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Travels from: Newfoundland
Janet Merlo is a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and representative plaintiff in a historical class action law suit against the force for gender based harassment. Janet launched the suit with the law firm of Klein Lawyers in Vancouver in 2012 and after 5 years of civil litigation, the force settled in 2017 with compensation beginning at 100 million dollars, a formal national public apology for the sexual harassment women had endured and numerous change initiatives that will be implemented within the force.
What began with approximately 5-6 women joining forces and seeking an avenue of change, the numbers quickly grew and approximately 3000 current and former female employees of the force will submit claim packages to the settlement adjudicator.
Janet graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and History and a certificate in Criminology. She joined the force in 1991 and by 2010 the harassment and bullying had destroyed her career, her marriage and her physical and mental health. She was diagnosed with PTSD, Depression and anxiety and took a medical discharge from the force.
In 2013 Janet published a book about her career in the RCMP, recounting some of the funny, chilling and heartbreaking stories of everyday policing while showing how the systemic culture of sexual harassment chipped away at her personal life and destroyed her career when she began to speak out about it within the force.
Janet now directs her passion for fairness and workplace respect in talks around the country at conferences, presentations with unions, women’s groups and universities.
Here are some of the presentations she has participated in :
- Parliament Hill for her book launch in 2013
- Testified to a Senate committee on Public safety
- Testified at a recent parliamentary committee for a new bill before government.
- University of British Columbia: Sociology Department
- Vancouver Island University
- Memorial University Faculty of Gender studies and the Police studies program
- NL department of Justice training for correctional officers on respectful workplace practices
- CUPE annual conference in NL
- 4 Human rights and labour law conferences in Ottawa, Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver
Janet would be an asset to management meetings, training and conferences to assist leaders in recognizing harassment in their workplace and using her lived experience to show how they can avoid the crisis the RCMP now finds itself in. Harassment costs businesses and organizations millions of dollars annually through low morale, poor productivity, increased sick leave and rapid turnover of good staff who simply choose to leave toxic workplaces.
Janet will also speak to groups to help those who may be harassed at work to find their voice and unite for change like the women of the RCMP have.
People attending the conferences say that they had read and learned a lot about harassment but didn’t truly understand the devastating personal cost until hearing it from someone who has experienced it. It inspired them to regroup, rethink their behaviour at work and change their attitudes.
Janet also realises that there are many men in the workforce who face bullying and harassment who remain quiet and suffer in silence also. She would like to acknowledge them as well and help them find a solution for them.
Janet has formally joined the National Women of Law Enforcement Association as a representative for eastern Canada and will be advocating to help those still suffering through harassment.
Janet now lives in Newfoundland with her two daughters who are attending university
In 2018 , the #metoo movement as well as the #time’sup campaign have brought to the forefront the struggle many of us have in our workplaces in terms of sexual harassment and gender based bullying. Long before these movements, there was a movement started in Canada to deal with the problems of sexual harassment in the RCMP. I was part of that movement.
In March of 2012, I launched a class action law suit against the federal Govt of Canada for the horrible treatment I received in my 20 year policing career. What began as a small suit grew into 3000 current and retired police officers, civilian and municipal support staff across the country coming forward to join in and have their voices heard. As representative plaintiff in the case, I followed it through 5 years of litigation with my team of lawyers until we finally successfully settled last year. During that time I realized a passion as strong as my passion for policing .
That passion is now speaking to groups around the country to help both employees who have been harassed as well as management who either want to train their employees in harassment policy or learn from where the RCMP failed. I have done talks at Parliament Hill , to trade unions , universities, police cadets and corrections trainees about respectful workplaces and the need for legislation and proper wording in business policies to help them avoid the costly liability they can incur if harassment is going on in their organizations.
In terms of employees and unions or associations :
I can speak of my lived experience , how it cost me my marriage,my health and my career because we as police officers had nowhere to go with our concerns. I can show through my experience the long term effects of sexual harassment and inspire those who are struggling in silence to speak out .
These topics include my personal struggles with anxiety , depression and PTSD as well as the physical consequences of my long term stress in a toxic work environment.
Are you experiencing harassment ?
Where can you go for help ?
Who do you talk to ?
What avenues do you have to speak out ?
Is anyone else going through what I am experiencing ?
To management and bosses
I can speak to the exponential cost of having harassment in your work place. Each year businesses and corporations lose millions of dollars through poor morale, sick leave, stress leave and poor productivity possibly only because of one or two harassers that may be active in your workplace.
In my settlement with the RCMP, the financial compensation begins at $100 million dollars with no cap . Thus everybody who has a valid claim against the force will receive their fair financial compensation . What will the courts decide your financial liability is ?
How will you know if you have a harasser in your workplace?
Are you providing adequate training in harassment to your employees to limit your liability if victims come forward ?
Have you provided your employees with an avenue to speak out if they need to without fear of retaliation ?
Is your workplace safe ? Is it toxic?
Will you ever face a law suit for failing to keep your employees safe ?
How do you investigate claims and determine their validity and then do you have the policies and procedures in place for dealing with the offender ? If you do not , it may cost you dearly .
Sexual harassment is very personal and very difficult to deal with and it’s very hard for employees to talk to their bosses about it .
I can speak about my lived experience that I have also written in my book NO ONE TO TELL : BREAKING MY SILENCE ON LIFE IN THE RCMP.
On Friday , July 6th of this year, my good friend , troopmate and coworker, Krista Carle took her life as a result of the long term brutal effects of workplace harassment and her decade long fight for change .
We must talk about it , learn from it and move forward to make workplaces safe because it is costing people their careers ,their health and their lives .
Where are you in this dynamic and where would you like to see yourself ?
Perhaps from hearing my story, you can make your workplace better than it has ever been by ridding it of those who harass others .
If you don’t take a stand , you accept what exists and the consequences.
“We want to once again extend our thanks to you for participating as a speaker for the keynote, “Sexual Harassment in the RCMP: Is change possible?” at the Vancouver Human Rights and Accommodation Conference, which was held on April 25, 2018.
We were very pleased with how the conference went and hope that you found it to be a positive and worthwhile experience too. Please find below the survey responses from the conference participants. The responses were positive, with a large majority of those who completed the survey rating the quality of speakers and topics as “very good” or “excellent”.
The survey respondents rated you a 4.92 out of 5.00! There were (TWO) comments for this panel from the audience.
• “Janet is so brave.”
• “Great to have lived experience and a personal story.”
Janet, as a speaker, we also value your comments/feedback. Please feel free to share with us any comments/suggestions you may have on how Lancaster House can improve our conferences going forward.
Wishing you all the best!”
Jessa Kassner | Event Planner. Lancaster House Legal Publishing