Teary RCMP commissioner apologizes, announces harassment suit settlement

'I'm truly sorry': Paulson to female Mounties



OTTAWA — RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson has delivered an abject apology to hundreds of current and former female officers and employees who were subjected to bullying, discrimination and harassment dating back as long as four decades.

Paulson made the historic apology Thursday as he announced the settlement of two class-action lawsuits stemming from harassment that has cast a dark pall over the storied police force.

“To all the women, I stand humbly before you today and solemnly offer our sincere apology,” an emotional Paulson told a news conference in Ottawa.

“You came to the RCMP wanting to personally contribute to your community and we failed you. We hurt you. For that, I am truly sorry.”

Paulson said the settlement would provide financial compensation for the women and lead to resolution of potential class-action lawsuits brought forward by former RCMP members Janet Merlo and Linda Gillis Davidson.

The federal government has earmarked $100 million for payouts, but there is no cap on the overall compensation that could be awarded. The settlement is expected to cover hundreds of women who served in the national police force from Sept. 16, 1974, when the first female officers were sworn in, to the present day.

It also includes creation of a scholarship in honour of the RCMP’s first female regular members as well as establishment of national and divisional advisory committees on gender, sexual orientation, harassment, equity and inclusivity. The national committee will issue a public annual report.

Paulson was joined at the news conference by Merlo and Davidson, as well as Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and Labour Minister MaryAnn Mihychuk.

“The impact this has had on those who have experienced this shameful conduct cannot â€” must not â€” be solely understood as an adverse workplace condition for which they must be compensated,” Paulson said.

“For many of our women this harassment has hurt them mentally and physically. It is has destroyed relationships and marriages, and even whole families have suffered as a result. Their very lives have been affected.”

Merlo took the podium after Paulson was finished, calling it “a great day for the RCMP” and thanking the commissioner 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.”

She then embraced Paulson, who wiped tears from his eyes.  

“I love my flag, I love my country and I loved my job — I left way too early,” added Davidson, who also extended her thanks to the commissioner.

“I will continue to stand up and right the wrongs if I can,” she said. “We are, we were and we always will be your greatest asset.”

The settlement likely marks the beginning of the end of a difficult episode in the force’s history, one that has haunted Paulson’s tenure as commissioner.

“Today’s announcement … closes the door on a deeply troubling and unfortunate period in the history of our national police force,” Goodale said. “It is an encouraging moment, demonstrating a deep desire on the part of all parties to move forward in a positive and constructive manner â€” starting immediately.”

Though neither of the two class actions has been certified, the settlement agreement will be submitted to the Federal Court for approval.

Former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache will independently review claims and supporting evidence in confidence and determine which of six levels of compensation apply. Bastarache will personally interview those who make serious claims of mistreatment.

The former judge will make payments directly to the women from funds transferred to his control. His decisions cannot be appealed by the RCMP or the recipients.

Merlo, whose proposed class-action suit was filed in British Columbia four years ago, has spoken of many instances of sexual harassment that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder.

She said Thursday the fight was about trying to “leave some kind of legacy of change, rather than just going away and fading into the sunset hurt and bitter.”

Davidson has told of unwanted sexual advances and repeated harassment during her 27-year career, which included a stint with the prime minister’s protective detail. Her lawsuit was filed last year in Ontario Superior Court.

“It came to the point where I’d go to the detachment and I’d try to go to work and I couldn’t,” she said after the news conference. “I would literally vomit into the bushes before I went into the building.”

The RCMP has streamlined its internal processes for addressing conflict, giving supervisors more power to deal with disputes promptly, but some critics fear that has opened the door to abuses.

Goodale has already asked the RCMP watchdog to revisit the broad issue of bullying and harassment within the force. The Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP is looking at whether recommendations it made three years ago have been implemented.

— Follow @JimBronskill on Twitter

Jim Bronskill, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Not a joke’: Promoter wants to rocket-launch man the length of White Rock pier

Brooke Colby says he’s building an eight-foot rocket in his backyard

Dry-grad cancelled, Elgin Park students make donation to food bank

Students donate $1,800 to food bank after being forced to cancel graduation event

South Surrey girl asks friends to help make birthday rock – literally

Charley Pauliuk marked her 11th year with a display of cheer

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

LIVE: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

Boy, 2, left with ‘soft tissue injuries’ after being hit by car in Squamish intersection

Boy was release from hospital, police continue to investigate

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Snowbirds to remain at Kamloops Airport indefinitely after fatal crash

small contingent of the Snowbirds team is staying in Kamloops, acting as stewards of the jets

Most Read

l -->