2

Paulson’s complaint of harassment made in error, says senior Mountie

Case was ‘miscommunicated’, says senior RCMP officer


 
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

Even to RCMP ears, the notion of Canada’s most powerful law-enforcement official feeling harassed by a wisecracking sergeant must have sounded absurd.

No surprise, then, that a witness for the Mounties tried on Tuesday to walk back a complaint made in the name of RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson against Sgt. Peter Merrifield—who is himself suing the force for alleged harassment—saying it should not have been processed as a harassment case.

Chief Supt. Michael O’Rielly noted that the complaint wasn’t launched by Paulson himself, but by a constable who heard the offending joke and took offence on the commissioner’s behalf.

“There’s no third-party complaint process for harassment,” O’Rielly testified at the civil trial into Merrifield’s claims, before admitting that he described the report himself as a “third-party harassment complaint” in internal communication.

“I suspect that’s where this process began to get confused,” O’Rielly said ruefully. “This process was miscommunicated.”

Related: How a little court case turned into a tire fire for the RCMP

It was a tough admission for O’Rielly to make. As director general of the RCMP’s workplace responsibility branch, he helped to write the force’s current policies and procedures on harassment, and now oversees the system that applies them. He’s regarded as a progressive influence within an organization struggling with the problem of workplace and sexual harassment. Yet he’s one of numerous officers whose thumbprints are on a complaint that wound up in the harassment pipeline, despite being plainly out of order.

The case stems from a remark Merrifield made during a June 24 training seminar in Newmarket, Ont. The topic was assessing the psychological states of suspects and informants, and the officer in charge encouraged participants to name people in charge of large organizations they thought showed psychopathic tendencies.

Witnesses said Merrifield went for a cheap laugh, calling out, “Paulson,” before adding: “I’m just joking. Just a joke.”

Paulson wasn’t there, but an officer who was, Const. Omar Ktabi, reported it as “a form of harassment,” arguing that “for Sgt. Merrifield to make a comment suggesting our commissioner is a psychopath is troubling, disrespectful and completely inappropriate.”

At some point—it’s not clear how—Paulson became the principal complainant in the case, and, in late October, Merrifield was notified he was accused of harassment. Two weeks ago, he was told that the commissioner wanted a written apology, to Paulson and everyone at the seminar, before he would informally resolve the matter.

But this whole issue may prove a bigger headache for Paulson than for Merrifield.

On Monday, the sergeant’s lawyers cited the complaint as retaliation for their client’s long-running case against the RCMP claiming workplace harassment, abuse of authority and cover-ups on the part of his senior officers dating back to 2005. They’re now asking the Superior Court of Ontario justice hearing Merrifield’s case, Mary Vallee, to recall Paulson to answer for the complaint, which they see as a desperate attempt to turn the tables on an officer whose case has made several senior officers look bad.

“If you’re going to treat every joke made about every member as a harassment issue,” said John Phillips, one of Merrifield’s lawyers, “you’re not going to have a force left.”

If he’s summoned, it would be Paulson’s second appearance at the trial, where, last winter, he faced awkward questions about why he ridiculed Merrifield’s complaints in front of a Senate standing committee in June 2013.

O’Rielly told court there is a way for third parties to report behaviour they deem harassing. But such reports, he said, are supposed to start out as workplace performance or misconduct complaints, which follow a different protocol.

When asked whether Paulson was told this one had been erroneously treated as a harassment issue, he took a breath and said, “Unfortunately, no.”


 

Paulson’s complaint of harassment made in error, says senior Mountie

  1. I am Mel Young, a retired member of the RCMP. I applaud Sgt. Peter Merrifield for exposing the alleged wrongdoings occurring in the RCMP. He is not alone in his pursuit of justice. Sixteen years ago I became aware of an allegation that member(s) of the RCMP may have used taxpayer-funded RCMP informants in the early 1990’s to conduct a clandestine smear campaign on then Prime Minister Kim Campbell-Canada’s first female Prime Minister. I reported the offence together with a harassment complaint and during the complaint process I was threatened by an Officer in Charge who actually provided me with the wording to immediately submit to then Commissioner to withdraw my complaint- I refused. During the harassment complaint process I received an RCMP letter advising that interview tapes were ‘accidentally’ erased when making copies.

    The offices of former Prime Minister Harper, former Minister of Justice Peter MacKay and former Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney, were made aware this complaint to no avail. Despite my efforts to have the RCMP Commissioner intervene, the investigation remained an “O” Division (Ontario) file despite the national importance and the fact that those involved in the investigation were working in the same Division. Former PM Kim Campbell only became aware of this complaint in 2014 and was never interviewed despite it being a criminal offence of subversion and an attack on our political system. The RCMP chose not to report my allegation to CSIS which continues to possess the mandate to investigate the offence of subversion against the government.

