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

Just Posted

“Huge disappointment” as BCVT learns Northern Sea Wolf will not sail this summer

The Nimpkish is arrriving near-empty as frustrated travelers can’t get to Bella Bella for transfer

Campfire ban coming into effect across West Coast

The Coastal Fire Centre says bans will begin on Wednesday

Bella Coola enjoys 33rd Annual Valley Ridge Riders Rodeo

Sunny skies on Monday added a welcome touch to an otherwise damp weekend

First Nation pipeline protesters erect ‘tiny homes’ in B.C. Park

Kanahus Manuel and Tiny House Warriors say more homes being constructed in park

France doubles up Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

Played in Moscow Russia, latest Fifa World Cup marks the highest scoring final since 1966

BC Games: Day 1 comes to an end

Medals have already been handed out following one day of competition in the 2018 BC Summer Games

BC Wildfire update on Okanagan blazes

Watch the media briefing on the current fire situation in the Okanagan.

UPDATED: Evacuation alert issued due to Dog Creek Trail Wildfire

UPDATED: The Dog Creek wildfire has grown substantially over the past two… Continue reading

RCMP help to save goats from wildfire

The fast-approaching wildfire, sparked Thursday, forced the evacuation of five homes

VIDEO: Near drowning captured on popular B.C. river

Search and Rescue manager says the popular pastime of floating in the summer is inherently dangerous

Crosswalk vandalism leaves black mark for Cowichan as B.C. Games begin

Rainbow crosswalk defaced just days after being painted

Photo gallery: BC Games Day 1

A brief look at action from the 2018 BC Summer Games in the Cowichan Valley

UPDATED: Anti-pipeline campers digging in as eviction deadline expires

The City of Burnaby had ordered the Kinder Morgan pipeline protesters out for violating bylaws

Trump was taped talking of paying Playboy model: AP source

Source says former personal lawyer Michael Cohen secretly recorded discussion prior to 2016 election

Most Read