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RCMP Harassment Lawsuit May be Joined by Dozens of Women


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Since RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford came forward with her story of ongoing harassment and filed a law suit, a number of other women have now come forward. So many in fact a class action law suit is being prepared to be launched against the RCMP.

Also new Commissioner Bob Paulson (who has vowed to clean things up) has now been identified as the senior RCMP officer who is accused of harassing and bullying the wide of an imprisoned Canadian diplomat. Those claims were made by Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler who wrote in Season in Hell that a senior Mountie – since identified as the new Commissioner – bullied Mr. Fowler’s wife while he was a 130-day captive of an al-Qaeda affiliate in West Africa. :blink: Calls have been made for Paulson to step aside until these allegations can be investigated.

Paulson has also refused to re-open the Robert Blundell case that was derailed by another senior BC Mountie. The high-ranking Mountie who brokered the unusual and highly contentious Blundell plea deal was Peter German. (The accused had denied all charges against him at a previous hearing). German is a deputy commissioner of the RCMP and was a finalist for the commissioner’s job given to Mr. Paulson. THe details were made public va the CBC investigative program The Fifth Estate.


On Friday, CBC’s the fifth estate revisited the case of RCMP Staff Sergeant Robert Blundell, who in 2001 admitted to “discreditable conduct,” in connection with allegations that he sexually harassed and assaulted two female officers in the late 1990s.

The program revealed how the two women – Krista Carle and Victoria Cliffe – were devastated when an internal hearing into the charges was brought to an unexpected conclusion. What happened? A high-ranking RCMP official intervened and got the accused to admit to certain facts that the two officers say grossly understated the actual offences.

In the end, the onetime undercover cop admitted to “touching the private areas” on top of the clothing of one of the women and grabbing the breast of the other. He was ordered to take counselling and was docked a day’s pay. Staff Sgt. Blundell was subsequently promoted and still works in the force.

There are a number of things about this case that should disturb us all.

Firstly, the high-ranking Mountie who brokered the unusual and highly contentious Blundell plea deal was Peter German. (The accused had denied all charges against him at a previous hearing). Mr. German is a deputy commissioner of the RCMP and was a finalist for the commissioner’s job given to Mr. Paulson. He does not come out looking at all good in the fifth estate’s story and now he is a member of the senior management team pledging to clean this harassment mess up.

The new Commissioner, Bob Paulson, meantime told the fifth estate that he considers the Blundell matter closed – permanently.

That’s wrong. He should reopen the case immediately. Even based on the charges that Staff Sgt. Blundell agreed to – which, as mentioned, the female officers involved say vastly diminishes what happened – he should have been kicked out of the force. He still should be.

But if the Blundell matter is considered spilled milk, what does that mean for previous incidents of harassment that may come to light in the future? How can the new Commissioner allow one person to go virtually unpunished – and, in fact, be promoted – and then come down hard on others whose past behaviour is found to be wanting as a result of various reviews and investigations now under way?

There are some, including Darryl Davies, a criminology professor at Carleton University, who believe that Commissioner Paulson should temporarily step aside until bullying allegations levelled against him are cleared up. Those claims were made by Canadian diplomat Robert Fowler who wrote in Season in Hell that a senior Mountie – since identified as the new Commissioner – bullied Mr. Fowler’s wife while he was a 130-day captive of an al-Qaeda affiliate in West Africa.

Commissioner Paulson denies the allegation.

“This is a serious charge that should be investigated,” said Prof. Davies. “There were other people in the room when Mr. Paulson spoke to Fowler’s wife. What do they have to say about what happened? It shouldn’t be hard to find out.

“We have a crippled and dysfunctional organization under attack for bullying and harassment in the system and now we have a commissioner who has a cloud over his head related to this very issue of bullying and it hasn’t been cleared up.”

Meantime, Prof. Davies said, the decision by the federal government to refer the harassment controversy to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP should be of little comfort to Canadians. The CPC has little power and its recommendations can be ignored by the RCMP.

It also can’t compel anyone to testify.

“This is a horrible situation that seems to get bigger by the day,” said the professor. “And it should go to a royal commission or public inquiry. That’s the only way you’ll get to the bottom of what is going on here.”

He’s right, of course. As it is, few officers are likely to pay a price for their role in potentially one of the worst scandals to ever hit the force.


It is well past time to blow up this broken and dysfunctional organization and start all over again.

The pending class action lawsuit:

At least 25 current and former female RCMP officers say they are seeking to join a possible class-action lawsuit against the force for alleged mistreatment on the job.

Lawyer Alexander Zaitzeff, of Thunder Bay, Ont., who is building the case with six other lawyers in Ontario and B.C., said he's heard from Mounties in every province with stories to tell.

"Constant terrible bullying, a hateful work environment, a tough place to actually show up and do your job, all the way to sexual assaults," Zaitzeff said Tuesday. "That's the gamut."

