May 22, 2019 5:00 am

Meet the Mounties who allege the RCMP used their disabilities to force them out

Former Mounties tell their stories of bullying and intimidation in the RCMP and how it affects the Mounties' ability to help provide protection for Canadians.

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It has been five years since the RCMP employment requirements were changed to allow dismissals on the basis of disability. In that time, the number of medical discharges has nearly doubled, according to a Global News analysis.

READ MORE: An exclusive look at the RCMP’s alleged campaign to get rid of Mounties with disabilities

Several people allege that the RCMP has for years wrongfully sought to eject disabled members from the force. The RCMP denies this.

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The force is “committed to accommodating the work related needs of its employees” and respecting its obligations under the Canadian Human Rights Act, according to a spokesperson.

“Dismissal is a last resort.”

Lawyer Sebastien Anderson, whose Vancouver-based firm has provided legal advice to roughly three dozen RCMP officers with disabilities who have been discharged or who are in the process of being discharged, alleges “a conspiracy” on the part of the force (the Mounties deny this). Anderson has successfully helped one Mountie who was let go after suffering from PTSD in the wake of the Mayerthorpe, Alta., shootings that killed four of his colleagues.

READ MORE: ‘They want to disappear,' says psychiatrist of Mounties’ PTSD struggle

The force’s own statistics show the number of medical discharges jumped to 1,122 in the years between 2014-15 and 2018-19 from just 592 officers who left under the same circumstances in a longer period between 2007-8 and 2013-14.

Sue Olson, Marina Cumming, and Patti Reid are Alberta Mounties who all signed affidavits outlining their experiences of the discharge process that Mountie Ryan Letnes included in his application for an injunction to the Federal Court of Canada. Letnes’ case is ongoing and while an RCMP spokesperson says the force can’t comment on specifics, in a letter the force claims it shouldn’t be a defendant to Letnes’ claim, only the Attorney General. Thomas Deliva, who is from Quebec, worked in Fort McMurray, Alta.

Here are their stories:

Patti Reid

Patti Reid joined the RCMP in 1999 and was discharged in 2013. She alleges she was coerced into taking a discharge.

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Patti Reid joined the RCMP in 1999 and she was discharged in 2013. Her discharge, which came prior to the employment requirement changes, is — on paper — consensual. The reality, Reid alleges, is that it was coerced. A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

Reid has severe asthma, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses she believes are a result of mold in the Airdrie detachment. Her doctor cleared her to return to work provided it was a “clean air environment.” And yet, according to an email from the RCMP’s Alberta district commander in 2012, he wasn’t prepared to have her go to other detachments to “wait to see if it will effect her [sic].”

He went on to write that “NO LOCATION” in Southern Alberta could accommodate her.

An email from Patti Reid’s supervisor suggesting nowhere in the RCMP could accommodate her.

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“I was kind of, sort of, dumbstruck,” says Reid.

“I’m a second-generation Calgary girl. It’s not like the air here all of a sudden is going to make me ill.”

After a year of being a “stay-at-home Mountie” and hitting brick wall after brick wall about accommodation, Reid says she “threw in the white flag” and took the discharge.

She’s angry and resentful.

WATCH: Mountie ‘dumbstruck’ when force said it couldn’t accommodate her

“They had a duty to make sure that we had a safe and clean work environment. … They failed to act, and as a result I had a medical pension and have a lifelong disability,” she says.

On paper, it’s a lifelong disability, but Reid says she doesn’t really feel disabled. She takes special injections every 60 days and as a result, she says, “I can breathe and function in a normal life.”

A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

Sue Olson

‘We see so much that people shouldn’t see,’ says Sue Olson, who was a Mountie for 28 years. ‘Instead of looking after us when we get that way, they get rid of us.’

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Sue Olson spent 28 years in the RCMP. She’s a basic firearms instructor, a trained public safety officer who taught other Mounties various weapons tactics, and even did a year-long peacekeeping mission overseas working with the UN. She was medically discharged in 2017.

Olson, who worked her entire Mountie career in Alberta, was transferred to the Airdrie detachment in 2009 so she could be closer to more medical services. She suffers ongoing head pain as a result of a neck injury on the job and lives with PTSD.

WATCH: ‘They got rid of us’ – Mountie talks about the experience the RCMP is losing when it discharges members

Olson says she struggled in the detachment as a result of harassment issues with one particular superior. Eventually, she says, she was ordered to take sick leave, during which time she says a graduated return to work facilitator called her and told her the RCMP would discharge her if she did not agree to a voluntary discharge.

A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

Her options, she alleges, were no options at all: take a consensual discharge or prepare for an involuntary one. Olson was stunned. She saw the RCMP’s handling of her concerns about a superior’s poor conduct as “silent consent” for it.

“We see so much that people shouldn’t see,” she says. “Instead of looking after us when we get that way, they get rid of us.”

A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

Marina Cumming

Marina Cumming was discharged in 2017. She says she felt demeaned and embarrassed ‘by the fact that basically I was gotten rid of.’

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The only accommodation for which former Mountie Marina Cumming remembers asking was a compassionate transfer close to family and to be off traffic duty after her husband, fellow Mountie Graeme Cumming, was killed by a drunk driver in 1998.

