The RCMP may soon no longer be the only police force in Canada without a union, thanks to the Ontario Superior Court.
The 22,000-strong national police force, which has been prevented from unionizing by the RCMP Act and efforts from commanders for more than 100 years, now has the option of forming a union after the court struck down the section of the act that prohibits unionization. In a lawsuit launched by the Mounted Police Association of Ontario, the court ruled the relevant section was unconstitutional. They are still prohibited from striking, however, since they are deemed an essential service.
In the past, one of the reasons against the unionization of the RCMP rank-and-file was that it was a quasi-military organization that participated in spy missions and other military-style activities. However, the bulk of its duties involve acting as municipal, provincial and federal police.
RCMP commanders currently utilize a Staff Relations Representative Program created in 1974, in which officers can have input. However, the court said the employer-controlled program was “a mechanism for consultation, not a vehicle for bargaining.”
Though the decision opens the door for RCMP officers to unionize, it remains to be seen if they will take that step. The government could also make an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada over concerns that unionization would make the RCMP more expensive and politicized.
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