhaul, instead outlining numerous initiatives to remedy the problems.

MPs on the Commons public safety committee expressed dismay Wednesday at the report’s conclusions and asked Bastarache about the best way forward.

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Bastarache told the committee members that if the steps look “too much like policy changes,” nobody in the force will believe in them.

“I think what has to happen is for the commissioner to establish a real plan for the reform, and to take some drastic actions right away. I mean, to change some of the structures or change some of the leadership.”

He said if the government has faith in the commissioner, then it should support her, ask for a plan and ensure she has the budget to implement it.

“It won’t happen if she’s alone with her project,” Bastarache said.

Many past promises of reforming the RCMP failed because there was no plan to implement them or, if there was a plan, it did not work, he said.

“The most important recommendation is to recruit the right people and have the right training programs.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 2, 2020.

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