Credits: STEPHANIE DUBOIS/QMI AGENCY
Former Mountie Valerie MacLean, who claims she faced gender harassment on the job, told reporters outside court how her complaints to RCMP superiors were repeatedly ignored.
“We joined to have a career. We didn’t join to be harassed and humiliated or be told our career depended on us being ‘friendly’ or having relationships with our supervisors,” she said.
MacLean recalled how, more than 30 years ago, her supervising corporal tagged along with her on each shift and insisted it would be “good” for her career to have a relationship as he oversaw her assessment.
She later quit the national police force and eventually served stints as executive director of the Vancouver Police Foundation and a vice-president at the Better Business Bureau.
To be heard in court, however, MacLean and more than 200 additional claimants need to have the lawsuit certified for class action.
Lawyer David Klein currently represents sole plaintiff Janet Merlo.
Certification as a class-action suit means Merlo, also an ex-RCMP constable, could argue on behalf of the other women and any judicial ruling would apply to the whole class.
Merlo didn’t appear in court Thursday, but her story was detailed in an 18-page notice of claim filed to B.C. Supreme Court in March.
The unproven allegations include a sex-toy being left in her work files, regular comments about her breasts, suggestions that she should do “women’s work” and offers of sex.
“On many occasions Ms. Merlo would take sick days because she was upset about the ongoing discrimination and harassment she faced,” the claim reads. “She felt too physically ill to attend work.
"On other occasions, Ms. Merlo would start work early in order to give herself time to prepare for dealing with the ongoing harassment.”
Government lawyers, however, are expected to fight the certification proposal. Federal lawyer Mitchell Taylor told court he doesn’t feel some allegations meet requirements for a class-action suit.
He told the court to expect any claimants who breached employment contracts with the RCMP would be challenged, adding many of the allegations have to do with individual “person-to-person” interactions, not the RCMP as a whole.
A motion from federal lawyers to “strike out” sections of the claim is expected in September.