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RCMP faces federal court challenge over dismissed harassment complaint

The RCMP logo is seen outside the force's 'E' division headquarters in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck The RCMP logo is seen outside the force's 'E' division headquarters in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, March 16, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A Mountie is taking the national police force to court over a harassment complaint she says was improperly dismissed by the RCMP’s new independent claims system.

Nicole Patapoff, an eight-year RCMP veteran, launched a federal court judicial review on March 17 against an Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution decision.

According to court documents, the alleged incident occurred June 8, 2021. Patapoff was completing mandatory firearms training and evaluation when, she claims, the officer in command harassed her with “misogynistic, belittling, offensive, disrespectful, demeaning and unnecessary” statements.

The court application alleges RCMP Line Officer Paul Christensen told Patapoff “to go home, get a bottle of Windex, and get into [her] kitchen and bathroom” and start cleaning “to strengthen her trigger finger.”

The comment came after Patapoff refused to practice firing her gun without ammo before a test, to conserve stamina.

The RCMP officer passed the test but, according to court documents, the “sexist, misogynistic and highly inappropriate” behaviour continued in the parking lot.

As she was walking to her car, the documents say, Christensen followed her, called out her first name about 25 metres away, then loudly remarked, “I didn’t even recognize you!”

“Wow!” Patapoff says he told her. “I love your hair!”

The comments made her “feel very uncomfortable.”

On Aug. 1, 2021, Patapoff filed a complaint with the ICHR. This new system, billed as “an important step to address work place harassment and violence,” had launched a month earlier.

Regina-based litigator Rodger Linka was appointed by the ICHR to examine the complaint. Six months later, Linka dismissed the complaint, saying it did not meet the “definition of harassment.”

In his recommendations to the RCMP, Linka wrote the force is “well on its way towards a significant change in operation,” adding, “It is inevitable during this transition, that old style actions and comments might be used and this will continue in the future and hopefully less so as members are better educated.”

“This decision is tone deaf,” Patapoff’s lawyer, Sebastien Anderson, said.

The labour rights lawyer slammed the IHRC, “New name, new process, same result. There’s been no substantive change.”

Patapoff’s judicial review says Linka’s “conclusion is fatally flawed or unreasonable.”

It says the investigator failed to follow the Canadian Labour Congress definition of harassment adopted by the RCMP as “any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.”

Linka did not respond to an interview request from CTV News.

Shortly after Patapoff received the decision, the ICHR told her that Linka “had been removed from the list of investigators approved for investigating complaints.”

“The RCMP cannot discuss the individual situations of RCMP members,” Robin Percival, with RCMP National Communications Services, wrote in an email. “As well, the information we can offer is limited at this time as the matter is before the court.”

According to the National Police Federation 2022 Annual Report, there have been 700 complaints through this new RCMP harassment resolution system since it came into effect nearly two years ago.

Two hundred of those cases have been concluded and 175 have yet to be assigned to an investigator. The report says there are concerns about the “timeliness, quality of investigations and investigators.”

The ICHR has also received authorization to hire more investigators to address “the significant backlog of files.”

“The RCMP takes all allegations of harassment and discrimination seriously, and is committed to fostering a safe and respectful workplace,” Percival wrote in a statement. “We continue to encourage anyone who feels they are the victim of inappropriate behaviour to report it.“ Top Stories


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