Dana Larsen: RCMP Musical Ride at centre of allegations of horse abuse and harassment

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      This is the fourth in a series of articles looking at the culture of sexual harassment and intimidation within Canadian police forces.

      There are so many allegations of sexual harassment and abuse by police against police that it's hard to keep track.

      Here's some awful highlights from Canada over the last few years.

      Horse abuse and harassment allegations at RCMP Musical Ride

      The RCMP's "Musical Ride" is supposed to be a fun showcase of equestrian skill.

      Instead, it's a centre for animal abuse and alleged intense sexual harassment.

      In 2017, it was found that RCMP riding master Sgt.-Maj. Marc Godue, instructor with the famed RCMP "Musical Ride", had been abusing the horses for many years.

      Godue had been made riding master in 2014, despite previous allegations stretching over years of his fits of rage, punching horses, purposefully riding a horse into wall, and beating a horse with a riding crop until its belly was bleeding.

      CTV News reported that 10 people involved with the Musical Ride refused to appear on camera for fear of reprisals if they spoke out against the horse abuse.

      A year before he was named riding master, Godue was one of 13 people named in a lawsuit by RCMP Staff Sgt. Caroline O'Farrell. O'Farrell claims she was sexually assaulted and harassed while she worked as a constable with the Musical Ride.

      The allegations were never proven in court. O'Farrell reached a settlement in April 2017.

      O'Farrell described it this way to CBC broadcaster Carol Off before the case was settled: "They gang up on you. They grab you. They hold you above a concrete floor by your limbs, they hose you down and then they drag you—face down—through the riding school, which is full of horse urine and feces. Then, they kick the shavings on your face. This happened to me several times. They also pulled down the zipper of the coveralls and poured cold water on my white T-shirt, wearing a bra, and said, 'let's see your high beams come out.' "

      "It was a deliberate campaign of harassment, discrimination, abuse, sabotage of my equipment, heckling. No matter what I did, it just got worse and worse and worse," O'Farrell continued. "They locked me in a room. They made a mock trial. Two or three men stood in front of the door. They demanded I give them my underwear. When I refused, they gave me another 'shit troughing'. They did so many, so many things to me. I could go on and on."

      Fellow officers allegedly openly took bets on when she would commit suicide, according to CBC News. On the lounge chalkboard, officers allegedly wrote "one loaded gun wanted, one Mack truck wanted." The "Mack truck" was a callous reference to another Musical Ride officer who had jumped in front of a Mack truck after similar harassment.

      Officer suicides

      Last column we looked at the tragic suicide of VPD officer Nicole Chan, which occurred after months of delays in her complaint against two senior officers. Her death was followed by allegations from another female officer that her colleagues had told her to "just eat a gun" when she complained of ongoing sexual harassment.

      Const. Chan's suicide in January 2019 came one year after the suicide of former B.C. RCMP officer Krista Carle. Carle was one of several officers who went public in 2011 about sexual harassment from their superiors.

      Carle worked for the RCMP for 19 years. According to the Globe and Mail, she said that within weeks of starting her job, she found graphic pornography “in my desk, in my training manual, in all my investigational files, in my briefcase". She claimed male officers also often asked her lewd questions, touched her inappropriately, and that she was assaulted by a coworker in her apartment.

      In 2011, Carle told the Globe and Mail that she had spoken to numerous police officers grappling with harassment, some of whom were fighting suicidal thoughts. “You try to help as many people as you can, but there are so many of them. And some of them aren’t going to make it.”

      Ottawa sexual harassment claims

      Meanwhile, 14 women working for the Ottawa Police Service have come forward with complaints of being sexually harassed or assaulted by police officers.

      Plus, Ottawa's deputy police chief, Uday Jaswal, is personally facing six disciplinary charges for allegedly sexually harassing two female Ottawa police officers and allegedly sexually harassing and assaulting a civilian employee.

      The Ottawa Police Association says there are more women with allegations against Jaswal, but they're reluctant to come forward out of fear of reprisals.

      None of the allegations have been proven in court.

      Waterloo harassment lawsuit dismissed

      A group of female and male officers was trying to sue the Waterloo Regional Police Service for decades of alleged sexual harassment.

      The harassment includes claims of being driven to remote areas and asked to perform oral sex, having safety equipment removed from their police vehicles, lewd text messages in the middle of the night, and a female officer being dragged into a men's change room by male colleagues.

      None of the allegations have been proven in court.

      Lower courts dismissed their civil lawsuit, saying the plaintiffs should instead use the union grievance process or go to a human rights tribunal. Last year, the Supreme Court declined to hear their appeal.

      Next column, we'll talk about how the RCMP is in the middle of paying out hundreds of millions of dollars to cover hundreds of claims of severe harassment abuse, while also facing a billion-dollar class-action lawsuit from tens of thousands of employees, contractors, and volunteers with similar claims against officers.

      Dana Larsen is an author, advocate, and activist for cannabis and drug policy reform. Follow him on Twitter @danalarsen. For anyone feeling distress in British Columbia, helpful resources include the Crisis Centre (604-872-3311), the 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) line, hospital emergency rooms, and medical doctors.