The complainant in Tim Shields’ sexual-assault trial testified in court Thursday morning that she began attending his weekly strategic communication meetings in spring of 2009.
The woman – who cannot be identified – is a former civilian employee at the RCMP who worked with Shields when he was in charge of the strategic communication division of RCMP E Division.
Shields is on trial for one count of sexual assault at provincial court in Vancouver. He has pleaded not guilty to the charge, which stems from a 2009-2010 investigation into misconduct at the RCMP.
As the complainant spoke, the former RCMP spokesperson listened closely and took careful notes.
In opening statements last week, Crown counsel Michelle Booker said the trial concerns an alleged sexual assault that took place in a locked washroom during the fall of 2009. Booker characterized the case as “about a woman who was sexually assaulted at work by one of her supervisors.”
According to the complainant, she first met Shields when he became officer in charge of the strategic communications branch, either in late-2008 or early-2009. She explained to the court that she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in fall of 2013, and thus had trouble concentrating and communicating clearly.
The complainant described to Booker her position at the RCMP. At the time of her hiring in February 2008, she had been placed within the Green Timbers relocation project. That project involved consolidating RCMP offices throughout the Lower Mainland to one building in Surrey, the complainant said.
Her direct reporting line, she said, was to Supt. Wayne Sutherland, who was in the corporate management department and in charge of the relocation project, and who took the stand two days earlier.
The complainant said she also reported directly to Robert Jorssen, head of corporate management at E Division.
The complainant testified that at a strategic communications conference in Chilliwack in spring of 2009, Shields had told her she had an “indirect reporting” line to him. The complainant said she was “taken aback” by Shields’ comment and that she felt she had been “ignoring one of my leaders.”
In the months following the conference, the complainant and Shields emailed back and forth. Those emails, read out in court, included Shields telling the complainant that he enjoyed getting to know her and, referencing an in-person conversation, told her “don’t forget to bring your smile… and that one piece of artwork…”
In later emails, Shields referred to the complainant as a “team member,” and in a 2009 employee assessment, called her a “hard working member of strategic communications team.”
In that same assessment, the complainant thanked Shields, Sutherland and Jorssen for their leadership. Asked by the Crown as to what the complainant meant when she referred to the three men as leaders, she answered simply “the people I report to.”
In spring of 2009, the complainant said she began attending Shields’ weekly strategic communications meetings, requiring her to drive from her Downtown Vancouver RCMP office to the former operational RCMP headquarters at 37 Avenue and Heather Street.
Shields’ lawyer David Butcher informed the judge that he did not agree the Crown’s characterization of how regularly the complainant attended communications meetings.
According to the complainant, she also spent four straight days working side-by-side with Shields’ team at RCMP headquarters in the summer of 2009 in order to “get to know the team members” and “learn procedures for working within the unit.”
The trial will resume on Monday at provincial court in Vancouver. It is expected to last for three weeks.