Psychiatrist alleges RCMP's 'attempt to bully' him shows historic sexual harassment apology hollow
Dr. Greg Passey says force continues to deny harassment allegations of some of his patients
A Vancouver psychiatrist says despite the RCMP's public apology to hundreds of female staffers for decades of sexual harassment, the force is still denying some of his patients' claims of abuse and sexual misconduct and trying to fire two of them.
Dr. Greg Passey, who specializes in treating first responders who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, says less than a month after the public apology in October, two senior Mounties paid him a visit to discuss his medical recommendation that the force must settle lawsuits with two of his patients before they can return to work.
Rather than settle, the RCMP sent the women their final dismissal papers last week.
"You have this big public apology and about a month later the abuse of power continues, the harassment continues," Passey said.
Passey, who has had a front-row seat to the five-year-long controversy that has rocked the RCMP and culminated in the apology and $100-million settlement of a class action lawsuit, believes the public perception that the force is transforming itself isn't accurate.
His two patients in the process of being fired, Atoya Montague, a civilian communications strategist, and Cst. Susan Gastaldo, an undercover officer, are suing the force separately and are both on sick leave suffering from PTSD.
According to their lawsuits, Montague claims she was sexually propositioned daily by senior officers and Gastaldo claims her supervisor repeatedly sexually assaulted her.
They say the force is now in the process of unfairly firing them, and continues to deny all their claims, despite the public acknowledgement of decades of "shameful conduct."
But the public apology doesn't mean the police force admitted to every individual allegation of sexual misconduct. In the context of the class action lawsuit, claims are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In the case of separate lawsuits, allegations will be tested in court.
Commissioner's apology: 'crocodile tears'
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson wiped away tears after apologizing to female Mounties on Oct 6.
"You came to the RCMP wanting to personally contribute to your community and we failed you. We hurt you. For that, I'm truly sorry."
Passey says in his professional opinion as a psychiatrist "those were tears of embarrassment, that was not in sympathy with the women."
"Crocodile tears by the commissioner ... that was about humiliation and embarrassment and having to apologize for the harassment and abuse of power that occurred on his watch," said Passey, who bases his criticism on the RCMP's handling of Gastaldo and Montague's files since the apology in October.
RCMP bosses visit psychiatrist's office
On Nov. 2, two managers from RCMP's E Division were in Passey's office giving him what he calls a taste of what his patients have experienced.
Passey had written RCMP's medical services to say that PTSD wasn't the only thing keeping Gastaldo and Montague off the job.
He wrote that a condition of their return to work must be a resolution of their sexual misconduct lawsuits.
Passey alleges the meeting was "an attempt to bully" him into changing his opinion.
He says Supt. Sean Sullivan suggested his written recommendations weren't compliant with B.C.'s College of Physicians and Surgeons guidelines.
'Veiled threat' over medical opinion
"What other employer anywhere in Canada would send a senior management person into a physician's office and basically say ... 'If you don't change your opinion,' then there is a veiled threat that they were going to do a college complaint," said Passey.
He says he took that to mean the RCMP was considering filing a complaint with the physicians' regulator, just as it had done with psychologist Mike Webster after he criticized the force's handling of his patients' harassment complaints in 2011.
That complaint was later dismissed and the RCMP was found to have breached the privacy of officers in filing the complaint.
RCMP denies bullying Dr. Passey
In an email to Dr. Passey in November, Supt. Sean Sullivan summarized their meeting, saying the RCMP believed Passey's recommendation that the force resolve the lawsuits was "opinion based towards the management of the RCMP" and "not inline with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. Professional Standards and Guidelines."
Sullivan declined an interview request, but the RCMP sent a statement, that the force later posted on its website, in response to questions from CBC News that says, "We disagree with the characterization of the meeting and deny the accusations that during that meeting the doctor was bullied or that threats to complain to the College of Physicians and Surgeons were made.
"The in-person meeting, which was agreed upon, was an attempt to have an open discussion, as we both have a role in finding solutions or a path that would help accommodate a healthy and safe return to work."
Dismissal documents sent to Montague also say the RCMP believes Dr. Passey's recommendation that the force resolve its lawsuits is not an appropriate accommodation or condition for her return to work.
Passey says his opinion is based on medical literature on PTSD.
"From a clinical point of view, it's inappropriate for either of these two ladies to return to work when the RCMP continue to deny anything bad happened to them, no attempt to resolve their lawsuits, or discipline alleged perpetrators," he said.
"Then they blame the individual for not coming back ...That is actually hurting these women's health and it's impairing the women's ability to go back to work."
Gastaldo breaks silence
When the meeting was over, the two RCMP managers walked right by Susan Gastaldo, who was seated in Passey's waiting room.
"Every time I try and return to work, the barriers are set up by the workplace, and I can't return and I have yet to see accountability," said Gastaldo, speaking publicly for the first time.
She says she's ready to return to work "as long as they can guarantee a safe workplace."
But the supervisor she alleges assaulted her is still on the job.
She was on sick leave with an anxiety disorder when she says the supervisor forced her to come back to work and coerced her into a sexual relationship she says was never consensual, according to documents filed in court.
Gastaldo was first disciplined for what the force called consensual, on-duty sex with her boss, but she was later cleared of any wrongdoing after an appeal.
In its statement of defence, the RCMP maintains it was a consensual affair.
Women want accountability
"Something happened every day of my career ... you're in the middle of a business conversation and they ask you when you are going to have sex with them," said Atoya Montague of her years as a civilian RCMP communications strategist.
She was furious to learn her managers visited her psychiatrist who wants the RCMP to resolve her allegations.
"All [Dr. Passey] is saying is, 'How can I send someone back into a workplace where she's been abused, sexually assaulted, harassed and bullied almost every day of her career when you haven't even acknowledged that happened?'"
RCMP doctor overruled specialist
Montague is also angry a family doctor working for the RCMP overruled her psychiatrist and recommended she be medically discharged from the force because she's unlikely to be fit for duty in the foreseeable future.
"This is a doctor who has never met me," said Montague.
The RCMP says it followed its policy.
"We cannot, in good conscience, continue to pay a full salary indefinitely to an employee whose health prevents them from performing any duties within the RCMP," the statement says.
Montague and Gastaldo could make claims against the class action settlement, but they are suing separately because the settlement will only compensate victims, not punish alleged perpetrators.
"It's acknowledged that there has been bad behaviour and yet nobody's been fired," said Walter Kostekyj, Gastaldo's lawyer.
None of Montague or Gastaldo's allegations have been proven in court.
Women asked Goodale for help
A report from a federal investigation into the RCMP's handling of both cases is expected at the end of March.
Ralph Goodale appointed former auditor general Sheila Fraser to investigate after Gastaldo, Montague and two others wrote the Liberal government in 2015 asking the public safety minister to stop the RCMP from firing them.
"I wait to see if Hon. Ralph Goodale has the fortitude to actually force the RCMP to change," Passey said.
"When will the government step in to stop the ongoing harassment and abuse of power?"
Goodale would not say if he will intervene in the firings because the cases are before the courts.
But said he was anxious to hear Fraser's advice.
"When you have this pattern over time it obviously speaks to some deep-seated problems ... it is unacceptable for the RCMP ... a Canadian icon and that workplace of all workplaces should be exemplary," he said.
"This corner has to be turned and I am absolutely determined to get that done."
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