A number of women who claim they were victims of sexual harassment while employed by the RCMP are in BC Supreme Court, at the start of a hearing that will decide whether a class action harassment lawsuit will be certified.
The hearing is expected to last the week.
A judge is tasked with deciding whether there is enough evidence to suggest gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment allegations warrant a class action lawsuit.
To do that’s Canada’s class-action king, lawyer David Klein, must prove the case meets certain tests.
Lawyer calls the class action a “unique opportunity” to deal with the “big picture” issue of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the RCMP
He started that by outlining claimant Janet Merlo’s case, which he says shows the RCMP was a “toxic” workplace for women, and has been for many years.
Besides Merlo Klein says over three hundred other women have come forward, one hundred who still work for the RCMP.
“What we’ve seen from the government on the individual claims is denial and obfuscation…also an unwillingness to sit down and have a meaningful dialogue on how to sit down and resolve these claims.”
“There’s been too many lives destroyed and still being destroyed.”
The woman who’s name is on the claim says it’s time for these stories to be out in the open.
Former Constable Janet Merlo says there is a desperate need for change within the RCMP.
“It’s gone on far too long, and there’s been too many lives destroyed and still being destroyed, because a lot of the members coming forward are still active.”
Merlo says if she had to do it all over again, she’d still join the R-C-M-P.
Merlo was asked what would she say if a woman asked for her opinion on becoming a police officer as a career choice.
“Honestly, I’d tell them to consider a municipal police force. Somewhere that has a union, they have seniority, a lot of things the R-C-M-P doesn’t.”
“With an effective police association, as in every other police agency in Canada we believe a lot of these issued would have already been addressed.”
One of the groups vying to represent Mounties if the force ever unionizes says the lawsuit against the national police force is a good argument for doing just that.
Rae Banwarie, President of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, says you need only look at a municipal police to see what a union can do to make a workplace better for women.
“How many situations like this in other police agencies do you know of across Canada? Can you think of one that has gone to this point? That has got as big as this? I am going to say probably not even one. That is a big key to the solution I believe.”
Banwarie says taxpayer money is being used up as the federal government fights attempts by current and former female RCMP officers to launch a class action lawsuit against it.
He says it is time the RCMP actually address their concerns and at least consider mediation to save taxpayer dollars.