07 April 2009

The RCMP encounters democracy

Democracy and uniforms are often incompatible. Institutions whose members wear uniforms tend to be rigidly hierarchal and therefore resist the democratic impulse. This, however, has not prevented police forces across the country from adopting the workplace's major instrument of democracy -- the labour union. Unions are in themselves run democratically while allowing workers to be fairly represented independent of management and collectively bargain for their working conditions. Indeed, collective bargaining is a major manifestation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms Article 2(d): freedom of association. It is rather remarkable, therefore, that it has taken so long for the Mounties to have this right recognized in the courts.

On Monday, Ontario Superior Court Justice Ian MacDonnell struck down a section of the RCMP Act that precludes unionization. Finally the Mounties have the right to join their brothers and sisters in other Canadian police forces and enjoy the privileges of a democratic workplace. "Why," asked Judge MacDonnell, "does the wider jurisdiction of the RCMP, or its status as a unique Canadian institution, make the labour relations modes in place for other police forces inappropriate?" Why, indeed.

The Mounties have experienced some bad patches lately, in part at least due to a seeming breakdown in communication or rapport between the members on the street and the brass in head office. A union will clarify that relationship, and will offer security to those members who are critical of upper management. As for the force going out on strike, the public needn't worry; Canadian police forces generally give up that right. We may freely welcome the redcoats to the world of democratic governance.


  1. I dont get too worked up about things the Superior Court of Justice says. When the Court of Appeal says the same we'll talk.

  2. Court of Appeal????? What makes you think they would be foolish enough to challenge this ruling!! Long overdue!!