RCMP to face new class-action harassment lawsuit, this time on behalf of male employees
Current and former members allege they were physically intimidated, denied promotions, belittled and bullied
The RCMP will soon face another class-action harassment lawsuit — this time on behalf of male Mounties and civilian employees of the force.
Earlier this month, the federal government and the RCMP set aside $100 million to settle an estimated 1,000 cases of female employees being harassed and bullied at work.
CBC News has learned that one of the law firms that represented those women is preparing to bring another suit for men — which could potentially be much bigger given that men make up roughly 80 per cent of the RCMP's workforce.
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"We've spoken with hundreds of members, and we're contacted by new members every day," said lawyer Megan McPhee of Kim Orr Barristers in Toronto, who has been working on the case for years. "The stories are very consistent. We're told that there is a culture of bullying and harassment within the force, and one of the regular issues that we hear is a fear of speaking out, a fear of reprisals."
Cpl. Michael Mansoor, who's due to be medically discharged in January, says he was diagnosed with PTSD after what he alleges was years of harassment at the hands of his colleagues and superiors.
He says it started in 2001, when he was posted to his hometown of Richmond, B.C., where his brother was in conflict with the law. It wasn't long before Mansoor said he found his duties restricted.
"I was banned from any work section in the detachment except for general duty and traffic because they acknowledged that there might be a conflict," said Mansoor.
Wrongly accused of sexual assault
Despite pleas for a transfer, he says his superiors stuck to the local convention that a member must serve five years in the detachment before being moved.
Documents obtained under the Access to Information Act suggest officers were suspicious of his family ties. Eventually, Mansoor found himself suspended with pay and under investigation for what he alleges are two trumped-up internal disciplinary charges.
Furthermore, due to a clerical error, Mansoor was also initially accused of sexual assault.
"There was a minor glitch with [Mansoor's] security suspension document service this morning," reads an internal email about Mansoor's disciplinary charges. "There is a reference to a 'sexual assault'.... It was our conclusion that HQ Ottawa had screwed up the paperwork. Seems likely that they took a previous form letter, re-tooled it for [Mansoor's] case and did not remove a phrase that did not apply in this case."
As for the two other allegations, they later proved unfounded.
Over time, Mansoor says the ongoing whisper campaign and harassment made him ill.
"There comes actually a point where you start to look at yourself and go, 'Am I bringing this on myself? Because surely it's not this widespread in an organization,'" Mansoor said.
Retired sergeant Hugo Desrochers says he knows exactly how that feels.
He left the force last year after 26 years in a job he says, for the most part, he loved. He was making his way up the ranks and working towards another promotion, he says, but that came to a halt near the end of his career when management changed at the RCMP detachment in Cornwall, Ont.
"[I] started covering my back. Started taking notes to make sure I was not going to be hung out to dry," Desrochers said.
Years of meticulous notes document allegations of being micromanaged, stripped of his responsibilities, belittled in front of colleagues for taking initiative and denied opportunities to further develop his career.
The worst incident, according to Desrochers, was when the inspector refused to sign off on his application to serve in Kosovo due to shortcomings with his performance. Yet Desrochers says all his boss managed to come up with, after repeated requests for specifics, was a late overtime claim.
"It takes a toll on you because you start questioning yourself...and then you're not good," an emotional Desrochers told CBC News.
Desrochers welcomes the lawsuit.
"If nobody comes forward to say there's a problem, how are they going to know there's a problem. Is it just me sitting here? No."
Belittled, physically intimidated
It's not just men in uniform who allege they've been harassed.
Garth Caron worked as a public servant from 2005 to 2015, doing administrative work in detachments in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Caron says his first experience with harassment was when a few Mounties took issue with him being gay and subjected him to a number of pranks.
"I came in one morning to my workstation and I noticed a number of female items on my desk — boxes of tampons and things like that — and it kind of struck me as odd as to why they would have been left there," he said.
At another detachment, Caron said a sergeant questioned his Métis status, belittled him in front of colleagues and tried to physically intimidate him. The union got involved and Caron says he agreed, while under a great deal of duress, to retire before he was ready to leave the workforce.
It's no secret the RCMP has a bullying problem. Commissioner Bob Paulson has said so himself. In a 2012 interview with CBC News, Paulson conceded that he too had been harassed at work.
"I think in the day, if you weren't sort of in line with your officer's expectations or consistent with his or her vision of where the organization was going, then you were pushed aside," he said. "And it's a very uncomfortable feeling and a very destructive feeling, and it doesn't speak to a transparent, ethical, organization."