Women join harassment lawsuit against RCMP

More than 280 women come forward to join a class action lawsuit filed against the RCMP by a former Nanaimo Mountie.

More than 280 women who claim they were harassed or discriminated against during their tenure with the RCMP have come forward to join a class action lawsuit filed against the RCMP by a former Nanaimo Mountie.

Janet Merlo, who served as an RCMP constable in Nanaimo from September 1991 to March 2010, filed the suit in B.C. Supreme Court in March 2012.

Merlo, the plaintiff acting on behalf of female RCMP members in the proposed class action, alleges she and fellow female members, civilian members and public service employees of the RCMP were subject to gender-based discrimination, bullying and harassment.

The claim, describing numerous incidents of sexist comments, sexual pranks and derogatory remarks, also alleges the RCMP failed to ensure women in the force could work in an environment free of harassment.

Earlier this month, a case manager with Klein Lyons, one of two firms representing Merlo, filed an affidavit in B.C. Supreme Court stating that Klein Lyons and co-counsel, Watkins Law of Thunder Bay, Ont., had so far been contacted by 282 women from across the country who claim they were harassed or discriminated against during their time with the RCMP and 100 of those women are current members, civilian members or public service employees with the RCMP.

Jason Murray, a lawyer with Klein Lyons, said these are women who have reached out after hearing about the suit by word-of-mouth or through the media.

“We get calls every week,” he said.

Murray said lawyers were in court earlier this month to seek direction from the case management judge as to how to proceed with the case.

He said the firm has applied to have the case certified as a class action and the federal government has applied to have parts of Merlo’s claim dismissed and now both parties are awaiting directions from the judge as to which application goes first.