The federal government needs to conduct an external, independent and in-depth review of the future of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, says a former Supreme Court of Canada justice tasked with dealing with the fallout from the force’s historic sexual assault settlement.
“What I learned led me to conclude that a toxic culture prevails in the RCMP. This culture encourages, or at least tolerates, misogynistic, racist, and homophobic attitudes among many members of the RCMP,” wrote Michel Bastarache in his final report released Thursday titled “Broken Dreams Broken Lives.”
“The problem is systemic in nature and cannot be corrected solely by punishing a few ‘bad apples.'”
The Merlo-Davidson settlement, named after lawsuit plaintiffs Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson, covers those who were harassed while working for the RCMP during or after September 1974. They include women who experienced sexual harassment and gender or sexual orientation-based discrimination while working as regular RCMP officers, civilian members or public service employees of the RCMP.
Bastarache was appointed to independently assess the claims and write a final report based on his findings. Over the past four years he said he conducted 644 interviews with current or former female employees of the RCMP.
More than 2,300 women received compensation
In 2016, the Liberal government set aside $100 million to cover the claims. Back then, the RCMP was expecting about 1,000 women to submit claims.
Instead, the assessors’ office received more than three times that number.
Of that, a total of 2,304 women were compensated, and 782 claims were denied.
In all, $125,266,500 was paid to claimants.
Each victim was eligible for a payout of between $10,000 and $220,000.
Successful claimants were awarded compensation on a sliding scale, ranging from level one claims — which cover sexualized comments — to level six claims involving “forcing [the] complainant to engage in penetrative sex acts.”
“No financial compensation can repair the damage that the assessors witnessed. If no concrete measures are taken, the RCMP will be in the same place again in a few years,” the report said.
RCMP commissioner to respond later Thursday
Bastarache wrote that the problems faced by women in the RCMP had been known to the force and to the government for at least three decades.
He wrote that while some improvement has been made, legislative changes and administrative reforms haven’t successfully rooted out a toxic culture.
“It’s time to discuss the need to make fundamental changes to the RCMP and federal policing,” Bastarache wrote.
“I am of the opinion that the culture change is highly unlikely to come from within the RCMP. The latter has had many years to proceed, has been the subject of numerous reports and recommendations, and yet unacceptable behaviour continues to occur. “
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki and Chief Human Resources Officer Gail Johnson will respond to the findings and recommendations this afternoon.
The RCMP has reached a second settlement — for about another $100 million — for women subjected to sexual harassment or gender-based discrimination while they worked for the force in non-policing roles.
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