VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – A former media relations officer for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police sued the Canadian government, three fellow officers and an RCMP doctor claiming she was subjected to years of sexual harassment by superiors and fellow officers.
In a complaint filed in Supreme Court of British Columbia, Catherine Galliford claims the harassment began when she was a recruit in 1990.
It was then, she says, that she met defendant Marvin Wawia when he responded to a complaint at her mother’s home.
“Following that meeting, the Defendant, Wawia, aggressively pursued the Plaintiff, forcing himself upon her sexually, threatening her that if she did not gratify him sexually, he would make sure that she did not get accepted into the RCMP,” the complaint states.
Wawia allegedly began stalking her and forced her to wear a ring while she attended RCMP training to deter other men from pursuing a relationship with her. He was “extremely jealous,” according to the complaint, and circulated a letter among every other recruit in her training class warning them to stay away from Galliford because she had a sexually transmitted disease.
Furthermore, he allegedly threatened to ruin her career before it even began if she didn’t continue their relationship and later threatened to shoot her.
Although he was charged, he was never convicted because, Galliford claims, “certain exhibits had been lost prior to the trial.” Galliford claims she didn’t report the harassment out of fear of ruining her policing career.
The sexual assaults didn’t stop with Wawia, Galliford claims. She says she met defendant Mike Bergerman, an RCMP inspector, while she was a civilian and he encouraged her to join the force. He visited her during her training at the force’s Depot centre in Regina, Saskatchewan, she claims, and asked her out for coffee.
“Not long after getting into the Defendant, Bergerman’s car, the Plaintiff noticed that he smelled significantly of alcohol. She immediately requested that he turn the car around and return to Depot, commenting that she felt he was drunk and she was not going to go to coffee with him,” the complaint states. “The Defendant, Bergerman, turned the car down a secluded side street and quickly and aggressively attacked her, placing his hands all over her body including her breasts, and attempting to forcefully kiss her.”
Another superior officer, defendant Doug Henderson, also allegedly sexually assaulted Galliford while the pair travelled together across Canada meeting with family members of victims of the 1985 Air India bombing. She claims Henderson checked them into expensive hotels and ordered wine to their room while in Edmonton on one occasion.
“On that occasion the Defendant, Henderson, aggressively sexually attacked the Plaintiff, grabbing her breasts and moving his hands all over her body, and removing some of his clothes and exposing his penis to her. The Plaintiff managed to remove herself from the suite without further incident, however, was so shaken by the conduct of the Defendant, Henderson, that thereafter she refused to travel alone with the Defendant, Henderson,” the complaint states. “The Plaintiff subsequently found out that the Defendant had earned a nickname within the RCMP which reflected his propensity to pursue female members of the RCMP in a physical and aggressive manner.”
Galliford was also assigned to the Missing Women’s Task Force before the arrest of serial killer Robert Pickton, which included defendant Phil Little, a member of the Vancouver Police Department. Little allegedly exposed his penis to Galliford and would describe his sexual relationship with another investigator, including “details of his sexual partner’s grooming and preferred sexual positions.”
In addition to the assaults, Galliford claims the RCMP’s culture is systemically infected with rampant sexual harassment. While stationed in North Vancouver, for example, there was allegedly a pornographic “Beaver Gallery” which featured centerfolds from Hustler and Penthouse magazine surrounding a large picture of a beaver. Furthermore, unnamed officers allegedly inserted sexual themes and comments into conversations including a luncheon Galliford attended where another officer “managed to compare every vegetarian dish to a female sexual body part.”
Galliford claims she became a target for harassment and bullying because of professional jealously among her colleagues, and was falsely accused of leaking information to reporters which compromised her reputation in the policing community and “destroyed” her relationship with prosecutors in the Crown Counsel Office.
By 2005, Galliford claims she began having panic attacks, and began dealing with her anxiety by consuming alcohol. Her hair began to fall out and she began losing weight, according to the complaint. She was later assigned a doctor within the force, defendant Dr. Ian MacDonald, who allegedly demonized her as “extremely” dishonest who would damage the RCMP if put back on duty. MacDonald allegedly shared her confidential medical information with other members of the RCMP and her ex-husband.
MacDonald allegedly ignored plaintiff’s symptoms and only focused on her alcohol dependency – she was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder in 2009 – and threatened to give unfavorable evidence during Galliford’s “embittered” divorce proceedings.
“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 and 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 complaint states. “The Plaintiff enjoyed the assignments she had from time to time and did not want to be transferred or to develop the reputation for complaining.”
Galliford is represented by J. Barry Carter of Mair Jensen Blair LLP in Kamloops, B.C. In March, the RCMP was hit with a class actionlaunched by a female member over alleged systemic harassment within the force.