Former top cop’s new job investigating abuse in hockey provokes unease

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Investigating Abuse in Hockey

investigating abuse in hockey – Retired RCMP deputy commissioner Craig Callens has been hired to review allegations of abuse in the WHL (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Retired deputy commissioner Craig Callens hired by WHL to review allegations from former players.

In a lawsuit filed last year, Cpl. Jill Swann alleges her boss called her “meth face,” mocked her weight gain and drew a target symbol on her body armour — and claims it all happened under the watch of B.C.’s former top Mountie.

Swann’s claims that deputy RCMP commissioner Craig Callens “failed, refused or neglected his duties” to address the alleged harassment from her supervisor on Vancouver Island are laid out in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court last summer. Callens has yet to file a response to Swann’s claim, and none of the allegations in the lawsuit has been proven in court.

Swann’s lawyer, Sebastien Anderson, said he was shocked to learn that Callens had been hired to investigate allegations of abuse and exploitation in junior hockey.

“When he was commanding officer of E Division, he did very little to address serious allegations of workplace abuse … and that abuse continued for the duration of his command before he retired,” Anderson told CBC News, referring to allegations in Swann’s lawsuit.

He said Swann isn’t able to comment directly because she remains an officer in the RCMP and is bound by the force’s code of conduct.

Abuse claims in WHL

Callens retired last year after serving more than five years as the commanding officer for E Division, which covers all of B.C.

Last month, Western Hockey League commissioner Ron Robison confirmed in an email that the league had hired Callens to conduct an investigation into claims that former players had been mistreated by their teams.

WHL commissioner Ron Robison explained Callens’ new role in an email: “When two former players and a parent made allegations against certain WHL Clubs, we took steps to create a review.” (CBC)

Reached by phone in April, Callens said he would not comment on his new role or the allegations levelled against him by Anderson and in Swann’s lawsuit.

In a text message, Callens wrote: “As you would know, it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to respond to questions regarding the Swann matter as it is before the courts.”

The news of Callens’ new job isn’t sitting well with a pair of past and present Mounties who allege they were mistreated by fellow officers. The issue of harassment and abuse of female officers and civilian employees has dogged the RCMP in recent years.

One year ago, a federal court judge approved an unprecedented class-action settlement that could cover as many as 20,000 women who were sexually harassed while working for the RCMP over the last four decades. Compensation has been set at between $10,000 and $220,000 per woman.

‘It destroyed my entire life’

Among those filing for compensation through the class-action settlement is former B.C. RCMP spokesperson Catherine Galliford, who was the first high-profile Mountie to bring a sexual harassment suit against the force.

Word of Callens’ new job came as a shock to her as well.

“When I see him investigating harassment and abuse and negligence in the WHL, I become angry, and you can quote me on that,” Galliford told CBC News.

Catherine Galliford settled a lawsuit against the RCMP in 2016.

Though Callens wasn’t named as a defendant in Galliford’s lawsuit, he was the commanding officer when she filed her claim in 2012. She says she suffered while the force fought her claim for four years before settling in 2016.

CBC has no indication Callens was inconsiderate of her alleged situation.

“What the media and the public don’t really understand is that we went through all of that harassment in the workplace, but it’s when we complained about it … all of a sudden we became the horrible people — we were the whistleblowers,” she said.

“It destroyed my entire life, and this was under Craig Callens’ watch.”

She detailed some of her experiences in a letter to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale two years ago, describing being questioned by RCMP lawyers during repeated examinations for discovery.

She said she was asked about her sex life, high school boyfriends, her childhood and whether she’d had her uniforms altered to make them tighter.

In response to Galliford’s concerns, Callens declined to comment in detail, writing: “The Galliford matter was concluded some time ago and the decision maker on that case was the Commissioner.”

The RCMP commissioner at the time was Bob Paulson, who also retired last year.

Robison, the WHL commissioner, declined through a spokesperson to comment on the allegations levelled by Swan and Galliford.

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