British Columbia

RCMP officer Shelley Whitelaw claims harassment on force

A Mountie who worked in B.C. and Manitoba claims she was sexually harassed and intimidated by former colleagues in both provinces.

Former RCMP colleagues, federal attorney general among those targeted in civil suit

Shelley Whitelaw claims she suffered harassment at the hands of RCMP colleagues in B.C. and Manitoba. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

A Mountie who worked in British Columbia and Manitoba claims she was sexually harassed and intimidated by former colleagues in both provinces.

In a B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim, Shelly Whitelaw says she has been on medical leave since 2005 and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder after years of abusive workplace behaviour during two separate stints of employment with the RCMP.

Whitelaw is suing two RCMP officers, two B.C.-based RCMP psychologists, B.C.'s minister of justice, the Province of Manitoba and Canada's attorney general.

"The plaintiff has suffered and will continue to suffer, permanent and irreparable harm including extreme embarrassment, humiliation, loss of reputation, personal expense and financial loss and extreme stress," her claim says.

None of the claims have been tested in court.

Almost 300 current and former female Mounties from across Canada have come forward to join a separate B.C. Supreme Court class-action lawsuit alleging harassment within the ranks of the RCMP.

Career began in Manitoba

Whitelaw says she joined the RCMP in Manitoba in 1986 and was posted to Grand Rapids, Man., for field training. She says her supervisor, Laurence McKenzie, told her she could live in a filthy, abandoned nursing station. 

She says McKenzie told her she could clean it up and "put curtains on the windows since she was a woman and could turn it into a real home."

Whitelaw claims McKenzie later pulled her sweatpants down when she was helping a colleague move. She says he and another officer, Dave Bettesworth, allegedly turned up at her trailer drunk one night after learning she was a lesbian.

"Bettesworth told the plaintiff that 'if she made it with a Mountie she would not be a lesbian anymore,'" the notice of civil claim reads.

"They acted with the intent of sexual gratification which traumatized and sexually humiliated the plaintiff and demeaned her value as an RCMP officer and as a human being."

Whitelaw claims she complained to senior RCMP management in Manitoba but they failed to act. She resigned in 1987 and claims she later learned McKenzie retired from the force because of allegations of improper sexual conduct with another female civilian member.

Reapplied in B.C.

Whitelaw says she reapplied to the RCMP in 1998 in B.C., and disclosed her experiences in Grand Rapids under the impression management would investigate.

She says she was posted to Richmond, B.C., where she witnessed a corporal using excessive force on a youth. She says she reported the incident to a supervisor and found herself under scrutiny.

She claims she was shuffled from detachment to detachment, "humiliated and ashamed" by a reputation that preceded her. Finally, she says, she filed a workplace harassment claim in North Vancouver.

Whitelaw says the RCMP ordered a psychiatric evaluation after telling her she was the subject of a complaint from the public. She claims she was later given two code-of-conduct citations — one initiated by an officer whom she had accused of harassment.

She went on medical leave in 2005 and claims she has since fought attempts by the RCMP to discharge her.

The RCMP says it would not comment on Whitelaw's claim as it is before the courts.

Read Whitelaw's notice of civil claim.