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Another female Mountie alleges sexual harassment on the job

01/06/2012 01:51 EST | Updated 03/07/2012 05:12 EST
VANCOUVER - The RCMP is facing yet another allegation of harassment and sexual assault from a female officer who says she was unable to convince her superiors to intervene.

Const. Karen Katz, who worked for the national police force in Vancouver until taking medical leave in February 2009, filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court this week targeting fellow officer Baldev (David) Singh Bamra, as well as the federal and provincial governments.

Katz is among several Mounties to make such allegations in recent months, which has prompted the RCMP's new commissioner to vow he'll root out such "dark-hearted behaviour" from the force.

Katz and Bamra worked for the RCMP's protective services division in Vancouver. Katz's statement of claim, which contains unproven allegations that have yet to be tested in court, alleges Bamra started a "campaign" of complaining about her to their colleagues.

Katz says she asked to be transferred to a different watch in 2006, but the statement of claim says Bamra was later transferred to the same watch.

Once there, his behaviour escalated, says the court document.

Katz alleges Bamra began "a pattern of erratic physical conduct," such as slamming into Katz's chest while wearing his bullet-proof vest, and grabbing Katz in a bear hug.

The behaviour culminated in 2007, alleges the statement of claim, when Bamra pinned Katz on a desk and pushed his genitals against her until she was able to free herself.

Both were constables at the time, but Bamra was Katz's superior when he occasionally filled the role of acting corporal, says the statement of claim.

"The plaintiff (Katz) felt humiliated and ashamed, determine not to discuss this matter with her co-workers," says the statement of claim.

"However, (Katz) did report the matter to her treating psychologist and, subsequently, to her supervisor. ... The RCMP did not investigate the matter and did not, as far as the plaintiff is aware, discipline the defendant, Bamra."

Katz is seeking unspecified damages. Neither the RCMP nor Bamra has filed a statement of defence.

Cpl. Annie Linteau of the RCMP said the force couldn't comment on the allegations, but she said the force has launched an internal review and has brought in the Vancouver police to conduct a criminal investigation. The Vancouver police confirmed it was investigating but declined to comment further.

Linteau did not know whether the allegations have affected Bamra's status on the force.

"I can say that our commissioner and commanding officer of this division, they've been very clear that harassment will not be tolerated," Linteau said in an interview.

"The vast majority of RCMP employees experience a workplace where they're treated with respect, and in those rare instances where that does not occur, the organization is committed to addressing it in a swift manner."

Linteau was referring to two new appointments in the RCMP's senior management.

Last November Bob Paulson was named commissioner of the force. In B.C., Craig Callens became the highest-ranked Mountie in the province when he was named assistant commissioner in December.

Both have promised to make allegations of abuse within the force a top priority.

Those appointments came as several female officers alleged abuse within the force, particularly in British Columbia, where the Mounties have the largest presence in the country.

The highest-profile example involves Cpl. Catherine Galliford, who was the RCMP's spokeswoman on the Air India and Robert Pickton investigations and who went public with allegations that she faced years of sexual harassment and abuse from senior officers. Galliford has said she plans to file a lawsuit by the end of this month.

Const. Susan Gastaldo filed a lawsuit last August, alleging her superior, Staff-Sgt. Travis Pearson, repeatedly forced her to perform sexual acts. She alleged he threatened to tell her husband and refuse to accommodate her child-care needs if she refused.

An RCMP disciplinary board ruled the relationship was consensual, and has warned Gastaldo should could face dismissal. The board will decide what punishment Pearson and Gastaldo will face at separate hearings next month.

Cpl. Elisabeth Mary Couture filed a lawsuit against her supervisors last month, alleging she was bullied by her superiors and forced to adhere to a strict code of conduct that included abstaining from alcohol while off the job and not chatting with her coworkers. Her lawsuit did not involve allegations of sexual abuse.

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