Ottawa expected to compensate 500 past and present female RCMP employees over harassment claims
News conference set for Thursday to give 'update on harassment-related litigation'
About 500 female RCMP employees are hoping to be compensated without having to proceed with a class action lawsuit against the federal government over sexual harassment and discrimination in the RCMP.
Details about a possible settlement are expected to be released at a news conference in Ottawa scheduled for 11 a.m. ET Thursday. A media advisory says there will be an "update on harassment-related litigation."
In attendance will be Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, Employment Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk and two of the plaintiffs, including Cst. Janet Merlo.
Paulson is expected to open the news conference with a statement. He was appointed commissioner soon after a CBC News investigation that began with the explosive allegations of former spokesperson Cpl. Catherine Galliford.
Galliford's story prompted hundreds of other women to come forward with similar complaints.
Merlo is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, which was filed nearly five years ago and quickly grew with more and more female Mounties and civilians members joining the case from across Canada.
"It is absolutely a group effort that did start way back when Catherine first spoke to [CBC]," Merlo told CBC News after a court appearance last June.
The case developed through a Facebook group Merlo helped start after Gallilford and others shared allegations of sexual assault and abuse on the job.
- Unwanted sexual touching.
- Physical assault.
- Sexist comments.
- Gender discrimination.
Women not welcome
According to Merlo's notice of civil claim, she alleges she was mistreated when she announced her pregnancy to her supervisor in Nanaimo, B.C.
"He just started yelling and screaming at me," she recalled. "If I wanted a career in the RCMP, I'd have to decide on that or I could pop out kids my whole life ... he told me that next time I should keep my f---ing legs closed."
'Overtly sexual comments'
In an affidavit, Merlo alleged another boss made "overtly sexual comments to me, offering to rub my breast ... offering to give me his big Italian salami and asking if I liked it on top?"
She said a sergeant kept a naked blow-up doll in his office, and at one point a dildo was left on her files, followed by a vacuum attachment.
Merlo wrote a book titled No One to Tell: Breaking My Silence on Life in the RCMP sharing her frustration that her complaints at the time went nowhere.
CBC News has spoken to dozens of female RCMP officers and civilians who allege they were punished for complaining.
David Klein, the lawyer representing the women, has said some clients have been left unable to work, with serious psychological injuries. A third of the women are still on the job.
Last year, the RCMP revamped its complaint process, and says bad behaviour is now dealt with swiftly under its action plan to curb harassment.
RCMP head Paulson has said he is committed to changing what he has called a "culture of harassment."
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