Editorial (Ottawa Citizen) – It’s getting harder for the RCMP to portray the allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination as overblown, or as isolated cases that could have been handled better. It’s looking more and more like a pattern.
Retired Const. Janet Merlo filed her class action lawsuit in March. So far, more than 200 women have called her lawyer’s office with their own stories. None of the allegations has been proven in court, but it’s shocking that hundreds of women have a grievance with the force.
And her lawsuit isn’t the only one. Cpl. Catherine Galliford is alleging a history of assault, intimidation and discrimination. The federal government, in its statement of defence, has denied the allegations and suggested Galliford should have come forward earlier if she had reason to complain.
The stories that some current and former officers have to tell — of sex toys left on desks, crude jokes and insults, bullying and assault — are disturbing. They go a long way to explaining why the RCMP has had difficulty increasing its percentage of women, which has been stuck around 20 per cent of officers. Indeed, if they’ve had to put up with workplaces like the ones Merlo and Galliford describe, it’s amazing there are any female officers left.
It’s time for the force to recognize that a sales job isn’t going to convince women anything has changed. This has gone beyond the point where it could even hope to sail though by managing headlines and downplaying the problem.
Commissioner Bob Paulson has, rightly, acknowledged that the RCMP’s culture and attitudes about power might make it easier for harassment to thrive. If hundreds of women have reason to complain, that suggests it wasn’t just easy for sexists to get away with bad behaviour. It suggests that behaviour was expected of them.