This week, a courtroom in British Columbia is the scene for a five-day hearing to determine the merit of a proposed class-action discrimination lawsuit brought against the revered force. The allegations include an alleged culture of workplace gender discrimination going back years that the lead plaintiff claims is systemic.
According to a report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC 5/31/15), the lawsuit was brought by RCMP Constable Janet Merlo. “My name is on there, but there’s 400 ladies standing behind…from nine provinces and all the territories,” Merlo told the CBC.
“It speaks to a problem that’s systemic and that’s nationwide.”
The allegations are stunning. They include rape, unwanted sexual touching, physical assault, threats, various comments taken as sexist, gender discrimination, and harassment and bullying. According to the CBC, Merlo - who is the only named plaintiff in the employee discrimination case - alleges in an affidavit that a supervisor made “overtly sexual comments to me, offering to rub my breast…offering to give me his ‘big Italian salami’ and asking if ‘I liked it on top?’”
Merlo also alleged another supervisor gave her a hard time when she wanted to take maternity leave with her first child. “He just started yelling and screaming at me,” she recalled, in allegations published by the CBC. “If I wanted a career in the RCMP, I’d have to decide on that or I could pop out kids my whole life…he told me that next time I should keep my f---ing legs closed.”
Another female Mountie, Joanne Mayer and a potential plaintiff in the proposed class action, told Canadian Press (CP 6/1/15) that the greeting she received as a new recruit of 22 for her first posting in Gibsons, BC, was blunt and to the point: “We don’t think women should be in the force, and especially not French-speaking ones.’” Mayer is a native of Quebec.
There are rules governing discrimination in the workplace. Employees are protected from racial discrimination, religious discrimination or gender discrimination. Mayer claims she was stuck for two years performing “sexist” chores such as making coffee, maintaining an ample supply of cream and sugar in the canteen and cleaning police cruisers.
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No fewer than 363 women have joined the gender discrimination lawsuit since Merlo launched the litigation three years ago. More are waiting to join, depending upon the outcome of the hearing. That process is scheduled to continue this week and wrap up Friday, June 5.
Plaintiffs maintain that while the RCMP is in the throes of making changes to its culture, it remains “a misogynistic organization,” Merlo says.
It should be noted that none of the allegations have been proven in court. Were they to be, Dudley Do-Right would be aghast.