Canadian Mounties apologise for rampant sexual harassment after multi-million dollar lawsuit settlement

The settlement resulted from two class-action lawsuits that made public decades of rampant sexual harassment in the force

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The Independent US

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police have reached a multi-million dollar settlement with female members of the force after decades of gender and sexual discrimination and harassment

Once approved in federal court, the settlement agreement is expected to reach C$100m (£60.7m). 

The settlement comes as a result of two class action lawsuits filed by two former Mounties: Linda Gillis Davidson, who joined the RCMP in 1985, and Janet Merlo, who joined in 1991. 

“Some of these women left the RCMP heartbroken, disillusioned, and angry,” said RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, apologising for “shameful conduct”.

“Others stayed and were forced to find ways to cope with this inexcusable condition since they did not see an organisation that was willing to change.”

Ms Merlo called Mr Paulson’s apology a “turning point” for the Canadian organisation. 

“I have total faith that this is the beginning of a new era, hopefully a better era,” she said. 

She added that the hundreds allegations were not directed at the entire organisation, but rather at a few members of the Mounties.

“Within the RCMP itself,” she said, “it seems that it was a minority, but a potent minority, that behaves this way.”

Allegations of gender discrimination and harassment were first made public in 2011 when former RCMP spokesperson Catherine Galliford came forward with her account of constant sexual advances from male colleagues over her 16 years spent on the force.

Ms Merlo launched the first class-action suit after 19 years of the force, alleging that officers routinely directed graphic sexual comments at her. More than 500 members signed on to the suit alleging rape, unwanted grabbing, and other accusations. 

Ms Davidson launched the second class action suit in 2015. She alleged that through her nearly three-decade career, she was subjected to harassment, including unwanted grabbing and kissing and crude jokes, causing her to suffer with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.

If approved by federal court, the settlement will be available to any woman who served as a Mountie since 1974. 

Mr Paulson promised to improve the culture of the RCMP in his apology Thursday.

“It’s a very complex, pervasive, culturally ingrained problem that requires the transformation culturally of this police force,” he said.