Former Mountie Alice Clark knows what it is like to take on the RCMP.
That’s why she supports and respects the Mounties who have put themselves front and centre of a $1.1 billion lawsuit against the national police force, alleging a culture of intimation, bullying and harassment.
In 1994, Clark successfully sued the RCMP for sexual harassment and discrimination she experienced at the hands of her superiors and peers while she was serving at the Red Deer detachment in the 1980s.
A federal court awarded her $93,000 for lost wages and compensation for pain and suffering. By then, she had been out of the RCMP since 1987, when she resigned and took a job with the B.C. government, where she remained until her retirement last month.
Clark, 61, is not surprised that the RCMP is once again being accused of treating its officers unfairly.
“It doesn’t surprise me. It’s been a huge problem for a long, long time,” she said from her Nanaimo, B.C. home. “None of the behaviour ever changed even after the many lawsuits.”
The lead plaintiffs in the latest lawsuit filed last Friday are a pair of long-serving male RCMP officers, including Staff Sgt. Geoffrey Greenwood, from Red Deer detachment, and Sgt. Todd Gray, who works out of Fox Creek detachment. Their allegations relate to incidents many years before they were at their current detachments.
Greenwood alleges he experienced fallout after reporting allegations of corruption and bribery against follow officers who were working with him on drug cases more than a decade ago in the Northwest Territories. He was ostracized and faced trumped-up internal charges to bully him, the lawsuit alleges.
Gray alleges harassment dating back to 1998, when he was a member of the musical ride.
None of the lawsuit’s allegations have been tested in court.
In a statement this week, the RCMP says it has just received the lawsuit and that it is under review.
“The receipt of another claim of this sort serves to keep us focused on the work we are doing to provide all employees with a safe and respectful work environment, free from harassment and reminds us of the work still to be done,” says the RCMP.
Clark sees a familiar pattern.
“What (Greenwood) speaks of, that’s how they work. I get it. That’s why they did with me — ostracization, isolation, making you the problem, denying everything …
“They just dig their heals in and they don’t help you. They just attack you.”
She respects the officers for their courage in coming forward.
“It’s a huge decision to step forward and do that and put your whole life out there and be willing to be scrutinized even further.
“It takes guts to come forward.”
Asked if she regrets going public considering all of the stress involved, she replies without hesitation.
“No I don’t. Not one bit.
“I knew I had to do everything to be satisfied that years later when I looked back that I did everything I could to empower myself in that situation.
“For me, being a member of the RCMP was about being honest, having integrity and doing what was right.
“To me, the lawsuit was about doing what was right.”
She turned her experiences into a book, Blush of the Scarlet, and she is continued speaking about discrimination and mentoring other people facing their own battles.
Clark says changing the culture of the RCMP will not be easy and it will take a long time.
“It’s going to take one or two generations going through Depot,” she says, referring to the RCMP’s training depot in Regina.
“It’s going to take attitude changes with regards to the people who are truly in power that can stop this and choose not to because they are afraid of losing their pension or not being accepted into the old boys club.”
Change must start among the new recruits and be embraced at the top, she said.
“People have to speak up and say its wrong.
“The more that people stand up and say it’s wrong, that’s when the culture is going to change.”