12/20/2011 09:00 EST | Updated 02/19/2012 05:12 EST

Dozens Of Women Seek To Join Lawsuit Against RCMP


At least 25 current and former female RCMP officers say they are seeking to join a possible class-action lawsuit against the force for alleged mistreatment on the job.

Lawyer Alexander Zaitzeff, of Thunder Bay, Ont., who is building the case with six other lawyers in Ontario and B.C., said he's heard from Mounties in every province with stories to tell.

"Constant terrible bullying, a hateful work environment, a tough place to actually show up and do your job, all the way to sexual assaults," Zaitzeff said Tuesday. "That's the gamut."

Vancouver lawyer David Klein said he is also hearing from potential plaintiffs and said the suit will likely be filed in B.C. early in the new year, and could ultimately seek millions of dollars in damages.

"Money isn't going to bring back someone's health. Money is not going to bring back a family or a broken career," said Klein. "Money is part of it, but it certainly isn't what the case is all about."

Klein said the lawsuit will be filed on behalf of one or two current or former officers and then he will ask the judge to certify the suit as a class-action, allowing more people to join as plaintiffs.

Catherine Galliford credited

Former Mountie Krista Carle said she saw RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford tell her story on CBC News in November and was immediately inspired to tell her own story and to reach out to fellow officers online by starting a Facebook group.

"It's almost like a group therapy with other women that experienced harassment and are taking a stand against it," she said.

Carle said she and many of her colleagues have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, some have been divorced and some can no longer work.

"I've had days I've been so depressed I just haven't wanted to get out of bed and that's where the Facebook site has been extremely supportive," said Carle.

Former officer Heli Kijanen, of Thunder Bay, Ont., said she went for years without thinking that anyone would believe her accounts of harassment on the job, and also credits Galliford with helping her step forward.

"It was Catherine Galliford that triggered me to go forward and find someone who was going to listen to me, who knew how important it was for the public to know about the RCMP and what's going on in this organization," Kijanen said.

Carle said the growing number of women coming forward is a sad commentary on the force.

"I think people will be really shocked and surprised that people have put up with this kind of nonsense. You don't expect this from the RCMP. You expect better," she said.

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