B.C. Mountie claims sexual harassment by superiors
Published Tuesday, November 8, 2011 5:39PM PST
A prominent B.C. Mountie says she endured years of sexual harassment from senior officers and is now suffering from panic attacks and post-traumatic stress.
Cpl. Catherine Galliford was once a high profile spokeswoman for the RCMP. She announced charges in the Air India bombing and briefed the press about searches at serial killer Willy Pickton's pig farm.
But she's been on sick leave since 2007. After 16 years on the force, Galliford alleges that the appalling behaviour of her male colleagues left her traumatized, drinking heavily and unable to leave her home.
She claims that a supervisor exposed himself to her, and that she suffered unwanted sexual advances.
"I went to every boss I had at the time and I kept on saying, ‘Please don't make me work with these people.' And they didn't do anything," Galliford told CTV News.
She says the harassment came from several senior officers. One alleged incident occurred during the Pickton investigation while she sat in a room full of supervisors.
"He was the one who said to me, ‘I have a fantasy about Willy Pickton escaping from jail and tracking you down and ripping your clothes off and stringing you from a meat hook and gutting you like a pig,'" Galliford said.
"My supervisors were laughing."
She's now considering suing the RCMP.
Police psychologist Mike Webster says Galliford's complaints are not unique in the world of policing.
"This remains a man's world. It's very difficult for females to get by in that man's world," he said.
"I think females that enter policing or enter the military or enter the fire service are showing a great deal of courage."
But he added that female officers in municipal police forces have an easier time dealing with harassment because they are able to take complaints to their unions and sit down with management in a matter of days.
"In the RCMP there are no functional, effective processes to get people to address people's complaints like this, nor are there processes to get people back to work," Webster said.
Instead, Mounties are permitted to take unlimited, paid sick leave. Right now, 225 members of the B.C. RCMP have been off duty on sick leave for more than a month.
Forty-eight of those people -- or about 0.76 per cent of the force -- are on leave because of psychological reasons related to conflict in the workplace.
Webster says he has treated Mounties who have been on paid sick leave for four or five years, even though they want their complaints to be addressed so they can go back to work.
"If the taxpayer were aware of that, they would be outraged," he said.
The police force issued a statement Tuesday saying that while it cannot comment on Galliford's specific allegations, harassment "is not tolerated."
"The RCMP is committed to providing all its employees a work environment free of harassment, discrimination and conflict, where all employees are treated with respect and dignity," Supt. Kevin DeBruyckere wrote.
"We continue to encourage our members to report incidents of harassment when they occur so they can be investigated immediately."
But Webster says he's skeptical about just how seriously the RCMP takes harassment complaints.
"The proof is in the pudding. If they did take them seriously, then why do we have so many people who are off duty sick?" he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Lisa Rossington