Visit to the RCMP Depot– a Puzzling Stunt

Why bother to visit and promote RCMP Depot when its training has  been condemned and the facility may be phased out?  

A little while ago, Halifax’s new CAO Cathie O’Toole, and HRM councillor and Chair of the Board of Police Commissioners Becky Kent (Dartmouth South-Eastern Passage, District 3) travelled on a junket to Regina, Sask.  Don’t get me wrong – I think Regina and Saskatchewan are nice places.  I lived in Saskatoon for a dozen years.  The province has its illustrious bird, the sharp-tailed grouse.  The provincial flower is the western red lily.  So far so good.  But the joke is that the slogan on vehicle license plates “Land of Living Skies” –pays tribute to the swarms of mosquitoes on the attack all summer. 

And one more thing: Saskatchewan’s provincial dinosaur (!!) is “Scotty”, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, whose 66-million-year-old fossilized bones were discovered in Frenchman River Valley three decades ago.  

Somehow “Scotty” seems like a fitting segue into the Halifax dignitaries’ visit to the Depot, home of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).  I know it’s just a few thousand dollars to fly to Regina, stay in a hotel for a short spell, and rent a car – and the office of the CAO was happy to pay.  But why did they visit the Depot? 

As we know, policing in HRM is split between Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP who police the outskirts and the county.  HRM pays more than $20 million  for its current annual policing contract with the RCMP. 

The RCMP is now desperate to hold on to policing contracts such as the one with HRM.  That is because across the country –from rural New Brunswick  to Surrey, BC— and many points in-between–  municipalities are trying to cancel their contracts with the Mounties.   In the wake of the revelations in the media and the damning conclusions of Nova Scotia’s Mass Casualty Commission, here,  and here which recommended the “phasing out” of the Depot over the next nine years.  Seems many Canadians  are getting wise to the RCMP and their swaggering arrogance, their loutish behaviour, their lazy and half-assed responses to emergencies and their blatant disrespect for First Nations’ people.  

With that kind of record, who wants the RCMP to police their community?

As far as the RCMP goes, women are the real “canaries” in the coalmine.  In 2016, about  3,000 women officers were paid more than $125 million for gender-based discrimination and sexual assault they suffered as RCMP officers – by male officers and the higher-ups.  In 2020,  168 women civilian employees including volunteers and students registered claims for gender-based discrimination and sexual assault.  In 2022, another class action was certified against the RCMP for allowing bullying, intimidation and harassment in the workplace. It is estimated that compensation for the most recent class action will exceed $1 billion.  Finally, there is a class action against the force by female officers who claim sexual assault during mandatory medical examinations by RCMP doctors.  

With that kind of record, who wants the RCMP to police their community?

Well, it seems at least our two brave, adventurous  officials of HRM are still holding out hope. 

What is the point of CAO O’Toole and Councillor Kent going to the Depot, except to assist the RCMP in white-washing of its record?  Clearly the RCMP has launched yet another public relations exercise for the hearts and pocketbooks of Canadian municipalities.  

The Royal Coronation and 5 Horses from the Musical Ride

Just last week at the crowning of King Charles III, the RCMP presented Noble, a horse formerly in the Musical Ride,  as a present to the King. Five Musical Ride officers rode previously gifted Musical Ride horses,  George, Elizabeth, Sir John, Darby and newly given Noble in the May 6 procession.

Of course an appearance at the Coronation will increase the Mounties’ reputation only so much. 

Criticism of the RCMP zeroes in on its officers being uneducated, sexist, misogynist and short on training.  Their six-month course at the Depot is exactly why many people are demanding to defund the RCMP. Wannabe RCMP officers are wrongly trained—according to police educators in Finland.  Public trust in the Finnish police is at 91% , while in Canada public trust in the RCMP is at 51% and dropping.  

In Finland, police education requires a three-year university degree, but not so for the RCMP, as many cadets enter Depot straight from high school.  Mounties are trained in combat, in violence, in use of firearms, in restraint and in punishment.  Not to put too fine a point on it, I do realize all the cops in Canada are trained in this manner.  But none are as privileged, as well paid or have the cachet that the RCMP has.  


When I went to the Depot in the mid-1990s it was to teach a class about sexual harassment, and sexual assault.  I was on the board of the Saskatoon Sexual Assault Centre and this was what we did, season after season, to train all the recruits.  When I was at the front of the classroom, the snickering, the side-talking and the random insults came fast and furious.   Recruits were either bored or boorish, perhaps both.  When a senior officer tried to silence them and order them to show some respect, the cadets gave me a minute or two and started back in harassing and denigrating me.  You can read about my experience at Depot here. 

The cadets were well turned out, not a hair out of place, no buttons missing from their  uniforms, and their boots were polished to a tee.  But the RCMP is  a command and control outfit.  They can parade; they can march, and they can salute.

“No one tells the RCMP what to do”

But when there is a mass murderer on the loose, it’s another story entirely.  That’s what happened in Portapique.    As author Paul Palango has noted many times on the Nighttime Podcast   “no one tells the RCMP what to do.”  He’s right about that.  Brenda Lucki, the RCMP commissioner during the Portapique murders, got to happily retire—two weeks before the Mass Casualty Commission released its final report.  In fact, every major RCMP officer involved in Portapique retired or got promoted despite the fact that one of their own and 21 civilians died. 

What about the dozens of times the RCMP has killed suspects who were doing little to nothing wrong? Remember Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski in the Vancouver Airport, or Indigenous citizen Rodney Levi last year near Miramichi, New Brunswick? Three months ago, two Mounties were charged with manslaughter, and three more were charged with obstruction of justice in the 2017 death of Dale Culver, a 35-year-old Indigenous man. Culver was pepper sprayed, then died in police custody in Prince George, BC.  Somebody said they saw Culver possibly casing parked cars. He tried to ride away on his bicycle: he was unarmed.

And by the way, what about the RCMP in July 2021 stopping at gunpoint Dean Simmonds, a high-ranking officer in the Halifax Regional Police, and his lawyer wife Angela, a clear case of racial profiling? For at least a few minutes, staring at the business end of a carbine rifle, these two must have wondered if they might end up dead.

Does the RCMP provide the kind of policing we want or deserve? So why did Halifax’s CAO and Councillor Kent go to the Depot?  Are they going to continue to extol the virtues and the value of the RCMP as partners in policing?

Featured image: “Scotty” the T-Rex, bones found in southeastern Saskatchewan. Credit The Nature of Things.

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