In May, Corporal Catherine Galliford filed a claim of being sexually harassed by her male superiors during her 16 year career with our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Predictably, the responses from the four accused Mounties is denial. But, in this country famous for compassion, how are we supposed to understand the joint response (pdf) from the Canadian and B.C. governments? Denial and victim-blaming. Par excellence.
The accused officers “deny the acts described in Galliford’s suit actually happened.” Not only that. They tell us if Galliford was ever sexually harassed, the acts “were consensual.”
The response from the federal and provincial governments, filed with the B.C. Supreme Court on Monday, illuminates the culture of denial in the RCMP. Both governments attack and blame the victim. They claim that Galliford “had a drinking problem.” One she’d “no interest in dealing with.” She “failed to follow through on treatment she signed up for.” And, she “had plenty of opportunities to make grievance claims over the years, and never did.”
Am I the only one in sync with the seriousness of the situation here? Galliford wasn’t just another rank and file Mountie. She was the force’s public face during the Air India and Robert Pickton investigations. She claims that “her colleagues and superiors sexually assaulted, harassed and intimidated her until she developed post-traumatic stress.” And, her lawsuit has prompted other female mounties to come forward with their own claims of abuse. A class-action lawsuit is in the works.
Why is the corporate media celebrating instead of asking the hard questions? A few headlines today:
- Toronto Sun: RCMP deny female officer sexually harassed
- The Calgary Herald: Be tough, aspiring female RCMP officers told
- Ottawa Citizen: Mounties issue sweeping denial in high-profile BC sex harassment lawsuit
- CKNW News Talk 980: RCMP deny Galliford allegations; claims she had drinking problem
- The Globe & Mail: Mounties deny female officer’s harassment claims, point to alcohol abuse
- creating a modern and independent Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP; and
- establishing a statutory framework for handling criminal investigations of serious incidents involving RCMP members, improving the transparency and public accountability of these investigations.”
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews sweetened things up with: “The RCMP is recognized around the world as a symbol of who we are as Canadians, and what we value: professionalism, honesty, integrity and compassion. However, Canadians’ confidence in the RCMP has been tested over the past few years and this legislation will ensure that the RCMP is fully accountable for its actions and is open and transparent in its service to Canadians.”
Why then are the two governments and the national police now crucifying Galliford? To set an example, as they did with former Tory cabinet minister Helena Guergis? The former minister for the status of women is currently suing the Conservative Party of Canada and several party heavies for defamation, negligence and other actions that allegedly caused her “mental suffering.”
And why isn’t the mainstream media giving Canadians a complete analysis of the issue? Why aren’t they telling us the truth: that Galliford’s story is yet another manifestation of our politics’ deep-seated culture of violence against women? Why hasn’t the media bothered to solicit the opinion of Rona Ambrose, the Minister for Status of Women? After all she enthusiastically welcomed the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act. She suggested that it would break “down workplace barriers that prevent women’s full participation.”
Only the CBC News seemed to care enough about Galliford to give her the media real estate she needs to tell her story. And she told the national broadcaster exactly why she complained only last fall: “I knew that if I complained about what was happening to me, I would become a target and my career would be over.”
In a compassionate country that also lays claim to the rule of law, should anyone ever have to say something like that? Aren’t we in the tough-on-crime era where draconian legislation such as the Safe Streets and Communities Act (crime Bill C-10) seek to protect “victims”? Oh, I’m forgetting that Galliford is a different victim. A woman victimized by men in positions of power. By a male-dominated institution in an era when all other aspects of Canadian life are male-dominated.
Furthermore, both governments argue that Galliford’s pain and suffering “could have been prevented or severely reduced, if the plaintiff had not been negligent in respect to her own personal safety or well-being.”
Sounds familiar? It should. Last year, Toronto police officer Michael Sanguinetti’s suggested to York University students that women “dressing like sluts” invited their own victimization. The chauvinistic statement launched the global phenomenon we now know as “SlutWalk”. In Toronto this past May, the SlutWalk crowd chanted: “Yes Means Fuck Me; No Means Fuck You!”
I rest my case.