An RCMP staff sergeant has filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against 13 former colleagues in the force's travelling equestrian show the Musical Ride, claiming she was sexually assaulted and harassed in the 1980s.
Staff Sgt. Caroline O'Farrell, 52, who works in Ottawa, claims she was sexually assaulted, assaulted and harassed from 1986 to 1987 while working as a constable.
Her ex-husband and their two children are also listed as plaintiffs, claiming $300,000 in damages under the Family Law Act for a loss of care and guidance from O'Farrell due to the alleged abuse.
The defendants are listed as Kevin Baillie, Gary Beam, Sylvain Berthiaume, Luc Boivin, Greg Chiarot, Francois Duguay, Marc Godue, Mike Herchuk, Cory Hoehn, David Kopp, Christine Mackie Windover, Gerry Ogilvie and Michael Roblee, as well as the Attorney General of Canada.
The statement of claim alleges that O'Farrell, one of the few women working in the Musical Ride, was subjected to an outdated hazing ritual in which she was doused with water and then dragged by her arms and legs through stall shavings mixed with manure and urine.
The suit, seeking more than $8 million in damages, alleges she was subjected to this because she was a woman.
It also alleges that when she began to complain and defend herself, she was harassed by her attackers for doing so. It alleges members of the ride took bets on when O'Farrell might attempt suicide and made fun of her for complaining.
It also alleges that when she fell asleep on a bus ride in Alberta, someone filmed a finger through the fly of his pants next to her ear, simulating a penis. It claims the video was shown to her and others, and left her feeling degraded as though she had been sexually assaulted.
Claimant says no substantial action taken
The statement of claim alleges O'Farrell was eventually transferred from the Musical Ride unit "against her will" because supervisors "couldn't guarantee her safety," and that an RCMP harassment investigation upheld her complaints.
"The final investigation concluded that there were over 100 incidents of harassment that had been substantiated. She was informed by the investigators that her complaint resulted in the largest internal investigation ever conducted in Ottawa," the statement of claim reads.
"However, the RCMP took no real or substantial action against the harassers as a result of its investigation. Some of the harassers received informal discipline (counselling and warnings); others received no form of censure at all. Most of her harassers continue to work in the RCMP today, some as high-ranking officers and others as senior non-commissioned officers in positions of significant influence and authority," the statement of claim reads.
O'Farrell was recently diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of her time with the Musical Ride, the statement says.
It alleges her marriage "deteriorated quickly," that she hasn't been able to have meaningful, long-term relationships with other men, and that her relationships with her children were also negatively affected.
Criminal charges briefly entertained, suit alleges
The statement alleges O'Farrell was called to a provincial Crown attorney's office about possible criminal charges, but that the assistant Crown attorney refused to lay any because "the statute of limitations for those offences had passed to proceed on a summary conviction basis, and that the criminal charge could not proceed by way of indictment."
It also alleges the assistant Crown attorney was the son of a former RCMP commissioner and the brother of an RCMP officer, that he said the charges would be embarrassing for her and the RCMP, and that he would withdraw the charges if they were filed.
The lawsuit does not name the assistant Crown attorney.
None of the allegations contained in the suit have been proven in court.
A statement from O'Farrell's law firm said O'Farrell and her lawyer won't be speaking to the media.
But in an emailed statement, her lawyer, Peter Cronyn, said:
"The assaults and sexual assaults on … O'Farrell were criminal acts perpetrated by and witnessed by police officers and yet no charges were ever laid, nor were there any consequences for the officers involved. The impact of these events and the failure of those in authority to protect her and to hold the perpetrators accountable have severely damaged our client and have substantially compromised her life and career."
The RCMP did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday morning.