OTTAWA — The federal government is fighting a proposed class-action lawsuit against the RCMP over bullying and intimidation of members, saying the national police force already has a comprehensive policy on harassment and the Mounties have made strides toward modernization.
In a submission to the Federal Court of Canada, lawyers representing the attorney general argue the action spearheaded by two veteran male Mounties, Geoffery Greenwood and Todd Gray, should not be certified.
“This motion is not about whether there is, or has been a harassment problem in the RCMP, or even whether the RCMP leadership has appropriately responded to the problem,” the federal submission says.
“The sole question is whether the proposed claims ought to proceed through the vehicle of a class action. The proposed action fails to satisfy even the law threshold for certification.”
The RCMP has already settled class-action lawsuits involving millions of dollars of payouts for discrimination, bullying and harassment involving female RCMP members and those who served the force in non-policing roles from 1974 onwards.
The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP in a wide array of roles over the decades. It would, however, exclude women already covered by the other class actions.
Greenwood and Gray, both of whom live in Alberta, allege they were among those subjected to a culture of systemic bullying, intimidation and harassment that was fostered and condoned by the RCMP leadership.
They claim such behaviour was bolstered by barriers that “amplified a stark power imbalance” within the paramilitary structure of the force and prevented members from engaging in collective bargaining or other meaningful redress.
The sole avenue of recourse was through members of the chain of command who were either involved in such behaviour themselves or protected the perpetrators, the plaintiffs say. “This in turn created a toxic work environment, characterized by abuse of power and fear of reprisal.”
More than 800 potential class members from across the country had contacted lawyers handling the action as of last October.
The motion for certification was argued in part during two days of hearings last month. No court date has been set to complete the arguments.
The RCMP has “unequivocally acknowledged” the problem of bullying and harassment and is taking concrete steps to address it, the federal submission says.
“Indeed, concerted and ongoing efforts and resources have been directed to preventing and properly addressing conduct which is, and has always been, contrary to the RCMP Code of Conduct and RCMP policies.”
The Trudeau government has directed new commissioner Brenda Lucki to make the national police force representative of Canada’s diverse population by embracing gender parity and ensuring that women, Indigenous members and minority groups are better reflected in the upper ranks.
The RCMP has worked to implement the scores of recommendations flowing from reports in recent years that documented the police force’s shortcomings, the federal lawyers say. The suggestion that the RCMP actions are insufficient and that a class action is the only way to bring about change ignores these efforts, they add.
“Ensuring a robust internal-recourse disciplinary regime that effectively addresses inappropriate conduct is essential to changing the culture of the RCMP.”
The federal lawyers argue the case for certification also fails because the courts have consistently declined — save for the most exceptional circumstances — to assume jurisdiction over workplace disputes covered by comprehensive grievance and other specialized recourse schemes.
The existing workplace dispute-resolution and compensation regimes are preferable “and will be undermined if this action is certified,” the submission says.
Further, the lawyers argue, the proposed class definition is “overly broad and indeterminate,” stretching back to the oldest individual who was, at any point, employed by the RCMP.
Apart from the lead plaintiffs’ own experiences as regular-force members, there is no evidence of people in other RCMP employment categories who have suffered injuries as a result of harassment, the submission says.
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Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press
151st Cowichan Exhibition includes new category: best home-grown pot
VICTORIA — One of Canada’s oldest fall fairs is putting a new twist on its annual showcase of local livestock, produce and fruit by adding a new category for best home-grown marijuana.
The Cowichan Exhibition in Duncan, B.C., which dates back to 1868, has created a best cannabis category to embrace legalization and celebrate local pot growers, said exhibition vice-president Bud James.
The fair starts Friday and the cannabis entries will be on display in the main hall at the Cowichan Exhibition Grounds along with the region’s top vegetables, fruits and baked goods. First prize is $5, second is $3 and third place gets a ribbon.
“We just decided this year, because it’s an agricultural product, and it’s been grown in the valley for years, and now that it’s finally legally grown, we would allow people to win a ribbon for the best,” said James.
He said fair officials believe the Cowichan cannabis category is the first of its kind in Canada.
