APTN National News
OTTAWA – He began his career policing several Saskatchewan First Nations in the late 1990s, then he moved on to chasing terrorists and protecting prime ministers and now this accomplished Canadian police officer is about to face his next challenge – his employer – the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
It’s been about seven years since Sgt. Peter Merrifield first drew up his statement of claim to sue the RCMP for harassment and bullying he claims to have suffered for unsuccessfully trying to run for federal politics in 2005.
The case is scheduled for trial next month in Newmarket, Ont.
It didn’t get to this point easily.
In fact, the RCMP has fought at every turn trying to get the courts to strike it.
When the Superior Court of Justice ruled in Merrifield’s favour in 2008, the feds appealed it and lost again.
The case then made its way to the Supreme Court of Canada in 2009 where Merrifield won the right to sue the RCMP.
And as lawyers were making final preparations a few weeks ago for trial, Merrifield’s camp added another witness to call – Commissioner Bob Paulson.
Paulson wasn’t commissioner when Merrifield alleges he was harassed by his superiors who were annoyed with his unsuccessful bid to run for the Conservative party in Barrie, Ont., in 2005.
But the commissioner singled Merrifield out at a Senate hearing on June 3, 2013, and accused him of being a disgruntled union organizer.
So, on Friday, Paulson was served with an order to appear at Merrifield’s trial as a material witness.
Merrifield and his lawyers declined comment, but APTN National News has learned Paulson has been summoned to appear Nov. 17 and ordered to bring with him all notes in preparation of his appearance before the Senate on the date in question.
APTN National News obtained an email sent to several senators last May where Merrifield outlined line-by-line his concerns with Paulson’s testimony following Merrifield’s own appearance before the same Senate committee. The letter can be read here.
It points to what Paulson can expect to be questioned on if he is called to the witness stand.
“The statements made by Commissioner Paulson served only to abuse and harass me publicly. The impact upon my family members was perhaps worse and has been a very negative experience for them over this past year,” Merrifield wrote to the Senators
One national newspaper characterized Paulson’s comments on Merrifield like this: “Paulson attacked Merrifield as an agitator who is ‘leading the drive in Ontario’ for unionization within the non-unionized force.”
Merrifield is the former president of the Mounted Police Association of Canada that is fighting to unionize the Mounties in the courts.
But Paulson also brought up other issues with Merrifield which are part of his lawsuit.
“(Merrifield) is also upset we took issue with his commenting out of turn on national security matters,” Paulson told the committee.
Merrifield said in his letter to the Senate that Paulson’s comment suggested he may have given up classified information.
“This statement refers to a radio interview that I did as a private citizen (not identified as an RCMP member) discussing terrorism. Following that radio interview, I was contacted by a member of RCMP management and told I was under investigation for violating the Official Secrets Act,” Merrifield said. “No criminal sanction or even discipline was ever pursued, nor was there a basis for same.”
Merrifield said the internal investigation was part of the “harassment adopted against me” for his political aspirations.
Further, Merrifield obtained a 2006 internal RCMP memo about the disputed radio interview, which he partly included in his letter to the Senate.
“During the summer of 2005, Cst. Merrifield participated in a radio talk show … Cst. Merrifield did not reveal any classified information or his affiliation with the RCMP,” said the memo sent to former Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli.
Merrifield said in the letter he has been working to restore his reputation.
“Commissioner Paulson’s comments could be understood to mean that I had wrongfully or even illegally disclosed confidential or sensitive information, which I did not do,” Merrifield wrote.
Paulson also singled out two other members by name at the Senate committee.
The RCMP’s internal staff relations representatives questioned Paulson’s comments to the Senate, according to an email.
“We realize this may have a chilling effect on members wishing to raise workplace issues. It must not. We have raised these concerns directly with the commissioner,” said an internal email, dated June 7, 2013.
Merrifield describes the treatment from the RCMP like being “betrayed” and that his career had been “hijacked.”
In Merrifield’s statement of claim he alleges his superiors, particularly Supt. Jamie Jagoe and retired Supt. Marc Proulx, disliked his political interests and “proceeded to hound him through all available means with a new of subduing him or driving him from the force.”
He said this allegedly included frivolous audits of his corporate credit card, removed him from certain investigations and national security units.
The defendants Jagoe and Proulx, including the Attorney General of Canada, claim Merrifield’s run for the Conservative nomination was done in error as he never sought the necessary special leave required for members seeking or running for politics.
They also claim the radio interview put him in a conflict of interest based on the fact Merrifield was part of the threat assessment group, a team within the RCMP’s Integrated National Security Enforcement Team in Toronto.
His job, in part, was investigating threats against “VIPs and politicians.”
He was the lead investigator who successfully tracked down a Brantford, Ont., man for making death threats against former Prime Minister Paul Martin and United States President George W. Bush in 2005 that lead to a conviction.
He was removed from threat assessment team almost immediately after his political aspirations were questioned and bounced around units under orders from Proulx, according to the statement of claim.
Merrifield joined the force in 1997.
The RCMP didn’t respond to a call for comment.