The federal government has filed a statement of defence in one of several sexual harassment lawsuits filed by female officers, denying the allegations and suggesting the courts are not the appropriate venue to air such complaints.
The statement was filed earlier this month in a case involving Constable Karen Katz, who launched a lawsuit in January alleging years of harassment and eventually sexual abuse by one of her colleagues when she worked for the RCMP in Vancouver.
The lawsuit is among several filed in the past year alleging verbal, physical and sexual abuse within the RCMP, which have prompted the force to pledge to root out such “dark-hearted behaviour.”
Constable Katz’s lawsuit claimed Corporal Baldev (David) Singh Bamra complained about her to other officers, engaged in inappropriate roughhousing and on one occasion pushed his genitals against her. Those allegations have not been tested in court.
In its statement of defence, the federal government, on behalf of the RCMP, denies all of Constable Katz’s allegations and says she did not complain to her superiors until April, 2011, which prompted an investigation.
The statement of defence says Constable Katz should have filed a grievance under the RCMP’s formal grievance process rather than filing a lawsuit.
“If the plaintiff was dissatisfied with any administrative decisions or actions of [an] RCMP member or a responsible officer, the plaintiff was obliged and had opportunities to grieve those in a timely way,” says the statement, filed in B.C. Supreme Court on Oct. 15.
The statement of defence said the court does not have the jurisdiction to hear the allegations from Constable Katz and that the matters ought to have been the subject of grievances.
Constable Katz’s statement of claim says she and Cpl. Bamra worked together in the RCMP’s protective services division in Vancouver, where she alleged Cpl. Bamra started a “campaign” of complaining about her to their colleagues.
She claims the behaviour escalated to inappropriate physical behaviour, such as slamming into Constable Katz’s chest while wearing his bullet-proof vest and grabbing Constable Katz in a bear hug.
Her lawsuit claims that behaviour culminated in 2007, during an incident in which she alleges Cpl. Bamra pinned Constable Katz on a desk and pushed his genitals against her until she was able to free herself.
Constable Katz, who is currently on medical leave, has said she suffers from post-traumatic stress. The government’s statement of defence accuses Constable Katz of failing to follow medical advice.
Constable Katz also launched a second lawsuit in July, alleging more widespread harassment and abuse, but no statement of defence has been filed in that case.
In an interview, Constable Katz said the RCMP’s statement of defence was predictable.