Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Landmark Deal in RCMP Sexual-Harassment Class Action Wins Court Approval

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Landmark Deal in RCMP Sexual-Harassment Class Action Wins Court Approval

Article excerpt

Judge OK's RCMP sex-harassment lawsuit deal

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TORONTO - An unprecedented settlement that will pay up to $220,000 to women who were sexually harassed while working for the RCMP over the past 40 years has been approved by a Federal Court judge, who called the agreement fair and reasonable.

In a written decision, Judge Ann Marie McDonald called the settlement one that was in the women's best interests, given that litigation might otherwise have dragged on for years with uncertain prospects as to an outcome.

"The proposed settlement has a number of features and benefits that extend beyond a strictly monetary compensation scheme and, as a result, the settlement agreement goes well beyond what the plaintiffs may have been awarded after a trial," McDonald said.

"Considering the very personal and painful nature of the claims, the settlement process includes a non-adversarial claims process with numerous safeguards to protect the privacy of claimants."

The deal covers all women harassed while working for the RCMP, starting in September 1974 when the force first began taking female recruits. Many of the women would otherwise now have had no legal recourse because of the passage of time.

Each victim is eligible for a minimum of $10,000, with $220,000 going to those most egregiously harmed. In some cases, close relatives can receive a total of 10 per cent of a claimant's reward.

While as many as 20,000 women are believed eligible for compensation, the lawyers involved estimate more than 1,000 claimants will receive about $89 million. The government has set aside $100 million for the payouts, even though there is no total cap.

McDonald praised the agreement for including a public RCMP apology to the women -- already delivered by Commissioner Bob Paulson in October -- along with "institutional change initiatives" aimed at eradicating gender-based harassment. Neither the RCMP nor the federal government explicitly admitted any wrongdoing.

The judge also agreed the two law firms involved should get 15 per cent of the claims paid to victims. …

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