VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - A former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police claims in a class action that the R.C.M.P. harasses women so badly it has forced several to quit, tarnishing the reputation of the police force long touted as a symbol of the nation's virtue.
Lead plaintiff Janet Merlo served as an R.C.M.P. constable for nearly 20 years, stationed at the Nanaimo detachment on Vancouver Island. She claims she was "subject to persistent and ongoing gender-based discrimination and harassment" throughout her career, from male colleagues and higher-ups. For instance, she says a male officer once told her future husband" "Janet is the right height because you can lay a six-pack of beer on her head while she gives you a blow job."
Merlo claims a supervisor often placed an inflatable naked female blow-up doll near his desk while on shift, and invited her to stand next to it.
When she became pregnant with her first child, she says, she left a meeting with a supervisor in tears after he chastised her and told her to "keep her fucking legs closed," to choose whether she wanted a career with the police force or to "pop out kids" her whole life.
Merlo claims male officers subjected her to derogatory comments while she was pregnant, and she had to numb herself to the ongoing bullying out of a feeling of powerlessness. She says she brought her complaints to supervisors, who told her to forget about them or "walk away," or sometimes investigated and dismissed her complaint.
She claims male officers were given special treatment, including more flexibility with scheduling and being allowed to play three-hour hockey games while on shift, while female members were not allowed to attend aerobics classes on lunch breaks.
Merlo says the harassment gave her medical problems, including post-traumatic stress, depression, insomnia and irritable bowel syndrome. She says she attempted suicide due to the anguish caused by the harassment.
She seeks class certification and damages from the provincial and federal governments, for negligence, breach of contract and breach of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
She is represented by David Klein, with Klein Lyons.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.