Hearing begins on alleged RCMP harassment 0
The first hearing will be held today in the class action lawsuit brought against the RCMP on behalf of more than 200 female Mounties claiming rampant gender discrimination and sexual harassment by members of the force.
Former RCMP constable Janet Merlo filed a proposed class action lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court late last March, on behalf of the other women.
Merlo alleges she and fellow female members of the force, civilian and public service employees were subject to gender-based discrimination, bullying and harassment and that the RCMP failed in its duty to prevent that.
"Ms. Merlo has shown a tremendous amount of courage in coming forward in what is a very difficult circumstance and claim to bring because the allegations are disturbing and personally disturbing to her," said Vancouver-based lawyer Jason Murray, who is preparing the case along with lawyers in B.C. and Ontario. "It's not the sort of thing that one wants to have to bring to the fore."
Merlo's claim describes the sexist comments, sexual pranks, derogatory remarks, and double standard she endured during her 20 years with the RCMP.
The range of complaints by other female RCMP employees, from every province in Canada and the Northwest Territories, run from being in a stressful toxic work environment to sexual assault and the inability to work.
The hearing is the first step in moving toward certification of the class action suit, which would define the class of women who can be part of the case.
Certification typically takes a number of months to a year, Murray said. Once it is certified, the lawsuit can begin.
Women began speaking out after former RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford - formerly a spokeswoman on the Missing Women Joint Task Force - went public last autumn with her stories of harassment.