*This story contains graphic details that some may find disturbing.
Several Greater Victoria cities and municipalities are among 13 in B.C. that have been named in a proposed class-action lawsuit by six women police officers who are alleging that discrimination, harassment, sexual assault and bullying occurred in the workplace.
Named in the lawsuit, filed Thursday in B.C. Supreme Court, are Saanich, Oak Bay, Esquimalt, Victoria and Central Saanich, along with Abbotsford, Delta, Nelson, New Westminster, Port Moody, Surrey, Vancouver, West Vancouver. Other parties named in the suit include the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner of B.C., the King, the B.C. attorney general, the B.C. public safety minister of B.C. and the B.C. solicitor general.
The communities named all have their own police services, with Esquimalt and Victoria being covered by VicPD.
One of the plaintiffs cannot be named due to a publication ban related to a case, but the others are Vancouver Police Const. Anja Bergler, Ann-Sue Piper of the Central Saanich Police Service, Helen Irvine, formerly of the Delta Police, Cary Ryan, formerly of the West Vancouver Police, and Lauren Phillips, formerly of the Victoria Police and New Westminster Police.
The court filing says the plaintiffs “allege that they, and fellow female Officers, were subject to gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination, harassment and bullying by other Officers and management of municipal police forces in British Columbia. The Representative Plaintiffs allege that the Municipal Police Forces and the government authorities responsible for their management failed to fulfill statutory, common law and contractual duties to provide the Representative Plaintiffs and Class Members … with a work environment free of gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination, harassment and bullying.”
The claim details allegations by Piper about the Central Saanich Police Service, including that she “experienced, among other things, unwanted sexual touching and comments in the workplace. Ms. Piper was exposed to routine ‘jokes’ about oral sex (blow jobs), frequently was touched on her buttocks by fellow Officers, and was threatened to be penetrated with a service rifle by a male Officer. On several occasions, Ms. Piper complained to CSPS about the harassment that she was experiencing at the hands of other Officers, but these complaints were not, or insufficiently, addressed at led to retaliatory abuse, often at the hands of of CSPS management.”
Piper was later diagnosed with post-traumatic disorder, the claim states.
These allegations have not been proven in court and the defendants named have not filed responses in court yet, although the Central Saanich Police Service issued a statement on its website in relation to the lawsuit.
“Central Saanich Police Service wishes to make it clear that any form of harassment, violence, and discrimination by our members or staff is unacceptable and will not be tolerated by the Police Service,” read the statement. “The Service is committed to upholding the values of equity, diversity, and inclusivity in the workplace. We strongly encourage anyone who has experienced harassment, violence or discrimination to come forward, and our management team is committed to supporting these individuals and ensuring reports are taken seriously and addressed in a fair and transparent manner. We will not be commenting publicly on individual cases out of respect for the privacy of those involved and the court process.”