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Toews vows to act on RCMP chief's call for more disciplinary power

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews speaks to reporters in foyer of the House of Commons on May 30, 2012.

Sean Kilpatrick/Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Legislation to modernize the RCMP's discipline process is coming soon, even though related issues are still before the courts, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Wednesday.

He said he was pleased to see an open letter from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson earlier this week that expressed frustration about the antiquated discipline procedures in the RCMP Act.

Mr. Toews said he has been encouraging Commissioner Paulson to reach out to the public and admitted he had seen the letter before it was released.

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The letter fits perfectly with the government's communications plan, he told reporters.

"It's a good letter, and it's certainly consistent with the discussions that we've had," Mr. Toews said. "I've encouraged Commissioner Paulson to be out front with Canadians to communicate how important he believes reform of the RCMP is and this letter is very consistent with our general communications."

Difficulties with the RCMP discipline procedures have been raised by Corporal Catherine Galliford, who claims she was the victim of sexual harassment and abuse by male colleagues. The system was highlighted again last week when an Alberta officer who admitted to sexual misconduct was transferred to British Columbia instead of being fired.

Mr. Toews acknowledged that the Conservative government tried in the last Parliament to give the RCMP more leeway to discipline wayward Mounties, but the government fell before the legislation could pass.

Since then, he said reforms have been held up by issues raised by collective agreements that are still before the courts.

"Unfortunately, I felt that would be resolved by now. It is not yet resolved. Quite frankly I am prepared to proceed without addressing that. I think Canadians should not have to wait any longer."

In his open letter released on Monday, Commissioner Paulson complained that his ability to discipline "bad apples" within the force is hindered by a system that was set up 25 years ago. He said some discipline cases are bogged down in red tape for years.

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Mr. Toews said he agrees with many of the suggestions the top Mountie has proposed.

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