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RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford is seen in a March 2004 files photo. (Nick Didlick/Reuters/Nick Didlick/Reuters)
RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford is seen in a March 2004 files photo. (Nick Didlick/Reuters/Nick Didlick/Reuters)

Mountie whose claims of abuse prompted others to come forward files lawsuit Add to ...

An RCMP corporal whose claims of sexual assault and harassment prompted other female officers to come forward with stories of abuse has filed a lawsuit detailing allegations that span nearly two decades, saying a pervasive culture within the national police force left her powerless to make it stop.

Corporal Catherine Galliford, who was a high-profile police spokeswoman on the Air India and Robert Pickton cases, first outlined her allegations in a series of media interviews last fall.

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The RCMP immediately promised to investigate not only Cpl. Galliford's claims, but also the prevalence of harassment within the force. In the months since, at least four other female Mounties have filed cases of their own, including one who says dozens of other officers are prepared to join her in a class-action lawsuit.

In a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Cpl. Galliford alleges the abuse started when she first applied to join the Mounties in 1990 and continued until she was eventually diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress.

Several officers sexually assaulted her and many others harassed and intimidated her, the lawsuit alleges. She was reluctant to come forward because she feared retribution, the document says, and even when she did, her superiors did little to address her complaints.

“The culture of sexual harassment within the RCMP is so pervasive that the plaintiff was helpless to personally stop it and had to accept a certain level of tolerance of it, as complaining about it would only make matters worse,” says the statement of claim, filed Wednesday.

“She had observed circumstances where complainants had been transferred out of their existing assignment to a new assignment with a reputation for complaining following them.”

The lawsuit includes allegations that have not been proven in court and a statement of defence from all those named is yet to come.

The lawsuit names RCMP officers Constable Marvin Wawia, Inspector Mike Bergerman and Inspector Doug Henderson; Ian MacDonald, an RCMP-employed physician; Phil Little, who worked for the Vancouver police but was part of the joint RCMP-Vancouver missing women investigation; and the federal and B.C. governments.

Cpl. Galliford alleges the police officers sexually assaulted, harassed and intimidated her on various occasions throughout her career. Dr. MacDonald was an RCMP physician who she alleges refused to treat her post-traumatic stress and breached her privacy by sharing details of her medical file with her ex-husband.

Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens issued a written statement noting the force is investigating Cpl. Galliford's claims, which she outlined in an internal complaint to the force last year.

He said the force has completed its investigation of allegations involving the missing women task force, also known as Project Evenhanded, and officers “have not been able to substantiate nor corroborate any related to the alleged sexual harassment by RCMP members.” That information has been passed on to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, said Mr. Callens.

The force continues to investigate the rest of Cpl. Galliford's allegations, he said.

Mr. Callens took over the job of B.C.’s top Mountie late last year and pledged to crack down on harassment. He has since announced plans to train 100 officers to investigate internal sexual harassment complaints.

“I acknowledge, without reservation, that we have some issues that we need to deal with,” he told The Canadian Press in an interview last month.

Cpl. Galliford is currently at a facility in Ontario receiving treatment for post-traumatic stress.

Her lawyer, Barry Carter, said his client is seeking compensation.

“It would appear her career with the RCMP is over, and beyond that, I guess it's still up in the air now to what extent she's going to be able to build a career somewhere else,” Mr. Carter said in an interview.

Since Cpl. Galliford went public, at least four more lawsuits have targeted the RCMP and its officers.

Constable Susan Gastaldo filed a lawsuit alleging she was sexually assaulted by Staff Sergeant Travis Pearson, who maintains the pair were involved in a consensual affair. An internal disciplinary board accepted Staff Sgt. Pearson's version of events, but Constable Gastaldo is still pursuing her lawsuit.

Consable Karen Katz filed a lawsuit alleging one of her colleagues, Baldev (David) Singh Bamra, harassed and sexually assaulted her.

Corporal Elisabeth Mary Couture filed a lawsuit last December, alleging harassment and intimidation from her superiors and colleagues

And Janet Merlo, a 19-year veteran of the force, filed a class-action lawsuit in March alleging sexist comments, sexual pranks and derogatory remarks while on the job. Her lawyer has suggested dozens of other officers are prepared to join the case.

According to Cpl. Galliford's lawsuit, she met Constable Wawia when she was an applicant for the RCMP in 1990, and she alleges he then spent years harassing and stalking her. He spread rumours about Cpl. Galliford to other officers and threatened to shoot her if she didn't become his girlfriend, the lawsuit claims.

Cpl. Galliford complained and Constable Wawia was charged, but he wasn't convicted and was never removed from the force, the lawsuit says.

She met Insp. Bergerman while she was still a civilian, and he encouraged her to apply to become a Mountie, says the statement of claim. He visited the RCMP's training facility in Regina in 1991, took her for a drive and then sexually assaulted her in his car, the lawsuit claims.

Cpl. Galliford worked with Insp. Henderson during her time on the Air India task force, and the pair travelled across the country to meet with victims' families. Insp. Henderson made repeated sexual advances and, during a trip to Edmonton, attacked her in a hotel room, the lawsuit says.

Mr. Little was a Vancouver police officer assigned to the joint task force investigating missing sex workers and serial killer Robert Pickton. Mr. Little regularly made sexually explicitly comments and, while they were in a car together, pulled out his genitals, the lawsuit alleges.

Cpl. Galliford did not formally complain about Insp. Bergerman, Insp. Henderson or Mr. Little because she feared they could hurt her career, the statement of claim says.

Dr. MacDonald was assigned as Cpl. Galliford's physician in 2006. By then, Cpl. Galliford had already been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress but Dr. MacDonald only treated her for alcohol abuse, the lawsuit says.

Cpl. Galliford alleges Dr. MacDonald shared information about her medical file with her ex-husband during their divorce proceedings.

The statement of claim also lists incidents involving several other officers who are identified only by initials.

Those officers frequently made sexually explicit remarks to Cpl. Galliford and other female officers, the statement of claim says, often asking her to sit on their knees.

At a detachment in North Vancouver, officers set up a bulletin board displaying pornographic images, the lawsuit says. Female officers were treated so poorly at the detachment that they referred to the women's locker room the “crying room.”

One officer told Cpl. Galliford he wanted to see Mr. Pickton hunt her down and murder her, says the statement.

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