The force sent her to Airdrie to be with family, she says, but she was still working in traffic services. Recognizing her inability to do the job given it was the job her husband was doing when he was killed, and hearing from superiors that she didn’t have the education to take on other, plainclothes work, Cumming took an unpaid leave to go to university.

It was, she says, “a way to escape frontline policing and the increasing anxiety and fear I was experiencing on a daily basis.”

When Cumming did return to the RCMP in 2009, she did so with a degree in sociology and a formal PTSD diagnosis. Before the force had found her a new placement, she says, the conversation turned to a medical discharge.

“I was told, ‘Well, why don’t you take a discharge? Why don’t you just take a medical discharge? You’ve got these benefits as a result of your husband. Why don’t you just take a discharge?’”

A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

Cumming didn’t want to take a discharge. She’d specifically gone to school so she could keep working in the RCMP, and now she had a daughter to support. And yet, she says, the more she pushed back and the more she raised concerns about the work environment, the more her supervisors seemed to harass her and assign her increasingly demeaning work. The RCMP declined to comment.

WATCH: Alberta Mountie says discharge was ‘demeaning… I was gotten rid of’

It got to the point, Cumming says, where she couldn’t bring herself to go into work. In 2010, an RCMP doctor designated her as “Permanent 06” — a Mountie who is deemed permanently unable to work — and Cumming went on sick leave. After that, she says, her only communication was with return-to-work facilitators who she says pressed her to accept a medical discharge.

A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

 

A portion of Marina Cumming’s affidavit.

Global News

After the 2014 legislative changes, the RCMP didn’t need her consent. Cumming received a notice of intent to medical discharge in May 2017, and at the end of July she was done.

It was demeaning to the extent that she still tells people she retired rather than that she was medically discharged. A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

“I felt embarrassed by the fact that basically I was gotten rid of,” she says. “In some way, I guess my own self-talk was that I wasn’t good enough to be able to do this.”

Thomas Deliva

Thomas Deliva was diagnosed with ADHD just months into the job. He says, the RCMP ‘decided to discharge me knowing that I had medical issues without seeking proper accommodation.’ Deliva, left, is pictured here with his spouse Jess Marcotte.

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When Thomas Deliva went to an RCMP doctor for neurological testing in the spring of 2017, he didn’t realize his subsequent ADHD diagnosis would put him up against a wall of bureaucracy.

The diagnosis had come rather unexpectedly, months into the new recruit’s job. He’d gone searching for answers after he seemed to regress — forgetting the layout of a street he patrolled, forgetting to search a suspect upon arrest.

While ADHD wouldn’t necessarily quash his policing dreams, the extra training time it required for him to be road ready qualifies as accommodation for a disability. Deliva says he didn’t know it at the time, so he didn’t realize he needed to file specific paperwork. He just knew the force was acknowledging his need for extra training. A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

Months later, he received the specialized two-on-one training. It was incredibly useful, he says, sort of like “police-oriented cognitive behaviour therapy.”

And then he was called into a surprise meeting in September 2017. He alleges he was told to resign or they would discharge him. The former, he remembers them saying, would leave him open to jobs in other police forces. The latter would be a “black mark” on his record.  A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

He alleges they put a piece of paper on the table, put a pen on top, turned it around, and slid it over.

“Just sign it,” he alleges they said. “You don’t even need to date it, we can date it when we’ve picked a date for you to resign.”

A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

WATCH: Thomas Deliva says the RCMP “decided to discharge me knowing that I had medical issues without seeking proper accommodation.”

Deliva signed it. However, the meeting unsettled Deliva so much that he started to talk to more people familiar with the process. They convinced him to rescind his resignation. While the RCMP agreed, it ultimately didn’t save his job.

The RCMP went on to discharge him, despite giving him very little time to train on the new training they’d invested in providing him.

“Basically six shifts of work and they expected him to be perfect,” says his spouse, Jess Marcotte. A spokesperson for the force says, it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

When the RCMP discharged Deliva, they did so on suitability grounds — an option open to the force because he was still in his two-year probationary period. That doesn’t change why he’s gone, Deliva says.

“They decided to discharge me knowing that I had medical issues without seeking proper accommodation.”

Marcotte has sent RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki several letters over the past 18 months, attempting to communicate their family’s deep respect for law enforcement but their growing disillusionment as Marcotte watched Deliva stumble his way through a two-year tenure with little support.

“I’ll say it,” Marcotte says. “It’s an ableist organization.”

A spokesperson for the force says it “cannot comment on individual cases or circumstances.”

In a response dated Jan. 22 of this year, Lucki wrote: “I stand firmly behind the processes put in place to ensure that employees and management alike can rely upon objective representation.”

She also wrote: “I am confident that the investigations and processes undertaken by employees in ‘K’ Division are being done with integrity, diligence and great care. Once those processes conclude, there are options for employees to appeal or grieve decisions, and those grievances and/or appeals are reviewed by outside entities, to ensure an arm’s length assessment of all that has transpired.”

Read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 of our January 2019 series on the RCMP’s ‘culture of dysfunction.’

WATCH: Black Mounties, relatives, talk about experiences in the RCMP

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