RCMP apologizes over harassment episode, promises national effort

Internal review was launched in response to allegations of bullying and nudity at explosives training school

OTTAWA – The RCMP will launch a new national effort to eliminate sexual misconduct in the workplace after an internal review criticized the police force’s response to an “egregious” case involving nudity and harassment.

The review concluded the RCMP’s initial investigations into behaviour at the Canadian Police College were “fraught with missed opportunities” to effectively deal with the misconduct, protect the victims and witnesses and heal the workplace.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson accepted a special steering committee’s 28 recommendations based on the findings, and he apologized to those who experienced distress over the episode.

Paulson has been wrestling for years with problems of bullying and harassment within the national police force by introducing a “respectful workplace” course, setting up employee advisory committees, encouraging settlement of complaints at the earliest opportunity and promoting more women to senior posts.

Earlier this year, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale expressed outrage to Paulson when allegations surfaced about unwanted sexual touching, bullying and rampant nudity in the explosives training unit of the RCMP-administered police college in Ottawa.

In February, a former employee of the explosives unit wrote to Paulson about the behaviour of two colleagues. The member alleged that Staff Sgt. Bruno Solesme and civilian member Marco Calandrini had repeatedly engaged in sexual misconduct and harassment from approximately June 2012 through December 2013, said the review report, made public Thursday.

The member was frustrated that despite the allegations, Solesme and Calandrini were allowed to return to work in the explosives field, with minimal repercussions.

Two years before the allegations were pointed out to Paulson, various internal investigations had been initiated into the events.

The latest review, ordered by the commissioner, found that incidents of nudity and unwelcome touching had occurred at the explosives unit. However, the incidents were not immediately reported by the victims for a variety of reasons, including “discomfort and fear.”

“This type of behaviour in the workplace is unacceptable, regardless of the intention, and must be eradicated from the workplace,” said the review report.

Prompt reporting of sexual misconduct in the workplace must be encouraged so that it can be addressed immediately with an appropriate response, the report added.

The more than two dozen recommendations flowing from the report addressed issues including human resource management, accountability and communication practices in the RCMP.

Paulson has committed to providing Goodale with a “comprehensive action plan” within 30 days on implementing the recommendations.

In a 2013 report, the watchdog over the RCMP said the force must take swift and effective action on complaints of bullying and harassment to reassure both members and the public.

The force said Thursday it must continue to strengthen and promote workplace wellness, ensure RCMP employees are safe from harassment and give them confidence in the internal processes to deal with misconduct.

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