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Commissioner Busson on the case

by Frances Rooney | August 24, 2007

In 1974, Halifax-born Beverly MacDonald earned a teaching degree. After that, her life stopped being anything that resembles ordinary. That same year, Bev was among the first group of 32 women accepted for regular training in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Depot Division of Regina, Saskatchewan.

Her first assignment was in Salmon Arm, British Columbia. From there, Bev was posted to Kelowna, then North Vancouver. She studied criminology at Simon Fraser University, followed by a law degree from the University of British Columbia, which she completed in 1990.

Bev moved on to RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa, Ontario.

Two years later, she was again in Saskatchewan, this time as Inspector based in North Battleford.

In 1996, Bev – now Busson – was promoted to superintendent. A year later, she was chief superintendent and criminal operations officer for the province of Saskatchewan. By that time, she was the highest-ranking woman in the RCMP.

Her next promotion, in 1998, was to assistant commissioner of the force and commanding officer of Saskatchewan.

A year later, Bev Busson left the RCMP to become the founding head of the Organized Crime Agency of British Columbia. This job was all but impossible to do, because of the vested interests of the many parties involved – including organized crime, as well as local and regional police – and because of the nature of local and provincial politics.

(While the unit still exists, it never really got off the ground. It now barely functions.)

The next year, 2000, Bev Busson rejoined the RCMP as commanding officer for British Columbia.

This was quickly followed, in 2001, by her appointment as deputy commissioner for the Pacific Region, an area that includes British Columbia and the Yukon. While she was in this post, she continued as commanding officer for British Columbia.

In December 2006, then-RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli resigned after he admitted having given “incorrect testimony” to the parliamentary committee looking into the Maher Arar affair. Days later, on December 16, Bev Busson was appointed interim commissioner of the RCMP. The position was hers until a permanent commissioner was found.

background

Maher Arar – a Canadian citizen and resident since 1987 – had been arrested at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on September 26, 2002 while on his way to Montreal. He was deported to Syria – his country of origin – and turned over to the Syrian authorities, imprisoned and tortured as a suspected terrorist. After more than a year he was released and allowed to return to Canada.

He still cannot travel freely. His own and his family’s lives have been changed forever.

When appointing Bev Busson, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “It is crucial that the RCMP continues to have strong and stable leadership during this transition period, which Deputy Commissioner Busson will provide.”

Bev Busson has dealt with many difficult issues throughout her career. In her brief time as commissioner, she was involved with not only the probing of RCMP involvement in the wrongful imprisonment and torture of Maher Arar, but also with the investigation of the mismanagement of RCMP pension funds.

background

In 2003, Denise Revine – who at the time was head of RCMP Human Resources - was asked to do an extensive budget review. In her work for that review, she uncovered huge problems and irregularities in the allocation and use of pension funds.

She and four colleagues tried to bring these issues into the open. Instead, the concerns were covered up, and all five people who were attempting to do something about them were either given “punishment transfers” or harassed until they could no longer do their jobs.

Shortly after her appointment, Bev Busson looked into the matter. Discovering that the problems were deeper and more profound than she had been led to believe, she worked with the five, got to the bottom of the problem, made the whole thing public, and began the process of fixing what has been called a “horribly broken” national police force.

Whistleblowers – people who reveal deep, often illegal, problems in companies or departments – usually disappear into silence, their careers and often their lives destroyed because of their efforts to right a wrong.

Far from hiding the work of Denise Revine and her co-investigators, Bev Busson publicized and praised their investigations, saying, “These individuals deserve our recognition and our thanks and I am personally committed to seeing this happen.” Busson then gave them the Commissioner’s Commendations, the force’s highest honour.

On July 16, 2007, William J.S. Elliott became the force’s latest commissioner. He is the first civilian to fill this position.

Bev Busson has left the RCMP and, for now, is living as a private person. According to then-minister of public safety Stockwell Day, “Her dedication and support during this challenging transition are a testament to the high level of professionalism and excellence that defined her career.”

honours

2004

  • LL.B., University College of the Fraser Valley

2006

  • Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces
  • Order of British Columbia

others

  • RCMP Long Service Medal
  • The Queen's Jubilee Medal
  • Canadian Forces Vice Chief of Defence Staff Commendation
what is the status of women in the RCMP?

Bev Busson was among 32 women to be the first ones to join the regular force of the RCMP. Where do things stand now?

In 2006, there were 26,123 employees in the RCMP’s three areas: regular, civilian and public service. In its employment equity program, the force is making efforts to reach four designated groups of people.

In 2006, the force employed:

  • 3,615 Women
  • 222 Aboriginal People
  • 224 People with Disabilities
  • 316 Visible Minorities

Women comprised nearly 14% of the overall force, and were employed in all three of its branches. The number of women in the regular force at that time: 19.4%.

recruits

In 2006-2007, there were a total of 1,509 recruits. A year before, recruits included:

  • 183 Women
  • 5 Aboriginal People
  • 2 People with Disabilities
  • 11 Visible Minorities

This feature was first published on section15.ca’s predecessor site CoolWomen.

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