Who would be a female Mountie?

Canada's police force has been rocked by a spate of allegations of sexual harassment against male officers


For more than 140 years it has been one of its country's most revered institutions, but now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has come under scrutiny after being hit by a wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations from within its own ranks.

The image of the Mounties has been tarnished by allegations that have been buried, in some cases, for decades. Last month, in a case that shocked Canada, Corporal Catherine Galliford claimed she was sexually harassed by colleagues for 16 years.

Cpl Galliford, from British Columbia, is a well-known face after serving as the spokeswoman for high-profile investigations such as that into the serial killer Robert Pickton. She alleged one officer exposed his genitals to her, and a boss insisted they travel together on work assignments to try to be intimate with her.

Most disturbingly, she claimed one superior – in front of other senior officers – described a fantasy to her in which she was stripped, gutted and hanged from a meat hook after Pickton tracked her down.

In April, she detailed her ordeal in a 115-page statement to the force. She said she "broke" after years of abuse and now had post-traumatic stress disorder and agoraphobia, adding that she now rarely left home, had a fear of entering RCMP buildings and had resorted to drinking heavily.

Her allegations came as a surprise to many Canadians – for whom the Mounties have always been a source of national pride. Cpl Galliford described a culture of sexism within the force and a refusal to deal with that culture by its leaders.

After Cpl Galliford went public, a slew of other women started to come forward with similar tales of abuse. Former Constable Janet Merlo, a veteran with 20 years' service, came forward shortly after Cpl Galliford, alleging that she had also endured years of sexual harassment. Her abuse ranged from discovering sex toys on her desk to being reprimanded for getting pregnant. She said that she had "put up and shut up" for the benefit of the force.

Ms Merlo finally raised the issue by writing to senior managers, but became disillusioned when it took two years to get a response. "As far as I'm concerned, that told me everything you need to know about how serious the RCMP takes harassment on the job and what kind of priority it is," she told The Globe and Mail newspaper. She was discharged in 2010 on medical grounds; she said it was due to the harassment. But the allegations did not stop there.

Many of those coming forward claimed to have suffered from years of abuse. Krista Carle, with 20 years' experience, also stepped forward to allege harassment ranging from finding pornography on her desk to inappropriate touching by male colleagues. In 2009 she applied for a discharge on medical grounds.

This month the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) aired a documentary alleging that four female RCMP members, including Ms Carle, were sexually assaulted by a supervisor in the 1990s. The women said the attacks occurred while working with the supervisor on different undercover operations.

Internal disciplinary proceedings were launched but, according to the CBC, their alleged attacker was merely reprimanded and lost a day's pay. The women sued the RCMP and in 2004 settled out of court. The force then announced a new anti-harassment initiative for staff.

The job of restoring confidence in the RCMP has fallen to its new boss, Bob Paulson, officially sworn in as Commissioner this month. Mr Paulson, with 30 years in the force, has been quick to engage in a damage-limitation exercise, vowing to make stamping out sexual harassment his top priority.

After a two-day summit with senior officers he announced fresh measures to combat the abuse. Officers engaged in "outrageous conduct" could be suspended before disciplinary proceedings started and there would be no "presumption of innocence". Mr Paulson also promised to promote more women to senior ranks, which are currently 90 per cent male. While he remained open to the idea of third-party investigations into some of the cases, he rejected calls for a public inquiry.

Canada's Minister of Public Safety, Vic Toews, has asked an independent agency, the Commission for Public Complaints (CPC) against the RCMP, to review how the force investigates itself following "systemic failures to deal appropriately with sexual harassment". The CPC can only make recommendations to the force based on its findings and these are not binding.

But the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has described the commission as "broken" and cast doubts on its ability to investigate the force. The association expressed concern that while files piled up, vulnerable female staff remained at risk in the workplace. The BCCLA would like to see an independent inquiry carried out by a respected judge.

Angela Marie MacDougall, of the Battered Women Support Services, said the spate of female Mounties going public could be "the tip of the iceberg". After Cpl Galliford spoke out, the charity, based in British Columbia – which is home to one-third of the RCMP – urged her fellow women within the force who may also have suffered abuse to call its hotline for advice.

Ms MacDougall told The Independent there had been "a massive spike" in calls, opening the door to the possibility of more revelations.

She said trust in the force had eroded following the trivialising of the issue of violence against its female members of staff.

Ms MacDougall also raised wider questions about the ability of the force to protect women of the wider population.

"If they can't take care of their own women, what can that tell us about the RCMP's ability to provide an effective response to any woman dealing with sexual violence in the larger community?" she asked.

Some Mounties believe only a labour union can effectively protect the rights and safety of its workers. Currently, it is the only non-unionised police force in Canada. Forming one in the RCMP is currently prohibited by law.

But that could change as the ban is being challenged in the courts by a group of Mounties. Cpl Galliford said such a body or group could provide much-needed support for officers who were at breaking point.

"You can call it a union... but it can't be an old-boys' club," she said.

She has encouraged women to "run like their hair is on fire" rather than consider a career in the RCMP. However, she applauded Mr Paulson's plan of action and insisted he was "on the right track".

Now she will watch the force closely see if it is serious about stamping out sexual harassment, she said. In an interview with the Canadian Press, she challenged her new boss to "walk the walk".

Royal Mounted Police by numbers

11,726The number of RCMP female employees.

29,235 The total number of RCMP employees.

8,500 Number of applicants to sit the RCMP entrance exam each year.

190 Municipalities policed by the Mounties.

122 RCMP police dog teams in Canada.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent