Mounties may yet be able to organize

Mounties across Canada and in Kamloops and area are one step closer to unionizing

By Tim Petruk

Kamloops This Week

Mounties across Canada and in Kamloops are one step closer to unionizing after the country’s highest court ruled the RCMP’s current system for staff representation is unconstitutional.

“I’m over-the-moon happy,” said Rob Creasser, a former Kamloops Mountie who is now the media liaison for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, a group that has been seeking better representation for members of the RCMP.

“It means they will finally have an effective voice that represents them.”

A landmark 6-1 Supreme Court of Canada ruling released on Friday, Jan. 16, gives the federal government a year to create a new labour-relations scheme, setting the stage for talks among RCMP members, Commissioner Bob Paulson and Public Safety Minister Steven Blainey.

The court overturned a previous ruling of its own, from the 1990s, which upheld an exclusion that barred Mounties from forming unions like federal public servants, who gained the right to collective bargaining in the late 1960s.

“It will create choice,” Creasser said. “Then members will have a choice about which version of labour relations they want.”

Creasser said the next step for his association is to inform members across Canada about their options including forming a police association or union.

“What our job is now is to go out and educate the members,” he said.

“There’s a huge education component that has to take place.”

The Supreme Court said excluding Mounties from collective bargaining violates their charter right to freedom of association, but it does not dictate a specific labour-relations regime that should be applied to the RCMP.

There are more than 20,000 RCMP members across Canada. Under the old model of labour relations, they were represented by locally elected staff-relations representatives, but final decisions on pay and benefits were ultimately up to RCMP brass.

The staff-relations model will remain in place until the federal government comes up with a new scheme.

*with files from The Canadian Press