Court set to OK deal in ha­rass­ment class ac­tion by fe­male RCMP em­ploy­ees

Cape Breton Post - - News - BY COLIN PERKEL

Ap­proval of a set­tle­ment in a class ac­tion by sex­u­ally ha­rassed Moun­ties is ex­pected Wed­nes­day, paving the way for tens of mil­lions of dol­lars to start flow­ing to the women.

Dur­ing the hear­ing, lawyers for the plain­tiffs will take Fed­eral Court Judge Ann Marie McDon­ald through de­tails of the set­tle­ment, which she cer­ti­fied as a class ac­tion in Jan­uary.

“This is the big step,” Me­gan McPhee, one of the plain­tiffs’ lawyers, said in an in­ter­view Tues­day. “This is the step to im­ple­ment the set­tle­ment.”

McPhee said it’s im­por­tant the judge un­der­stand what’s been agreed to, and the ben­e­fits of the deal for the women — all cur­rent and former fe­male RCMP em­ploy­ees go­ing back to 1974.

One key part of the agree­ment is that women can make a claim for com­pen­sa­tion with­out the RCMP know­ing who they are. The con­fi­den­tial­ity pro­vi­sion is unusual, McPhee said.

“Un­like a nor­mal case where a de­fen­dant de­fends against an in­di­vid­ual claim, in this case un­der the pro­posed set­tle­ment, the RCMP doesn’t have a right of re­sponse and in fact doesn’t find out who a claimant is,” McPhee said. “It means that class mem­bers who are still serv­ing can make a claim and not fear reprisals.”

A year ago, the two sides reached a ten­ta­tive deal to com­pen­sate the women, with de­tails an­nounced in Oc­to­ber, when RCMP Com­mis­sioner Bob Paul­son apol­o­gized for hav­ing failed the vic­tims. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment also said it was set­ting aside at least $100 mil­lion to set­tle the claims.

While the Moun­ties have es­ti­mated that as many as 20,000 women could be af­fected, it now ap­pears that far fewer — but still po­ten­tially sev­eral thou­sand — will ac­tu­ally come for­ward and make a claim. Just shy of 1,600 women have opted out — mean­ing they will make no claim un­der the set­tle­ment.

The set­tle­ment cre­ates six cat­e­gories of claimants. Those who suf­fered the most egre­gious abuse would be el­i­gi­ble for up to $220,000. In some cases, fam­ily mem­bers of the RCMP em­ploy­ees would also be el­i­gi­ble for cash.

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