A sexual harassment lawsuit by four female RCMP officers was filed as a last resort after complaints to superiors all the way to Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli went unheeded, say lawyers for the women.
"Our clients wanted to keep this matter internal and let the force itself work out its problem," lawyer John Kingman Phillips said Friday.
"We have done everything we can do within the force to address the problems and issues. They have not been satisfactorily resolved and we've had to take this step as a last resort."
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Calgary's Court of Queen's Bench, names 19 RCMP officials, including Commissioner Zaccardelli.
The women allege they were sexually assaulted by Sergeant Randy Blundell during undercover operations in Calgary between 1994 and 1997.
The assaults, they say in the statement of claim, ranged from fondling to sexual intercourse.
They allege that after filing their complaints, they were considered "rats" and "whistle-blowers" and subjected to harassing ridicule and gossip within and outside the force.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Paul Marsh said the force has not yet been served with the lawsuit. He would not comment on specifics of the allegations, saying the matter is before the courts.
All the allegations still must be proven in court. No statements of defence have been filed.
"Commissioner Zaccardelli reminded employees in July that harassment would not be tolerated," Mr. Marsh said from Ottawa.
All four female officers remain with the RCMP, although two are on leave and say they have lost work opportunities because of bringing their complaints forward. One lost her job as a hostage negotiator, while another has not been used in an undercover operation since she made her allegations, says the statement of claim.
The lawsuit alleges that Mounties did not properly investigate the matter and chose instead to protect the RCMP's international reputation and the career aspirations of Sgt. Blundell, who was highly regarded for his work in murder investigations.
The statement of claim says that following an internal investigation into the complaints, Sgt. Blundell was reprimanded, docked a day's pay and told to take counselling.
"To have properly investigated the allegations, and appropriately sanctioned senior members found to have acted improperly, would have meant acknowledging the extent of the sexual harassment problem in the RCMP and thus would have seriously undermined the RCMP's reputation," court documents say.
Sgt. Blundell, who is working as a Mountie in British Columbia, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The documents also say the women expressed their concerns in writing to Commissioner Zaccardelli last April because each was continuing to suffer workplace harassment. The women met with him in Ottawa in June, but have not been told of any action relating to their concerns, they say.
The lawsuit alleges the lack of response "signalled to the rank and file of the RCMP that silence, coverup and minimization are the preferred methods of dealing with harassment (sexual and otherwise) within the RCMP."
Staff Sgt. Marsh said an external labour-relations expert recently reviewed the RCMP harassment complaints process and made recommendations for change. A new harassment policy is to be announced later this fall.
Anti-harassment training began several months ago for all RCMP employees.
The concerns were also brought to Lawrence MacAulay, who was federal solicitor general at the time. Calls to his office were unanswered Friday.
Of the 22,000 members of the RCMP, 2,613 are women.
An internal RCMP study released in 1996 found that six out of every 10 female Mounties surveyed said they had experienced sexual harassment. More than 10 per cent of female officers said they had been touched in an inappropriate manner by another Mountie.
The study also found that more than half of the male officers surveyed felt women were not suitable for certain types of police work.
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