Police Woman Repeatedly Assaulted in the Workplace

Tahreem Farooqi - 1A Planning
Posted on: November 5, 2016

A police officer of the Toronto police force claims the environment to be “poisonous” to women, mainly speaking from her personal experience.

Police woman Heather McWilliam claims that she has experienced numerous instances of sexual harassment while working in the 23 Division. According to CBC, McWilliam constantly faced both verbal and physical harassment.

They would treat her like a sexual object. When attending meetings her staff sergeant, Christopher Nolan, would describe himself giving oral sex to her, as well as physically demonstrating it. There were photos of her in a bikini passed around the office. He would whisper in her ear suggestive phrases such as “lick her”, as well as loudly vocalizing how he would “spank her in his office later” (CBC, 2016). This eventually breached physical harassment once he tried to kiss her on the mouth, as well as trying to shove his tongue in her mouth. Nolan admitted to making these comments.

McWilliam eventually filed for harassment at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and the hearing continues. All the claims have been denied thus far, and none of the allegations made have yet been proven in court.

Despite this, McWilliam and her lawyer Kate Hughes believe that this isn’t just a problem affecting one person, but rather a systematic problem within the whole police force. They claim that it is an extremely “poisonous” environment for most women in the police force. One of the major reason why most women don’t call attention to harassment in the workplace is that it leads to the end of their career. Once any allegations are placed, they will most likely not continue in that division, or in that workforce entirely. The other major reason is the fear that comes with the lack of trust between the women and their coworkers. When working in the field, they are responsible for each other’s lives. The fear that is associated with “rating”, which is what it would be considered in the workforce if one were to file a harassment complaint, is too great when it comes to one’s life, especially when “rating” is seen as someone breaking that trust.

This fear, Hughes claims, is seen all throughout the police force, stating, “To the female officers out there who are still suffering in these conditions at Toronto Police Service and who have not come forward, and they are fearful, we’re still going to fight for you, even though you’re unable to. We still know you’re out there and we want to fight for you.”

The representing lawyer of the Toronto Police Services Board battles this claim, stating that this is only a one-time situation rather than a repetitive issue. Lawyer Amandi Esonwanne states, “What you have here is one person. You don’t have before you a set of facts dealing with a number of women in the Toronto Police Service.”

Heather McWilliam has since been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder since the harassment has taken place. Nolan, admitting to having made those comments, has been sentenced to forfeit twenty days of pay.