A photo of the new Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) National Headquarters in Ottawa October 5, 2011.
Credits: ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY
VANCOUVER - Former RCMP Const. Janet Merlo filed a proposed class-action lawsuit in BC Supreme Court on Tuesday on behalf of more than 150 women who are claiming rampant gender discrimination and sexual harassment within the force.
Merlo, a former officer in BC who describes the sexist comments, sexual pranks, derogatory remarks and double standards she endured during her 20 years on the force in her claim, is the representative plaintiff in the suit.
The court must next decide whether certify the case as a class-action, which could take at least a year, said Vancouver-based lawyer David Klein, who is working on the case alongside lawyers in B.C. and Ontario.
"It's too late for me but I hope that this lawsuit will bring about some positive change for women who are still with the RCMP and women who join in the future," Merlo said in a written statement.
If the suit proceeds, the settlement could end up in the millions of dollars, depending on the final number of women who join the suit, which they expect could double or even triple to 450, Klein said.
The range of complaints - by women in the RCMP across the country - run from being in a stressful toxic work environment to sexual assault and the inability to work.
"For many of these women, the consequences of the bullying, harassment and discrimination have been devastating including post-traumatic stress syndrome, attempted suicides, depression, broken relationships, failed marriages," said Sandy Zaitzeff, a Thunder Bay, ON, lawyer involved in the suit, in a statement.
Women began speaking out after former RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford, a former spokeswoman on the Missing Women Joint Task Force, went public last year with her harassment stories.
Former BC RCMP member Krista Carle said she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after being told she was "as dumb as a sack of nails," had pornography stuffed in her desk and was regularly harassed, mainly by "old-school" police.
"It's a big sense of relief," said Carle, who took a medical discharge in 2010. "I'd like to see the wheels of justice turn. ... I'd like to see this have a positive resolution for the RCMP and for all the women that are involved."