RCMP appeals decision in officer's bullying lawsuit

The RCMP is appealing the judgment in a recent bullying lawsuit where the judge called the Mounties' behaviour "outrageous."

In documents filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal, the national police force alleges the trial judge made a host of errors when she handed down her ruling earlier this month.

Justice Mary Vallee ordered the RCMP to pay Sgt. Peter Merrifield $41,000 in lost wages for delayed advancement, and $100,000 in general damages for workplace "harassment and intentional infliction of mental suffering."

The judge also criticized the RCMP for its failure to comply with disclosure requirements, found the reasons given for the late production of officers' notes "dubious," and questioned the credibility of some of the senior officers' testimony at the trial, which was heard in Newmarket, Ont., over 13 months.

In its notice of appeal, RCMP lawyers dispute just about every one of Vallee's findings.

The RCMP submits, among other things, that the judge was mistaken when she found the force's conduct was flagrant and outrageous or caused harm or any visible and provable illness. The Mounties also argue Vallee was wrong to find Merrifield suffered from severe depression and should never have called RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to testify.

The trial featured testimony from Paulson who, at an earlier Senate committee hearing, was publicly dismissive of Merrifield's bullying claims and portrayed the sergeant as someone more concerned with setting up an RCMP union than doing police work.

"Some people's ambitions exceed their abilities," the commissioner told Senators at the time.

Merrifield is now a senior member of the National Police Federation, one of the two main groups seeking to certify the first-ever union for Mounties.

Claims he was bullied for decade

Merrifield launched the lawsuit after claiming RCMP brass harassed him when he ran for the Conservative Party nomination in Barrie in 2005.

Over 12 years though, and in the face of positive performance reviews, the judge found Merrifield was wrongly accused of misusing his RCMP credit card and purposefully isolated at work.

She said high-ranking officers should have acted on Merrifield's complaints of harassment and investigated his reports that one of his workplace tormentors had been arrested for soliciting a prostitute.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked if, in the wake of Vallee's ruling, he still had confidence in Commissioner Paulson.

"I — we all — are agreed, including Commissioner Paulson, but certainly everyone in this government, that harassment is unacceptable," Trudeau told reporters.

Paulson has announced his intention to retire from the force in June.