After a former Supreme Court justice told MPs that the RCMP is probably aware of serving Mounties credibly accused of sexual assault, the service is again calling on victims to come forward — although it’s not saying how many of its members have been sanctioned for such acts.
“We continue to encourage women and all those who have experienced harassment to come forward and make complaints,” said RCMP spokesperson Catherine Fortin.
“The RCMP takes these issues seriously and will take action. Harassment complaints can be brought to the RCMP and assaults should be reported to police of local jurisdiction.”
The comments came hours after former Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache told a House of Commons committee that the RCMP is aware of — or could at least easily identify — the officers accused in some of the most egregious cases of sexual assault in the service.
“I think the more serious ones usually are more easily identified,” said Bastarache, who was appointed as an independent assessor in the force’s historic Merlo-Davidson sexual assault settlement.
“Like the Catholic Church, they just move them to another parish. I have a list [of RCMP officers] who have been found guilty up to 15 times. Those people have been promoted.”
The settlement agreement contained a strict confidentiality provision — meaning Bastarache can’t make that list public.
When asked if charges or dismissals are being pursued, Fortin said it’s possible that some perpetrators have been held to account in cases where a complaint already has been brought forward.
“It is incumbent on every employee to come forward and speak out against this behaviour, and for our leaders and supervisors to take immediate action to stop it,” she wrote in an email to CBC News.
“There is absolutely no room for sexual assault, harassment, discrimination, bullying, sexism, racism, homophobia or transphobia in the RCMP. It is incumbent on every employee to come forward and speak out against this behaviour, and for our leaders and supervisors to take immediate action to stop it.”
Bastarache’s appearance before the standing committee on national security Wednesday evening came two weeks after he released a scathing report on the culture within the national police force. The report was born out of the settlement, named after lawsuit plaintiffs Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson.
The settlement covered those who were harassed while working for the RCMP during or after September 1974. They include women who experienced sexual harassment and gender or sexual orientation-based discrimination while working for the Mounties.
“The level of violence and sexual assault that was reported was shocking. Indeed, over 130 claimants disclosed penetrative sexual assaults,” Bastarache’s report says.
Other recorded cases of sexual assaults involved the use of force or intimidation, attempts to undress the victim and situations in which a male colleague or superior rubbed his erect penis against a claimant, or attempted to force her to touch it.
In all, 2,304 women were compensated through the settlement.
WATCH | ‘Shocking’ accounts of harassment, violence within RCMP detailed in report