    On a separate matter when I complained against harassing behaviour in the RCMP, the following letter appeared in my internal mail slot in an RCMP Government of Canada envelope:

    “You appear to be a knowledgeable individual. I think that you should take advantage of that knowledge and stop the action you are taking. You have caused sufficient aggravation for several people. We cannot guarantee that future responses to your continuing actions will be as pleasant as this memo. I am confident that you realize that for every action there is an equal reaction and sometimes a stronger reaction. Enjoy your career!”

    The Officer in Charge at the time advised that the above letter was simply someone wishing me well in my career.

    I was also reminded by a senior RCMP commissioned officer (who was later convicted of a criminal offence) that the RCMP had over a hundred years dealing with people like me who come forward to report wrongdoing and that I could never win. I was advised that the “dogs” would be called off if I signed a document withdrawing my complaints.

    When I reported that a work colleague disclosed to me that she was sexually assaulted by a commissioned officer I was threatened with dismissal.

    The list of identified wrongdoings are many and varied but what remains constant is the RCMP’s willingness to take extraordinary measures to silence members who dare speak out against the organization. Some have chosen to adopt a passive indifference approach to injustices and have been rewarded with commissioned officer promotions. Challenging the sinister side of the RCMP carries a significant emotion toll while being stomped on by the RCMP and defined with terms like ‘treacherous bastard’. Many of us were repeatedly threatened and kicked to the curb by this organization that boasts about its reputation as an ‘organization of excellence’. The RCMP has a team of lawyers represented though the Department of Justice and forces those members who have been wronged to fight their cases through exhaustive court battles.

    Mel Young
    Retired RCMP member

  2. I am Mel Young, a retired member of the RCMP. I applaud Sgt. Peter Merrifield for exposing the alleged wrongdoings occurring in the RCMP. He is not alone in his pursuit of justice. Sixteen years ago I became aware of an allegation that member(s) of the RCMP may have used taxpayer-funded RCMP informants in the early 1990’s to conduct a clandestine smear campaign on then Prime Minister Kim Campbell-Canada’s first female Prime Minister. I reported the offence together with a harassment complaint and during the complaint process I was threatened by an Officer in Charge who actually provided me with the wording to immediately submit to then Commissioner to withdraw my complaint but I refused. During the harassment complaint process I received an RCMP letter advising that interview tapes were ‘accidentally’ erased when making copies.

    The offices of former Prime Minister Harper, former Minister of Justice Peter MacKay and former Minister of Public Safety Steven Blaney, were made aware this complaint to no avail. Despite my efforts to have the RCMP Commissioner intervene, the investigation remained an “O” Division (Ontario) file despite the national importance and the fact that those involved in the process were working in the same Division. Former PM Kim Campbell only became aware of this complaint in 2014 and was never interviewed despite it being a criminal offence of subversion and an attack on our political system. The RCMP chose not to report my allegation to CSIS which continues to possess the mandate to investigate the offence of subversion against the government.

    On a separate matter when I complained against harassing behaviour in the RCMP, the following letter appeared in my internal mail slot in an RCMP Government of Canada envelope:

    “You appear to be a knowledgeable individual. I think that you should take advantage of that knowledge and stop the action you are taking. You have caused sufficient aggravation for several people. We cannot guarantee that future responses to your continuing actions will be as pleasant as this memo. I am confident that you realize that for every action there is an equal reaction and sometimes a stronger reaction. Enjoy your career!”

    The Officer in Charge at the time advised that the above letter was simply someone wishing me well in my career.

    I was also reminded by a senior RCMP commissioned officer (who was later convicted of a criminal offence) that the RCMP had over a hundred years dealing with people like me who come forward to report wrongdoing and that I could never win. I was advised that the “dogs” would be called off if I signed a document withdrawing my complaints.

    When I reported that a work colleague disclosed to me that she was sexually assaulted by a commissioned officer I was threatened with dismissal.

    The list of identified wrongdoings are many and varied but what remains constant is the RCMP’s willingness to take extraordinary measures to silence members who dare speak out against the organization. Some have chosen to adopt a passive indifference approach to injustices and have been rewarded with commissioned officer promotions. Challenging the sinister side of the RCMP carries a significant emotion toll while being stomped on by the RCMP and defined with terms like ‘treacherous bastard’. Many of us were repeatedly threatened and kicked to the curb by this organization that boasts about its reputation as an ‘organization of excellence’. The RCMP has a team of lawyers represented though the Department of Justice and forces those members who have been wronged to fight their cases through exhaustive court battles.
    Mel Young
    Retired RCMP member

Sign in to comment.