A B.C. Mountie is taking the RCMP to the Federal Court after she says a workplace harassment complaint she made about misogynistic behaviour by a fellow officer was wrongly dismissed.
Nicole Patapoff says the RCMP-appointed investigator who reviewed her case at the Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution didn’t follow the definition of harassment set out in the Canadian Labour Code and failed to speak with witnesses who could have corroborated Patapoff’s claims.
She filed a complaint in August 2021, two months after she says a line officer at her annual firearms training test made repeated misogynistic and belittling comments towards her.
Patapoff says she didn’t want to do any “dry firing” – discharging a gun without live ammunition – ahead of her test in order to preserve her hand strength, but that the line officer told her to. She did some of the practice firing and, afterwards, she says the line officer told her “to go home, get a bottle of Windex, and get into [her] kitchen and bathroom and just start cleaning” to strengthen her trigger finger.
The officer then allegedly told Patapoff that she had an issue with strength and was a safety issue. He reportedly told her this would impact her career and that she may not be welcome back at the range.
Patapoff says she explained to the officer that she hadn’t shot a gun consistently for four years as she had been off on back-to-back maternity leaves. She passed her test, but the officer allegedly told Patapoff she should be able to shoot consistently for four hours without any issues.
The officer also repeatedly called Patapoff “itty-bitty” and commented on her height, according to the Federal Court application.
Once she was done with the test, Patapoff changed out of her uniform and into regular clothing and was walking outside when she says the officer called out to her, saying “I didn’t even recognize you,” “Wow,” and “I love your hair.”
Patapoff says she found the entire experience “harsh and threatening” and felt embarrassed and demeaned.
A year-and-a-half later, on Feb. 16, 2023, the investigator looking into Patapoff’s complaint said he didn’t believe it constituted harassment. He said he thought the line officer hadn’t meant to cause harm and that Patapoff’s experience was likely coloured by the stress of taking her test.
In March, Patapoff was told that investigator was no longer on the list of approved people for looking into RCMP harassment complaints, but that it didn’t impact his decision on Patapoff’s case.
Patapoff has now applied for a judicial review from the Federal Court, arguing that the investigator made an error of law.
Under the Canadian Labour Code, harassment is defined as: “Any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee, including any prescribed action, conduct or comment.”
Patapoff says her complaint clearly met that threshold and that it should be reviewed by a different investigator. She is also asking for the RCMP, as represented by the Attorney General of Canada, to pay her damages.
The Attorney General of Canada has not filed a response.