It began with one female officer complaining of harassment, then another, and now the RCMP may be hit with a class-action suit stemming from what may be system harassment thoughout the national police force.
In November, Corporal Catherine Galliford, the former media spokesperson for the RCMP’s missing women taskforce, went public with complaints of frequent harassment from her male superiors and counterparts in British Columbia. She has been on leave with post-traumatic stress disorder since 2007.
Soon other instances of sexual harassment came to light as other female officers across the country came forward with their stories. Now it looks like there might be a class-action lawsuit against the RCMP accusing the force of systemic harassment and bullying of female officers.
The potential class-action suit was announced by Thunder Bay, Ont., lawyer Alexander Zaitzeff, who said a team of lawyers across Canada is working to assemble the suit and it will be filed in the B.C. Supreme Court. Zaitzeff said several women have contacted him to tell their experiences with harassment within the ranks. He also said the team of seven lawyers have been getting calls and e-mails from across Canada since RCMP Corporal Catherine Galliford spoke last month about alleged harassment during her career.
“The stories are consistent. The stories are common in terms of harassment, bullying and, oftentimes, sexual issues,” Zaitzeff told The Globe and Mail. “There are hugely tragic cases of women who went into depression, who required counselling and who are still under counselling – psychologists, psychiatrists, various medications; their family life has been disrupted, destroyed; their children have suffered greatly.”
“What has happened in the RCMP is no different than what was done to victims from the native residential school system and those abused by members of the Catholic Church,” Krista Carle, a former female officer who is one of the claimants, told the Toronto Star. Carle says a sergeant sexually assault her and three other female officers on an undercover assignment in 2003.
Bob Paulson, the new commissioner of the RCMP, has acknowledged there has been a culture of bullying in the RCMP and he plans to take measures to change attitudes within the force immediately.
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