RCMP dogged by yet another sexual-harassment suit, this time naming high-profile B.C. officer

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew
RCMP dogged by yet another sexual-harassment suit, this time naming high-profile B.C. officer

Like legal time bombs, sexual harassment suits keep blowing up on the RCMP.

Another has just exploded, with Insp. Tim Shields, the force's chief spokesman in British Columbia, accused of making sexual advances on a civilian colleague, who also claims other senior Mounties treated he as a sexual object to the point she had to take stress leave, The Canadian Press reports.

Atoya Montague filed a statement of claim Thursday naming Shields, along with the B.C. and federal governments. She alleges there was a top-down culture of sexual harassment within the RCMP that made officers comfortable enough to make open sexual advances.

None of Montague's allegations have been proven in court and the RCMP has not yet filed its statement of defence. The Mounties released a statement late Thursday calling her claims "unproven, uncorroborated and unsubstantiated allegations," CKNW News reported.

[ Related: RCMP inspector, federal and B.C. governments face another harassment lawsuit ]

The Mounties have been reeling for the last couple of years as female uniformed officers and civilian staffers have filed claims that Canada's national police force's attitude towards women fostered a psychologically damaging work atmosphere and fostered sexual misbehaviour.

The include a suit by Cpl. Catherine Galliford, once an RCMP public affairs spokeswoman, and recently a female member of the Mounties famed Musical Ride.

[ Related: 282 join RCMP sexual harassment class-action lawsuit ]

Hundreds of women have come forward alleging their careers were damaged and their mental health affected by the actions of their fellow officers, often in positions of authority over them.

A class-action suit filed in B.C. Supreme Court earlier this year so far includes 282 women from across Canada.

Montague's 22-page claim lists a number of episodes from the time she began working as a civilian employee for the B.C. RCMP in July 2002 until she went on sick leave in August 2011.

She alleges in her suit that Shields propositioned her in August 2003, while the two were driving to Barriere, B.C., to deliver supplies for victims of the area's devastating wildfires that summer.

"While driving and in control of the vehicle, the defendant, Shields, showed the plaintiff his erection through his jean shorts and made sexual advances towards the plaintiff, asking the plaintiff to have sex with him and advising her that he could easily pull the car over so that he could perform oral sex on her," the lawsuit states, according to CP.

Five years later, when Shields was heading the Mounties' strategic communications unit in B.C. and was Montague's boss, he made another pass at her while they were in his police car, the suit alleges.

"On this occassion he showed the plaintiff his penis," the document says.

"Shields' misconduct was malicious and wilful and he acted solely with the intention of sexual gratification, which sexually humiliated the plaintiff and demeaned her value as (a) civilian member of the RCMP and as a human being."

The harassment went on and included remarks about her breasts, invitations to have sex and sexually explicit text messages, CP reported.

Shields wasn't the only Mountie to come on to her, Montague claims. While attending a meeting in Ottawa in 2004, a staff sergeant identified only by the initial W invited her to his room for a drink. When she showed up, he was wearing just a swimsuit, she alleges in her suit.

The following year, a superintendent moved in close at a social event and put his hand on her thigh, Montague's claim states.

[ Related: B.C. Mountie Karen Katz launches new sexual harassment lawsuit against the RCMP ]

In another instance, members of the RCMP's dog section surrounded her, "making sexually suggestive comments, taunting and literally, physically circling the plaintiff, pushing and rubbing up against her and requesting the plaintiff to join them in their social event later that evening," the lawsuit states.

"The plaintiff was terrified, literally running away from that encounter."

The harassment wasn't just sexual, Montague claims. She claims her work was marginalized and that she was paid $40,000 less than a male colleague doing the same job.

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson promised when he took over the top job in the fall of 2011 that he would rid the Mounties of its "bad apples" and would not tolerate sexual harassment.

The various claims made by Montague and others took place before Paulson's appointment, so we don't yet know what impact he's had.

Paulson himself, though, has shown impatience with some of the complaints. CBC News reported in June that the commissioner told a Senate committee that while there are undoubtedly "bona fide victims of sexual harassment in the RCMP," some recent claims were "outlandish."