Sexual harassment of women is creating constant headlines. Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein has opened the gate to a stream of accusation and charges. And not exclusive to Weinstein.
In Canada, a national institution has been engaged in a multi-year attempt to shift public attention from its history of sexually abusive treatment of women. The subject of debate in Canada’s parliament more than thirty years ago.
On October 6, 2016, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, then RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, former Mounties Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson and others gathered before national media. They were there to announce the settlement of huge class-action lawsuits concerning sexual abuse of women in the employ of the national police service. Harassment, rape, unwanted touching, bullying, gender discrimination and threats were among the accusations.
Canadians were told settling the claims may reach $100 million.
Some 20,000 women who since 1974 have served or currently are in the employ of the RCMP may be eligible for compensation.
Paulson welled up emotionally as he stated “I stand humbly before you today and solemnly offer our sincere apology,” adding “we failed you. We hurt you.”
Janet Merlo replied “I have total faith that this is the beginning of a new era.”
Ralph Goodale added he wished the “actions announced today will help strengthen Canadians faith and trust in their national police force.”
I have spoken many times with women charging they were sexually harassed and assaulted by men with whom they served within the RCMP. The women include former Mountie Sherry Lee Benson-Podolchuk whose book Women Not Wanted detail her horrendous experiences and Catherine Galliford, public voice and face of the Mounties during the Robert Pickford mass murder case.
Goodale named several women as victims during that October 6 news conference. They included Atoya Montague, a civilian employee who held the RCMP’s highest security clearance.
Ms. Montague hadn’t joined the class-action. She brought an individual complaint against a specific officer.
While Canada’s federal Minister for Public Safety named Atoya Montague as a victim of serial RCMP sexual harassment, the Minister, once the television lights were off, has proven to be anything but a defender.
I have gotten to know Atoya Montague. We have spent hours on and off air speaking about her RCMP experiences, about the emotional pain which has led to PTSD. Ms. Montague told me her once active social life is gone. She has become reclusive to the point she fears leaving her home. Atoya Montague’s psychiatrist states he is furious at the manner in which his patient is mistreated.
As Atoya Montague is forced to wait for a court resolution of the Crown’s charges against the male officer accused of repeated sexual misconduct, the delay causing significant financial strain, she has also been dismissed from her job.
It appears the Mounties may according to legend always get their man, but they deeply resent aberrant behaviour within the ranks being challenged by a woman.
Catherine Galliford, like Atoya Montague, as her sexual harassment complaint became a national case with extensive media coverage was also issued a letter informing her the RCMP was moving to fire her. Eventually Ms. Galliford would settle out of court.
Mr. Goodale’s spoken hope the actions of October 6, 2016, would “help strengthen Canadians faith and trust in their national police force” may instead have to face Canadians remaining dubious of the RCMP, the federal Minister of Public Safety and their self-declared feminist Prime Minister.