RCMP abuse lawsuit gets underway

Former BBB head latest RCMP accuser to step forward

A proposed class-action lawsuit alleging bullying and harassment against women in the RCMP got a high-profile champion on the first day of hearings Thursday.

Valerie MacLean, an RCMP constable at Maple Ridge in the late 1970s and former head of the Better Business Bureau, said she’s joined the suit in an attempt to get justice and a fair hearing for the victims.

“We didn’t join to be harassed or be humiliated or be told that our career depended on us being friendly or having relations with our direct supervisors,” MacLean told reporters.

She said she complained to other officers when her supervisor pressured her to be “friendly” in exchange for advancement, but nothing was done and she quit the force in 1979 after he gave her a poor assessment.

“Years later, nothing has changed,” MacLean said. “This systemic culture in the RCMP of harassment and not accepting these women as equals has to stop.”

Lawyers expect a long legal battle with the RCMP on behalf of potentially hundreds of women who allege abusive behaviour by other Mounties while serving in the force.

It’s expected to take until sometime in 2013 for a ruling on whether the proposed class-action lawsuit will be certified.

At the centre of the case is former Nanaimo RCMP Const. Janet Merlo, whose claim alleges she was the victim of “persistent and ongoing gender-based discrimination and harassment” by male Mounties at the detachment and that the RCMP did nothing to stop it.

Jason Murray, one of Merlo’s lawyers, said more than 200 other women – current and former Mounties – have stepped forward to join the potential class action since Merlo’s initial claim was filed.

“We’ve heard from women ranging from constables up to the senior ranks of the force,” he said.

“There is a common thread amongst all of the women who have contacted us,” Murray said. “They feel the RCMP has cultivated an atmosphere where discrimination against women happens where it shouldn’t and [the force] has not taken adequate steps to either avoid or fix the problem.”

The initial day of hearings was procedural and no more dates are expected for several months while senior government prepare responses.

So far the force has given no indication it is prepared to negotiate, he said.

“If the RCMP wants to fight tooth and nail, it will be a long process,” Murray said.

“If the RCMP wants to move forward quickly and make real change, the opportunity is there.”

Murray said he was troubled by the RCMP’s “mud slinging” response to the separate harassment lawsuit of former RCMP spokeswoman Cpl. Catherine Galliford.

The force denied her claims of abuse and sexual assault and painted her as an alcoholic who refused treatment.

RCMP spokesman Cpl. David Falls said the force is challenging the certification because it doesn’t meet the criteria of a class action, adding the allegations have not yet been heard in court and wouldn’t until and unless a class action is certified.

“The RCMP has a responsibility to protect itself against unproven and harmful allegations, and those to whom the RCMP is ultimately accountable expect nothing less,” he said.

“If, after investigation, there are cases found to have merit, the RCMP will give them the appropriate consideration.”

Merlo worked for the RCMP in Nanaimo from 1991 to 2010.

Her allegations include that male officers tried to position her next to an inflatable naked female doll that was kept at the detachment.

Her claim recounts a barrage of insults, derogatory comments and sexual innuendo, sometimes with senior officers brandishing sex toys or claiming to her husband that they’d had sex with her.

Her pregnancy was also fodder for abuse, according to the claim, which says male officers ridiculed her ability to do her job while expecting and that an angry supervisor yelled at her when told she was pregnant.

Merlo claims she received unfair treatment – male Mounties could go on three-hour hockey games and got easier sick time and shift change arrangements than she did.

Merlo alleges she was told to “forget about it” or “walk away” when she raised complaints of discrimination or harassment, which were investigated and dismissed.

Just Posted

Gymnasts compete for spot on national team in Langley

Young and elite level gymnasts were competing at the LEC

Figures reveal spike in highway traffic jams between Abbotsford and Langley

Nearly one in 20 westbound vehicles between Abbotsford and Langley clocked at under 60 km/h

Township council to debate fate of empty Fort Langley buildings

A demolition permit has been sought for the boarded-up buildings

New Langley ER taking shape – hospital head

What can you expect from construction at LMH in the near future?

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Former Fernie Ghostrider re-signs with Vancouver Canucks

Josh Teves has signed a two-year contract with the NHL team

Couple found dead along northern B.C. highway in double homicide

Woman from the U.S. and man from Australia found dead near Liard Hot Springs

Injured fawn at B.C. vet will be euthanized Friday night unless claimed by sanctuary

Gilbert the deer is currently being treated at West Kelowna’s Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital

BC Wildfire Service warns wet weather no reason to be complacent

Fire risk currently low for much of B.C. compared to same time over last two years.

Bank of Canada lowers qualifying rate used in mortgage stress tests

Home sales softened last year after the federal government introduced new stress test rules for uninsured mortgages

Trudeau says Ottawa open to proposals for B.C. refinery as gas prices soar

Prime minister says he knows B.C. residents are struggling and the federal government is open to ideas

Clock’s ticking to share how you feel about Daylight Saving Time in B.C.

Provincial public survey ends at 4 p.m. on Friday

B.C. man pleads guilty in snake venom death of toddler

Plea comes more than five years after the incident in North Vancouver

Most Read