Mountie reaches settlement in harassment case


VANCOUVER – A British Columbia Mountie whose sexual harassment lawsuit against the RCMP prompted similar cases across the country has reached an out-of court settlement with the force.

Cpl. Catherine Galliford, 49, said she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after going on sick leave in 2006 and was mentally prepared to face a court battle next year before being blindsided by the settlement.

“What I’m going to start doing is just focus on my healing, my psychological and physical healing from all of this because the trauma has been immense,” she said in an interview Tuesday.

Galliford spoke for the RCMP on high-profile investigations including the 1985 Air India bombings that killed 331 people and serial murders committed by Robert Pickton.

She said she launched court action four years ago in an effort to address two decades of harassment and bullying she’d suffered on the job.

In addition to the RCMP, Galliford’s lawsuit named three Mounties, an RCMP-employed physician and an officer who worked for the Vancouver police but was part of a joint investigation with the force.

“What broke me is that I had no one to go to for help,” she said adding that is still the case for harassed Mounties because of an entrenched “abusive culture” within the RCMP as it continues to police itself.

Change can only happen if senior managers take swift action against abusers so officers see they are being held accountable and complaints are handled by independent investigators who have no history with the RCMP, Galliford said.

“If we find out that this person is an abuser and he’s sexually exploiting or sexually assaulting his or her human resources within the RCMP we need leaders who are going to make a decision and say they’re either demoted or … fired.

“If that person has committed Criminal Code offences that person should be prosecuted in court just like everybody else.”

She said policy changes in the midst of her lawsuit have been nothing but “smoke and mirrors.”

“The RCMP will not be commenting,” Sgt. Harold Pfleiderer said from Ottawa in an email response to a request for an interview about Galliford’s settlement.

Galliford, who said she started abusing alcohol and became sick at the thought of going to work, supports other harassed officers who “carry the torch” to continue with their cases.

“I want everyone to take away a little bit of hope from this settlement but I also pray for them because if they have to go through what I went through to any degree I wish them strength and hope.”

RCMP officer Janet Merlo launched a proposed class-action suit in March 2012, more than two years after she left her job.

Two hearings were held in B.C. Supreme Court last year, and a judge has yet to decide whether the case involving about 450 women will be certified.

Merlo alleged her 19-year career in Nanaimo, B.C., involved name-calling, sexist pranks and requests for sexual favours.

“One supervisor had a blow-up doll, a sex toy that he would blow up late at night and tell the girls to go stand next to it so he could compare statures.”

She said a senior manager berated her when she became pregnant with her first child.

“He yelled and screamed and told me I needed to get my priorities straight, that I was either going to have a career in the RCMP or I was going to pop out kids my whole life,” she said in an interview from St. John’s, N.L.

Merlo said Galliford’s settlement sends a positive message that the RCMP is starting to acknowledge the dysfunction within the force.

“She’s been through hell and back and I’m quite relieved that she can now get her life back and move on and heal. Because you can’t heal when you’re in the midst of all this. I’m waiting for that day, too.”