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"Outspoken" Canadian Psychologist Blacklisted by RCMP

RCMP refusing to pay for medical bills of officers seeing psychologist critic

In a controversial move that has gained little publicity outside of British Columbia, a psychologist who has been a long-time critic of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been told that they will no longer cover medical bills for officers using his services. Psychologist Mike Webster, who practices out of his home on Denman Island near Vancouver, has openly criticized the RCMP for "making its members sick." He has also called for reform of how officers are treated by the RCMP as well as a stronger police union to improve health and safety standards.

Mike Webster also testified during the inquest into the death of Robert Dziekanski.  The Polish immigrant had died following a 2008 incident in which he had been repeatedly tased by four RCMP officers at Vancouver International Airport. In his testimony, Webster stated that “I am embarrassed to be associated with organizations that taser sick old men in hospital beds and confused immigrants arriving to the country. Frankly I find it embarrassing,"  He has also publicly criticized the RCMP providing contract police services to provinces and territories and argued that the force be restricted to federal law enforcement.

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The letter, which Webster received on August 1, stated that "your lack of objectivity in both your clinical work and public commentary towards the RCMP have weakened your effectiveness in treating your RCMP client base. Based on their assessment of your execution of your professional duties, the RCMP is terminating funding for your services immediately." The letter also criticized Webster for focusing on changes to the RCMP organization rather than maintaining  a "consistent focus on the clinical needs of your RCMP clients." The RCMP has  filed a formal protest against Webster with the British Columbia College of Psychologists 

In commenting on his apparent blacklisting, Mike Webster points out that "I am a critic and the RCMP doesn't tolerate criticism." Currently treating about 25 RCMP officers on sick leave, he has opposed returning them to active duty stating that "I, in good conscience, cannot return my patients to a toxic workplace." Many of Webster's RCMP patients suffer from anxiety and work-related stress.  

One patient who has gone on record for supporting Webster stated that she has been on sick leave since last December and that her treatment will likely suffer if she is forced to switch to another psychologist.  She also adds that "The RCMP just doesn't seem to like him being vocal. They should be looking at themselves and saying, 'What can we do better to avoid these problems in the future?"

The RCMP defends the action against Webster arguing that returning officers to work as soon as possible should be a priority for health professionals providing services to officers. RCMP Human Resources chief Brad Hartl said that "We have to ensure tax dollars are going to those services that can accomplish that in the most effective way, and to those who are putting the needs of our employees ahead of any personal agenda they may have."

While the RCMP has not formally banned officers from getting treatment from Mike Webster, they are now required to pay for treatment themselves. Webster has stated that the RCMP's action is part of a political vendetta that can only hurt officers needing treatment. "I cannot believe one little old psychologist like me can bring the RCMP to its knees and that they would have to resort to this," he stated in media interview, "If you look in the police universe, no other police service has its nose in its members' health care."

Romeo Vitelli, Ph.D. is a psychologist in private practice in Toronto, Canada.

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