OTTAWA - Agence France-Presse
A policewoman closes off an area at the Toronto Eaton Centre shopping mall in Toronto, June 2, 2012.REUTERS Photo
More than 200 policewomen and former cops have alleged sexual harassment on the job in a class action lawsuit against Canada's federal police force, with hearings beginning on Thursday.
Hearings opened in British Columbia Supreme Court in Vancouver to certify a suit filed in March by Janet Merlo, a 19-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as a class action, after more women came forward, said lawyer David Klein.
The women say they suffered abuse and harassment on the job.
The suit alleges "that there are problems with the system," Klein said, pointing to "problems the RCMP has been aware of for many years, problems they should have fixed many years ago, problems my clients now want them to repair." The case could take years to settle.
Multiple statements from alleged victims have appeared in the Canadian media. The women cite examples of superiors asking for sexual favors and fellow officers making crude jokes.
According to Merlo's claim, one colleague said in front of her fiance, now her husband, "Janet is the right height because you can lay a six-pack of beer on her head while she gives you a blow job," the Globe and Mail reported.
Former Mountie Valerie MacLean told CBC that her supervisor would tell her that "if I was friendly, if we had a relationship, it would be good for my career because he was doing my assessment." MacLean told the public broadcaster she complained on numerous occasions, but "nothing happened. It wasn't stopped." Last year, the new commissioner of the RCMP, Bob Paulson, pledged to crack down on sexual harassment within the ranks of the police force.