Class-action lawsuit claims federal government ‘mishandled’ mental health of RCMP members

Portage La Prairie RCMP responded to a fatal collision that cost one man his life and put another in hospital. Getty Images

A proposed class-action lawsuit alleges the federal government was negligent and discriminatory in how it handled a “mental health crisis” within the national police force.

The suit was filed by four RCMP officers on behalf of members who have been diagnosed with or suffered from operational stress injuries.

According to a release from Halifax-based law firm Wagners, which filed the case in the federal court on behalf of the RCMP members, operational stress injuries are psychological problems that result from operational duties with the RCMP, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.

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The claim alleges that the federal government failed to provide appropriate and timely mental health support services to RCMP members who are expected to respond in dangerous and traumatic situations as a condition of employment.

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According to the firm, the claim also alleges the federal government “condones and perpetuates a discriminatory workplace culture” through the use of “stigmatizing language” in regard to Mounties suffering from operational stress injuries.

The claim, which was filed in court on Sept. 16, makes allegations that have not been proven in court.

Click to play video: 'Former Kelowna Mountie speaks out about RCMP’s lack of mental health support'
Former Kelowna Mountie speaks out about RCMP’s lack of mental health support

“By the very nature of our jobs, we are exposed to dangerous, violent and traumatic scenes on an almost daily basis,” said one of the proposed representative plaintiffs, Cpl. Garrett Moore, a corporal in the RCMP since 2012.

“Then, when we finally hit the breaking point and seek help, we’re met with obstacle after obstacle to receive prompt and adequate treatment, a diagnosis, accommodation, and medically-required transfers.”

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Another proposed plaintiff, Const. Graham Walsh, a member of the RCMP since 2009, also said that the culture around mental illness in the RCMP is “one of silence and suffering alone — ‘sucking it up’ — and that needs to change.”

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“Opportunities for promotion, transfers, specialized work — they’re all impacted. It’s a dark cloud that hinders your whole career: so, you basically have to choose your mental health or your career — but you can’t have both,” he added.

Global News has reached out to the RCMP for comment, and will update the story with a response.

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