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Mountie told to return to work before testifying about harassment

06/04/2013 02:37 EDT | Updated 08/04/2013 05:12 EDT
RCMP Cpl. Roland Beaulieu told a Senate committee Tuesday he was mentally incapable of returning to work despite the fact the RCMP said he had to report for duty if he wanted to testify in Ottawa about harassment in the force.

The officer from British Columbia had been called to appear May 6 before another committee studying the problem of sexual harassment in the RCMP, but was told to get back to work first.

On Tuesday, Beaulieu appeared before the Senate rules committee that is studying a privilege question about whether Beaulieu was inappropriately prevented from testifying.

Beaulieu said although he had a bone spur in his foot, the injury would not hinder his returning to the force, but mentally, "I'd have to deal with those people." He said work would be like going into a "lion's den."

Beaulieu has been on sick leave for two years, and said in March he'd received permission from the RCMP to go on a Hawaii vacation. However, two months later the RCMP told him if he was well enough to fly to Ottawa and answer complex questions before a committee, he was well enough to return to duties.

The order prompted Liberal Senate Leader James Cowan to complain the move to prevent Beaulieu from testifying could constitute a violation of "the right of witnesses to appear before Parliament unobstructed and the right of parliamentarians to hear from witnesses."

The rules committee questioned Beaulieu and four RCMP employees from B.C. about whether the judgment Beaulieu was fit for duty was valid. Dr. Isabelle Fiesci, chief of health services for the RCMP in B.C., testified the last psychological report she had on file about Beaulieu was dated May 2012. The only reports she currently possessed, she said, indicated he was suffering from gallstones and chronic plantar fasciitis.

Fiesci added she tried to meet with Beaulieu, who at first agreed, but eventually declined.

A 'game-changer'

Staff Sgt. George Reid, of the protective services section of the RCMP, told the committee that when he spoke to Beaulieu by phone before his planned Senate appearance, there was no talk of psychological problems, a conversation Reid described as a "game-changer." At that point, he said, there was no psychological reason for Beaulieu not being at work, even if it were only a "graduated return" involving just a few hours a day, and so the request for travel to Ottawa was denied.

Liberal Senator Joan Fraser wondered why Reid hadn't tried to raise the issue of Beaulieu's psychological state when they conducted the phone conversation.

Monday, at another Senate committee, the Mounties' top officer, Commissioner Bob Paulson, in a sharp attack that surprised some senators, described Beaulieu as one of the driving forces behind an "upstart union" effort in B.C. Paulson related that Beaulieu "alleges" he has post-traumatic stress disorder.

Paulson also said Beaulieu "just last week" sent him a request asking for $700,000, or, alternatively, $500,000 tax-free, along with a couple of promotions and extended pension benefits in exchange for taking retirement.

Paulson's revelations prompted Liberal Senator Grant Mitchell to tell reporters after the meeting, "What we saw today was a leadership that was sending, at best, mixed messages and, at worst, very very clear messages that you get criticized in public on national television if you raise an issue and you're disagreed with by the senior elite in that organization."

On Tuesday, Beaulieu told the Senate rules committee that the amounts of money cited in a May 22 letter he wrote to Paulson are accurate. Beaulieu said he was advised by a retired member that a "demand letter" was a method of opening negotiations with the RCMP for retirement.

Asked why he wrote the letter to Paulson just before he was due to testify at the Senate committee, he said it was because "I knew I had his attention."

Beaulieu also said he told Paulson he has been diagnosed with PTSD, but Tuesday he told the committee he has "adjustment disorder" which he erroneously thought was part of PTSD.

Before Tuesday's meeting finished, a fire alarm rang in Parliament's centre block, forcing an evacuation. Committee chair Liberal Senator David Smith said the meeting may resume Wednesday.

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