The former RCMP officer who spearheaded a successful class-action lawsuit against the force over harassment, bullying and sexual assault is speaking out on the case of a Richmond Mountie believed to have died by suicide.
In the wake Const. Jasmine Thiara‘s death, Janet Merlo is renewing the call for an independent outside entity to review members’ complaints.
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Merlo’s lawsuit was eventually settled in 2016, resulting in a $125 million payout for more than 2,300 female officers.
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“As far as I can see nothing has changed,” Merlo told Global News.
“That optimism I had on that day, and that faith that finally, with the settlement announced and their acknowledgement of all the wrongdoing, I thought things were going to change, and here we are again discussing the death of a member.”
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Thiara’s body was found by Vancouver police officers on Richmond’s Moray Bridge about 45 minutes after calls to 911 reported a woman considering self harm on the night of Feb. 21, according to the Independent Investigations Officer.
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Thiara’s family said she was involved in a relationship with a senior officer that was not public. Her family’s lawyer also revealed Thiara was four weeks pregnant.
While the cause of Const. Thiara’s death is still unknown, the RCMP confirmed to Global News last week that it is investigating allegations of an inappropriate relationship with her supervisor.
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Merlo believes Thiara’s case is yet another example of the need for systemic change in the force.
“This is why we’re here a decade later talking about the same issues, because nothing is changing and they’re not clamping down on the policies that are already in place,” she said.
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“Until the people it the RCMP, the members, have a safe place to go to to launch their complaints and have an entity that will deal with their issues honestly and openly, and with transparency, nothing is going to change.”
Thiara’s family continues to push for an inquest into her death.
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The Independent Investigations Office, which probes cases of serious harm or death potentially involving the actions or inactions of police, the BC Coroners Service and the RCMP are all investigating the death.
— With files from Rumina Daya
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