'End of watch': Former RCMP officer who fought harassment dies by suicide in B.C.
A woman who left the RCMP after fighting against sexual harassment and bullying in the service has died.
Friends have confirmed to CTV Vancouver that Krista Carle died by suicide on Friday. She was 53.
Her Twitter profile, last updated in March, described her as a “retired RCMP officer, farmer, mom and wife.”
Carle was among several women who went public in 2011 about their treatment by superiors in the RCMP. She was also outspoken about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, which forced her to leave the RCMP on a medical discharge after 19 years of service. She said she lost everything to PTSD, including her marriage and career, after experiencing dozens of instances of harassment.
Susan Gastaldo, a friend of Carle’s, said her mission in life was to help others.
“She just wanted the best for everyone who’s gone through what she’s went through,” Gastaldo told CTV Vancouver.
Carle was part of a graduating class of the RCMP that included Catherine Galliford, a former RCMP spokesperson in B.C. who first came forward about sexual harassment, and Janet Merlo, who was the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit about harassment and abuse of women within the RCMP. The federal government settled that suit in 2016 for $100 million.
At the time, Bob Paulson, then commissioner of the RCMP, delivered an apology to current and former female officers and employees who were subjected to discrimination and harassment.
At that time, Carle told the Globe and Mail that she had spoken to numerous women grappling with harassment, some of whom were fighting suicidal thoughts. “It’s like being on the Titanic and people are in the water saying, ‘Please throw me a life ring. I’m drowning.’ You try to help as many people as you can, but there are so many of them. And some of them aren’t going to make it.”
Merlo wrote on Facebook on Saturday: “End of watch for my beautiful friend. I totally understand when you get to the point where you just can’t do one more day. Rest easy, I am so blessed to have been on such a journey with you. My heart is broken. We will carry your torch and never let anyone forget that your life meant so much to so many. Till we meet again troopmate. 27 strong.”
Carle told CTV News Channel in 2015 that the RCMP and the Canadian military have “real issues that need to be dealt with and senior management keep seeming to mess them up and not deal with them appropriately.”
She was reacting to comments made by Gen. Tom Lawson, who was then chief of the defence staff, blaming “biological wiring” for sexual harassment.
“His comments are absolutely outrageous,” she said. She said the RCMP had promised to “clean up the force and make changes but the damage has been done to myself and 380 other women who are in the class action and countless others who have not come forward.”
She said true change would only come through leadership who believes there is a problem.
Last year, an auditor's report found the RCMP was failing to meet the mental-health needs of its members due to a lack of resources, poor monitoring and meagre support from supervisors.
Another lawsuit over bullying and harassment with two male lead plaintiffs was begun against the RCMP last month, this time claiming $1.1 billion in damages.
Carle told CTV’s Canada AM in 2015 that she was a proud, excited graduate in 1991 when she headed to Strathmore, Alta. for her first posting.
“It was a dream come true to have completed training and to become a full-fledged member of the RCMP.”
But within the first couple of months she found pornography strewn through her training manual, investigational files, brief case and desk. Then she was assaulted by a co-worker in her apartment. There were repeated instances of inappropriate jokes and disrespectful treatment of female workers, she said.
“There was one occasion where one of my co-workers had a picture of a stripper on his desk. I, particularly, found this offensive and spoke to my sergeant about it.”
She pointed it out it was an unacceptable image for the kids on school tours to see and was “shunned by the guys for a few days after that.”
She said she repeatedly reported her concerns to her superiors and nothing was done.
“It was disheartening and it slowly eroded at my personal confidence and my self-esteem.”
She said when Galliford came forward, she realized she wasn’t alone and that she realized the “necessity to speak out.”
Carle had been part of a legal action that was mediated out of court in 2004 over the sexual assault of three female officers while undercover. She said she was hopeful then that it would lead to significant changes to the force’s sexual harassment policy but that didn’t happen.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki, who assumed the top job in April and is the first woman named permanently to the post, said last month that she doesn’t think the force will reach 50 per cent gender equity because the rural nature of its coverage makes it difficult for women.
During 2016-2017, slightly more than one in five RCMP regular members were women, and the force hired 22 per cent women over that period. To compare, over the same time, the Toronto Police Service hired 48 per cent women.
Lucki also drew criticism in May when she said the RCMP cannot eliminate sexual harassment and that while she’s experienced “situations that weren’t entirely comfortable” her attitude is that “whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
With files from CTV Vancouver