Vancouver lawyer David Klein said he is also hearing from potential plaintiffs and said the suit will likely be filed in B.C. early in the new year, and could ultimately seek millions of dollars in damages.

"Money isn't going to bring back someone's health. Money is not going to bring back a family or a broken career," said Klein. "Money is part of it, but it certainly isn't what the case is all about."

Klein said the lawsuit will be filed on behalf of one or two current or former officers and then he will ask the judge to certify the suit as a class-action, allowing more people to join as plaintiffs.

Catherine Galliford credited

Former Mountie Krista Carle said she saw RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford tell her story on CBC News in November and was immediately inspired to tell her own story and to reach out to fellow officers online by starting a Facebook group.

"It's almost like a group therapy with other women that experienced harassment and are taking a stand against it," she said.

Carle said she and many of her colleagues have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, some have been divorced and some can no longer work.

"I've had days I've been so depressed I just haven't wanted to get out of bed and that's where the Facebook site has been extremely supportive," said Carle.

Carle told her own story to CBC News the day after Galliford's story broke.

Former officer Heli Kijanen, of Thunder Bay, Ont., said she went for years without thinking that anyone would believe her accounts of harassment on the job, and also credits Galliford with helping her step forward.

Both Heli Kijanen and Krista Carle credit RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford with inspiring them to come forward.Both Heli Kijanen and Krista Carle credit RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford with inspiring them to come forward. (CBC)"It was Catherine Galliford that triggered me to go forward and find someone who was going to listen to me, who knew how important it was for the public to know about the RCMP and what's going on in this organization," Kijanen said.

Carle said the growing number of women coming forward is a sad commentary on the force.

"I think people will be really shocked and surprised that people have put up with this kind of nonsense. You don't expect this from the RCMP. You expect better," she said.


Former Mountie Krista Carle's story:

More members of the RCMP in British Columbia have come forward with serious allegations of harassment after CBC News revealed a well-known Mountie spokeswoman's claims she suffered from years of sexual harassment.

On Monday, CBC News revealed Cpl. Catherine Galliford has filed an internal RCMP complaint alleging repeated sexual harassment from some of her supervisors.

Krista Carle contacted CBC News after hearing Galliford's story, breaking her own long silence.

"I know for a fact there are at least six women that I know [who] have left the force or are still in that have suffered harassment," Carle said. "I'm sure there are others who are afraid to come forward for fear of reprisals."

Carle, who graduated from the RCMP's training academy with Galliford in 1991, says she was harassed and sexually assaulted. She is now off the job and says she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

'I felt re-victimized'

RCMP management tried to cover up the problems when she complained, Carle told CBC News.

"When I spoke out against the harassment, it wasn't taken seriously and I felt diminished and I felt re-victimized every time I told what happened to me," she said.

Carle is one of four women officers who have sued the RCMP, saying they were sexually assaulted by undercover Sgt. Robert Blundell in the late 1990s.

The women worked for Blundell on undercover investigations in Calgary from 1994 to 1997. According to the statement of claim, they were "individually and separately sexually assaulted and harassed by Sgt. Blundell."

The case was eventually settled in 2007 with all parties agreeing to keep the terms of the settlement secret.

Blundell was docked one day of vacation and was later promoted to staff sergeant. He is now in charge of protecting VIPs in Vancouver.

Supervisors working without morals, ethics

Carle's story is just one example of what many Mounties say is wrong with the RCMP.

A handful of Mounties recently allowed CBC News inside one of their support sessions at a small meeting room outside of Vancouver.

The officers met with Mike Webster, a consulting police psychologist in private practice. They are a handful of the 48 officers the RCMP says are off the job in B.C. because of what the force calls workplace conflict.

The officers, who asked CBC News not use their names, say they are continually bullied and harassed by their superiors.

"Many of the people in charge of us are acting without principle, without morals, without ethics. Sometimes you catch yourself thinking, 'Is this person even a police officer?' It's that shocking," one officer said.

"You go to work, you are sick to your stomach," said another Mountie. "You're expected to go around carrying a gun protecting people when you're more worried about some segment of your own management sector, not knowing what they'll do to you next because they've been malicious underhanded and abusive."

'The force is sick'

The officers, who have more than 100 years of combined experience on the force, all say they worked under corrupt supervisors at one time or another who bullied their way to promotions.

"They will do anything to get that next promotion on the backs of whoever. To me, that's where the force is sick," one officer said.

"Because a supervisor wants to be noticed by boss, they've got to find somebody to pick on, and really it's bullying to the extreme," another Mountie said.

The Mounties all say responding to traumatic events and the danger of policing is not what causes them stress.

"I feel safer on the streets than I do in the office at times," said one officer. "I'm not worried about the bad guys. I know the bad guys don't like me. It's the guys in the office and our HR unit, smiling at us, saying they are there for us and they are not."

One Mountie believes the toxic work environment is costing taxpayers because the officers are off duty with full pay.

"I know the taxpaying citizens have suffered as a result of the lies," the officer said. "They are not getting the policing they are paying for out of their taxes."

