RCMP labour shortage must be addressed
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ON Monday, we learned Manitoba Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen asked for a meeting with federal Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino to urgently discuss the RCMP in Manitoba’s ever-growing job-vacancy rate. The goal, in short, would be to create a strategy to address this pressing issue.
This isn’t a request that has suddenly materialized, however. For years, our members across Canada have faced chronic human and financial resource challenges at the hands of government cuts and freezes, and they continue to be asked to deliver more with less.
Recruitment, in addition, is challenging across all police services lately, causing increased workloads that result in overworked, under-rested officers, which impacts their well-being and creates potential risks to community safety.
For context, since 2016-17, applicants have decreased 20 per cent, from around 12,300 per year to 9,800 in 2021-22, and applicants for 2022-23 are expected to be even lower and at a critical state.
In an effort to ease that burden, such as Goertzen has just made, we have been actively calling for greater supports and added resources by all levels of government to improve policing and community safety in Canada.
In our view, waiting for the RCMP to fall into a weakened state is neither a viable nor a responsible option. It must be enabled to evolve into a uniquely effective national, provincial and regional police service through innovation and foresight.
The RCMP is one of the most multi-faceted and integrated police services in Canada, known and respected worldwide. In fact, it’s unique in the world of policing, with more than 700 detachments in 150 communities, from busy urban centres to remote fly-in hamlets. In addition, our members serve more than 600 Indigenous communities.
There are in excess of 160 RCMP policing contracts across Canada; our members police close to 75 per cent of Canada’s land mass; and almost one in four Canadians calls the RCMP their local police service. In Manitoba specifically, the RCMP has approximately 80 detachments, 35 of which are deemed isolated posts, and has around 1,000 members throughout the province.
At any given time, approximately 1,000 RCMP members across Canada are serving in one of the RCMP’s 227 isolated posts, where housing, communications, transportation, infrastructure, government services, access to healthy food and potable water, among other essentials, are scarce or even non-existent.
All of which means Manitoba is a true microcosm of the varied and consistently professional service provided by the RCMP.
In fact, multiple waves of research conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights reveal satisfaction with the RCMP’s service is high, at 76 per cent across Canada, including here in Manitoba, in the communities in which our members serve and live.
When you consider RCMP members are highly effective in communities of all sizes and that they are also our national “go to” for natural disasters and emergencies, including forest fires, floods and blockades, what you end up with is an extremely effective public-safety service delivery model.
For nearly 150 years, until the certification of the National Police Federation in 2019, RCMP members did not have a credible and independent voice to speak on their behalf, or to share what’s happening on the ground with municipal, provincial and federal leaders.
In April 2022, we called on the federal government to undertake a study of RCMP labour shortages, and to review and develop a robust recruitment strategy to address future recruiting challenges, which includes an expansion of the Experienced Officer Program so senior position vacancies can also be filled.
Today, we ask that ministers Mendicino and Goertzen commit to sustainable public and community safety, as our members do every day.
Brian Sauvé is the president of the National Police Federation.