Two former RCMP officers have launched a class-action lawsuit against the force, alleging their confidential mental-health records were unlawfully released.
The lawsuit, which must be certified by a B.C. Supreme Court judge to move forward, alleges the RCMP released the psychological counselling records of at least five members to the College of Psychologists of British Columbia in 2012.
It also says the RCMP disclosed the records without the members' consent or knowledge as part of the police force's complaint against a psychologist who had been critical of the Mounties.
An RCMP spokesperson said Sunday the force would respond to the allegations through its statement of defence.
Rae Banwarie, president of the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada, said in an interview that the case is about rebuilding trust.
"Our members need to know that when they're on the front lines and they're doing their jobs, and things happen to them and they get injured or something goes wrong, that they have the support of the management ... and that they know that they're going to be taken care of. This lawsuit shows that that is not what is happening," he said.
The RCMP, Commissioner Bob Paulson, the Attorney-General of Canada and B.C.'s Minister of Justice are among the defendants named in the case. Derrick Ross and David Reichert are listed as the plaintiffs. The notice of civil claim says Mr. Ross served in the RCMP for 25 years, while Mr. Reichert was a Mountie for 30.
The lawsuit says the RCMP filed a complaint with the college three years ago against psychologist Michael Webster. Dr. Webster, who provided counselling for RCMP officers, including Mr. Ross and Mr. Reichert, had criticized the force, writing a highly publicized letter to the mother of Robert Dziekanski. Mr. Dziekanski died at Vancouver International Airport in 2007 after he was tasered by members of the force. Dr. Webster had also called for organizational change in the RCMP.
The complaint against Dr. Webster was ultimately dismissed, but only after the RCMP had sent the counselling records to the college, the lawsuit alleges. The notice of civil claim says Commissioner Paulson reviewed both the complaint and the counselling records before they were sent. It also says the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada concluded last year that the disclosure of the records violated the Privacy Act.
The lawsuit claims the RCMP breached its duty of care and that the plaintiffs have sustained significant and long-term injury, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety. It asks for damages from the defendants, though an amount is not provided.
Sebastien Anderson, the lawyer representing the officers, said he has heard from half a dozen more Mounties since the lawsuit was filed on Friday and he anticipates more plaintiffs will come on board.
Mr. Anderson said Dr. Webster is no longer on the RCMP's list of authorized service providers, a result he's seen play out before.
"Any time a health-care provider has a different point of view than the health services office of the RCMP, they end up being persona non grata and are suddenly removed from the approved providers list," he said. "And the members are then forced to pay for the treatment on their own if they want to continue to see the same health-care provider ... or they have to go to another so-called approved health-care provider."