Online tool to help RCMP members report harassment

VANCOUVER – Policies and procedures are one thing, but Insp. Carol Bradley admits cultural change within the RCMP will take time.

Bradley was appointed by the force’s British Columbia division earlier this year to guide the response to a rash of sexual harassment allegations within the RCMP and to a report, publicly released for the first time last week, that suggested some female officers believe they would face retribution if they complained about abuse on the job.

She’s already developed a number of initiatives that are about to be rolled out, including harassment advisers posted across the province and new tools for employees to confidentially report problems with their colleagues and superiors, from workplace bullying to sexual harassment. The measures are in addition to a new team of harassment investigators that was announced in spring of this year.

But Bradley acknowledges much of the debate over sexual harassment within the force has focused on whether there are cultural problems within the RCMP, rather than casting it simply as a problem of policies that need to be updated.

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She argues the two are inextricably linked.

“It is a challenge, cultural change, and I’m not going to pretend I have the answer to that,” Bradley, the team leader for the B.C. RCMP’s newly created respectful workplace action plan, said in an interview.

“Just like a culture is built over years and decades, cultural change comes about the same way. A process might not change the way people think, but it can change the way people do things, which can lead to a change in the way people think.”

Allegations from female officers, both in media reports and in lawsuits, have haunted the force for much of the past year. The cases range from one involving Cpl. Catherine Galliford, a former media relations officer who alleged years of abuse she says left her with post-traumatic stress, to a class-action lawsuit filed on behalf of 200 current and former officers.

Those allegations prompted B.C.’s commanding officer, Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens, to announce the appointment of 100 specialized investigators who will look into harassment complaints.

Callens also ordered the report into gender-based harassment, which held focus groups with more than 400 officers and civilian members of the force. The report concluded such harassment, while not “rampant,” is a serious concern among women in the RCMP, some of whom felt victims, not problem officers, are more likely to be punished when complaints are made.

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It was in that environment that Bradley was appointed in June to examine the scope of harassment within the force in B.C. and figure out how to address it.

So far, Bradley’s work has prompted the RCMP’s B.C. division to introduce 55 respectful workplace advisers across the province to give employees and employers advice when they encounter potential harassment cases and point them to whatever help they need, such as staff who are trained in conflict resolution or, in serious cases, the new harassment unit. Those advisers are scheduled to be trained in November, said Bradley.

Bradley is overseeing the development of a confidential electronic reporting system for employees facing harassment, and the introduction of ethics training into the routine, refresher courses that officers complete throughout their career.

She has also launched her own study that will draw on officer surveys, academic research and materials from other groups, such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, to develop new policies. Those changes will initially focus on B.C., but Bradley said the force’s national headquarters is watching her work and will likely implement some her initiatives across the country.

Bradley recalls reading the sexual harassment report when it was completed in April (it surfaced last week through access-to-information requests). As a female officer with 26 years in the RCMP, it didn’t reflect her time with the force, but she said she takes the complaints raised by the participants seriously.

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“I have had a very positive experience in the RCMP,” said Bradley.

“That being said, I am sensitive to the fact that not all people have. … No harassment is acceptable and our goal is to eliminate harassment.”

Bradley will be conducting her work as sexual harassment allegations continue to generate headlines, particularly from several lawsuits that will be making their way through the courts.

The federal government has already filed a statement of defence in Catherine Galliford’s lawsuit, denying every one of her allegations, suggesting that case and others could end up in high-profile trials if both sides dig in.

The lawyer handling the class-action lawsuit has suggested that case likely won’t get underway until at least next year and could take years to make its way through the process.

None of the allegations in any of the lawsuits have been tested in court.