Nova Scotia

Human rights inquiry ordered into Halifax police following officer complaints

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has appointed a board inquiry to examine complaints by three Halifax Regional Police who say they were discriminated against by both the force and their union due to their PTSD.

Officers allege department hindered efforts to get PTSD treatment

Det. Const. Debbie Carleton is shown here before her post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis. (Contributed)

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has appointed a board inquiry to examine complaints by three Halifax Regional Police who say they were discriminated against by both the force and their union due to their PTSD.

In an April 17 letter, the commission informed the three complainants, Det. Const. Debbie Carleton, Const. Mark Long and Const. Kevin Johnson, of the inquiry.

All three officers have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder they say was caused by their work. They allege they did not receive the care they needed from the department or their union, the Halifax Regional Police Association.

"This announcement is huge for me," Carleton said in an interview. "It gives me a sense of hope I haven't had for years that justice will be served and our injuries will be taken seriously by an organization that can evoke change."

Carleton said the department thwarted her efforts to get care by refusing to authorize medication and send her for additional out-of-province treatment. She said the last four years have been a struggle that has damaged her health, her career, her finances and placed her life on hold.

Long has said his pay was cut off after he missed work due to on-the-job stress. Three doctors had diagnosed him with PTSD.

Jean-Michel Blais recently retired as chief of Halifax Regional Police. (CBC)

When Carleton went public with her story in 2017, the police chief at the time, Jean-Michell Blais, called PTSD "the flavour of the day" and said officers shouldn't blame him for not getting "Cadillac" treatment the department can't afford.

Blais, who recently retired as chief, himself suffers from PTSD related to three UN tours in Haiti.

Two lawyers, Walter Thompson and Peter Nathanson, have been appointed to chair the inquiry. No date has yet been set.

"I sincerely hope this will be big enough to make a difference for us and all officers coming behind us," Carleton said.

About the Author

Yvonne Colbert

Consumer Watchdog

Yvonne Colbert has been a journalist for nearly 35 years, covering everything from human interest stories to the provincial legislature. These days, she's focused on helping consumers get the most bang for their bucks and avoid being ripped off. She invites story ideas at yvonne.colbert@cbc.ca.