The association representing RCMP officers in Quebec is seeking permission from a Superior Court judge to bring a class-action lawsuit against the RCMP for abuse of authority, discrimination and harassment. If granted, the lawsuit will seek damages for officers who allege that they were discriminated against due to their union activism, or simply because they happened to be francophone.
Quebec Mounted Police Members’ Association (QMPMA) spokesman Frederic Serre says that this is the first time a members’ association has filed this kind of legal action against the RCMP. Previous high-profile cases were filed by private individuals and groups.
“The appeal we filed with the judge lists three specific individuals, and we are hopeful that it will be approved and will pave the way for other officers to step forward and deposit complaints,” Serre told Global News. “It’s a daring move considering the fact that a lot of members are afraid to speak out due to fear of reprisal.”
So fearful are active RCMP members of speaking out, Serre says, that the association’s charge is being led by retired 35-year RCMP veteran Paul Dupuis.
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Dupuis told Global News that his work as an advocate for union rights while employed by the RCMP made him the victim of various abuses of authority, such as being made to wait seven years for a decision on a disciplinary allegation.
“That means that you’re in the penalty box for seven years,” he said. “You can’t get promoted and you can’t request transfers, so your career is put on hold for that period.”
The appeal also aims to highlight discrimination against francophone officers.
“Unilingual, French-speaking officers have been sent to work out west when they didn’t have the ability to speak English well,” Dupuis said. “They were put in a position where they couldn’t do their jobs properly and were dismissed, rather than simply being assigned to an area where they could police francophone citizens.”
LaPresse reports that in addition to Dupuis, the appeal’s representatives include Cnst. Marc Lachance, who received disability payments after arguing that his depression was brought about by persistent harassment, and Charles Mancer, a former association vice-president who claims his activism on behalf of his colleagues led to unfair disciplinary action.
Serre says that the ultimate goal of the appeal is to embolden more RCMP officers to speak out about their experiences, so that abuses of authority can cease.
“We saw with the sexual harassment complaints that all it took was one, two and three complaints and before you know it, it’s a big number,” he says. “There are a lot of people who suffer in silence. This will be an opportunity for them to step forward.”
RCMP officials in Quebec declined to comment as “the case is before the courts.”