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It is Time for the RCMP to Reconsider Its Role Amidst multiple Challenges, Says Cory Morgan


The image of an RCMP officer wearing the traditional red serge is arguably the most iconic and recognized symbol of Canada worldwide. Hollywood and authors created heroic characters from Mounties and coined the phrase, “The Mountie always gets his man!”

Now, as the RCMP enters its 151st year as a force, the stories tell a different tale. Canadians are observing a police force in decline that’s dealing with issues of low officer morale, allegations of federal political interference, and declining public trust. Where it was once difficult to wade through the many applicants to become an RCMP officer, the force is now suffering from a recruitment crisis so dire that it may even be forced to cut its famous Musical Ride.

Canada’s storied national force is facing an existential crisis and it’s time to have a serious national discussion about the future and the role of the RCMP.

A large part of the problem the RCMP has faced is that it’s spread too thin. The force is tasked with roles ranging from protecting foreign dignitaries to investigating organized crime, to protecting national security to issuing speeding tickets on rural roads. With such a diverse set of obligations coupled with contracts for policing rural communities across Canada, the RCMP just can’t keep up and it’s wearing them down.

Rural communities in Alberta have been lamenting long police response times and the perception of detachments being disconnected from regional needs as officers are transferred into areas rather than recruited and trained locally. This has prompted the UCP government under Danielle Smith to encourage small cities like Grande Prairie to shed the RCMP and adopt a municipal police force. In the smaller rural communities, Alberta sheriffs have been adopting a more visible role in policing as they fill voids the RCMP doesn’t have the resources for. It’s looking increasingly likely that Alberta won’t be renewing its contract with the RCMP when it expires in 2032.

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It’s not just rural jurisdictions moving away from using the RCMP as a primary police force. Surrey, B.C., which is a part of Metro Vancouver, is transitioning to a municipal force from the RCMP. The Surrey transition is coming after a pitched political battle with defenders of the RCMP that has just been resolved by the B.C. Supreme Court. The precedent has been set and the courts have affirmed it: Provinces can compel municipalities to form local police forces. We can expect more cities and regions to make these kinds of moves in the future.

The makeup of Canada has changed while the RCMP hasn’t. Rural areas don’t need police members imported from a federal authority to maintain order anymore. Citizens want police forces with closer local ties to the community, with members trained to deal with the unique needs of their area. RCMP officers are trained as generalists and could find themselves assigned to an inner-city environment or an isolated rural outpost. Officers need more regional-specific training to be effective where they are stationed. The RCMP model doesn’t allow for that.

Rather than dying something of a piecemeal and humiliating death of a thousand cuts as a force, the RCMP should accept its evolution as a police service and begin preparing to become a smaller, but more focused, federal force. If the RCMP embraces the need to change as a positive move, the transition could be faster and more effective. It could be seen as an opportunity for the preservation of the force rather than a decline in it.

The federal government has already been talking about turning the RCMP into something more like the American FBI. When the story broke of those discussions, the government quickly backed off while the RCMP union defensively lashed out. The government and the RCMP must work together and pragmatically to fix the force. If they are adversarial, the transition could become a mess.

As a solely federal force, the RCMP could continue its traditional roles of standing guard outside federal institutions and providing historical demonstrations through the Musical Ride. The force could also focus more effectively on issues such as cybercrime, terrorism, and national security if it sheds its obligation to manage a myriad of small, regional police detachments.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been seeking a legacy project. Perhaps the creation of a new and improved RCMP with a tighter federal mandate could fill that need.

If the Trudeau government won’t work toward reforming and changing the role of the RCMP, the next government should be encouraged to.

For the sake of both the preservation of tradition and the improvement of national policing, the RCMP must have its role revised. If it’s done with planning, it can be a smooth and positive change. If the can is kicked down the road until it becomes a crisis, Canada may lose the entire force due to attrition.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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