MERLO, Janet




Author Tags: Law, Women

“During my first few years as an RCMP officer,” says Janet Merlo, “I had a supervisor who kept a naked, blowup doll in his office. And during the nightshifts, he would keep it standing ... and when I'd bring in files for reading he'd ask me to stand next to it to see who was taller.”

As described in her memoir, No One To Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP (Breakwater 2013), Merlo, who served many of her nineteen years with the RCMP in Nanaimo, left the force in 2010, citing post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. She has since alleged sexual harassment from colleagues and superiors as the source of her problems.

According to The Vancouver Sun, Merlo further asserts that her boyfriends were repeatedly told by her male cohorts that she was having sex with her fellow officers, specifically describing an alleged sex act that was performed with a six-pack of beer on her head.

She says a senior officer yelled at her in 1992, when she was pregnant, saying “next time keep your f---ing legs closed” if she wished her RCMP career to proceed. A year later male cops chided her, belittling her motherhood status, saying, “Janet, can you take that call or are you pregnant again?”

Some sexual discrimination was endemic within the system, she claims. For instance, whereas male officers were allowed to play hockey for three hours on duty, female officers were prohibited from taking aerobics classes at lunchtime.

In a book published in her native Newfoundland and dedicated to her ex-husband and two daughters, Merlo references the sexual harassment claims of her fellow RCMP graduate Cpl. Catherine Galliford who served as the RCMP spokesperson for the Air India disaster and the trial of Robert Pickton. Neither woman’s allegations have been proven in court.

Merlo’s stance is unusual in that her lawyers are helping her to launch a class action lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court, suing the Justice Minister of B.C. and the attorney-general of Canada, for alleged negligence in terms of staff supervision. Although she will be the lead plaintiff, her case could include several hundred women who have come forward and alleged inappropriate conduct by their fellow RCMP officers.

Opening statements on behalf of both Merlo and the government are likely to be heard for five days in April or May, according to Justice Miriam Gropper.

The RCMP has responded by announcing that 100 officers will be trained to examine internal complaints, including complaints of sexual harassment. Hence the RMCP is proposing, in essence, to conduct their own investigation of themselves outside the purview of the courts.

Originally from Grace Harbour, NL, Merlo, at 44, was operating a daycare out of her home in Nanaimo. She subsequently moved with her two daughters to St. John’s, NL, where she works for the John Howard Society.

BOOKS:

No One To Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP (Breakwater 2013) $24.95
978-1-55081-434-7

[BCBW 2013]

Review of the author's work by BC Studies:
No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP