(Vancouver, BC) November 17, 2011 – We applaud the courage of Catherine Galliford, Krista Carle and the other women members of the RCMP who have broken the brotherhood code of silence revealing the ongoing sexism they experienced in the form of sexual harassment within their employment as members of the RCMP. Sexual harassment is a form of male violence against women and is appalling in every instance. It holds particular grave significance when it occurs within this a federal agency with provincial jurisdiction the primary task of which is to protect the public and to promote safety, including the safety of women.
Sexual harassment of women thrives in environments that are male dominated, hierarchal and demand strict adherence to codes of silence such as the RCMP. Further, and similar to when women report rape, women who report sexual harassment are at great risk of retaliation and backlash risking hostility and isolation from supervisors and colleagues.
“Sexual harassment constitutes discrimination and is a violation of women’s human rights. It undermines women’s equality and women’s ability to participate in public life, be it as employees, tenants, or simply as members of the community. It is deeply disturbing to consider what effect a culture of sexist attitudes and misogyny might have had on the RCMP’s conduct of the missing women’s investigation. If the RCMP can’t even ensure the safety and integrity of its own female members, what faith can we have in its ability to ensure the safety of vulnerable and marginalized women in the community?” Laura Track, Legal Director, West Coast Legal Education & Action Fund
Hilla Kerner from Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter, “Sexual harassment is an aggressive and calculated sexist tactic to exclude women from a “man’s world”. The men who are sexually harassing their female colleagues are not operating in a vacuum. They are encouraged by other men who either passively allow, or actively encourage them to act in such a cowardly and appalling manner.”
These instances highlight the systemic and institutional mindset of male domination consistent with RCMP response to all forms of male violence against women. For decades we have noted the RCMP failures to respond to women who by necessity resort to relying on the RCMP. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association has written to the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP to ask them to initiate a public interest investigation into the RCMP’s relationship with women staff, and policies relating to women generally including RCMP strip search policies, investigations of women’s complaints, and domestic assault complaint investigations.
“The climate of fear and danger for women inside and outside the institution of policing is becoming clearer and clearer as women in the RCMP report being violated by sexual violence & harassment and we hear from the Missing Women’s Inquiry about police demanding sex from poor and marginalized women in the Downtown Eastside. Is there any wonder why women who are raped avoid reporting to police? How safe are women in this society when institutionalized sexism and misogyny continue unabated within the only institution we can turn to for our protection?” said Irene Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer, Executive Director of Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre.
RCMP and other police services play a critical role in the safety planning for women. For decades we have noted how RCMP failures compromise and endanger the lives of girls and women:
- · failure to investigate disappearances of women from Vancouver
- · ineffective and passive “Highway of Tears” investigation where Indigenous girls and women have gone missing in the region between Prince George and Prince Rupert
- · criminalization of women for their attempts to defend themselves from male violence
- · active dismissal of rape and violence against women in intimate relationships
- · male RCMP officers conducting strip searches of women in police custody.
“There is little to no evidence that the RCMP is able to effectively review their own conduct and misconduct as evident in numerous inquiries and complaints in recent years. The RCMP act with impunity, without transparency and without accountability,” said Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services. “These reports of sexual harassment demonstrate in the gravest manner the betrayal of trust and the extent to which women are at risk both within and outside the RCMP. Where women and addressing violence against women are concerned this police agency through their own actions severely eroded the public trust.”
The following individuals and groups have endorsed this statement:
Aboriginal Front Door Society
Aboriginal Women’s Action Network
Atira Women’s Resource Society
BWSS – Battered Women’s Support Services
BC Civil Liberties Association
Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres (CASAC)
Deshkan Ziibi, Native Women’s Association of Ontario
EVE (former Exploited Voices now Educating)
Justice For Girls
Kelowna Women’s Shelter
Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter
WAVAW – Women Against Violence Against Women
West Coast Legal Education & Action Fund
Irene Tsepnopoulos-Elhaimer, Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre – 604-771-1715
Hilla Kerner, Vancouver Rape Relief & Women’s Shelter – 604-872-8212
Angela Marie MacDougall, Battered Women’s Support Services – 604-808-0507
Find the original petition here: http://www.bwss.org/2011/11/statement-by-womens-and-community-groups-regarding-rcmp-sexual-harassment-allegations/