Plaintiff in military sexual misconduct lawsuit pleased with settlement
Federal Court to hold hearing in September to decide if proposed settlement is reasonable
The lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit alleging rampant sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces is pleased the Canadian government has agreed to settle, but said the Forces have a long way to go before the culture changes.
"I'm glad there's an acknowledgement of the harm that people have faced due to the fact that the culture in the military was hostile towards women," said Glynis Rogers, a former military officer from Yarmouth, N.S.
The class action argued female service members were subjected to systemic gender-based discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault by male members of the Forces.
Included in the nearly $1-billion proposed settlement are restorative engagement programs, where class members can share their experiences with senior military officers and Department of National Defence representatives.
"It will give us a forum to finally be heard and acknowledged," said Rogers. "It will give us a chance to help mould the policies and procedures in place regarding sexual misconduct in the military and it will also help us be a part of the culture change. I'm really excited about that."
Change may be slow
Rogers is optimistic the programs will create a more inclusive environment for women in the military. But her fight won't feel finished until the programs begin to effect change, she said.
"It's not something that's going to happen overnight. We need to keep assessing the programs, keep assessing the change and the best way to do that is to talk to those who are actually affected," she said.
"It's hard for me to feel confident when everybody needs to buy into culture change."
The Canadian government does not admit liability in the settlement, a statement said, but it takes all allegations of sexual misconduct seriously.
"We know it takes a lot of courage to come forward and share difficult and painful experiences and press for change," Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said in the statement.
"We have been working hard to make sure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect, no matter their sex, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or ethnicity."
In a separate statement, DND deputy minister Jody Thomas and Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of defence staff, said they regret what the employees went through.
"To all those who have had the courage to come forward as part of these class actions — and to those who will come forward — we offer our sincere regret that you experienced sexual misconduct in our workplace," the statement said.
Certification hearing in September
The Federal Court will hold a hearing in mid-September to decide if the proposed settlement is reasonable.
Class members will be eligible for compensation between $5,000 and $55,000 depending on what happened to them.
Members who experienced "exceptional harm" and who were previously denied benefits in respect of that harm could be eligible for up to $155,000.
"Payment amounts will also depend on how many class members submit claims," said the government in its release.
If certified, there will also be a review of Operation Honour, which aims to address a long-standing culture of sexual misconduct in the Canadian military, and the military's sexual misconduct response centre five years after the approval date of the settlement, she said.
Rogers plans to participate in the restorative programs.
"I think it'll be healing for me to have something positive come out of my experiences," she said.
With files from Frances Willick