RCMP to settle harassment suits

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OTTAWA – The RCMP will announce the settlement of major harassment claims today that could see hundreds of current and former female Mounties compensated tens of millions of dollars.

The national police force has agreed to settlement terms in prospective class-action lawsuits brought forward by former RCMP members Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson, said a senior official with knowledge of the cases.

Under the settlements, women would receive financial compensation “based on a scale” of the severity of harm they suffered, the source said.

The official spoke to The Canadian Press on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the details publicly.

Though neither of the two class actions has been certified, the settlement agreements will be submitted to the courts, paving the way for approval.

There will be a deadline for signing on to the actions, which means it is too early to tell how many members might be compensated or the total payout.

But the official said tens of millions of dollars would likely eventually be distributed among hundreds of women who have put forward claims of harassment, bullying and assault.

Merlo, whose proposed class-action suit was filed in British Columbia, says she experienced many instances of sexual harassment that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Davidson says she endured unwanted sexual advances and repeated harassment during her 27-year career, which included a stint with the prime minister’s protective detail. Her lawsuit was filed in Ontario Superior Court.

The moves to be announced today could help end a difficult episode in the force’s history, one that has haunted the tenure of RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson.

Merlo and Gillis are expected to take part in a news conference to announce the settlements this morning alongside Paulson and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.

Also in attendance will be Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk, who recently said she is looking at whether changes to the Canada Labour Code are needed to ensure future harassment allegations are handled properly.

The police force has streamlined the process for addressing conflict, giving supervisors more power to deal with disputes promptly, but some critics fear that has opened the door to abuses.

Goodale has already asked the RCMP watchdog to revisit the broad issue of bullying and harassment within the force.

The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP is looking at whether recommendations it made three years ago have been implemented.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter