TORONTO — The head of Canada’s national police force issued an emotional apology Thursday and announced that the government has earmarked $75.7 million (CA$100 million) in payouts related to the settlement of two class-action lawsuits stemming from sexual harassment allegations by female employees, some of which date back to 1974.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police Commissioner Bob Paulson apologized to hundreds of female employees who have alleged they were subjected to harassment dating back 42 years.
“You came to the (police force) wanting to personally contribute to your community and we failed you. We hurt you. For that, I am truly sorry,” said a teary eyed Paulson.
He said the settlements would provide financial compensation for the women and pave the way to end potential class-action lawsuits brought forward by former Royal Canadian Mounted Police members Janet Merlo and Linda Gillis Davidson.
Paulson said the settlement could see as many as 1,000 women make claims and he added that there’s no cap on the potential cost of payouts.
“For many of our women this harassment has hurt them mentally and physically. It has destroyed relationships and marriages, and even whole families have suffered as a result. Their very lives have been affected.”
Merlo said she experienced many instances of sexual harassment that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder. During the press conference she said, “it’s a great day for the (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) force,” and thanked Paulson on behalf of the other female members represented in the lawsuits.
“They just wanted it to be a better place to work,” Merlo said. “For them I’m really thankful that today finally arrived.”
As she left the podium, she embraced Paulson, who wiped tears from his eyes as he sat back down.
Davidson said she endured unwanted sexual advances and repeated harassment during her 27-year career, which included a stint with the prime minister’s protective detail.
Though neither of the two class actions has been certified, the settlement agreements will be submitted to the courts, paving the way for approval. There will be a deadline for signing on to the actions, which means it is too early to tell how many members might be compensated.