NEWMARKET, Ont. — The country’s top Mountie has told the trial in a lawsuit filed by a longtime RCMP officer that he was given the impression last year that the man seemed “almost unequivocally embittered towards the force.”
Commissioner Bob Paulson says he understood Sgt. Peter Merrifield was a “very smart, very accomplished officer” who had become “very negative.”
Paulson is testifying in Newmarket, Ont., and is being asked about the information provided to him on the officer.
Merrifield is alleging he was harassed by some of his superiors within the RCMP and that they employed aggressive and intimidating means to silence him. None of the allegations have been proven in court.
His lawyer says Merrifield is seeking damages to be determined at trial and wants “a punitive judgment to send the RCMP a message” about harassment in the force.
Paulson brought up Merrifield by name last year before a Senate committee looking into harassment and bullying within the RCMP.
Paulson – who levelled criticism at a selection of RCMP members who lodged complaints against the force – accused Merrifield of being upset because the force “took issue with him running for Parliament.”
Merrifield’s lawyer John Phillips said in an earlier interview that Paulson got “incomplete information” about Merrifield in 2013 which demonstrates further damage to Merrifield’s reputation.
“Our theory of that is that (Paulson) is a victim of the harassment of Merrifield in some way – not as badly as Merrifield, but he’s a victim of that harassment – because it caused him to distrust a very good cop because of the loss of reputation,” Phillips said.
Paulson is telling the court that he understood, after conversations with the RCMP’s Commanding officer for Ontario Stephen White, that efforts for the force to reconcile its differences with Merrifield had gone nowhere.
“He was locked into this view that the officers he was referring to had harassed him and he was not taking any ground back from that,” Paulson said. “He was very, very determined to have those claims of harassment from those officers validated.”
Paulson said it was communicated to him that the officers behind the alleged harassment of Merrifield were found to be “blameless.”
“The view was that those officers had tried to respond to the circumstances as best they could in the moment and that there was no sort of malfeasance,” he said.
“The essence of our conversation was … we’ve got a lawsuit and he’s very active in publicizing the response of the organization so where we ended was we’re just going to have to let this thing play out.”
Merrifield’s alleged issues with the force stem from 2005, when he sought the Conservative nomination to run in a federal riding in a town north of Toronto. He claims that some of his superiors deemed his political views and political participation incompatible with his duties.
He alleges that led to punitive transfers, rumours about his conduct and integrity and a number of internal investigations, all of which resulted in no disciplinary action, his lawyer notes.