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Female RCMP officers' accounts of sexual harassment in force prompt new hotline

BY SUZANNE FOURNIER, THE PROVINCE  NOVEMBER 24, 2011


A national hotline for female RCMP officers and others affected by sexual harassment or violence at the hands of police will be up and running by Monday.

One phone call from a female officer, anywhere in Canada, will connect her to “confidential emotional support,” ensure she is safe and refer her to “legal remedies including class action lawyers,” Angela Marie MacDougall of Battered Women’s Support Services said Thursday.

MacDougall said BWSS, which will staff the service, has had numerous calls since “courageous” RCMP officers like Catherine Galliford and Krista Carle spoke out.

“Sexual harassment of women thrives in environments that are male dominated, hierarchal and demand strict adherence to codes of silence like the RCMP,” said MacDougall, noting female officers are afraid to speak up.

MacDougall adds that “police are not an option for women in this crisis.”

RCMP Cpl. Catherine Galliford, on leave for four years following alleged sexual harassment by RCMP and Vancouver police officers, applauded the hotline Thursday and said she wishes such an option had been there for her.

“Female police officers are incredible public servants and the general public is only starting to hear about the harassment that we go through,” said Galliford, former RCMP spokeswoman for the Missing Women Task Force. “It can break you, and then if you need help, it’s very hard to find.

The RCMP’s employee “assistance” program was of no help and even leaked her medical files to the RCMP, said Galliford, who now has good medical support.

She will testify at the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry in January with the support of Mike Webster, a police psychologist, and said she plans to “name names.”

In a 115-page statement to RCMP Internal Affairs Insp. Paul Darbyshire, Galliford said she documented the sexual harassment she experienced from top RCMP and VPD officers who tried to coerce her into having sex and bragged that they were intimate with her when they were not.

An RCMP boss insisted she go along on road trips to visit victims’ families “and they he’d turn into Octopus-Man in a hotel room at night,” she said.

Galliford named another female officer who had to physically fight off “an attempted rape” by the same officer. Female civilians also were targeted.

Galliford is also haunted by the fact that senior officers appeared to know that now-convicted serial killer Robert Pickton was a “prime suspect” in the murder of Downtown Eastside sex workers at his Port Coquitlam pig farm.

Galliford said she saw “excellent officers” like VPD Det. Const. Lori Shenher and Coquitlam Cpl. Mike Connor “work very, very hard on the missing women file because they knew it was nonsense there were 1,100 suspects.

“They had enough information by 1998 to get a search warrant of the Pickton farm, from informants and witnesses,” Galliford said. At least 18 women were murdered by Pickton after he appeared on RCMP and VPD radars for the attempted murder of a Downtown Eastside woman at his Port Coquitlam farm.

The inquiry will take a break after Dec. 1, resuming in January.

Commissioner Wally Oppal has pledged to hand in his report by June 2012.

Pickton was convicted of the murder of six women, but the DNA of 33 women has been connected to his farm and he boasted in jail of killing 49 women.

MacDougall said the hotline will be available for women RCMP members during business hours at 1-855-687-1868.

sfournier@theprovince.com

 

 

Email: wleng@missingpeople.net 

Missing Women Tip Line: 1-877-687-3377

Updated: January 01, 2007