FEDERAL (Canadian OH&S News)
A group of RCMP officers are considering legal action after their outspoken psychologist was blacklisted by the national police force.
Dr. Mike Webster was given an ultimatum earlier this month that would see about 25 of his patients — some of whom Webster has treated for many years — transferred to another psychologist. The RCMP has also filed a complaint against Webster to the College of Psychologists of British Columbia, the watchdog group which regulates psychologists in the province.
The announcement came as a devastating blow to his patients, who said they were informed by the RCMP that they could continue to seek Webster’s counsel, but would have to pay their medical bills out of their own pockets.
“What kind of message does that send out to other therapists? Like, ‘Toe the company line or else you’re next,’ ” said Cpl. Roland Beaulieu, who has been off the job since February of 2011 and has been a patient of Webster’s for two years. “My wife and I are beside ourselves, I can’t afford to pay for Mike’s services, I see him once a week.”
For someone who has openly condemned the national police force, Webster said the RCMP’s decision was expected.
“I knew eventually this would probably happen. The RCMP has been taking things away from me gradually ever since I was publicly critical of them,” Webster explained. “With shocking regularity, the RCMP wanders off to the dark side. They’ve been strike breakers, they’ve burned barns, they’ve spied on political parties, they’ve turned a blind eye to criminal behaviour in their own organization. If you follow that smell, one of the places it will lead you to is a very cultish, xenophobic brotherhood that is absolutely impervious to criticism, oversight and reform.”
Supt. Brad Hartl, human resources officer for the RCMP, maintained that taxpayer money should be used in a manner that will get officers back to work quickly.
“The most important thing for us, and quite frankly for taxpayers, is to get our employees healthy and returned to work as soon as possible,” Hartl said in a statement. “We have to ensure tax dollars are going to those services that can accomplish that in the most effective way, and to those who are putting the needs of our employees ahead of any personal agenda they may have.”
Hartl added that the national police force’s priority is to hire an “impartial” psychologist who shares their goal of getting their employees back to work.
But it was Webster’s criticism of the RCMP that attracted patients to him in the first place, he said.
“All my RCMP patients have a similar concern — they’re all victims of some kind of abuse or mistreatment in the workplace,” Webster explained. “Most of them are on medical leave and they’re in conflict with their employer. The reason they came to me in the first place was they knew that I was not one of the RCMP’s favourite people. So they thought they could trust me.”
Beaulieu said he and his fellow patients are seriously considering filing a class-action lawsuit, and that the RCMP should have waited for the College of Psychologists to finish their investigation before delisting Webster.
“If I see another psychologist of my choice, [they’re] going to can them too,” he said. “What they’re doing is shopping until they get the response that they want. For me, the biggest thing is getting back to work in a healthy environment. That’s what I want, that’s what Mike wants, for them to do this is tantamount to shopping for a diagnosis they’re happy with.”
Andrea Kowaz, the registrar at the College of Psychologists, said that privacy regulations under the Health Professions Act prevents her from commenting on an ongoing investigation.