Jane Hall loves the RCMP. That's why the retired Langley Mountie says she supports Valerie MacLean and others who have joined a class action lawsuit over allegations of gender-based discrimination.
Hall, like MacLean, was one of the first generation of women to join the RCMP, shortly after the doors were opened for Canadians of either gender to serve.
When she swore her oath and went off to RCMP training in 1977, Hall knew things would be tough, and over the course of a 21-year career, she encountered a few obstacles.
But she also thought that attitudes would change faster than they have.
"We never thought we'd be dealing with it 35 years later," Hall told the Langley Advance this week.
Hall, a longtime Langley resident who also served in the local RCMP detachment for a time, wrote about her experiences in the book The Red Wall: A Woman in the RCMP.
When she graduated from training in Regina and headed off to her first assignment, Hall was one of about 150 female officers in a force with 18,000 members.
"You were pretty much on your own back then," said Hall, who tended to take the bull by the horns when she ran into problems with her fellow officers.
"Being a female member in the late seventies and early eighties was a very unpredictable and sometimes dysfunctional place to be, but fortunately there were more allies than enemies, and things seemed to be changing slowly but positively for females within the force," Hall wrote.
MacLean, who also joined the RCMP in the 1970s, said much the same thing when she joined as one of 200 current and former RCMP officers in the lawsuit.
"We felt that we were really advancing things- that we would be paving the way for women. And I don't feel that way now," MacLean recently said.
"What she's saying is exactly the way senior female members [of the RCMP] feel," said Hall.
MacLean has spent the last few years as the public face of the Better Business Bureau, the group that works to protect the public from incompetent or fraudulent companies.
With experience across a variety of detachments in her career, Hall said she's seen good workplaces, and others where problems could fester. In The Red Wall, she wrote about officers who would tack up pornographic calendars near her work space, or those who simply refused to give good recommendations or opportunities to female members.
But she wrote more often about those male officers who either fully accepted women in the ranks, or who came around when they saw she and her fellow female officers could do the job.
In her early days working in North Vancouver, two superintendents supported the idea of women in the RCMP, and that made all the difference there, she noted.
If there's good leadership, the discrimination "never gets a foothold," Hall said.
Hall believes that most male officers are offended by discrimination as well. They, too, want it rooted out, she said.
The force needs a national leadership strategy, and a top-down method of dealing with all discrimination, including but not limited to gender discrimination, Hall believes.
"This isn't just an RCMP problem," Hall said. "It's not just a policing problem. There's a sexist bent to our society that's still unacceptable."
Her own 19-year-old daughter is currently studying criminology and looking to become a police officer.
Whether she joins the RCMP or goes into a civic police force hasn't been decided yet. But Hall hopes the RCMP takes action and sends a message that women can and should keep joining its ranks.
"I think we've established that women can do the job," Hall said.
@ Copyright 2013