The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has appointed a woman to lead the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the first permanent female head of the force, which has been dogged by accusations of discrimination and sexual assault.
Brenda Lucki, who has been with the force for 31 years, will take over as commissioner in mid-April, Trudeau told a televised ceremony on Friday at the RCMP’s training academy in Regina, Saskatchewan.
The previous commissioner, Bob Paulson, retired last June after more than five years in the job. During his tenure, Paulson gave a tearful apology as the national police force reached a settlement agreement over a series of harassment, discrimination and sexual abuse claims that deeply embarrassed the force.
The RCMP is also under fire for not doing enough to protect Canada’s largely marginalized and impoverished aboriginal population.
“We know we have a lot of work to do … to restore the RCMP to the full position of trust that it really should have in the eyes of Canadians,” Trudeau said.
He said the RCMP needed to become better and stronger and said Lucki would “play a vital role in advancing reconciliation with indigenous peoples, promoting gender equality … [and] addressing workplace harassment.“
Lucki said she would ask all the right kinds of questions, “including some difficult ones”, and would challenge assumptions about how the RCMP operates.
The RCMP has about 20,000 uniformed members. It also provides policing in eight of Canada’s 10 provinces.
The appointment of Lucki was welcomed by the National Police Federation, a union group that represents more than half of the force’s members and has been pushing for reform of its leadership.
“We hope her selection and appointment will trigger an era of renewed investment for the 17,000-plus men and women who serve across the country, and a more supportive environment for female members in particular,” Brian Sauve, the founder of the group, said in a statement.