Q&A: B.C. RCMP Deputy Commissioner on Surrey, mental health and sexual harassment

It’s been a tumultuous year for the B.C. RCMP

First it was hit with a $1.1-billion lawsuit alleging bullying and harassment within the force.

Then there was the inquest into the death of Pierre Lemaitre. The officer, who became the face of the Robert Dziekanski case, took his own life in 2013. 

And now the RCMP may be on its way out of Surrey as the recently elected mayor Doug McCallum pushes for a municipal force.

But in the face of it all, B.C. RCMP Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr has a positive outlook.

She sat down with host of The Early Edition Stephen Quinn for a year-end interview on the RCMP’s status in Surrey, mental health within the force and how it’s dealing with an alleged culture of sexual harassment.

Do you feel like Surrey is getting a good deal with the RCMP?

Given the nature of what we deliver on, we’re doing incredibly well for what we have.

Some would say that I’m biased; I would say that when we balance that in evidence, we can see there’s an apparent downward trend over the last 10 years with respect to crime.

I also know that as a Surrey resident, that sense of safety can be challenging for some citizens. It’s certainly a goal to make residents more comfortable going into the future.

But what about guns and gangs kind of crime we’re seeing that’s been so common in the city over the past couple of years?

Certainly we have aspects of organized crime but that’s a whole-of-the-Lower-Mainland issue. It’s not just unique to Surrey.

There’s a tremendous amount of effort that’s ongoing with proactive initiatives to end gang life.

Have you personally been trying to convince Mayor Doug McCallum that he is getting a good deal here?

I’m not here to advocate on behalf of ourselves because we’re a service provider.

If he’s chosen to make a decision based upon an informed public consultation, and people clearly understand the impacts, then ultimately that’s his decision. 

Do you think Mayor McCallum has given the public the quality of information it needs to decide whether this is a good thing one way or another?

I think that it’s a very, very complex piece. It’s incredibly complex the services that we provide and the funding associated to it.

On the subject of the inquest into RCMP officer Pierre Lemaitre’s death, among the recommendations from the coroner’s jury was that you include a mental health assessment as part of the physical health assessment every three years. Is that something the force is looking into?

We are being very proactive and aggressive about providing people good support.

From my perspective, as an example within this province, I’m the champion of health and wellness and I took that on deliberately because I think it has to come from the top to drive that message to say if you need help, you need to ask for it.

A class action lawsuit to do with sexual harassment within the force is in the news again this year. What has changed when it comes to sexual harassment behaviour on the job?

Recently in B.C., we undertook a unit-level quality assurance. We sent out a survey and we had a tremendous amount of people participate. 

One thing that came out which really resonated with the team is the effort that we’re making.

People do feel that they’re being respected. They do feel that their voice is being heard. They have the ability to influence and we want an organization where people will continue to do that. 

This interview aired on CBC News Vancouver at 6 on December 17 and has been edited for clarity and structure. To hear the complete interview, watch the video below.

B.C. RCMP Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr spoke to host of The Early Edition Stephen Quinn about the RCMP’s status in Surrey, mental health within the force and how it’s dealing with an alleged culture of sexual harassment. 4:03

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