The Supreme Court of Canada has struck down a 95-year ban on unions in the RCMP as unconstitutional. Justices in a 6-1 decision ruled the restriction on collective bargaining in the federal police force violated the Charter of Rights. The Court gave cabinet one year to amend regulations permitting RCMP to unionize.
“The current RCMP labour relations regime denies RCMP members that choice, and imposes on them a scheme that does not permit them to identify and advance their workplace concerns free from management’s influence,” wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin and Justice Louis LeBel.
The Court also ruled that excluding RCMP members from the Public Service Labour Relations Act was effectively unlawful, but left it to Parliament to examine what form of collective bargaining will be sanctioned in the force.
The sweeping judgment appeared to nullify new RCMP Regulations granting the commissioner extraordinary powers to discipline and fire members. The regulations enacted last month permit the commissioner to bypass the Canadian Human Rights Act in disciplining members; allow management to demote or fire officers; compels officers to “undergo any tests, examinations or other assessments” by commissioner’s order under threat of suspension; requires all members take an Oath Of Secrecy similar to federal intelligence agents; and forbids RCMP from “making public statements criticizing the Government of Canada or the operations of the force.”
The Mounties were the last major police force in the country to be barred from forming a union. Cabinet banned collective bargaining in the RCMP in 1920 following a public outcry over police strikes in Winnipeg, Boston and London.
Seven organizations supported the union drive as interveners in the Supreme Court case, including the Canadian Police Association; Public Service Alliance of Canada; Canadian Labour Congress; the B.C. and Canadian Civil Liberties Associations; Association de la Police Montée du Québec and Conféderation des Syndicats Nationaux.
By Dale Smith