The RCMP is expected to announce a compensation package for hundreds of past and present female members who have complained of sexual harassment and discrimination within the force.
It has announced a press conference for tomorrow morning, promising an “update on harassment related litigation.”
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson will be joined by plaintiffs Janet Merlo and Linda Gillis Davidson, both a part of a massive proposed class action suit against the force.
The suit has not be certified.
The federal government argued last year in B.C. that the cases should be settled individually.
Former Nanaimo RCMP Officer Krista Carle who is a part of the suit, which has been joined by about 500 other women, says her understanding is that a settlement could be on the way.
“It’s been almost five years since I came forward publicly, and this has affected 500 female members that are currently on board with the class action, so we’re hoping that this will be some good news tomorrow so we can all start moving on with our lives.”
Carle says the harassment was constant, and came to colour her career.
“Everything from pornography in my desk to inappropriate touching to an actual sexual assault. It basically tarnished my career and went on for almost 19 years from when I joined the force to when I was medically discharged.”
Coquitlam Cst. Sarah Brown says she experienced regular discrimination, blacklisting, and retaliation when she came forward with her story.
She’s hoping the compensation will be the first step in ending a toxic work culture.
“When you come forward you’re putting your career on the line. And there isn’t a lot of help out there for members who come forward and say enough is enough. So Unfortunately we have to go outside of the force or the agency to bring our issues to light, which is completely unacceptable.”
“It’s come to the point where we’re actually being listened to. Politicians, the government, they’re actually finally taking these allegations seriously and they’re actually making an attempt to deal with them. And it’s been years.”
The Ottawa announcement is expected at 8am Pacific time tomorrow.
Smoke and fire
The body that represents Mounties says a move to compensate female members is no surprise.
Rob Creasser with the Mounted Police Professional Association says the sheer volume of complaints forced government action.
“It was only a matter of time before this announcement occurred. There’s so many people that were involved, even if you say there was a high percentage that were frivolous, which I doubt was the case, but when you’ve got a number like 500 there’s smoke and there’s fire there.”
He says it appears the sheer size of the suit forced Ottawa into making a dollars and cents decision.
“Maybe a much bigger payout at some point down the road, and have a judge decide that there needed to be some pretty big cheques cut.”
But Creasser says a settlement won’t stop harassment problems within the organization; he says until Mounties have bargaining rights, front line officers’ concerns will go unattended.
In fact, details of the apparently systemic problem didn’t come out until former high profile RCMP spokesperson Catherine Galliford came forward with sexual harassment allegations. The move prompted more women to share their stories, eventually culminating in the class-action suit.
Galliford settled her sexual harassment civil suit against the force in May.
Her lawyer Barry Carter confirmed that his client had reached an out-of-court settlement with the RCMP, but details of that settlement were not released.