VANCOUVER (Canadian OH&S News)
VANCOUVER (Canadian OH&S News)
Citing sexual harassment and humiliation, a female RCMP officer slapped the national police force with her second lawsuit last week.
British Columbia Const. Karen Katz is taking the RCMP and the Attorney General of Canada to court based on allegations that she has been subjected to “humiliating” and “embarrassing” incidents at the hands of her peers and superiors since her training began in 1989.
According to Katz’s most recent statement of claim, which has yet to be proven in court, she was the target of sexual taunts and jokes about her appearance and weight.
“I live in the abyss, it’s a black hole. My life has been shattered by the RCMP,” Katz told COHSN. “As far as I’m concerned, the RCMP made me sick — and they’re required to take care of me.”
Katz’ statement of claim alleges that she was routinely forced to go on what was known as a “fat parade” by her superiors, in which she had to stand in front of male officers and tell them how much she weighed.
Katz said that she was the target of sexually explicit comments from fellow RCMP officers: while in Prince George, an officer allegedly remarked that she was “about the right height to put a beer on your head and you can give me [oral sex],” her statement of claim reads.
She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in 1997. One of her methods of coping was to work on her four published novels on outlaw motorcycle gangs, but Katz said even that was not spared.
“It was ultimately my interest in outlaw biker subculture that led to my downfall,” she explained. “I was accused of horrendous things: being associated to the Hells Angels, being a mole for the Hells Angels and sleeping with the outlaw bikers.”
“The RCMP has not had the opportunity to review these unproven allegations,” RCMP Supt. Ray Bernoties said in a written statement, “but at some point all the facts will be known and all statements will be made under oath in court. Until then, it would be inappropriate to speculate or to comment further.”
Katz — who served in the RCMP’s E Division in British Columbia up until her medical leave in February 2009 — is seeking general, special, aggravated and punitive damages, compensation for future income loss, past loss of opportunity and cost of care.
In January Katz filed another lawsuit, alleging sexual misconduct by her co-worker, Const. Baldev Singh Bamra, and that the RCMP had failed to act on her complaint and provide her with a reasonably safe workplace [COHSN, Jan. 16, 2012].
Hers is just one in a slew of lawsuits facing the force. Filed by former RCMP Const. Janet Merlo, more than 150 women have claimed they are victims of sexual harassment and gender discrimination at the hands of the force. The B.C. Supreme Court has yet to decide whether the case classifies as a class-action lawsuit, which could take at least a year.
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson pledged to address the allegations of sexual misconduct when he was inaugurated late last year. Paulson said the recent allegations prompted him to approach the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to look into allegations of “systemic failures to deal appropriately with sexual harassment within the force.”
Thus far, the Commission said they have received “over 60 individual submissions addressing issues, concerns and personal experiences with the RCMP’s process for dealing with incidents of alleged harassment.”