For­mer Moun­tie writes about ha­rass­ment

Har­bour Grace na­tive Janet Merlo launches book ‘No One To Tell’ in St. John’s

The Compass - - OPINION - “Change is the rea­son I have spo­ken out to the me­dia, launched a law­suit, and writ­ten this mem­oir. My goal — a goal shared by my for­mer col­leagues who have also spo­ken out — is to make life bet­ter for women in the RCMP and in other po­lice forces in Canada

— Janet Merlo of Har­bour Grace on why she wrote “No One To Tell: Break­ing My Si­lence on Life in the RCMP”

Janet Merlo (Far­rell) of Har­bour Grace re­ceived her let­ter of ac­cep­tance to the RCMP on Christ­mas Eve in 1990. Twenty years later, she left the force, cit­ing de­pres­sion and post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

On a form filled out at the time of her exit — as she re­counts in a new book re­leased last week — the na­ture of her work en­vi­ron­ment was front and cen­tre.

“The RCMP is 100 years be­hind in its treat­ment of women,” she stated. “Sex­ual ha­rass­ment is ram­pant. There is no ac­count­abil­ity other than to qui­etly trans­fer the of­fend­ing mem­bers and re­turn re­sults of in­ves­ti­ga­tions to those who speak out as ‘un­founded.’”

Since her de­par­ture from the force in 2010, Merlo — who was based in Nanaimo, B.C. — has gone pub­lic with her per­sonal story of ha­rass­ment at the hands of se­lect col­leagues and su­pe­ri­ors within the force.

Her claims have not been proven in court. She is cur­rently seek­ing to have her case cer­ti­fied as a class-ac­tion law­suit, with her lawyers say­ing hun­dreds of other fe­male po­lice of­fi­cers have come for­ward with claims.

Keep­ing notes

Merlo’s book — “No One To Tell: Break­ing My Si­lence on Life in the RCMP” — was writ­ten in con­sul­ta­tion with lawyers as well as pub­lish­ing staff at Break­wa­ter Books.

In the text, she notes, “names have been omit­ted and some de­tails smudged to ob­scure iden­ti­ties for le­gal rea­sons.”

How­ever, she writes, she kept note­books through­out her ca­reer, al­low­ing her to de­tail what she says are spe­cific in­stances of ha­rass­ment and her own re­ac­tions at the time.

Of one en­counter, she writes, “He held my en­tire ca­reer in the fleshy palm of that hand, so I clamped my mouth shut, again, and I ducked around him. But I know my face reg­is­tered my dis­gust.”

Speak­ing with TC Me­dia on Tues­day, Oct. 22, she said the book is ti­tled “No One To Tell” be­cause of how she felt at the time — there was no one to tell who would re­spond ap­pro­pri­ately.

I have no re­grets in go­ing pub­lic be­cause, at the end of the day, that’s the only av­enue we had left, was to take it out­side the or­ga­ni­za­tion and

go to the pub­lic.

Com­plaints

“We had all talked about it amongst our­selves over the years, whether it was in the locker room, or over cof­fee, or what­ever. We talked about what was hap­pen­ing on that day with a cer­tain per­son, or what was hap­pen­ing in the big­ger scope of the of­fice or the RCMP in gen­eral,” she said of in­ci­dents of ha­rass­ment to­wards fe­male of­fi­cers.

She said com­plaints to un­ad­dressed.

Then, af­ter she left the force, a news story broke in­volv­ing Cpl. Cather­ine Gal­li­ford, who grad­u­ated with Merlo from RCMP train­ing and was in front of the cam­eras on high-pro­file cases, in­clud­ing the Air In­dia dis­as­ter and the trial of Robert Pick­ton in Bri­tish Columbia.

Gal­li­ford had come out pub­licly with claims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in­side the RCMP. Her al­le­ga­tions, in in­ter­views and now in a le­gal case filed in the spring of 2012, have yet to be proven in court.

“It wasn’t un­til I saw her on the TV, so bro­ken and in the state that she was, that it prompted me to con­tact the CBC and that’s when it be­gan for me, too, be­cause I had kind of put it away and left it be­hind me, up to that point,” Merlo said.

“I have no re­grets in go­ing pub­lic be­cause, at the end of the day, that’s the only av­enue we had left, was to take it out­side the or­ga­ni­za­tion and go to the pub­lic.”

Life of a cop

su­pe­ri­ors went

Aside from the topic of ha­rass­ment, her book dis­cusses the chal­lenges of life as a front-line po­lice of­fi­cer.

“There were so many sud­den deaths it’s hard to keep them straight,” she writes. “Heart at­tacks, ac­ci­dents, sui­cides. A lot of sui­cides, and ev­ery one of them unique and un­fath­omable. One man shot him­self — whether in frus­tra­tion or ex­haus­tion — af­ter his build­ing renos failed in­spec­tion.”

Walk­ing through the chal­lenges in her work­ing life, she ac­knowl­edges it was dif­fi­cult to not take things home. She ded­i­cated her book to her two daugh­ters and ex-hus­band, who she says suf­fered through her ex­pe­ri­ences with her.

“I want (the book) to be an agent of change,” she said, point­ing to a hope for both a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of day-to-day po­lice work and, in de­tail­ing her ex­pe­ri­ences with work­place ha­rass­ment, a push across Canada for more re­spect­ful work­places.

The RCMP is not com­ment­ing di­rectly on Merlo’s state­ments, her case or the new book.

How­ever, the RCMP’s na­tional re­spect­ful work­place co-or­di­na­tor, An­gela Work­manS­tark, spoke with The Tele­gram on the topic of the po­lice force’s gen­eral work­ing en­v­i­ron- ment.

Ap­pointed in late March, Work­man-Stark said her du­ties have in­cluded over­see­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the RCMP’s “gen­eral re­spect ac­tion plan.” The plan in­cludes tak­ing a close look at how to de­velop and main­tain a re­spect­ful work­place — one that’s trans­par­ent, with open lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and in­clu­sive­ness, re­gard­less of gen­der, eth­nic­ity or sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion.

Over the last sev­eral months, she said, there have been dis­cus­sions with RCMP mem­bers past and present. The goal has been to bet­ter un­der­stand is­sues and their root causes, to ef­fec­tively bring in change for the fu­ture.

“… we’re cer­tainly mov­ing the marker,” she said.

Work­man-Stark said an online re­spect­ful work­place train­ing course will be launched soon.

The RCMP, through both lawyers and staff at the high­est lev­els, has re­peat­edly said ha­rass­ment of any kind is not tol­er­ated within the fed­eral po­lice force.

Pho­tos by Rhonda Hay­ward/TC Me­dia/The Tele­gram

Janet Merlo has re­leased a book, “No One To Tell,” about her ex­pe­ri­ence of sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the RCMP.

Au­thor and for­mer RCMP of­fi­cer Janet Merlo speaks at a news con­fer­ence to of­fi­cially launch her book “No One To Tell: Break­ing My Si­lence on Life in the RCMP” at the Ma­sonic Tem­ple in St. John’s on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 23.

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