Last month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed the first-ever permanent female commissioner of the RCMP. Brenda Lucki joined the force in 1986 and held multiple leadership positions within the national police service before her most recent appointment. In short: this woman is totally qualified for her job and she is kicking down that gender barrier. That doesn’t mean she’s immune to sexist lines of questioning, unfortunately.
At a House of Commons committee appearance Monday, Lucki was asked questions about harassment within the RCMP among other topics. In the wake of Me Too, there have been multiple reports of harassment from within the RCMP and one of the commissioner’s pressing tasks is to address that toxic culture. Lucki was clear during her appearance that the harassment would not be tolerated and those who participate will be “addressed” accordingly, but one Quebec MP had a more specific question. Was Lucki – as a woman – prepared to lay down the law?
“It’s a traditional institution . . . It’s a tough environment,” Liberal MP Michel Picard said, “I will include in the harassment, the bullying, questionable behaviour, so I would like to hear you about, allow me to say – how will a lady tell the guys how to behave?”
Lucki was quick to respond, replying, “We do it all the time. It’s part of our makeup. Ask my husband.” Her response drew a few laughs before she continued on a more serious note.
“I think actions speak louder than words,” she said, “We can say all we want about harassment but we need to demonstrate that behaviour and it comes from the top. If you permit something, then you’re promoting it. So we have to show that we don’t permit those behaviours.”
In a press conference after the meeting, Lucki was asked by reporters how she felt about being called “a lady” in that context. She said that she took it as a reminder that there is still a long way to go before women are given equal respect in the workplace.
“When people refer to me as the first female commissioner, it just tells me that we still have a lot of work to do,” she said, “The fact that we have to identify me by my gender means that we still have some work to do. But I’m okay with it. I’m ready for the work and I think, gender aside, I was chosen for what I bring to the table and I’m ready to make the change in the RCMP. I’ve been called worse.”
Monday evening, Picard apologized on Twitter for the phrasing of his questioning. He also clarified that all women within the RCMP should be respected and that he knows “Commissioner Lucki will change the culture.”
My question today was not how I intended to phrase it and I apologize. All women in the RCMP should command respect especially the new Commissioner. Addressing the issue of harassment and bullying in the RCMP is important and I know that Commisionner Lucki will change the culture
— Michel Picard (@MPicardLiberal) May 7, 2018