OTTAWA, Ontario—The newly appointed head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police announced Wednesday that he will investigate the Canadian national police force's handling of allegations of sexual harassment.
Veteran officer Bob Paulson takes on his new job amid a controversy that was rekindled last week when a high-profile female British Columbia Mountie said she spent years being treated as a potential sexual plaything by some supervisors.
Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was police a spokeswoman on some high profile cases, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that she faced repeated harassment from senior officers since graduating from the police academy in 1991.
She said she went public because she had nowhere to turn to for help.
Paulson, 52, said he would deal with the harassment concerns.
"This does not represent the force that I joined and this condition cannot stand," Paulson said. "I will sort this out in a way that Canadians can have trust and faith in the RCMP and, just as importantly, that employees of the RCMP can thrive in a healthy, productive and harassment-free environment."
The explosive sexual harassment charges have come at a turbulent time for the Mounties.
In May, the independent review body that handles grievances from RCMP officers found Alberta Mountie Gerry Hoyland's was the target of insults and threats. The finding came three years after complaint was dismissed by the force.
His file was sent back to the RCMP for further review and Hoyland wasn't expecting a resolution any time soon.
Paulson said that while the force has the means to investigate individual complaints he said something more is needed.
"I want a full, fair and thorough look at how we handle allegations of sexual harassment so we can get to the bottom of the problem, fix it and get on with the critical work of keeping Canadians safe," he said.
After discussions with Paulson, Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, who announced Paulson's new job, said he asked the RCMP complaints commission to investigate allegations of systemic failures to "deal appropriately with sexual harassment within the force."
Paulson replaces William Elliott, who announced his decision to step down earlier this year.
Elliott had been appointed to help overhaul a national institution in crisis.
A 2006 commission of inquiry said information the RCMP passed to the United States was likely responsible for Maher Arar being shipped to Syria, where the Canadian man was tortured into making false terrorism confessions.
Elliott had been on the job for only three months when a bewildered Polish visitor died after being Tasered by Mounties at the Vancouver airport. That led to an inquiry and sparked concerns about how RCMP stun gun use.
Elliott's reign was marred by a revolt last summer by senior officers. Long-serving Mounties bristled at Elliott's brash management style, complaining of abusive temper tantrums. His next job will be representing the international police agency Interpol at the United Nations.