VANCOUVER — Female Mounties are afraid to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment and bullying on the job because they don’t have faith their complaints will be taken seriously and they believe it will be them — not the problem officers — who will ultimately be punished, an internal RCMP report has found.
The report, conducted in response to a number of high-profile allegations of sexual harassment, details the results of focus groups involving 426 RCMP officers and employees from B.C., many of whom told their own stories of being bullied, belittled and in some cases sexually harassed and assaulted by colleagues and superiors.
Those same officers said the force and its senior officers are ill-equipped or even unwilling to properly deal with the problem.
“There was an overwhelming perception, based on personal observations, that there are no consequences for the harasser other than having to transfer and/or be promoted,” says the report, obtained through access-to-information laws.
“This perception of no ’real’ consequences left participants feeling that coming forward was not worth it. . . . Overall, the participants felt the consequences for filing a harassment complaint outweighed the complaint itself.”
The review was ordered by Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, the commander of the force in British Columbia, in response to a string of lawsuits and media reports involving sexual harassment.
The most widely reported case involves Cpl. Catherine Galliford, a former media relations officer who detailed years of abuse she says left her with post-traumatic stress. The RCMP has denied it.
The internal report, completed in April by Simmie Smith, an RCMP diversity strategist in B.C., suggests gender-based harassment was common among the women who participated in the focus groups.
Participants recalled a range of problems, including aggressive male supervisors, cases in which women were assigned to menial tasks and ignored in meetings, sexual innuendo, inappropriate touching and indecent exposure.
If they or their colleagues attempted to complain, the participants said, they often faced retribution. They believed their careers would suffer and they risked being transferred to new jobs or locations as their superiors targeted them, not the offending officers, to deal with the problem, the report said.
Participants attributed the problem to an “old boys’ club” mentality they said permeates the force, in which officers with connections “never have to worry about being held accountable.”
The report makes a number of recommendations, including the creation of a dedicated unit to investigate harassment complaints.
In response to the report, Callens, announced the creation of a 100-member team dedicated to investigating harassment complaints.
“I acknowledge, without reservation, that we have some issues that we need to deal with,” he said when he announced the team in April.
“I’m committed to ensuring that we take the type of action that our employees deserve.”