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Female B.C. Mountie files new harassment suit

By Erica Bulman, 24 Hours Vancouver

A B.C. Mountie has launched a new lawsuit against the RCMP and the attorney general of Canada over allegations of abuse, degradation, sexual harassment and humiliation dating back to 1988.

In the second suit she's filed, Const. Karen Katz stated because of the constant harassment and abuse from her co-workers - which included sexual comments, jokes about her weight and practical jokes - she's became a recluse who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and bulimia, in addition to panic attacks and depression.

"They destroyed my life," said Katz, who will have 24 years of service in October. "I'm a recluse. You have call block on your phone . you have panic attacks. I don't go near police stations.

"Your emotions are destroyed. Everything is destroyed. I live in the abyss. It's a black hole."

RCMP Supt. Ray Bernoties said the force hasn't had a chance to review the allegations.

"But at some point all the facts will be known and all statements will be made under oath in court. Until then, it would be inappropriate to speculate or to comment further," he said in a written statement.

The allegations are the latest in a series of sexual harassment complaints against the RCMP, from current and former female officers nationwide, including a class-action suit that could include hundreds of women.

None of the allegations in any suit have been proven in court.

In her lawsuit, Katz claims an officer in charge would force her to go on "fat parade," where she was required to tell a number of male corporals how much she weighed, and would be instructed to put back dessert at the cafeteria.

She also alleges being called a "whore," "worthless" and "pathetic," and regularly asked to perform oral sex on male members of her Prince George RCMP detachment.

Katz called the work environment "toxic." She said the second lawsuit came after there was pressure for her to return to work. She has been on medical leave since Feb. 4, 2009, and her psychologist had recommended a transfer out of B.C. that was nixed by the RCMP.

"They weren't getting it. And that was it. I had it," Katz said. "I have given the RCMP enough chances to make things right. They lost their chance.

"This isn't about money. This is about justice."

Katz's filed a first lawsuit in January, suing fellow officer Baldev Singh Bamra, the federal attorney general, the federal minister of public safety and the B.C. solicitor general.

In the suit, she alleges Bamra would openly and frequently complain about Katz, the only woman on the shift at the time.

She successfully applied to be moved to another shift. In 2006, however, Bamra was transferred to the same watch again and the pair often worked night shifts alone together.

The lawsuit alleges Bamra "embarked on a pattern of erratic physical conduct" towards Katz, once "in a grinding motion, rubbed his genitals against the plaintiff's knee."

Katz says she reported the harassment to her supervisor, but there was no investigation.

In January, the RCMP said the force was investigating the matter internally and the Vancouver Police Department is also looking into any potential criminal charges.

After former RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford - formerly a spokeswoman on the Missing Women Joint Task Force - went public last fall with her stories of harassment, other female officers, past and present, spoke out.

"I personally don't believe that class action is going to go anywhere," Katz said. "That's going to take years.

"I see the RCMP fighting a class action like that, saying 152 women? Prove it. You prove every single one of these. I don't see them settling a class action like that.

"It's not a drug company where everybody takes the same drug and dies. And the drug company is insured."

RCMP lawsuit timeline

Nov. 7, 2011: RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford goes public, claiming to suffer from PTSD after nearly two decades of sexual harassment and bullying, prompting hundreds of other female RCMP members to come forth.

Jan. 3, 2012: Const. Karen Katz files first lawsuit against RCMP and fellow Mountie, alleging sexual misconduct and the force's failure to act on her complaints.

March 27, 2012: Former officer Janet Merlo files proposed class action lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court on behalf of more than 150 female Mounties, claiming rampant gender discrimination, sexual harassment within the force.

May 10, 2012: Galliford files lawsuit.

July 6, 2012: Katz files second suit.