The 2011 Michener Award finalists talk about their award winning stories and the people who helped make them happen – Michener Awards Ceremony, June 12, 2012.
CBC Vancouver exposed a toxic and long-standing environment of systemic sexual harassment of women within the RCMP. The issue took centre stage nationally following an exclusive CBC interview with a former high-profile RCMP spokesperson who recounted years of on-the-job sexual misconduct from fellow officers. The revelations triggered a flood of similar stories from other female officers.
I’d like to start by thanking their Excellencies for this wonderful evening, and the Michener judges for the honour of this nomination.
When we first interviewed Catherine Galliford we had no idea that interview would expose a scandal that would dominate newscasts for months. After weeks of persistence, producer, Manjula Dufresne earned Catherine Galliford’s trust and she agreed to do her one and only television interview to explain why she had been off duty sick for four years.
Our story lead CBC Television and Radio newscasts and soon every major news organization was reporting her shocking account of sexual harassment. Galliford went from a poised, high profile spokesperson to an emaciated wreck afraid to leave her house. She shook as she told us about her agoraphobia and PTSD after years of working with bosses who made offensive comments, unwanted sexual advances and assaults.
After her story aired, more than four dozen officers contacted us describing a chilling culture of fear and bullying where they were more afraid of their bosses in the detachment than the criminals on the street.
National radio reporter Greg Rasmussen joined our investigation as we discovered another case that perhaps epitomizes what is wrong with the RCMP. Staff Sergeant Robert Blundell is still on the job in BC, even after 4 female mounties said he sexually assaulted them during undercover operations. RCMP brass docked him just one days leave. The women never testified. According to a review, the RCMP botched the investigation.
One of those women, Krista Carle phoned me, deciding to break her silence to support Galliford. She was the second of several women to trust us to tell their stories.
Here in Ottawa the Public Safety Minister promised an investigation. The new RCMP Commissioner promised action. Meantime those officers who contacted us joined forces and now more than 120 officers are trying to mount a class action lawsuit.
Nine days after our first story aired, the Public Complaints Commission launched an extraordinary Chair-initiated inquiry. More cases of sexual misconduct have surfaced.
Two weeks ago the public safety minister announced legislation will be introduced to modernize the police act. Something I don’t think would have happened had we not forced the government to deal with an organization where women tell us do not feel safe.
Our tiny team should acknowledge the help we had from colleagues in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary, Thunder Bay, Victoria and our Ottawa bureau including Alison Crawford, Heather Spiller, and Chris Rands, who are here tonight and will undoubtedly help us as we continue to investigate misconduct in Canada’s National police force.
Manjula and I would like to thank our bosses for believing in us and supporting us. Alison Broddle back in Vancouver, Wayne Williams, Jon Whitten, Johnny Michel, here with us tonight and Jennifer McGuire.
I would like to thank my producer and friend Manjula Dufrense who’s fearless persistence is the reason I am here tonight.
Michener Awards Ceremony
June 12, 2012.