An official at the Canadian Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, a non-profit organization representing rural and urban fairs, said she had not heard of any other cannabis judging contests prior to the Cowichan Exhibition, but couldn’t confirm it was the first.
A fall fair in Grand Forks, B.C., is also judging local cannabis, but the event starts Saturday, one day after Cowichan’s fair. Those who enter the competition in Grand Forks can compete for best indoor- and outdoor-grown cannabis.
James said fair organizers contacted the local council and RCMP prior to adding the cannabis category. The mayor and council did not oppose the contest and the RCMP referred organizers to B.C.’s Liquor and Cannabis Regulation Branch, the agency monitoring retail sales of non-medical cannabis, he said.
Organizers decided to go ahead with the event after its plans were not rejected, James said.
“Our interpretation of the rules are you can’t make it attractive to people under 19 years and we are not making it attractive,” he said.
James said the cannabis entries will be placed in a glass display case and the individual entries will be sealed in clear zip lock plastic bags.
“It’s being judged to the same standard of judging garden and field produce,” he said. “It’s done by uniformity. You want all three buds to be the same size, same shape, same colour. It’s also the dryness, texture and smell. It’s exactly the same way you would judge apples or carrots or hay bales. It’s all done the same way.”
James said the contest doesn’t involve sampling the product.
Bree Tweet, the manager of a medical cannabis dispensary in nearby Ladysmith, will judge the marijuana entries, said James.
The exhibition received 18 cannabis entries and James said the contest created a buzz at the fair.
“The enthusiasm of the entrants, the people bringing their entry forms, they are so enthusiastic it’s unbelievable,” he said. “They are so thrilled that it’s happening, that we’re doing it because they’ve been waiting for years for legalization and now, they finally got it and now they have a chance to show what they can do.”
James, who has entered his prized Dahlia flowers at past fairs, said the addition of the cannabis category has exceeded expectations with the 18 entries.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
School board defends book pictured on principal’s desk after online uproar
A Toronto-area Catholic school board says an online firestorm that erupted after a book on how to teach black students was photographed on a principal’s desk stems from a misunderstanding over the book’s contents.
The Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board says the book, titled “The Guide for White Women Who Teach Black Boys,” has a provocative title but is actually a helpful resource on tackling racial and cultural oppression in education.
Michelle Coutinho, the board’s principal of equity and inclusive education, says such materials are a particularly useful reference given how diverse the student population is in the district and at that specific school.
The controversy emerged this week after a Brampton, Ont., high school, Cardinal Ambrozic Catholic Secondary School, posted a photo of its new principal on Twitter.
The photo, which shows the book on her desk, set off heated debate, with some suggesting it was a sign of racism or incompetence, or a prop meant to bolster the school’s image.
The image was also shared on instagram by 6ixBuzzTV, a popular account with roughly 1.2 million followers.
“LOOOOL. No principal should make it this far while subsequently needing a book like this,” one person wrote on Twitter. “She a bad principal,” wrote another.
Some defended the book, however, and the principal’s efforts to educate herself. “She’s making an effort to connect with her students, it’s more than most principals do,” another tweet read.
The board said it was surprised by the uproar and hoped people would look up the book before jumping to conclusions based on its title.
The principal intends to address the photo in a public announcement and invite any students with lingering questions to see her, said Bruce Campbell, the board’s spokesman.
The book, written by three researchers and published in 2017, aims to improve outcomes for black students by helping teachers create learning environments in which they feel nurtured and engaged. The title references the fact that white women make up the bulk of the teaching force in the U.S.
Coutinho said the book asks educators to challenge the biases they may bring into the classroom.
“We know that we’re steeped in a colonized kind of world view and how do we break out of that in our everyday practices?” she said, noting it has been used in the board’s anti-oppression training in the past.
Cardinal Ambrozic’s new principal was involved in a book study at several schools that delved deeply into the text last year, Coutinho said.
“If we’re going to make any changes to the education system, we have to start talking about these things and talking about them openly and honestly without shame or blame.”
Paola Loriggio, The Canadian Press
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