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Widow of Toronto Sgt. who committed suicide to file human rights complaint

Last Updated May 20, 2015 at 8:26 pm EDT

The widow of a sergeant who committed suicide will file a human rights complaint this week against the Toronto Police Service and its union, alleging her husband was discriminated against because of his mental illness.

Heidi Rogers says she’s filing the notice of complaint to hold the force accountable after her husband, 24-year police veteran Sgt. Richard Rogers committed suicide last July.

In his suicide note, Rogers partly blamed Toronto police for his death.

The claim will allege he was punished, bullied and ridiculed after coming forward about his extreme anxiety, depression and signs of Post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It will be basically discrimination on the grounds that he had a mental illness,” Rogers told CityNews. “Because they were well aware of it and then they went about doing things … to make his life so miserable that he chose, unfortunately, death to going back to work.

“We have over 700 documents to support what we are saying. So the truth will come out.”

Lawyer Michael Donsky said a shift in thinking is necessary on the police force.

“It’s really to change this attitude of the entire organization towards mental illness and realize that it really is nothing more than a different type of disability,” he said.

“From what we’ve seen, it does look like a strong case.”

At his swearing-in ceremony on Wednesday, Chief Mark Saunders was asked about the case.

“I am sure that the judicial process will pull out all of the details behind the situation,” he said.

“We have some great mechanisms in place to address and deal with (workplace mental illness). Can we improve? Absolutely.”

The claim will be filed by the end of the week, but it could be months before it’s known if the Ontario Human Rights Commission decides to proceed.

Rogers’ story was part of Avery Haines’ exclusive six-part look at post-traumatic stress disorder and how Toronto’s police force handles the mental health issue.

Here’s a look back at her series When the blue line flatlines.

Part 1:Toronto police Sgt. says force is ‘failing’ officers on mental health

Part 2: Family blames Toronto police for officer’s suicide

Part 3: Chief Bill Blair responds to PTSD investigation & York police’s peer support program

Part 4: Review of Toronto police use of lethal force touches on PTSD

Part 5: Coroner’s investigations launched into 2 Toronto police officers’ suicides

Part 6: Police board given chief’s report on officers’ suicides