RCMP settles sex-assault allegations
By JOE FRIESEN and ANDY HOFFMAN
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Wednesday, Aug 4, 2004
Four female RCMP officers who say they were sexually assaulted by one of the force's top undercover investigators and then suffered as officials tried to cover up the details have settled a lawsuit out of court.
The suit alleged the four women were subjected to assaults by Sergeant Robert Blundell including fondling, digital penetration and intercourse, sometimes in the middle of undercover assignments. All four women and Sgt. Blundell continue to work for the RCMP.
Neither the RCMP nor lawyers for the women would comment on details of the settlement yesterday.
"All I can confirm is that the case was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties, but the terms of the agreement will remain confidential," RCMP spokeswoman Corporal Monique Beauchamp said.
In court documents filed last year, the women allege that senior RCMP officers engaged in "cover-ups of the sexual assaults" and "participated in reprisals against the women for coming forward with their complaints, including sexual harassment."
The suit named the Attorney-General of Canada and 19 officers as defendants, including RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, Deputy Commissioner Beverly Busson and Chief Superintendent Peter German.
The four women, whose identities were not made public, worked with Sgt. Blundell on undercover investigations in Calgary from 1994 to 1997.
At the time, sources said, Sgt. Blundell was known as one of Canada's top undercover operatives. The claim states he had a reputation for getting confessions out of suspected murderers and was also held in high regard for his training of undercover officers.
But, according to the statement of claim, the four women were "individually and separately sexually assaulted and harassed by Sgt. Blundell."
In one case, the documents allege, a female officer was asked by Sgt. Blundell to act as "window dressing" to impress a suspect in an unsolved homicide. Sgt. Blundell planned to buy her drinks and eventually take her home. After arriving at his hotel, though, the woman fell asleep and woke up to find Sgt. Blundell sexually assaulting her. When she tried to push him off, he pushed back, and continued to assault her until he ejaculated.
No statement of defence was ever submitted and these allegations were not proven in court.
Another officer was forced into sexual touching while working undercover, the claim states. The female officer was supposed to act as Sgt. Blundell's girlfriend. As they approached their target, he "whispered into her ear words to the following effect: 'If I touch you just go with it and just make it look natural,' " the claim says. "[The plaintiff] had no opportunity to respond and could not exit the scenario without jeopardizing the situation. Blundell then introduced [the plaintiff] to the target and while doing so put his hand down [her] sweater and fondled her breasts."
Other allegations included Sgt. Blundell suggesting a female officer should take off her clothes and masturbate in his car while returning from a supposed undercover operation, and on a separate occasion ripping open the officer's blouse on an elevator and telling her he wanted to be licked all over.
According to the documents, when the women brought these incidents to their superiors, the investigating officers asked one of them whether she realized what "this" would mean for her boyfriend's career in the RCMP, and whether she realized that Sgt. Blundell could lose his job because of the complaint.
One woman also said she was subject to "intense workplace harassment including overtly sexual remarks and unwanted sexual touching" after making her complaint.
The RCMP has instituted new anti-harassment training, but has not yet put in place the changes to its anti-harassment policy, Cpl. Beauchamp said. She attributed the delay to the magnitude of the changes and said the new policy should be in place soon.
Cpl. Beauchamp said the RCMP has now provided more than 7,000 of its 22,000 employees with a one-day course in anti-discrimination and anti-harassment training. She said she does not know how many other harassment cases have been brought forward within the force.
One of the four women remains on leave because of these incidents. Sgt. Blundell was given a reprimand and lost one vacation day as a result of an internal investigation.
The women each asked for $750,000 in damages in the original claim but it is not known how much they received as part of the settlement.
The RCMP praised the women for their "personal and professional commitment" in a press release yesterday. "These unselfish acts have enhanced the ability of the RCMP to continue in its resolve that harassment will not be tolerated."
Angela Byrne, a lawyer for the four women, said: "I am pleased the RCMP has acknowledged the courage of these four women and has recognized the important role they have played in bringing about changes to the RCMP's anti-harassment policy."
Andy Hoffman is a reporter