Corporal Catherine Galliford, a 20-year veteran of the Mounties, offers this advice about her employer these days: “What I say to people now is that if you have a woman in your life who you care about, do not allow her to join the RCMP.”
The 44-year-old was once the public face of the B.C. Mounties, a prim and polished uniformed officer who appeared before TV cameras to announce developments in high-profile terrorism and serial-killer cases. Now she is the face of the growing ranks of burned-out and sick Mounties who are at odds with their employer.
On sick leave since 2007, she suffers from diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder and years of alcohol abuse. “It’s become an old boys’ club,” Cpl. Galliford said of the RCMP in an interview. She claims serial sexual harassment by police superiors has left her a broken woman. “The men became pigs … It got to the point that I told people I was a lesbian just to get the men to go away.”
While harassment is an issue in many workplaces, allegations have arisen frequently within the RCMP, an organization of 30,000 members across Canada. The national police force also has seen an alarming rise in PTSD in recent years – more than 1,700 officers are now receiving pensions for the disorder, which can be triggered by any manner of causes. Nearly 300 officers joined the PTSD ranks last year alone.
The corporal’s allegations, first broadcast by the CBC on Monday, have already had political fallout. “Sexual harassment has profound and damaging impacts on people’s lives,” said B.C. Solicitor-General Shirley Bond, in an e-mailed statement. “Allegations like this concern me, and I expect the RCMP to take all allegations of harassment seriously and to investigate them fully.”
Cpl. Galliford, who plans to file a lawsuit against the RCMP, has laid out the crux of her complaints in an internal document – a 115-page transcript of a recorded interview she had with police officials. In it, she talks about a number of police colleagues she worked with during investigations into the deadly terrorist bombing of a 1985 Air India flight and the probe of the 1990s sex slayings committed by Robert Pickton.
“I was given the … communications profiles for the two largest investigations in Canadian history,” she said at one point, describing how a perceived police rival “hated my guts for it.” She describes many male officers she met through her career as lotharios, calling them “filthy, disgusting pigs.”
Cpl. Galliford said she encountered harassment ever since she graduated in 1991, but some specific incidents stick out in her memory. She alleges that one police boss exposed himself to her. Another, she alleges, arranged unnecessary travel across Canada in hopes of bedding her in a hotel room.
“I was, like, drinking a bottle of red wine a night,” she said in the transcript. “My record for not sleeping is seven days and seven nights … I was going to work everyday with no sleep, jacked up on over-the-counter sleeping pills.”
In response to Cpl. Galliford’s allegations, the Mounties issued a statement. “The RCMP is very concerned with the health and welfare of its employees and ensuring a safe and timely return to work,” it said. “Police officers are also regularly exposed to traumatic incidents which the average citizen may only be exposed to once, if at all, in their lifetime.
The statement added that “RCMP officers, like all citizens, can develop physical and psychological illnesses.”
Cpl. Galliford’s complaints of harassment are not isolated. In August, an RCMP staff sergeant in Burnaby was sued for “forcibly inflicted harmful” sex by a female subordinate. Many RCMP sexual harassment suits have been quietly settled out of court in recent years. In a landmark case from five years ago, a female constable was awarded $1-million in damages after a judge found she was harassed into quitting by a verbally abusive male boss.