Toronto police officer breaks down while testifying about alleged workplace harassment

Yahoo! News

November 19, 2016

Toronto police constable Heather McWilliam broke down on the witness box as she testified about alleged sexual harassment at a Human Rights Tribunal hearing Friday.

She told vice-chair Jo-Anne Pickel that Sgt. Angelo Costa allegedly tried to force his tongue into her mouth at an after-work function.

"I was disgusted. I was humiliated. No one around me, not one supervisor said or did anything," she said.

In 2014, McWilliam filed a human rights complaint alleging she was the victim of sexual workplace harassment for nearly eight years by her supervisors at Toronto Police's 23 Division. She argues that the Toronto Police Service is a "poisoned environment."

McWilliam, 33, also spoke Friday about her conversation with the diversity management unit. She believed that unit would conduct a human rights investigation alongside the internal one, which she says didn't happen.

She went on to talk about how Staff Sgt. Chris Nolan had made inappropriate sexual comments toward her.

She says she was advised to write a memo about Nolan and submit it to her superiors. After writing a memo, she says she was shunned by her fellow officers when she returned to work.

"After being bullied and harassed for so many years, I looked up the chain of command to see who I can turn to for support. I realized I had no hope and no chance for safety from this type of abuse," she said.

None of the allegations have been proven.

McWilliam went on medical leave due to the stress she says the harassment caused her. She is still on medical leave.

In an interview with CBC's Metro Morning, McWilliam's lawyer said other female officers have contacted her since the case began, saying sexual harassment continues to be a problem, mostly with older male officers in supervisory positions.

"Mostly the women haven't come forward because they're absolutely scared. There is very much a culture in police that you don't air your dirty laundry."

"They know that if they do complain, that is career suicide."

McWilliam continued her testimony into Friday afternoon. The hearing adjourns Friday and won't resume until Jan. 20.​