Almost 300 current and former female Mounties have come forward to join a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment within the ranks of the RCMP.
Documents filed in B.C. Supreme Court Monday in support of class-action certification say the action now includes 282 women from all territories and provinces across Canada, with the exception of P.E.I. The largest provincial contingent of women who joined, 121, are from B.C., while 46 of the women are from Ontario. Another 35 are from Alberta.
The lawyers arguing the lawsuit say 100 of the complainants are still with the force, either as officers, civilian members, or public service employees.
The civil suit was filed last year by Janet Merlo, a former RCMP officer who was based in Nanaimo. Merlo, who alleges she suffered bullying and verbal abuse throughout a career that began in March 1991 and ended in March 2010, says she is overwhelmed by the number of other women who have come forward.
"I'm amazed, actually, that for so many years a lot of us thought we were alone and didn't say anything," she told CBC News Tuesday. "Once we did start talking we realized that there was quite a group of us... I'm just amazed."
In her claim, Merlo describes a number of humiliating incidents that she alleges occurred during the course of her 19 years with the force. The alleged incidents described in Merlo's affidavit range from receiving verbal propositions, to facing gender-based comments challenging her ability to perform her duties, to witnessing differences in how male and female officers were accommodated at her workplace.
The RCMP have applied to have certain parts of Merlo's claim struck. The plaintiffs' lawyers say they want the application for certification heard as soon as possible.
Certification of the class action is not a finding of fault against the RCMP.