“We are unique. I don’t believe there is another police force in the world that fulfills federal, provincial and municipal mandates at the same time. But it no longer works in 2023. It is not effective and we must change the way we do things. »
The new commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Mike Duheme, granted The Press a long and rare in-depth interview in our offices last week.
Duheme, who was named top boss of the RCMP for a maximum of two years after the departure of his predecessor Brenda Lucki last March, has made restructuring the Canadian police force his priority.
Since the creation of the RCMP in 1873, mounted police officers – as they are commonly called – have carried out federal investigations, acted as territorial and provincial police officers except in Quebec and Ontario, patrolled and responded to calls in 150 Canadian cities and kept watch borders.
But in 2023, this model no longer holds up in the face of new threats posed by greatly evolved crime: foreign interference, national security, foreign or domestic terrorism, international money laundering, cybercrime, transnational organized crime, etc.
The primary mandate of the RCMP’s federal investigations must be to combat these crimes.
But currently, out of 19,000 RCMP officers across the country, fewer than 3,000 are assigned to the “federal program,” what Mike Duheme calls “the FBI of the North,” which brings together investigators who fight the crimes listed above. . “It’s certain that it’s not enough,” laments the commissioner.
The lack of resources is glaring and affects our federal police capacity. The files we have are non-negotiable. All the parliamentary committees on which I am invited, we do not talk about the gendarmerie. We talk about foreign interference, borders, cybercrime, etc.
Mike Duheme, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Investigations that fail
When an extraordinary situation arises in Canada, for example a G7 Summit, the Olympic Games or mass immigration to Roxham Road, investigators from the “FBI North” are called upon, which diverts them, sometimes for a long period, of their real mandate.
And when the government asks for cuts to the RCMP, it is still the federal investigations that suffer, says Duheme, and not the services offered to the provinces and cities.
“Over the last ten years, we have lost more than 1,000 resources because there was less money. We had to review our things and we lost a lot of our expertise in terms of the programs that we now have to rebuild. »
Rebuilding means in particular replacing the current divisions found in each of the ten provinces with four regional headquarters: the Pacific (British Columbia and Yukon), the West (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba), the Center ( Ontario) and the East (Quebec and the Atlantic provinces).
“Currently, in the provinces, our investigative resources are not working on the priorities of the federal program. They are funded by the program, but are used in every way, and work on provincial crimes. Meanwhile, in Montreal, they have their hands full with foreign interference, and the program’s investigators in Ontario and British Columbia are also busy. So we are taking back resources and funding and redistributing them to the centers that need them,” explains Mr. Duheme, who hopes with these changes to be able to avoid regular drains and ensure the integrity of the federal program.
Presence in cities and provinces
And the gendarmerie services that the RCMP provides in cities and provinces other than Quebec and Ontario? The RCMP will continue to offer them, says Mr. Duheme.
Even if some large cities, such as Surrey, British Columbia, and provinces have chosen or are considering having their own municipal or provincial police, Mike Duheme believes that the RCMP will have no choice but to continue to be present in certain regions and territories.
“But wouldn’t it be best if the RCMP no longer did provincial and municipal policing at all, and investigated exclusively federal crimes? “, asked The Press to the commissioner.
“It will be up to the government to take a position and decide what the RCMP should offer in terms of services,” replied Mr. Duheme.
In addition to its structure, the RCMP is also making significant changes in recruitment and training, which have already begun to be felt.
For years, any new recruit hired must first go through six months of basic training at Depot, the RCMP academy, in Regina, Saskatchewan.
“At Dépôt, they do an excellent job of preparing our people to go on patrol, but it is not “guided” for federal investigations,” notes Mr. Duheme.
Now, a new candidate will be able to choose – on the RCMP website – between the gendarmerie, investigations and the protection of dignitaries; the six-month training is no longer obligatory or is oriented differently for the last two categories, and recruits are no longer obliged to expatriate – sometimes for years – to another province before returning to their own.
After making this announcement, the RCMP launched a pilot project and created positions in the Dignitary Protection section. She had already received 265 applications in 24 hours, and 1,500 after two weeks.
The times have changed
“Before, it was in the third month of their six-month training at Depot that recruits knew where they were going. It’s impossible, we can no longer do that today,” explains the big boss of the RCMP.
If you recruit a member of visible communities, send them to Dépôt and then to another region, it doesn’t make sense. Instead, let him return to his community and become an ambassador. May he have a positive influence.
Mike Duheme, Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police
For Mr. Duheme, there is no question of changing the basic requirements for entering the RCMP: a 5 year diplomae secondary school and a driving license. But applicants who have completed higher education and have no police training are welcome.
“The basic criteria will not change. If we want to hire Indigenous people, not everyone has had the chance to complete university courses.
“And if you look at the FBI model in the United States, they don’t necessarily recruit from police forces. With a new way of doing things, we can start targeting universities or elsewhere. This is where we are going,” concludes Mr. Duheme.
To contact Daniel Renaud, call 514 285-7000, ext. 4918, write to [email protected] or write to the postal address of The Press.