Since 2012, two class action lawsuits have been filed against the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The lawsuits allege that current and former female officers and employees were subject to systemic gender-based bullying, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace, causing the affected women to suffer physical and psychological damage, personal expense, and loss of income, and exposing them to retaliatory abuse by the RCMP. In October, 2016, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson publicly apologized to the women who filed these lawsuits, as well as to countless other women in the RCMP who may have suffered similar mistreatment. The apology also contained an important announcement: the parties had reached a settlement agreement, subject to approval of the Federal Court, with the aim of providing financial redress to these women. Although the Federal Court will not hear the motion to approve the proposed settlement until May, the RCMP has promised to adopt measures to change the organizational culture of the force, and to create a scholarship fund to recognize exceptional accomplishment in the fight against harassment. The RCMP has also promised to create a national advisory council, as well as regional committees to tackle gender-based harassment and intimidation within the force. These measures will serve to eliminate workplace harassment, restore confidence in the RCMP, and compensate women who have sustained injuries.
The tentative settlement agreement will be administered by the Honourable Michele Bastarache, retired Supreme Court of Canada justice. He will evaluate each individual claim and award the appropriate compensation, following the terms of the agreement.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the Federal Court ruled that the two class action lawsuits could proceed as one class action. In its judgement, the Federal Court approved the definition of primary class members as all women who are currently employed by, or were formerly employed by, the RCMP starting in 1974. According to the RCMP, as many as 20,000 women may qualify as primary class members. The Federal Court also approved a secondary class, consisting of certain family members.
Written with the assistance of Kristina Bezprozvannykh, articling student.