At a press conference Thursday announcing upward of $75 million in compensation for hundreds of harassed female employees with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Officer Linda Davidson embraced Commissioner Bob Paulson.
"It takes a great person to acknowledge what went wrong," Davidson, who was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of alleged harassment by her co-workers and bosses, told reporters Thursday. "This is a new step, it's a new beginning. We are headed in the right direction."
Davidson mounted a class action lawsuit against Canada's national police force in March 2015, alleging that she and other female officers were victims of systemic sexual harassment and discrimination within the force. It's the second class action of its kind after another such action by former RCMP constable Janet Merlo five years ago.
The Merlo class action snowballed into about 500 women who joined on with their own allegations of harassment. The RCMP said Thursday they expect 1,000 women to come forward, which is how they decided on the "ballpark estimate" of $75 million in compensation.
It was an emotional moment for Paulson, too, who choked up as he read his statement.
"For many of our women, this discrimination and harassment has hurt them mentally and physically," he said. Adding: "Their very lives have been affected."
"I stand humbly before you today and solemnly offer you my apology," Paulson said.
"We failed you, we hurt you. For that, I'm truly sorry."
Paulson said the RCMP has set up an independent, confidential claims process and compensation scheme for all women who have experienced bullying, harassment, or abuse in the RCMP between September 16, 1974—the date that women were first allowed to join the RCMP—and the future date when the federal courts will, hopefully, approve the settlement. Paulson said that approval is expected soon.
The federal government has committed $75 million in anticipation of the process, but there is no cap on the compensation, Paulson said.
Paulson said the agreement showed the RCMP was accountable to its employees.
The compensation scheme is one step in a series of ongoing moves the RCMP has taken toward confronting misogyny, harassment, and bullying in its ranks.
Paulson said the RCMP now has systems in place that will deal "swiftly" with those who continue to harass or discriminate against women.
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