Ex-officer suing RCMP says she didn't understand racism until joining force
WINNIPEG -- Warning: Readers may find some language in this story disturbing.
When Margorie Hudson joined the RCMP in Manitoba in 1979 as one of the first Indigenous women on the force, she said she was shocked by the racist comments she heard from fellow officers.
“I didn’t understand what racism was until I joined the RCMP,” Hudson told CTV News in an interview Tuesday.
“They were saying racist things in front of me, about me, about the Indigenous people where I worked, because I worked on reserves mostly.”
Following a 31-year career with the RCMP, Hudson is now suing the force for alleged systemic racism she experienced on the job, including unequal pay, lack of opportunities compared to her white colleagues and years of discrimination that culminated in lasting psychological trauma.
When she finally quit the force in 2009, Hudson threw her police badge in the trash.
“I’ve talked for 31 years and they weren’t listening,” she said. “So I said, ‘You know what, I quit.’ And I threw the badge out and I walked out.”
Her complaints are detailed in a 16-page statement of claim filed last week in Federal Court. Hudson is the lead plaintiff in the proposed class-action lawsuit.
Hudson alleges that once, while investigating the case of a missing body in a river with two white officers, she overheard her one of her colleagues say, “Oh my God, it smells like a rotten Indian.”
“And I said, ‘Hey guys, I’m here,’” Hudson said.
On another occasion, she said she saw a corporal throw a large, metal flashlight at an Indigenous man. The flashlight was so heavy that Hudson feared the man would die, but fortunately the corporal missed.
“And then he said, ‘Oh I missed that f***ing Indian,’” she recalled.
She also alleges that a corporal once told her that she was “fat because all Indians are fat.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Hudson was sent to do "countless dangerous jobs by herself with no back up, in situations where non-racialized RCMP members were not sent alone."
In just two days, 80 other men and women have come forward with similar allegations.
Sometimes other officers were present and witnessed what happened but said nothing, Hudson said. She alleges that numerous complaints voiced to RCMP management were never investigated or were completely ignored.
“I can’t say it was everybody, but you can obviously all notice and see the racism happening and how we were treated different,” she said.
In a statement, the RCMP said it cannot speak directly to allegations that are now before the courts. The force also said there is no room for racism or any other kind of discrimination in the RCMP.
Eventually, Hudson began to speak out at work about the alleged racism she saw around her.
“I was labelled as a troublemaker because I would speak out. I thought, you know what, I’m not going to just stand by. This is wrong. This is totally wrong. The way they’re treating me and the way I saw other members being treated of different ethnic groups.”
But speaking out began to take a toll on her mental health. She says the RCMP disregarded her complaints, as well as the stress and other consequences to her physical and mental health.
“I was so stressed out I couldn’t even hold a pen. I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t do anything. I went to work and I could not work. I was so worn out from the fight.”
Lawyer David Klein, who represents Hudson, said his firm has been contacted by dozens of current and former members of the RCMP who’ve expressed similar instances of discrimination.
“We have a lot of people who have suicidal ideation, who suffer from PTSD,” he said.
Eleven years since she quit the force, Hudson said she has never stopped talking about her experiences with the RCMP. But now, as conversations about systemic racism in Canada reach the forefront, she says she’s speaking out for those who can’t.
“I know of a member that was forced out of the RCMP, he’s Indigenous, and ended up in a mental hospital. So those kind of people, I will fight for them.”
With files from The Canadian Press