Harassment 'not tolerated'

Webster said some officers have been off the job for years despite a clean bill of health because the force uses unlimited sick leave to get rid of Mounties who complain.

"The member escapes into this very strange, very fiscally unsound and organizationally perplexing, unlimited paid sick time," the psychologist said.

The force responded in a written statement sent to CBC News and all RCMP staff in the province.

"The RCMP is clear in its approach to harassment, it is not tolerated," the statement reads.

"The RCMP is committed to providing all its employees a work environment free of harassment, discrimination and conflict, where all employees are treated with respect and dignity. While we cannot speak to specific allegations, we continue to encourage our members to report incidents of harassment when they occur so they can be investigated immediately."

The force says the 48 officers off sick because of workplace conflict represent 0.76 per cent of the province's workforce. The RCMP says those officers are off duty for a variety of reasons, including allegations of harassment, conflict about performance feedback, personality conflicts, frustration about lack of promotions and workload issues.


And from ex-Mountie Heli Kijanen who says she experienced rampant harassment - she resigned and now works for the OPP:

When she looks back upon those moments now, Heli Kijanen can’t fathom that she ever was that sad or desperate. That the agony she was in could have reached such heights, that she considered ending it all.

She cries when she thinks about what might have been had it not been for her two daughters waiting for her at home. Two daughters who likely saved their mother’s life.

“At the end of some of my shifts I would go into the locker room and hold my service revolver to my head,” Ms. Kijanen recalled the other day. “I wondered if I should just do it, if I could make the strongest statement possible about what they were doing to me if I just killed myself. Or would they just say I was crazy?

“But every time I considered it I thought of my two beautiful girls at home. I couldn’t leave them regardless of how much pain I was in at the time.”

The former RCMP constable contends the pain was caused by unrelenting harassment from several male colleagues at the Saskatchewan detachment in which she was stationed for two years. Harassment that led her to leave the force earlier this year and eventually spearhead what is shaping up to be a class-action lawsuit against the Mounties.

Ms. Kijanen, 43, is among a number of former and current Mounties now speaking out about what they say is rampant and deeply entrenched harassment throughout the force. She says that a large number of current and former officers have contacted her lawyer about joining the class action suit she initiated.

“We’re talking hundreds now who have expressed an interest in finding out more about what we’re doing,” she said in an interview.

Ms. Kijanen’s own story begins on March 23, 2009, when she was posted to a small detachment in Saskatchewan. For 18 months everything was fine. She excelled at her job, received good performance reviews and got along well with people in the community – particularly those known to police.

“I just treated them with respect,” she says. “When we put them in jail I made sure they had blankets and some food. Sometimes when we had to arrest them they’d hold out their wrists for me because they liked me. Some of my fellow officers hated that. I believe that was the beginning of the end for me.”

One day she was asked to attend a meeting of three supervisors during which she was grilled for missing the deadline for an online course she was taking. It was an excuse, she says, to go after her for all sorts of things. They accused her of posting pictures of herself on Facebook – which she says wasn’t true but not against company policy even if it was. They said she was late every day for a course she attended in Edmonton. She had been seven minutes late the first of four days and not once after.

“I said that wasn’t true,” she says. “One of the guys says, ‘My buddy was there and said you were always late and I’m believing him on this one.’ This kind of bullying became the norm. They made me sign forms in which I was agreeing with their version of things that weren’t true.

“I lost my mind for a while.”

Soon, she was routinely being sent out on patrol without a partner. Once she responded to a call of a stalled semi-trailer on the highway. She asked for some help. Two officers on patrol came by, dropped off a couple of pylons, and took off. As she tried to manage the situation on her own in poor conditions she was nearly hit by a car.

She stopped eating. A single mother, she would go home after her shifts and cry in front of her children. She began seeing a psychologist who recommended she take a medical leave and visit her family in Thunder Bay, Ont. The first day there, a supervisor phoned to say she should not have left the community and ordered her to return immediately.

“Another supervisor called me in and said my sick leave was stalling a transfer he had requested,” she recalled. “He was screaming at me. Fed up, I got up to leave and he ordered me to sit down.”

It was around this time that Ms. Kijanen contemplated taking her own life.

When she returned to work after a two-week medical leave, she was ordered to “shadow” other officers as if she was a fresh recruit – a move she says was intended to degrade and humiliate her. An e-mail went out in the detachment that said if Ms. Kijanen approached anyone with a question they were not to answer her. One person was designated to answer her questions.

Finally, on a January day earlier this year she decided she couldn’t take it any more and resigned. She returned home to Thunder Bay and now works for the Ontario Provincial Police – an organization she says is light years ahead of the RCMP in terms of workplace environment.

“I’m so much happier now,” she says. “I’m not 100 per cent. I still cry a lot. They tore me down pretty good so I’m still building myself back up. Sadly, my story isn’t unique.

“But I’m glad I’m around to tell it. People need to know about the culture that exists in that organization.”


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