One of B.C.’s most high-profile politicians is talking about her own personal trauma as she throws her support behind six female police officers who recently filed a proposed class action lawsuit.
Surrey South BC United MLA Elenore Sturko, who served as an RCMP officer for 13 years, says she also faced harassment during her time as a police officer.
Police officers begin class action process for systemic gender-based harassment and discrimination
Sturko also revealed, for the first time publicly, that she was among the women who received a settlement in the Merlo-Davidson class action lawsuit, which resulted in more than $100 million dollars being awarded to female RCMP officers.
“The day the cheque came to me in the mail I was devastated, because you always think that will be something that makes you feel better, but it doesn’t,” she told Global News.
“You have a lot of healing to do, a lot of trust that you have to rebuild in your organization when things like this happen.”
Last week, numerous sexual harassment claims were made by six women, as they launched their class action suit against B.C.’s 13 cities with municipal police forces. The suit also names the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and B.C.’s solicitor general and public safety minister.
“I think I can speak for all of us, and we’ve all been in very dark places, and I consider myself lucky to have been able to leave,” plaintiff Helen Irvine, a former Delta Police officer, told Global News in an interview last week.
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Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said his staff members are reviewing the lawsuit and promised changes to the Police Act to better deal with harassment.
“The idea of a separate office or independent officer to take harassment issues to or cases, I think has some merit, and I’m prepared to look at that,” he said.
Sturko also believes an outside agency might be needed.
“There’s a lot of stigma attached to coming forward to say that something happened, and standing up to either bullying, sexual harassment, sexual assaults for some people,” she said.
“It’s a very lonely time.”
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