Toronto police staff sergeant denies commenting on female officer’s weight

By Wendy Gillis Crime Reporter, Toronto Star

Tue., June 5, 2018


Testifying at a human rights tribunal hearing Tuesday, a retired Toronto police staff sergeant denied ever commenting about Const. Heather McWilliam’s clothing or remarking on her weight when the two officers worked together at a north Etobicoke police station.

Joe Dawson, a longtime officer who worked at 23 division for nearly 30 years before retiring in September, also denied scrawling an inappropriate message on a note to McWilliam at work.

McWilliam has previously told the tribunal that in 2011 Dawson wrote “You’re smokin’ hot” on a piece of paper, handed it to her, then told her not to tell anyone. “I didn’t do that,” Dawson testified, shaking his head. McWilliam, 35, filed a complaint to Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal in 2014, alleging that during her time with Toronto police she was subjected to a poisoned work environment that included sexual harassment, solicitation and gender discrimination at the hands of supervisors.

Through testimony that began in 2016, the tribunal has heard of numerous instances of sexual harassment McWilliam says happened on the job or in off hours with co-workers. That includes the claim that another senior police officer, the now-retired Sgt. Angelo Costa, kissed McWilliam and tried to put his tongue down her throat at a work social event, and that he mimed sex acts in her presence and told her he wanted to “lick” her.

Costa took the stand last month and denied the allegations. None of McWilliam's allegations have yet been proven at the tribunal.

McWilliam has also claimed that she was subjected to demeaning and inappropriate comments by her superiors, including Dawson, who she met at 23 division where he was a high-ranking officer. She claims Dawson would comment on her weight, noting that it fluctuated — and that he didn’t stop remarking on it, even after she told him she had a medical condition.

“No, I didn’t do that,” Dawson said.

The retired officer also denied McWilliam’s claims that he told her he watched her when she was in the gym, and that he’d informed her that she should wear heels and skirts.

“I’m not the dress police,” Dawson said, when asked if he had made suggestions about McWilliam’s attire if she were to join the division’s criminal investigative bureau, where officers are not required to wear their uniform.

Since McWilliam’s hearing began, another female Toronto police officer has filed a complaint to the human rights tribunal alleging sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. In a complaint filed late last year, Sgt. Jessica McInnis alleges her former police partner, Det. Mark Morris, subjected her to a barrage of sexist and harassing messages; Morris has denied the allegations through his lawyer.

Following McInnis’s complaint, the Toronto police board commissioned a report on current workplace sexual harassment policies within the police service, in order to determine whether changes are necessary. That report is expected at the upcoming police board meeting.


At the tribunal, the board has denied McWilliam’s allegations and argued the tribunal should not consider whether there is a systemic sexual harassment problem within Toronto police, as McWilliam has claimed, because she is the sole officer bringing forward the allegations.


McWilliam’s hearing continues Wednesday.