Female Mounties seek class-action against force

Female Mounties alleging discrimination seek class-action suit against RCMP

  • May. 31, 2015 6:00 a.m.

By Tamsyn Burgmann, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER – At age 22, Quebec native Joanne Mayer was greeted at her first RCMP posting in Gibsons, B.C., with a handshake and a blunt statement from the sergeant: “We don’t think women should be in the force, and especially not French-speaking ones.”

Mayer said that along with her regular duties, she spent over two years doing “sexist” chores including making coffee, ensuring there was an ample supply of cream and sugar, and cleaning police cruisers.

A quarter-century later, Mayer has joined hundreds of other former and current RCMP members hoping for justice over alleged gender discrimination, bullying and harassment with a potential class-action lawsuit.

A five-day hearing to determine certification of a class-action proceeding involving 362 women is set to begin Monday in B.C. Supreme Court.

“I didn’t tell my parents or anybody what had happened to me. I went through this all on my own,” said Mayer, who plans to fly to Vancouver from Ottawa along with several other women expected to attend from across Canada.

Mayer was emboldened to come forward after Janet Merlo, a 19-year RCMP veteran from Nanaimo, B.C., went public with her own experience of ongoing discrimination before launching the suit in March 2012.

“I was like, ‘Well, I went through that, too. Maybe it wasn’t my fault,'” Mayer said. “I had blocked it out, to be honest. I didn’t realize what was happening to me at the time and I was too scared to speak out.”

In the three years it has taken to wind through the legal system, a law firm championing the case has canvassed more than 100 women with a detailed questionnaire, said lawyer David Klein.

“They share an unfortunate common bond,” he said. “They were subjected to systemic harassment, bullying and discrimination over a long period of time. The bond they share is the consequence of that treatment.”

Klein said he will introduce the case and present key evidence from Merlo’s affidavit and an expert he calls the leading authority on gender harassment and discrimination.

He will also explain why it’s crucial to tackle the allegations en mass with a class action rather than require individual women to file hundreds of lawsuits on their own.

“Reality is, some of the claims are too small to warrant individual litigation,” he said.

“The only way many of these women will have access to the civil justice system is if it is done through a class action.”

None of the claims have been tested in court.

Klein said that while he believes the RCMP has begun taking steps to reduce harassment against women, people who have made allegations are still being challenged on every statement they make.

“It’s time for the government of Canada to step in and direct the RCMP to take these claims seriously.”

Jeremy Laurin, a spokesman for the federal Public Safety Department, said he couldn’t comment while the case is before the courts but that the government takes issues of discrimination and sexual harassment “very seriously.

“All RCMP members and employees should feel safe and respected amongst their colleagues and superiors,” he said in a statement. “Canadians have the right to expect professional and exemplary conduct from their national police service.”

For Mayer, who had dreamed of being a police officer since she was a little girl, settlement is the only way to bring closure because she felt forced to switch careers.

“My hope is that the force will recognize that it has affected a lot of female members,” she said. “I wouldn’t want this to happen to new members going in, new females. If this is truly what they want to do they should be able to do the same job as anyone else.”

Follow @TamsynBurgmann on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Steve Smith’s image of two sibling adolescent grizzly bears playfighting in the Chilko River in the B.C. Interior earned him best of show at the prestigious Lion’s Gate Celebration of Nature club competition for 2020-21. (Photo by Steve Smith)
Victoria Camera Club captures top spot in prestigious nature and wildlife competition

Saanich Peninsula photographers part of award-winning team

Downtown Victoria and the Inner Harbour are part of a corridor that also includes much of urban Saanich that is part of the Greater Victoria 2030 District, a sustainable buildings climate initiative announced recently. (Black Press Media file photo)
Ramping up energy efficiency in Greater Victoria buildings goal of new group

Greater Victoria 2030 District part of North American network of cities working to reduce emissions

Oak Bay High Grade 10 students Oliver Wakely and Alex Joiner with the new scoreboard to soon be installed on the grass turf. Fundraising from the Oak Bay Barbarians rugby alumni and Oak Bay Fire Fighters Charitable Foundation. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay High alumni buy new scoreboard

Scoreboard to be installed on grass field

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)
Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

Look for the Random Act of Kindness Day colouring contest in Black Press issues Jan. 17. Physical entries can be mailed or dropped off to local Black Press offices. A scanned or photographed entry can be emailed to info@victoriafoundation.bc.ca. Winning entries can get a $50 gift card to Bolen Books and a $100 donation to a charity of their choice from the VIctoria Foundation. (Pixabay)
Colouring contest coming for Kindness Day

Kindness Day colouring contest in partnership with Victoria Foundation

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Most Read