Mountie lauded at memorial for fighting sexual harassment

Krista Carle, the retired Mountie who died by suicide after a painful struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, had the courage to say “me too” long before it became an international movement against sexual assault and harassment, her family said at a celebration of life on Thursday.

Kathryn Jarboe remembered her sister as a little girl sitting at the dinner table, politely raising her hand and waiting for her turn to speak.

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It was prophetic, Jarboe said, of Carle’s career in the RCMP when she had to wait her turn to speak out against the systematic bullying and sexual harassment that plagued the force.

On Nov. 8, 2011, after high-profile B.C. RCMP spokeswoman and Carle’s former troopmate Catherine Galliford went public with her experience with sexual harassment, “Krista raised her hand, came forward and said me too, long before the me too movement,” Jarboe said.

From that moment, her sister said, Carle became an eloquent national advocate who relentlessly pushed for better working conditions for Mounties.

It opened the door for many more to speak out and eventually led to a class-action lawsuit against the RCMP for gender-based harassment, which resulted in a $100-million settlement.

“For seven years, Krista stood up for what she believed in, even though it wasn’t easy for her,” Jarboe said.

Friends, fellow Mounties and some of Carle’s troopmates from her graduating class of 1991 released red and white balloons into the air after the ceremony. Carle’s red serge and hat were on display, as were photos that spanned her 53 years.

Krista Grace Carle was born in Calgary on Jan. 2, 1965, the third of four children. Jarboe remembered that she, her father and brother Kevin were getting ready to go skiing when their mother told them the baby was coming.

Then nine-year-old Jarboe ran through the air force base community yelling: “The Carles had a new baby!”

Their father’s job in the air force kept the family moving every few years, but the siblings have fond memories of water skiing, boat trips and ski holidays, said sister Karen Carle.

Krista Carle graduated from the University of Victoria with a theatre degree. Her desire to help people led her to a career in policing. After Carle graduated from the RCMP Academy in 1991, she spent most of her 20-year RCMP career in Alberta.

She married a fellow RCMP officer and they had a son and a daughter.

It was during her time in Calgary that she first experienced the toxic culture that kept female officers silent for so long.

Carle was one of four female Mounties who sued the Attorney General of Canada and 19 RCMP officers for covering up sexual-assault complaints against Sgt. Robert Blundell, with whom the women worked on undercover investigations in Calgary in the 1990s. The lawsuit was settled in 2004 out of court.

Carle then transferred to Nanaimo RCMP, where she worked until her retirement in 2010. She was diagnosed with PTSD and left with a medical discharge.

She settled in Sooke and came to know the Sooke RCMP officers, some of whom helped her during a particularly difficult time.

Sooke RCMP detachment commander Staff Sgt. Jeff McArthur met Carle four years ago and said despite the challenges she faced during her time in the RCMP, she still had pride in her career.

Quoting a song by Canadian rock band Rush, McArthur said Carle lived “closer to the heart” than most people.

In honour of Carle, McArthur asked everyone listening to be more compassionate, more understanding and less reserved about offering friendship to people suffering from PTSD.

“My memories of her were as a happy, fun-loving person, who despite the adversity and despite her torment, was committed to helping others and really was a proud member of the RCMP,” McArthur said.

A letter was read out on behalf of RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who called Carle “an inspiration and a force for change.”

Lucki said in her letter that Carle’s legacy will be the changes that are currently underway to make the national police force a safer work environment for all.

Premier John Horgan, who met Carle when she was volunteering in his community office, also expressed condolences through a letter.

“She was passionate about changing the world around her for the better and her contributions will be felt for many years to come,” Horgan’s letter said. “Her legacy will live on through the countless people she has inspired.”

Just before a bugler played The Last Post, her brother-in-law John Harper, who became a confidant during Carle’s darkest days, said: “She fell victim to a world where there was still no safety net she could trust. But in true Krista fashion, she found a way to right the wrong.”

kderosa@timescolonist.com

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