08/02/2012 05:28 EDT | Updated 10/02/2012 05:12 EDT

High-Profile Former Mountie Joins RCMP Harassment Lawsuit


A well-known British Columbian has come forward to join a harassment lawsuit against the RCMP, as hearings to certify it as a class action opened in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Thursday morning.

The former head of the Better Business Bureau, Valerie MacLean, says she was a young RCMP constable in Maple Ridge in the late 1970's when her supervisor, a corporal, liked to ride shotgun in her cruiser on overnight shifts.

"He would, for eight hours, on the shift, tell me that if I was friendly, if we had a relationship, it would be good for my career because he was doing my assessment."

Maclean says she complained on numerous occasions, but "nothing happened. It wasn't stopped."

When she received a poor assessment a year later, she decided to quit the force, MacLean told reporters outside the courthouse.

Now she says she has joined the lawsuit to support women in policing because she's shocked they are fighting the same battle.

"The fact that it still going on and the stories are the same, it would seem to me that nothing has changed," she said.

200 officers join lawsuit

After the short hearing, lawyer David Klein said more than 200 female RCMP members past and present have shared stories of harassment and joined the lawsuit, after Janet Merlo, a 19-year veteran of the force, filed suit in March.

Thursday was Klein's first day in court to attempt to certify the case as a class action, and he is predicting it could be years before the case is settled.

Merlo's is just one of several lawsuits filed against the national police force by women who say they suffered abuse and harassment on the job.

Cpl. Catherine Galliford is suing the RCMP in a separate case claiming she suffered post-traumatic stress because of harassment that spanned two decades. She claims she was sexually assaulted, harassed and intimidated during a career in which she was the public face of the Air India investigation and the task force that arrested serial killer Robert Pickton.

The federal government, which represents the RCMP, denied all of Galliford's allegations in a response to civil claim in her case, but the rash of allegations since she came forward last fall prompted the force to announce earlier this year that it would train 100 officers to investigate internal complaints of sexual harassment.