Judge slams Mounties for ‘outrageous’ harassment, awarding sergeant $141,000 in bullying lawsuit
Richard Warnica (March 1, 2017). National Post. Retrieved from: http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/judge-slams-mounties-for-outrageous-harassment-awarding-sergeant-141000-in-bullying-lawsuit
Senior RCMP officials serially harassed a decorated investigator over a period of years, derailing his career and causing him severe emotional distress, an Ontario judge ruled Tuesday.
Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Vallee awarded Sgt. Peter Merrifield, who is still with the force, a total of $141,000 in general and special damages in the case. She called the RCMP’s conduct toward him “outrageous” and “beyond all standards of what is right and decent.”
“Not only did Mr. Merrifield suffer from significant mental-health issues as a result of the actions taken by the RCMP,” she wrote, “those actions also stained his reputation.”
Tuesday’s decision brought an end to a sometimes sordid case that stretched on for 10 years, featured secret witnesses and saw a senior Mountie admit, on the stand, that he once tried to solicit a prostitute in London, Ont.
The ruling is only the latest in a series of dark marks against the RCMP, which has been dogged for years by accusations of a toxic internal culture rife with bullying and harassment.
Merrifield sued the force in 2007, alleging a years-long pattern of retaliation. He claimed his once-promising career was sidelined starting in 2005, after he ran for a Conservative Party nomination for the 2006 federal election.
Merrifield has always maintained he didn’t want to win that nomination. He sold no memberships and didn’t campaign. His only goal was to appear at the meeting so he could speak out against the tactics employed by the eventual winner, then Barrie city councillor Patrick Brown. (Brown is now the leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party.)
Regardless, in the aftermath of that meeting, he claimed his career was unduly and illegally stymied. He was pulled off an elite protection force that investigated threats against politicians and other dignitaries. He was subject to repeated internal investigations, none of which found any significant wrongdoing. He ended up sidelined for months with severe depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. At one point, while on mental-health leave, he even turned in his service pistol.
The architect of much of that harassment, Merrifield long believed, was RCMP Supt. Marc Proulx. Proulx, who has since retired, aggressively questioned Merrifield about the nomination meeting, grilling him “on his political platform and his campaign materials,” Vallee wrote, conduct she called “outrageous” and “beyond all standards of what is right and decent.”
Afterward, Proulx had Merrifield transferred out of his elite investigative unit, a move Vallee called “unjustified and punitive. It resulted in a permanent stain on Mr. Merrifield’s reputation and career. The stain did not fade with time.”
Mr. Merrifield suffered from significant depression and post-tramautic stress disorder as a result of the actions taken by the RCMP
He also opened an internal investigation into Merrifield’s use of his RCMP credit card. On that point, Vallee was particularly scathing. She wrote that by opening that investigation, Proulx showed a “reckless disregard of causing Mr. Merrifield emotional distress.”
She also found that Proulx’s “concern that Mr. Merrifield had engaged in disgraceful conduct was disingenuous” because at about the same time, he was engaged in his own conduct that would bring the Mounties into disrepute, namely trying to solicit a prostitute in London who turned out to be an undercover police officer.
In the end, Vallee awarded Merrifield $41,000 for lost wages and $100,000 in compensation for the harassment he suffered.
“He was unable to work for various periods of time,” she wrote. “At one point, he disengaged from his family and spent his days lying on a sofa. He did not bathe and developed bed sores.”
Vallee did not, however, find that the force breached Merrifield’s Charter rights, nor did she award him any punitive damages.
Merrifield, who has since become a vocal advocate for RCMP unionization, said the campaign against him continues to this day. He would not list any specific complaints, but he wants the minister of public safety to appoint an external investigator to probe the actions of senior Mounties in his case.
“I want to see the public have the same faith in the RCMP as it used to have,” he said.
A spokesman for the RCMP said the force had received the judgment and was in the process of reviewing it.
Merrifield, for his part, said he’d like to return to the kind of national security work he was involved in before all this began. “It’s 12 years of my life,” he said. “It’s sad that it’s taken that long.”
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