Island officer sues RCMP, alleging harassment

A veteran Mountie based in Courtenay is suing the RCMP, alleging she was subjected to years of sexist and racist harassment.

Cpl. Jill Swann’s suit, filed in B.C. Supreme Court, says she was discriminated against “on the basis of her sex, marital status, family status, physical and mental disability and personal appearance.”

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The suit names Swann’s former boss, retired corporal Roger Collin, and several supervisors, including the former head of the RCMP’s B.C. division, known as E Division, claiming they did nothing to stop the harassment.

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Collin did not return calls for comment on Wednesday.

Swann, a 20-year veteran of the RCMP, alleges Collin called her “meth face” after she had surgery to remove potentially cancerous moles on her face, and “big red machine” in reference to her weight gain and red hair.

She alleges he sent her a pack of condoms in a bouquet of flowers after the birth of her youngest son and drew a bull’s-eye and derogatory names on her soft body armour.

She also alleges that while she was pregnant, Collin placed a document on her desk titled “1943 guide to hiring women” and told her in front of co-workers that she needed maternity clothes from Nanaimo Tent and Canvas.

Swann said she was humiliated and made to feel demoralized, “devalued and powerless as a member of the RCMP.”

The suit alleges that Collin referred to an investigative project targeting First Nations and called E-Paramedian as “E-Pair of Indians.” Swann, whose husband and children are Métis, says she found the comment offensive and discriminatory.

In the suit, Collin is alleged to have quipped that “no more chicks” should be hired in the office and “regularly discredited the advances of women, ridiculed their accomplishments and was generally hateful towards women.”

Swann also alleges that no senior officer within E Division’s chain of command took action to address Collin’s alleged misconduct and that the RCMP failed to provide a safe workplace “free of discrimination, harassment and intimidation.”

“The actions of the RCMP and the negligent employees were reckless, arrogant, high-handed and abusive and showed a callous disregard for [Swann’s] rights,” the lawsuit states.

Swann is seeking general and special damages, exemplary and punitive damages, aggravated damages and costs pursuant to the court order.

Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau, spokeswoman for E Division RCMP, said the RCMP cannot comment as it has not yet been served with the lawsuit.

“Once we have been formally served, we will review the information with the Department of Justice and our official response will be filed in court as a statement of defence,” Linteau said.

The allegations come just months after the RCMP announced a record $100-million compensation package for women who were sexually harassed while working for the national force. The RCMP has come under fire for allowing a toxic work environment that has contributed to low morale and mental-health issues for members.

In May, a report by the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP criticized the national police force for its failure to address widespread bullying and harassment.

Ian MacPhail, the commission’s chairman, urged the federal government to bring in civilian governance after he concluded the force’s top brass is incapable of making reforms to its dysfunctional culture.

That same month, former auditor general Sheila Fraser reviewed four cases of sexual harassment within the RCMP and called for a panel of outside experts to oversee harassment complaints to ensure complainants do not face reprisals.

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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