Three years after the RCMP settled a $100-million class action lawsuit over the sexual harassment of female officers, the force has reached a second settlement for roughly the same amount for non-policing employees and volunteers.
This settlement will provide for six levels of compensation ranging from $10,000 to $220,000 based on severity of harm and impact. Assessors will determine payment levels for eligible members of the class action with proven claims relating to incidents that occurred in the 45-year period between Sept. 16, 1974, and July 5, 2019.
Lawyers for plaintiffs Cheryl Tiller, Mary Ellen Copland and Dayna Roach estimate that about 1,500 women are likely to make claims.
The Federal Court certified the class action on July 5. The settlement is still subject to approval by the court; that hearing will take place on Oct. 17 in Vancouver.
Ms. Tiller, the lead plaintiff, said Monday that she was “elated” to learn of the settlement, after women in her position were excluded from the first class-action suit, often referred to as the Merlo and Davidson case.
“It’s been a long road and I feel vindicated,” Ms. Tiller said in an interview from her home in Yorkton, Sask.
“When it happened previously with the Merlo and Davidson [case], and we weren’t eligible, I felt like we didn’t matter. Now, this says we do. I just hope that other women take this opportunity to come forward and help them start their healing process.”
Ms. Tiller worked as a stenographer at the Yorkton Municipal RCMP detachment when a superior touched her inappropriately at a retirement party in March, 2007. The event, along with other harassment she experienced while working with the RCMP, led Ms. Tiller to experience suicidal thoughts and she was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and stress, according to legal documents.
Ms. Tiller described her legal battle as lengthy and trying, made manageable with the help of her lawyers, and said she lives with the difficulty of being a victim and accuser.
“At the time when it happened, I was ‘that girl,’” said Ms. Tiller, who continues to work for the detachment as the co-ordinator of its victims’ services program. “Now, it’s been long enough that a lot of the members I’m working with now know nothing about what took place. But because it’s coming out now, my fear, my thought is: I’m that girl again. And that’s tough.”
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki thanked the representative plaintiffs, said she deeply regrets the behaviour they were subject to and apologized for the pain caused to them and their families.
“This agreement is a further commitment from the RCMP to make right what we can,” she wrote in a statement issued Monday.
Lead counsel Angela Bespflug, with Klein Lawyers LLP, said she is hopeful the settlement will provide closure for the women affected and encourage them to come forward.
She thanked the plaintiffs in this case for their bravery, as well as those in the Merlo and Davidson case before it.
“It was the beginning of a cultural shift within the RCMP," Ms. Bespflug said at a news conference on Monday. "Merlo Davidson helped pave the way for a different cultural environment within the RCMP that perhaps made this case a little more likely to settle.”
For more than a decade the RCMP has been beset by allegations of a toxic workplace culture.
In 2016, then-RCMP commissioner Bob Paulson issued an apology to thousands of female members who had been harassed and announced that the government had set up a $100-million class action fund for claims. Compensation decisions are still being made, but an independent assessor last year said more than three times as many female Mounties applied for this fund as originally anticipated.
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