B.C. Mountie sues RCMP alleging years of sexist discrimination, racist remarks
Published Wednesday, August 9, 2017 3:21PM PDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 9, 2017 6:48PM PDT
A Courtenay-based RCMP officer is alleging years of discrimination and harassment suffered at the hands of her supervisor, among others, in an explosive lawsuit launched in B.C. Supreme Court last week.
The notice of civil claim filed by Cpl. Jill Swann names not only her former supervisor, Cpl. Roger Collin of the Island District General Investigations Section, but eight other RCMP members as defendants, as well as the organization itself.
Swann, a 20-year member of the force, says she was discriminated against and harassed “on the basis of her sex, marital status, family status, physical and mental disability and personal appearance” by male RCMP officers and in particular Collin, who served as her supervisor from August 2008 to June 2016.
Among the allegations Swann claims that after she underwent facial surgery in 2010 to remove possibly cancerous blemishes and moles, Collin repeatedly referred to her as “meth face,” causing her humiliation at a time when she was already emotionally vulnerable over health concerns.
She also alleges that Collin intentionally included misleading statements on her annual and mid-year performance reviews in order to prevent her from getting promotions or taking on files she was interested in working on.
After Swann gave birth to her youngest son around October 2011, the detachment sent her flowers to her home but she said she was shocked to find they included a package of condoms.
Coworkers informed her it was Collin that sent them, and she alleges that when she confronted him about it he responded by saying “How do you think it felt having to go in and buy it?”
In February 2015, Swann was dispatched to negotiate with a suicidal man who ended up taking his own life.
When she went into work the next day, still reeling from the tragic incident, Swann claims Collin told her in front of coworkers that he would also shoot himself in the head if she showed up as a negotiator, and that he could understand why someone would kill themselves just to get her to stop talking.
Swann said she was “shocked and horrified” by Collin’s alleged statements, but forced herself to continue working.
Swann, whose husband and children are Metis and has other First Nations relatives, also alleges a number of racist incidents at the detachment.
She claims that Collin frequently referred to an investigative project named E-Paramedian as “E-Pair of Indians,” and alleged that he referred to her as “One Flung Out,” an “Indian” nickname he gave her because a button on her uniform had once become undone after she breastfed one of her kids.
Allegations of gender-based discrimination include claims that Collin made numerous comments between 2006 and 2015 that granting women the right to vote was “the beginning of the end.”
She said she felt proud to be a female member of the RCMP and because of that, Collin allegedly went out of his way regularly to ridicule advances in women’s rights and accomplishments “and was generally hateful towards women.”
Other RCMP officers named as defendants in the suit include coworkers and superiors who Swann says failed to address her complaints about Collin, including Supt. Jim Faulkner, the Asst. District Commander of “E” Division in Victoria.
Insp. Tim Walton, who’s currently in charge of the Comox Valley RCMP detachment, is also named.
“The actions of the RCMP and the negligent employees were reckless, arrogant, high-handed and abusive and showed a callous disregard for the Plaintiff’s rights,” the civil claim reads. “The RCMP and each of the named individual negligent employees have engaged in conduct that is reprehensible and deserves punishment.”
Staff-Sgt. Annie Linteau, the senior media relations officer for the B.C. RCMP, said the organization had not yet been served and declined to comment on specifics of Swann’s claims.
“Once we have been formally served we will review the information with the Department of Justice and our official response will be filed in court as a statement of defence,” she said in a statement.
Swann is looking for general and special damages, exemplary and punitive damages, aggravated damages and other associated costs, claiming she suffered a long list of mental and physical injuries including post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic headaches and migraines, shoulder and neck pain and depression.
The lawsuit comes in a year that has seen a spotlight shone on treatment of women in the RCMP.
In May, a Federal Court judge granted an unprecedented settlement of up to $220,000 for women who launched a class-action lawsuit over sexual harassment in the workplace.
As many as 20,000 women were believed to be eligible for compensation.
None of the allegations in Swann’s civil claim have been proven in court.
With files from The Canadian Press.