July 21st, 2019

Redcliff on the list in RCMP’s $100M class-action settlement

By JEREMY APPEL on July 12, 2019.

jappel@medicinehatnews.com@MHNJeremyAppel

Municipal employees of RCMP detachments across the country – including Redcliff – who’ve faced harassment and gender-based discrimination are eligible to receive funds from a $100-million class action settlement, the second one reached since 2017.

There are six levels of compensation, ranging from $10,000 to $220,000, offered to non-police employees of municipal RCMP forces.

Of the 154 municipal RCMP forces, 45 – or 29 per cent – are based in Alberta.

Since Ontario and Quebec – the two biggest provinces – have their own provincial police forces and thus don’t have municipal contracts with the RCMP, B.C. and Alberta are the provinces with the most claimants.

“In reaching the agreement, we tried to be as exhaustive as possible of all the non-police female personnel who would be in RCMP-controlled workplaces and possibly subjected to experiencing harassment and/or discrimination based on their gender and/or sexual orientation,” said Patrick Higgerty, the Calgary-based lawyer who helped spearhead the suit.

Higgerty told the News that there are a wide array of these positions, including seconded municipal employees who do their jobs at the police station.

“That’s a very common category of positions that qualify here,” he said. “We have also regional district employees, non-profit organization employees, volunteers, commissioners, supernumerary special constables, consultants, contractors, public service employees, students, members of integrated policing units and persons from outside agencies and police forces”.

It’s unclear whether harassment or discrimination occurred at Redcliff or any other specific detachment.

“But we do have strong reason to believe that there was a culture within the RCMP, which allowed this type of behaviour to go on,” Higgerty said, adding that the period covered by the suit goes back as far as 1974.

“That’s a long time, so where it happened, when it happened and how many times it happened, time will tell.”

Assessors will look at claims to determine “the relative egregiousness of the behaviour,” which ranges from inappropriate jokes to outright sexual assault, “and what impact it had on the claimant,” he said, naming PTSD, depression, anxiety and low self esteem as some of the possible effects.

A spokesperson for the Redcliff RCMP was unable to offer comment, but Cpl. Caroline Duval from RCMP headquarters provided a lengthy statement.

“We deeply regret that these individuals were subject to inappropriate behaviour in our workplace, and sincerely apologize for the pain we caused to them and their families,” Duval wrote.

“Although we cannot change our history, this settlement is an opportunity to make right what we can and be the organization we need to be for our employees and Canadians.”

The statement points to several changes the RCMP has made “to address conflict and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.”

This includes setting up a central office to co-ordinate harassment complaints, creating a new position on the Senior Executive Committee to focus on “action, innovation and modernization,” introducing the use of gender-based analysis and creating a civilian Interim Management Board to “help lead the RCMP through a transformation of its culture and management practices. ”

Higgerty says these changes are an unambiguous step in the right direction.

“We can’t reverse what happened in the past, but they’re acting very commendably in having entered into this settlement and they are definitely trying to make amends in rectifying the culture that resulted in all this having occurred,” he said.

“Money will never replace the harm that has been done, but this claims process will allow qualified claimants to share their experience in an empathetic, safe and non-adversarial way, and that’s part of the process to reach some level of closure.”

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