Trailblazing Mountie weighs in on lawsuits

"We thought we were going to be game changers, but here we are [nearly 40 years later] and we are still tripping over the same issues."

Langley’s Jane Hall, one of the first women in Canada to become an RCMP officer, is standing behind her troop mate Val MacLean, who has joined 200 female Mounties in a class action sexual harassment lawsuit against the force.

“Val came forward for all the right reasons. She is showing her support for this and to take this on takes courage,” said Hall.

MacLean was the public face of the Better Business Bureau in B.C. for years. She left the RCMP after constant sexual harassment by her superiors.

In 2007, Hall published her tell-all book The Red Wall; A Woman in the RCMP, detailing what it was like to be in the first group of women to graduate from RCMP Depot and become an RCMP officer in the mid-1970s, when it was a male-only organization.

She details how the force originally outfitted women in long dresses and with a purse instead of a gun holster. She faced hazing and harassment from some male officers who didn’t want to see females in the force.

“I share Val’s disappointment. Val and I, we thought we were going to be game changers, but here we are [nearly 40 years later] and we are still tripping over the same issues,” said Hall.

She said the class action suit will be historic if it gets approval by the courts to go ahead.

Despite the obvious problems within the force, Hall is a staunch supporter of the RCMP organization. Her husband is a recently-retired RCMP inspector.

“All of this is tarnishing a world-class organization. The members out there on the ground are doing such fantastic work and have the support of the public but it’s the leadership of the RCMP that needs to show it wants to change,” Hall said.

To that she is “hopeful but skeptical.”

“I haven’t seen anything tangible so far. If they continue to deal with things in piece-meal, it could mean real problems for the RCMP as a national treasure,” Hall said.

She said morale among officers and retired Mounties is low right now.

“The RCMP are still attracting the best and the brightest, but if things continue the way they are, will the best continue to apply?” Hall asks.

She thinks there needs to be a national standard in leadership and that means new leadership development training.

She believes where the RCMP has been going “sideways” is by dealing with each controversial “bad apple” situation in isolation, instead of having a standard across the board.

“Currently, leadership and what is tolerated ranges from detachment to detachment,” she said.

“There needs to be zero tolerance and real discipline,” she said.

“When there is a slap on the wrist for officers who are [acting badly, by bullying or through harassment], it’s like a wink, wink, nudge nudge, especially if it’s a supervisor,” she said.

RCMP Sgt. Don Ray has managed to keep his job as a Mountie after admitting to having alcohol-fueled parties in his office, harassing subordinates and exposing his genitals to co-workers.

“They really need to get this right. To do that, they are going to have to go outside the gene pool to get the advice they need for real change.”

Hall knows a thing or two about these issues. She is a member of the Public Safety Leadership Development Consortium and the Police Futurists and the International Association of Women in Policing. She has worked with police members from across the continent, looking at the issues surrounding leadership, and her group has come up with what she thinks are some dynamic ideas.

“If the commissioner wants to hear them, he can always call me,” she said when asked if the group is sharing any of the ideas with new RCMP leader Bob Paulson.

As of Wednesday, she began the writing process to finish a sequel to her book The Red Wall.

“When I wrote it, I knew I had only written half a book,” she said. “This is the continuation. I’m hoping for a happy ending, but the jury is still out.”

Hall was an RCMP officer for 20 years, retiring in 1998.

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