Ex-Surrey Mountie who has PTSD related to child porn cases wins a court fight

Federal and provincial governments tried to have lawsuit dismissed; Judge decides it should go to trial

A former Surrey Mountie who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder related to his “overwhelming” exposure to child pornography while working on the Child Abuse and Sexual Offence Unit has won a court battle against the federal and provincial governments.

Michael Wardrope, the plaintiff, became a constable with the Surrey detachment in 2007, and worked on general duty patrol until he joined CASO in March 2009. He transferred from that unit to the Youth Services unit in 2011.

The case was hearing in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver, with Justice Heather MacNaughton presiding. The defendants, Minister of Justice for the Province of British Columbia and Attorney General of Canada, tried unsuccessfully to have Wardrope’s lawsuit dismissed, arguing his claim for damages is statute-barred.

Wardrope claims damages on the basis that the defendants had a duty to ensure that his health was protected and he was free from harassment in his employment as an RCMP officer.

“He alleges that, due to the negligence of his former RCMP supervisors in CASO, he suffered mental and physical ailments and disabilities,” MacNaughton noted in her reasons for judgment, delivered March 27.

“He also alleges that, during his recruitment to CASO, misrepresentations were made to him about the amount of overtime he would be expected to work and the extent of the child pornography that he would be required to review.”

The judge noted these issues were important to Wardrope, “as he was a father of young children and he was concerned about the impacts of accepting a CASO position on him and his family.”

Wardrope commenced his lawsuit on Dec. 7, 2016, almost four years after his PTSD diagnosis related to his work in the CASO unit.

The defendants filed a response to his claim on Oct. 13, 2017, arguing the former Mountie had brought his action against them two years after his right to do so had expired.

Wardrope told the court that despite assurances he was given, the workload was heavy and his exposure to child pornography was “overwhelming.” He claimed that before accepting his transfer to the CASO unit, he was told the amount of child pornography “would be minimal and overtime was uncommon,” MacNaughton noted. The court heard he began to “experience emotional and physical symptoms and became increasingly socially withdrawn.”

READ ALSO: Court upholds conditional discharge for ‘violent degrading acts’ in Surrey domestic violence case

READ ALSO: Judge acquits accused Surrey drug dealer, finding arrest was ‘unlawful’

In the fall of 2010, Wardrope told his supervisor he was “falling apart” and on “the verge of a nervous breakdown.” The court heard he was told he’d be transferred out of the unit, but this didn’t happen for another 10 months, during which time, he says, his emotional and physical health further deteriorated.

Wardrope claims he was never debriefed while with CASO, contrary to RCMP Trauma Debriefing policy.

In August 2011 he was transferred to a school liaison officer position and assumed his health would cover, seeing as he was no longer dealing with graphic child pornography and heavy workload, MacNaughton said.

“The assumption proved incorrect,” the judge said, “and matters deteriorated in the fall of 2012 when he was contacted by the Crown with respect to one of his CASO files. He broke down as a result.”

The court heard Wardrope was diagnosed with PTSD and was put on medical leave on Dec. 17, 2012, the date the defendants relied on as the beginning of his two-year limitation under the Act. He then Applied for a PTSD pension with Veteran Affairs Canada and was approved. Wardrope says the goal was to stabilize his condition through treatment toward having him return to the RCMP. On March 29, 2018 he was medically discharged from the RCMP, but did not leave voluntarily.

“He says that, in the past, there were times when he was suicidal,” MacNaughton noted. “The loss of his RCMP career has been devastating. A vocational rehabilitation assessment prepared for the litigation has concluded that Mr. Wardrope is completely unemployable.”

The judge denied the defendants’ application to have the lawsuit dismissed, reasoning that “in the particular circumstances of this case” as the issue of when the limitation period began and if it was postponed “is so factually entwined with complexities of Mr. Wardrope’s membership in the RCMP that the limitation should be determined at trial.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

Jennifer Rice BC NDP North Coast Incumbent was re-elected for a third according to the preliminary results on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Jennifer Rice is North Coast MLA for third term

Preliminary election results show NDP Majority government

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shakes hands with US Vice-President Joe Biden on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, December 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
A Biden presidency could mean good news for Canadian environment policy: observers

Experts and observers say even a U.S. outside the Paris agreement may ultimately end up in the same place

People take a photo together during the opening night of Christmas Lights Across Canada, in Ottawa, on Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. The likelihood that most Canadians will enjoy a holly jolly Christmas season of gatherings, caroling and travel is unlikely, say public health experts who encourage those who revel in holiday traditions to accept more sacrifices ahead. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Ho, ho, no: Experts advise preparing for a scaled-back COVID holiday season

Many of the holiday season’s highlights have already been scrapped or are unlikely to take place

Sen. Kim Pate is shown in Toronto in an October 15, 2013, file photo. The parliamentary budget office says a proposed law that would give judges discretion on whether to apply a lesser sentence for murder could save the federal government $8.3 million per year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel
Judicial discretion for mandatory minimum sentences for murder would save $8.3M: PBO

The result would be fewer people in long-term custody at federal correctional institutions, experts say

Commissioner Austin Cullen looks at documents before opening statements at the Cullen Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia, in Vancouver on February 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
RCMP lacked dedicated team to investigate illegal activities at casino, inquiry hears

Hearings for the inquiry are set to continue into next week and the inquiry is expected to wrap up next year

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Court approves money for B.C. foster children alleging harm from Kelowna social worker

The maximum combined total award for basic payments and elevated damages for an individual is $250,000

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never-before-seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

Most Read