Ten plaintiffs drop suit against police chief.
Police women will focus on human rights case against Dhinsa for alleged sexual harassment
August 21, 2009
The Hamilton Spectator
(Aug 21, 2009)
Ten of 12 Hamilton police women have abandoned a $2-million lawsuit they filed against their police chief and police board over the force's handling of their sexual harassment allegations against Sergeant Kevin Dhinsa.
The 10 police officers "have decided to focus their efforts ... and, in doing so, they are putting their efforts into the human rights proceedings that personally involve Sergeant Dhinsa, and a (union) grievance procedure," said their lawyer Julian Falconer yesterday.
Hamilton police are trying to quash the $2-million lawsuit against Chief Brian Mullan, in-house police lawyer Marco Visentini and the police services board.
The 12 women -- 11 officers and one civilian employee -- first filed sexual harassment charges against Dhinsa three years ago, but have suffered a string of legal setbacks. They filed the negligence suit in December.
Dhinsa was charged with sexual harassment in June 2006 under the Police Services Act. But a police tribunal threw the charges out when it ruled Mullan had missed the deadline to charge him by eight days.
The women went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada in failed efforts to get the case heard.
In the lawsuit, women allege Mullan, the police board and Visentini negligently breached their duty of care to them by failing to provide a harassment-free workplace and failing to lay Dhinsa's charges in time.
Allegations contained in the women's statement of claim have not yet been tested in court.
Helen Pelton, lawyer for the two remaining Hamilton police plaintiffs, said yesterday: "Groups tend to have different ideas and, as time goes on, the differences seem to get magnified. Some of them wanted to seek another opinion and they did that."
Pelton said she has been told by her clients that Dhinsa recently returned to work. The Spectator was not able to confirm Dhinsa's return with police officials yesterday.
Falconer, a high-profile human rights lawyer who represented Maher Arar, a Canadian falsely suspected of terrorism, said the Hamilton police women have found themselves in a legal quagmire.
"This case is a classic example of how difficult it is for women police officers who literally face a whole host of legal impediments in getting justice on allegations of sexual harassment," he said.
"Our hope is, by focusing the proceedings and perhaps taking a narrower approach, that we can get them some justice."