Court rejects proposed class action lawsuit against Waterloo Regional Police
Published Friday, July 13, 2018 7:02PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, July 13, 2018 7:14PM EDT
A judge has ruled against the plaintiffs in a proposed class action lawsuit against Waterloo Regional Police.
They accused the force of gender-based bullying, violence and sexual misconduct.
One of those plaintiffs was Angie Rivers, a constable with Waterloo Regional Police. She claimed male officers made sexual advances, questioned her competence and refused to provide her with backup during dangerous calls.
“I first started out internally,” Rivers says. “Then I went to the human rights tribunal which has cost me thousands and thousands [of dollars]… and is far from being done as well.”
She acted as the representative plaintiff in the proposed class action lawsuit that alleged years of mistreatment towards women at the service.
Amoung the allegations, that a senior officer sent a photo of his penis to a female colleague.
On Friday, Justice Deena Baltman agreed with the arguments made by the force’s lawyers and the union that the case does not fall under the court’s jurisdiction.
Rivers says she’s disappointed with the ruling.
“These were really technicalities that were being addressed by Justice Baltman,” says Douglas Elliott, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs. “She wasn’t addressing whether there’s a problem of sexist behavior at the Waterloo Regional Police Service. She was really addressing how these complaints should be addressed.”
Justice Baltman wrote that her decision was not a “vindication of current practices” and the allegations raise “serious, triable issues” relating to the workplace culture. She called them “very troubling.”
Rivers and those behind the lawsuit are vowing to fight the decision.
“This is only one leg of the race,” she says. “We knew it would be really difficult but we have to give the justice system a chance to work it out.”
Lawyers for the plaintiffs say they'll be filing an appeal in the next 30 days, claiming all other options have already proven ineffective.
“It’s very clear that the system has failed to work in the last 40 years,” says Elliot. “I personally have no faith it is going to work in the next 40 years.”
An appeal could be heard as soon as next year.
“We are justice fighters and that’s why we chose this career path,” says Rivers. “Unfortuntanately none of us could have predicted we’d be fighting for justice against our own police force.”
After the decision, Tom Galloway, the chair of the Waterloo Regional Police Service Board, and Chief Bryan Larkin issued a statement on behalf of the force which reads in part:
“Today’s decision in no way diminishes the Board’s and Police Service’s commitment to provide a safe, inclusive, equitable and non-discriminatory workplace for all of its members both uniform and civilian professionals.”
The full statement can be read here.