British Columbia

RCMP apology, $100 million compensation fund comes without harassers held accountable

"We estimate there could be 1000 women seeking compensation," said the lawyer for 480 proposed class action plaintiffs

Some call the fund hush money: 'How can you be validated when the RCMP lets them walk?'

Some of the 500 female RCMP officers and civilians with claims ranging from gender based discrimination to sexual assault on the job. (Natalie Clancy/CBC)

"We hurt you. For that, I am truly sorry."

Those were the words from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson to every woman who was ever harassed, belittled, demeaned or assaulted in the RCMP, as he announced a stunning $100 million compensation package at a news conference in Ottawa Thursday.

"It's an acknowledgment of the culture that has existed since its inception," said Catherine Galliford.

The former corporal unwittingly opened the floodgates of complaints when she told CBC News in 2011 she'd suffered from years of sexual harassment as an RCMP officer.

"It will be difficult to change the RCMP culture, but hopefully this will be the start of a new beginning." 

Galliford says the only flaw with the settlement is that there is no mechanism to hold perpetrators of harassment accountable.

Catherine Galliford reached a settlement with the RCMP earlier in 2016. (CBC)

Lack of accountability now a concern

"When the membership begins to see employees of the RCMP being held accountable, only then will the culture slowly start to change," said Galliford.

Other plaintiffs who brought forward the suit echoed the same concerns. 

"I do hope that they will be dealt with swiftly and justly to be either removed from the force and held accountable for their actions," said Krista Carle, a plaintiff and former Mountie from Victoria, who hopes the force will now reinvestigate harassment complaints.

David Klein​, the Vancouver based lawyer for 480 proposed class action plaintiffs, confirmed there is no process in this settlement to investigate harassers. 

"We estimate there could be 1,000 women seeking compensation," he said.

Another class action lawyer in Thunder Bay told CBC News he believes it will be double that, because any of the 20,000 women who ever worked for the force are eligible to make a claim within the next six months.

"I believe it was a little bit more widespread then the people of Canada know ... I think its going to be more than a thousand," said former inspector Linda Davidson, who described vomiting in the bushes on the way to her detachment, after years facing endless unwanted sexual advances and sexist comments.

Plaintiffs Janet Merlo, second from left, and and Linda Gillis Davidson, second from right, embrace guests as they leave the stage following Thursday's announcement in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Apology brings hope

At the news conference, Davidson thanked Paulson for what she believes was a heartfelt apology.

CBC News asked Paulson whether he would fire perpetrators of harassment.

"If claimants come forward, you can rest assured that the fist of God will descend upon the people," said Paulson, promising swift action should complainants choose to also file a complaint with the force and name their attackers.

RCMP Plaintiffs speak after Paulson apology

6 years ago
Duration 2:52
Former RCMP officers, and plaintiffs, Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson offer thanks after their two class action lawsuits are settled by the RCMP and the government.

"This provides hope that my force has turned a corner," said Cst. Deana Hagen, a 17-year veteran in Edmonton and one of the 30 per cent of plaintiffs still working for the RCMP.

"It's key that victims are not labelled the problem, isolated and forced out, but rather invited to the table and empowered to help provide insight and solutions [while] aggressors are held accountable."

Settlement is 'hush money'

Under the settlement terms, Alice Fox and any other plaintiffs could abandon civil suits and apply for compensation, but she calls the $100 million "hush money."

"How can you be validated when the RCMP lets them walk?" said Fox, a B.C. constable who is suing the force separately for harassment. 

She refuses to apply for the compensation fund because then the senior officers who she says harassed her won't have to face consequences before a judge or answer for their actions.

Apology bittersweet

"There is no justice until people are held accountable" said Judi Watt, a former officer who now lives in Manitoba.

She says relief comes with an apology but it is bittersweet, now knowing just how much she was not alone.

"People just didn't talk about it because who do you go to?" she said.

Now they can go to Justice Michelle Bastarache, who will independently determine which claimants will be compensated.

All claims will be confidential and Bastarache alone will decide which of the six levels of compensation each woman is entitled to, based on the severity of their claim and whether mistreatment left them unable to work.

"I never thought this day would ever come ... I have goosebumps," said Nancy Arias, who left her shift at an Ottawa warehouse early to attend the news conference.

She served as a civilian public servant in the RCMP from 1989 to 2006, but left after the RCMP failed to support her during a conflict with a mentally ill co-worker.

"To listen to him apologize, take out a Kleenex and rub his eyes, it does give a person hope," she said.

"It's a culture of the old boys club, [where] women are second class."

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