British Columbia

RCMP harassment charges won't affect contract talks

Alleged sexual harassment and bullying within the ranks of RCMP in B.C. will not affect policing contract talks between provincial and federal governments, says a top government official.
B.C.'s Solicitor General and Interim Attorney General Shirley Bond says allegations female RCMP officers face harassment from their male colleagues won't affect what is discussed at the bargaining table. (CBC)

Alleged sexual harassment and bullying within B.C.'s RCMP will not affect policing contract talks between provincial and federal governments, says Shirley Bond, B.C.'s solicitor general and interim attorney general Shirley Bond.

Bond is involved in the process of hammering out a potential 20-year contract with B.C.'s RCMP, who are leading block negotiations that also include Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and the territories.

"I don't expect this to impact our negotiations. I have been reassured that there is a process in place to investigate any allegations that are made, and again these are allegations," she said.

Two female members of the force — Cpl. Catherine Galliford and former constable Krista Carle — have told CBC News of years of sexual harassment by senior RCMP officers.

Galliford says she has not heard back about any investigation in the four years since she launched her complaint.

But Bond said she's confident the RCMP isn't glossing over allegations of sexual harassment.

"I am confident that the RCMP takes allegations of harassment seriously, and certainly have been reminded today that they have strategies in place to support staff and foster a workplace that is free of discrimination, as it should be."

Meanwhile, NDP MLA Kathy Corrigan has said she believes unionization is inevitable.

"It's been prohibited previously, but along with that kind of labour relations structure, you would have in place harassment mechanisms, probably within the collective agreement as they should be," she said.

Rob Creaser, a former vice-president of the B.C. Mounted Police Professional Association, has said he would be deeply concerned if he were at the negotiating table.

"I don't think you want to go into a long-term deal knowing that you have these kinds of issues festering in the workplace. B.C. was wanting more local accountability."

The retired police officer says there are deep flaws within the RCMP.

"You're negotiating for another 20 years of RCMP service here. There needs to be some major fixes within the organization."

Battle for unionization

Creaser's comments follow calls from the B.C. Mounted Police Professional Association for the RCMP to be allowed to unionize.

Cpl. Patrick Meihan, current president of the association, believes such allegations would be better dealt with if police were unionized and hopes a court challenge to be heard this month will make unionization possible.

"I can't stand by and watch members get railroaded for standing up for their beliefs or speaking out against something that they don't think is right." he said.

Meihan said RCMP members are "treated as worse than criminals sometimes" for standing up for themselves in the face of managerial abuse.

A section of the 1918 act that created the RCMP prohibits unionization, but the ban was struck down as unconstitutional by an Ontario Superior Court judge in 2009.

It would have allowed the B.C association and another association in Ontario to take steps toward negotiating a collective agreement with the federal government.

The federal government fought that ruling in the Ontario Court of Appeal, which granted Ottawa a temporary delay.

Another court challenge is scheduled to be heard in two weeks.

Meihan said taxpayers should back an RCMP union, because members' grievances are taking years to resolve and that often means officers aren't on the job.

"They are sitting at home, collecting a full salary, full benefits, everything," said Meihan. "The Mounties are just refusing to put them back to work because they are deemed as either a problem child or they upset somebody and somebody is just having a tantrum."

Senior RCMP officers would not comment on the union question, but in a statement noted that out of its 6,200 B.C. members, 48 are off work due to a workplace conflict.

With files from the CBC's Eric Rankin