After report on ‘toxic,’ ‘fear-based’ work environment, Ontario Provincial Police union vows reform

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 @ 11:15AM


BARRIE, Ont. — The union for Ontario’s provincial police has announced “significant reform” to its organization following a look at workplace behaviour and the use of union money by some former leaders of the association.

The Ontario Provincial Police Association said it commissioned an independent investigation from the law firm Stikeman Elliott LLP in March.

The association launched the probe amid an ongoing investigation by the RCMP, which said Tuesday that no charges have been laid against the former leaders.

The former leaders declined to be interviewed for the Stikeman Elliott report. A lawyer speaking on behalf of the men cited the ongoing RCMP investigation as a reason for that.

The Stikeman Elliott report looks at the spending of the association’s funds by former president Jim Christie, former chief administrative officer Karl Walsh and former vice-president Martin Bain.
The report alleges “the work environment at the OPPA was repeatedly described as ‘toxic,’ ‘fear-based’ and marked by ‘intimidation’ and ‘bullying.”’

Walsh, the report said, was “famous for sending ‘tyrannical,’ ‘aggressive,’ ‘confrontational’ or ‘scathing’ emails.”

The report says that Bain did not engage in the “same type of ‘tyrannical’ or bullying conduct which was stated to be common from Christie and Walsh.”

The investigation was limited because Christie, Walsh and Bain all declined to be interviewed, the report said.

The union is in a unique situation in that it still represents Christie, Walsh and Bain because they are OPP officers, although all three no longer hold their administrative duties with the association. The union would not offer comment on their behalf and the three couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

The report says Julianna Greenspan, who represents Christie, responded to investigators from Stikeman Elliott and declined a meeting with them on behalf of Christie, Bain and Walsh.

“We trust that your investigation thus far has revealed the inaccuracies that are rife within the (court documents submitted by the RCMP),” Greenspan wrote in a letter dated July 10.
Greenspan responded on behalf of all three on Tuesday night.

“Considering the fact that there is an ongoing RCMP investigation, at this time we are unable to comment on the internal investigative reports prepared by Stikeman Elliott LLP and Hansell LLP at the request of the OPPA,” she wrote in an email to The Canadian Press.

Acting association president Doug Lewis said the union also commissioned a report from Carol Hansell, whom he called a leading expert on governance.

The Hansell report includes recommendations such as implementing a whistleblower policy, a comprehensive code of conduct, governance training and a revision of expense policies.

“There were some examples of some significant bad behaviour and we are changing or preparing to change many of our administrative and governance practices as a result of that,” said Lewis.
Lewis said his biggest disappointment from the Stikeman Elliott report has been the alleged behaviour of its top leaders.

“This has been a very dark chapter for the OPPA and its members,” Lewis wrote in a statement. “We are turning the page.”

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