Women’s sex-harassment suit against RCMP certified as class action

Women's RCMP sex suit certified as class action

TORONTO — A proposed agreement to compensate women who endured sexual harassment as employees of the RCMP has passed a key hurdle, with a Federal Court judge agreeing two lawsuits against the police force can proceed as a class action.

In certifying the class action, Judge Ann Marie McDonald said she was satisfied the women have shown they have reasonable grounds to press their lawsuit.

McDonald also approved the proposed definition of class members — essentially all women who work for, or did work for, the RCMP starting in 1974.

While individual claims will have to be assessed, McDonald found that a class action is preferable to forcing victims to press claims on their own.

“Based upon the information provided by the RCMP, there may be as many as 20,000 females who qualify as primary class members,” the judge said in her written decision. “Individual actions would be inefficient and uneconomic.”

Former RCMP officers Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson, both of whom say they suffered gender-based discrimination and harassment, are appropriate as representative plaintiffs, the ruling states.

Certification of the class action, which Ottawa did not oppose at a hearing last week, paves the way now for the court to give its blessing to a tentative settlement reached last May between the federal government and the women.

A formal approval hearing is likely in May, according to the women’s lawyers.

In the interim, a publicity blitz via direct mail and through the media is expected to get underway to alert affected women to the class action and to give them 60 days to opt out if they wish. Victims also have an opportunity to comment on the fairness of the settlement before the approval hearing.

The tentative deal, which would be administered by retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache, creates six categories of claimants. Those who suffered the most egregious abuse would be eligible for up to $220,000. In some cases, family members of the RCMP employees would also be eligible for cash.

Merlo, now of St. John’s, N.L., was an RCMP constable from 1991 to 2010. She suffered depression, panic attacks and other health effects due to her mistreatment, court has heard. She began her claim in British Columbia in 2012.

Davidson, 58, now of Bracebridge, Ont., filed her suit in 2015 in Ontario. Starting with the RCMP in 1985, she is one of the few females to reach a commissioned officer’s rank.  She was an inspector when she took medical leave in 2009, suffering from anxiety, depression and other health issues, and retired in 2012.

In May last year, the two sides reached the tentative deal to compensate women who experienced workplace sexual harassment or gender-based discrimination while working for the RCMP. Details were announced in October and Commissioner Bob Paulson apologized for having failed the women.

In addition to compensating the women — Ottawa has set aside about $100 million — the RCMP has also agreed to address systemic issues of gender-based harassment and discrimination.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

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

Just Posted

Saanich Police respond to petition for new police agency on Lindsay Buziak murder case

Petition asks Public Safety Minister to to help find justice for slain realtor

North Saanich man fears tougher moorage policies could cost him his home

Stewart Jackson has been living on a boat off Lillian Hoffar Park for about four years

Grave site at Ross Bay Cemetery vandalized overnight

Graffiti found on grave of Sir James Douglas

Sidney dogs lose a beloved companion

Dozens gathered in Beacon Park to remember Sidney’s ‘dog whisperer’

Petition calls for suspension of Victoria councillor Ben Isitt

Isitt says petition ‘does not provide a reliable barometer of public opinion’

POLL: Do you support the proposed changes for ICBC?

Tuesday’s provincial budget predicted a shift from shortfall to surplus in wake… Continue reading

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 18

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Health officials confirm sixth COVID-19 case in B.C.

Woman remains in isolation as Fraser Health officials investigate

Study says flu vaccine protected most people during unusual influenza season

Test-negative method was pioneered by the BC Centre for Disease Control in 2004

Saskatchewan and B.C. reach championship round at Scotties

British Columbia’s Corryn Brown locked up the last berth in Pool B

Resident discovers five discarded hog heads in Vancouver Island ditch

WARNING: Graphic image may be upsetting to some readers

Canadian Premier League announces 2020 home dates for eight-team circuit

Pacific FC hosts FC Edmonton on April 11 in Langford

B.C. lawyer, professor look to piloting a mental-health court

In November, Nova Scotia’s mental-health court program marked 10 years of existence

Most Read