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Some solace in outcome for former RCMP member Butts

The broad smile on the face of the wide-eyed and excited young woman in the photo, barely into her career as a Mountie, belies the painful years ahead for Louise Butts.
The broad smile on the face of the wide-eyed and excited young woman in the photo, barely into her career as a Mountie, belies the painful years ahead for Louise Butts.

TRURO, N.S. – After decades of self-doubt, a recent settlement in the class-action sexual harassment suit against the RCMP, brings peace of mind for Louise Butts.

“You can’t recover things, right?” said Butts.

“You can’t get things back. But I feel it would be closure for me, and it would validate things for me, in that I wasn’t really that much a part of the problem.”

Butts resigned from the RCMP in 1997 after 11 years because of workplace harassment and bullying.

Becoming a Mountie was the realization of a childhood dream for Butts who joined in 1986. But soon after arriving for her second career posting in Newfoundland, the allure and anticipation of donning the serge quickly faded.

In subsequent years numerous incidents took a toll, escalating to medical issues and problems with alcohol.

Butts, 57, now lives in Truro and is one of thousands of current and former RCMP officers and employees who filed claims of sexual harassment in a class-action lawsuit initiated by former Mounties Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson.

The federal government has set aside $100 million for payouts to those involved in the suit although there is no cap.

Under the settlement the harassed current and former female employees are to receive between $10,000 and $220,000.

It also stipulates the RCMP must work to eliminate harassment within its ranks.

Butts doesn’t yet know how much she will receive. And while the money will help her financially, the peace of mind of finally having it publicly acknowledged that she was not at fault, is its own reward.

As for her personal healing journey, she points to a particular event – a funeral in Truro for a fellow RCMP member.

“My healing started when I met all my ex co-workers at the church … it was validation for me,” she said. “I had one member say to me, ‘I’m really sorry for how you were treated.’

“That was the beginning of my healing.”

As for the financial aspect, “it will also give me the opportunity to go back to school and continue my education.”

* * * *

‘I’m not afraid of anybody or anything anymore’

TRURO, N.S. – After fulfilling the lifelong dream of joining the RCMP in 1986 at age 26, Louise Butts said her objective was to serve a role of helping others.

But it didn’t take long for disillusionment to set in.

Butts, 57, has lived in Truro since 2012 and said her first inklings of a negative attitude among the RCMP against female members began to show during training at Depot in Regina in 1986.

“They didn’t want women. And there was a common expression of ‘Goddam 1974’,”she said, indicating the first year female recruits were accepted. “And we’d hear that all the time. They just didn’t want women.”

Nonetheless, Butts said, she accepted the mindset at the RCMP Depot as part of the “break-them-down-to-build-them-up” attitude, similar to basic training in the military.

Following graduation, Butts said she thoroughly enjoyed her first nine months as part of the Executive Diplomatic Protection Service in Ottawa where she worked under a “good watch commander.”

“I did not have one incident when I was in Ottawa,” she said.

Then came here posting to Newfoundland.

Butts spent eight years at two separate detachments, before taking leave for three years and eventually retiring in early 1997.

For the next 20 years, she suffered in silence, a failure in her own eyes and that of family members alike. In 2012 her mother died without knowing her true story.

Despite her negative experiences, Butts said she would “do it over again” because of the people she met and the experiences she had as a Mountie.

Finally, she’s ready to move on with her life without remorse.

“I’m not afraid of anybody or anything anymore. It will heal me,” she said, of finally telling her story. “I feel it is an important part of the process of healing.”

 

Hsullivan@trurodaily.com

 

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