Nova Scotia

RCMP sexual abuse apology 'a stepping stone,' says Mountie

Const. Cathy Mansley says the massive settlement announced by Ottawa Thursday related to harassment, discrimination and sexual abuse in the RCMP will offer female employees "some closure."

'The government is finally seeing that we need to change,' says RCMP Const. Cathy Mansley

Const. Cathy Mansley says the government's offer of compensation and an apology will help women heal. (CBC)

A Mountie in the Halifax area says the massive settlement announced by Ottawa Thursday related to harassment, discrimination and sexual abuse in the RCMP will offer female employees "some closure."

"This is a stepping stone for us to heal and get better because there was a lot of damage done," said RCMP Const. Cathy Mansley, who is currently off the job.

The apology and the promise of compensation settles two separate class action lawsuits, one of which Mansley says she was a claimant in, and could cost up to $100 million in claims.

About 20,000 current and past RCMP employees who have worked for the police force since 1974 could qualify, although about 1,000 are expected to apply for the compensation.

'Meat of the problem'

That money is deserved, but perhaps worth less than the proof that "the government is finally seeing that we need to change," Mansley said.

The federal government appears to be working to improve conditions for women, led by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, she said.

"He wants to get to the meat of the problem to be able fix it. I've already seen him being active in doing this," she said.

'I wasn't alone'

Mansley was stationed in Tantallon, N.S., when she was suspended by the force with pay in 2010 due to alcoholism. She has said she suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, which she linked to her work.

On Thursday, Mansley said she also endured sexual harassment in the RCMP, and witnessed other women being treated the same. 

"I knew I wasn't alone," she said.

For instance, when she first started on the job in 1995, she said a supervisor took a special interest in helping her learn.

"I just thought he was going to be a really good mentor for me because he had a really good reputation in solving crimes and investigations," Mansley said.

"It turned out over time that he was really hitting on me. It really ended up making me feel very uncomfortable; it made the rest of my co-workers feel uncomfortable."

Little recourse

Male colleagues catcalled her from the parking lot in the morning, she said, and tried to discredit her work.

The class action lawsuits allege female officers and civilian employees of the RCMP faced unwanted sexual touching, rape, physical assault, sexist comments, threats, gender discrimination, harassment and bullying.

Mansley said she and other female colleagues "didn't have any recourse," with some RCMP supervisors being unsure what qualified as inappropriate. 

'That's all gone now'

That, to her, was evidence of a systemic problem in the RCMP culture. 

"Once your reputation is ruined as a police officer, your career is ruined," Mansley said. "I know for myself, this did a lot of damage. I loved my job ... That's all gone now. I can't get that back."

The apology and offer of compensation gives her "hope for future generations of women," that they'll have a safer experience.

But she said she doubts there will be enough of a change in her lifetime.

"I cannot go back into that working environment the way that things are now," Mansley said. "I absolutely cannot because this was definitely life-threatening to me, and I can't put myself in that position."

With files from CBC's Maritime Noon and News at Six

now