The RCMP says it is investigating claims in a lawsuit launched Wednesday in which Cpl. Catherine Galliford alleges sexual assault and sexual harassment within the force, but investigators have not yet been able to substantiate any of her claims.
Galliford, currently on sick leave, filed a detailed claim, saying she was suffering from severe post traumatic stress disorder due to years of sexual harassment and a number of physical assaults by other RCMP supervisors and colleagues.
Galliford first revealed her allegations to CBC News in November, prompting several more current and former female officers to come forward with similar complaints.
If proven true, some of the incidents Galliford alleges would breach the force's code of conduct, while others would be criminal offences.
The RCMP issued a statement late Wednesday, saying major crime investigators, as well as its Professional Standards Unit, are looking into the allegations but nothing has been substantiated so far.
There were opposition calls in the House of Commons Thursday for quicker action on the RCMP's problems.
Action is being taken, said Candice Hoeppner, parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety.
“We are very pleased the new commissioner is taking this very seriously, taking a tough stance on this,” Hoeppner said. “He's investigating and we're waiting for reports and recommendations.”
Galliford's lawyer, Barry Carter, said many RCMP members have stayed silent on the issue of harassment because once people complain, their careers can be over.
“As Catherine has alleged in her statement of claim, [if] you complain, you get transferred to another posting and this reputation for complaining follows you,” said Carter.
Another officer comes forward
Former Merritt, B.C., RCMP constable Nancy Sulz, speaking out for the first time, told CBC News Thursday that most of her harassment complaints were also deemed unfounded by her superiors on the force.
“However, many female members are coming out now and complaining about it,” Sulz said. “They can't all be lying about the same thing.”
A judge awarded Sulz nearly $1 million in 2006 after she filed a lawsuit in which she claimed that she'd been harassed off the job and left with a major depressive disorder.
But Sulz said that the police brotherhood, combined with fear of reprisals, keeps much harassing misconduct under wraps.
“Even members that do know for a fact that it did happen will likely not say anything about it and keep the code of silence and protect the member that is within their ranks, and help to crush the person that's speaking out.”
The RCMP's recently appointed commissioner, Bob Paulson, has said changing the culture around harassment is his top priority and he's making changes.
But the RCMP's culture evolves slowly, according to psychiatrist Greg Passey.
“It's probably going to take a generation. There are a lot of old dinosaurs in the RCMP. It's an Old Boys network. Until some of these individuals actually leave the force through retirement or whatever, some aspects of the force will not change.”
Passey said there's a strong link between harassment and post-traumatic stress disorder inside police forces, and many are afraid to speak up because they don't want to be perceived as being weak.
“There are high-level RCMP officers who have post-traumatic stress disorder, and they're afraid to come forward and become a champion,” he said.