The BCCLA is calling on the Federal Government to fund a retired judge to look into complaints of harassment within the RCMP, and to set tight timelines for reporting back. The RCMP asked for an investigation of itself and how it treats female civilian and police employees following high profile sexual harassment allegations made last week.
“We agree with the RCMP that there must be an inquiry here,” said Robert Holmes, Q.C., President of the BCCLA. “But the Complaints Commission has failed to keep up with its regular work and this matter is urgent. Rona Ambrose, the Minister of State for the Status of Women, and Vic Toews, the Public Safety Minister, should put their heads together and ensure that this inquiry gets the resources it needs. Having a respected and impartial retired judge would provide the right credentials to get this done. If it is left with the Complaints Commission alone, it will only get bogged down, with no answer, no action and no reform for years.”
The BCCLA says that the CPC has the power to appoint a retired judge under s. 45.31 of the RCMP Act to conduct this investigation and to provide that judge with the staff he or she needs to do this investigation, but that the agency will need financial support from the Federal government to make that possible. The BCCLA says that, at a minimum, the investigation should:
- Examine settlement agreements reached with female employees and interview those former employees;
- Examine litigation in process involving female employees and associated RCMP investigations of the claims made in the lawsuits;
- Analyze formal and informal complaints filed by female officers and female civilian staff for common themes including individuals, detachments, and policy issues;
- Conduct random and targeted interviews of female staff on employment conditions on a confidentiality-assured basis.
“We need female police officers in our society to act as role models for youth in contact with the law, and to provide important services in relation to female prisoners and arrestees, as well as female complainants,” noted Holmes. “If the force has a poisoned atmosphere for women employees, then they are extremely unlikely to be able to deal with the shortage of female officers they currently face, and they will continue to lose the confidence of the public.”
Robert Holmes, Q.C., President, (604) 838-6856
David Eby, Executive Director, (778) 865-7997
BACKGROUNDER: THE RCMP AND WOMEN
A number of high profile incidents involving the RCMP and treatment of female staff have come to the attention of the BCCLA, and the public:
- A national survey of RCMP employees in 2009 found that 19% reported being “verbally harassed or tormented” while at work, and a further 6% of officers elected not to answer the question.
- A series of allegations in November of 2011 involving two high profile female RCMP staff members suggested that male officers and staff enjoy an environment of impunity with respect to sexual harassment.
- A successful 2004 human rights claimant RCMP Cpl. Jacqueline Brown, noted that after her human rights complaint was made she “had many supportive calls from other women officers, who have also told her stories of discrimination.” [“Fight for job left Mountie stressed” Vancouver Sun, 7 May 2004, p. A1”]
- The 2006 case of Sulz v. Attorney General et al., where the Court awarded RCMP officer Nancy Sulz $950,000 in damages against the RCMP for long-term disability as a result of the harassment she was subjected to by her Staff Sergeant.
- The 2007 case of Cpl. Sherry-Lee Benson-Podolchuck who claimed harassment within the RCMP is a “systemic problem that they don’t know how to deal with,” and whose lawyer at the time said he “received several phone calls this week from women with similar complaints.”
- The allegations of misconduct of RCMP officers providing security during the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games, including three cases involving male officers making inappropriate sexual advances towards their female counterparts, and one officer “lifting up a woman’s skirt to expose her buttocks.”
- Allegations made this year by a female RCMP constable that a supervising RCMP officer engaged in inappropriate “sexual contact” with her as part of a series of allegations in her Statement of Claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court (all allegations remain unproven).
- The police-involved shooting death of Mr. Kevin St. Arnaud, in which the female officer’s account of the incident was ignored, and the male officer’s account – which was contradicted by independent witnesses and physical evidence – preferred, causing the female officer to leave the force, and which may be indicative of a larger issue of discrimination within the force.
- A resulting shortage of female officers on staff which has caused unacceptable policies that permit male officers to strip search and monitor female prisoners, which has led to incidents like the Kamloops Jail incident where male officers and city staff allegedly watched on jail surveillance cameras while two female inmates had sex in city cells