A Mountie has won the right to take a discrimination claim to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, bypassing an RCMP grievance system deemed dysfunctional. A federal judge agreed there was no reason the police veteran could not seek help outside the force.
“If you are in the RCMP and have a grievance against your employer, there is no third-party adjudication,” said Louise Morel, attorney with Forget Smith Morel Barristers of Ottawa who represented the Mountie; “The RCMP grievance system is ineffective.”
The latest Federal Court ruling against RCMP management comes as members of the force attempt to overturn a ban on unionizing the force. A Supreme Court judgment on the union application is pending.
“It can take anywhere from five to ten years to get a decision under the grievance system, which gives members no choice but to go back to their employer who is the same one they are grieving against in the first place,” said Morel, a former RCMP Chief Superintendent. Asked if she supported unionization of the force, Morel replied: “When I was a member I didn’t; I am not pro-union. But the system we have doesn’t work. There has got to be a better system.”
The case involved an RCMP sergeant recalled from an overseas post as medically unfit and denied any chance of promotion. Sgt. Antonio D’Angelo was assigned to the Mounties’ Rome desk as a liaison officer in 2009, two years after he recovered from a spinal injury. “He can’t run,” said Morel; “It never impaired his ability to do his job.”
In 2012 the RCMP recalled D’Angelo to Canada citing his “disability and medical profile”, according to court documents, and was told he had no chance of gaining a promotion. D’Angelo served 29 years with the force.
Union Banned Since 1920
“They approved his transfer; two-and-a-half years later when he was doing a great job, they cited his disability and brought him back prematurely,” Morel said. D’Angelo filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of disability after his grievances with the RCMP went nowhere.
“A member will give up five, six, seven years to this grievance system,” said Morel; “It happens a lot.” The attorney noted under recent Bill C-42 amendments to the RCMP Act members may also be suspended without pay while their appeals wind through the lengthy grievance system.
“If somebody gets suspended without pay, they will starve them out under this grievance system,” Morel said. “They still have a mortgage, they still have kids to feed, and they will go five years without a paycheque.”
Federal Court Justice Robert Hughes ruled in the D’Angelo case the policeman had a right to appeal his treatment to the Human Rights Commission, noting that “matters did not seem to move very quickly in the RCMP grievance process”.
The RCMP is the only major Canadian police force without a union under a 1920 cabinet ban. The order followed post-WWI police strikes in Winnipeg, Boston and Liverpool that provoked public outrage.
By Tom Korski