A civilian employee of the RCMP has filed a B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit alleging a top-down culture of sexual harassment within the force was so pervasive it couldn’t be stopped, according to The Canadian Press.
Atoya Montague’s civil lawsuit details sexual harassment from a superintendent, staff sergeant, sergeant and other members of the force, but it specifically names high-profile Insp. Tim Shields as its focus, claiming he subjected her to on-going harassment and sexual harassment.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, also names the Attorney General of Canada and B.C.’s minister of justice. It outlines a series of grievances ranging from outright sexual harassment to complaints of working overtime without pay and being paid $40,000 less than a male colleague in the same job.
The allegations have not been proven in court and Shields hasn’t responded with a statement of defence. The RCMP said Thursday night the force has yet to be formally served, but it understands the lawsuit “contains a series of serious but currently unproven, uncorroborated, and unsubstantiated allegations.”
Insp. Ed Boettcher said in a statement the force became aware of the allegations through a third party before the lawsuit was filed and launched an investigation but repeated attempts to gather information from Montague were unsuccessful.
Montague’s statement of claim alleges Shields propositioned her in a vehicle when they were diving to Barriere, B.C., in August 2003 to drop off supplies for victims of a wildfire.
“While driving and in control of the vehicle, the defendant, Shields, showed the plaintiff his erection through his jean shorts and made sexual advances towards the plaintiff, asking the plaintiff to have sex with him and advising her that he could easily pull the car over so that he could perform oral sex on her,” the lawsuit states.
The actions left her in “absolute shock,” the lawsuit says, saying Shields abused his position of trust and rank over her.
“He further took advantage of the fact that he was in total control of the vehicle and the plaintiff was the captive passenger.”
Five years later, Shields was promoted to take charge of the RCMP’s strategic communication unit and she reported directly to him.
The lawsuit states he made similar unwanted sexual advances towards her in July 2008 in his police car.
“On this occasion he showed the plaintiff his penis,” the lawsuit states.
“Shields’ misconduct was malicious and wilful and he acted solely with the intention of sexual gratification, which sexually humiliated the plaintiff and demeaned her value as (a) civilian member of the RCMP and as a human being.”
She claims in the lawsuit that Shields regularly made remarks about her breasts, expressed interested in having sex with her and sent her sexually explicit tests messages.
“Shields inquired of the plaintiff if she had ever told anybody about the incident in 2003,” the lawsuit states. “He advised the plaintiff he would get in big trouble if anyone ever found out, saying that the RCMP took sexual harassment seriously.”
Boettcher said the RCMP’s efforts to investigate the matter extended from the highest levels, up to and including the commanding officer, and Montague did not provide any information that would have allowed for a fulsome investigation of the allegations.
“The RCMP has done as thorough an investigation as possible based on the information received from the third party,” he said. “None of the allegations including those which have been set out in the statement of claim could be substantiated nor corroborated.”