On October 10th, 2013 we hosted a roundtable in Edmonton, Alberta about issues of harassment in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The roundtable was the fourth of five roundtables being held across the country; culminating with a National Roundtable summit which will produce a report with findings and recommendations.
We are hosting these forums because our offices continue to hear from victims of harassment in the RCMP. They tell us that the current complaints system is broken; that there is a disregard for current governing legislation; and that there is little accountability for breaches of policy.
The stories we hear are powerful reminders of a broken system that needs to change.The following is an example of an e-mail that our offices received yesterday; this is Deanna's story, it is one of many:
My name is Deanna Lennox. In May of this year, I retired from the RCMP with 16 years of service. I recently received your notice of a harassment forum being held in Edmonton, Alberta and felt compelled to write to you.
In January 2004, while on duty, I suffered a hearing loss as a result of several shotgun blasts. My operational career ended abruptly once it was determined that my hearing loss was so significant that I could no longer perform my operational duties. When I was deemed no longer "useful" was when the harassment began by my detachment commander. The commander said it was [their] job to help me get promoted to the next level, but after my injury everything changed.
Like most other members, my harassment complaint was dismissed by the RCMP, which prompted me to make a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. My intention in initiating the complaint was to make a difference in the lives of other members who were suffering similar harassment and to prevent new members from having to go through the same thing.
Fast forward five years later (2009). I was eventually invited to sit down with the lawyers from the RCMP and a mediator from the CHRC. I applied to have my legal fees covered for this mediation process, but that, too, was denied. On the advice of my lawyer, I made the decision to accept the settlement that was offered. If I chose to go to a tribunal, my lawyer's fees would far exceed any compensation that I might be awarded.
It was never about the money, but I was depleted -- in every sense of the word. I had nothing left. My marriage suffered and my relationships with my children suffered. I look back at pictures of my children during the first few precious years of their lives and I have absolutely no recollection of that time, no memories of those moments caught on film. I gave everything to fight this fight, only to be left in shambles at the end and nothing to show for it.
I entered a dark and lonely place for a long time. It's a place where far too many members are in today. I did everything I could to get healthy again. This part of my journey was more difficult than the five years it took to get me there.
In 2011, I created a non-profit charity, called the War Horse Awareness Foundation. The purpose of the foundation is to help other frontline service providers who are suffering from PTSD, depression and other operational stress injuries. The members of the organization deserve more than to be dragged through the mud again; it's more important to give them a sense of hope than it is to remind them of how dysfunctional the organization is.
My point is that in order to change the future, the past and present needs to be validated and acknowledged. It's that sense of hopelessness that members feel every day and it will take more than words to get them to believe that change can happen.
I've been reluctant to put myself in the public forum. Like so many others, I fear the criticism and judgment that comes with it. I served the RCMP well. I believed in the oath I took. Even after everything I've been through, I still feel the need to try.