On Thursday November 19, 2020 the Honourable Michel Bastarache (the “Assessor”) released his final report on the implementation of the Merlo Davidson Settlement Agreement, entitled Broken Dreams Broken Lives: The Devastating Effects of Sexual Harassment on Women in the RCMP (the “Report”). The Report sets out the Assessor’s observations and recommendations following the assessment of 3,086 claims and 644 interviews with claimants. The Office of the Assessor awarded compensation to 2,304 claimants, approximately 75% of claims submitted. Where claims were denied, the Assessor “believed the claimants lived through the difficult events described in their claims” (page 25), but had to deny the claim for not meeting essential criteria. This included claims where the claimant was clearly harassed and/or discriminated against, but not due to their gender or sexual orientation.
The Assessor found that there is a systemic problem with harassment and discrimination in the RCMP, which remains unaddressed despite past promises of change and amendment of policies The Assessor found the RCMP to be a toxic and systemically unsafe workplace, and the culture to be misogynistic, homophobic, and an obstacle to change:
“What I learned in reviewing claims and speaking to claimants has led me to conclude that the RCMP has a toxic culture which has proved intractable to change despite numerous reports and substantial litigation costs. This culture promotes, or at the very least tolerates, misogynistic, racist and homophobic attitudes among many members of the RCMP. Such attitudes cause harm and are inconsistent with the Charter values of equality. They must not be allowed to persist.” (page 1).
This toxic culture was found by the Assessor to undermine the RCMP’s stated values, and exist “at all ranks and in all provinces and territories”. (Executive Summary, page II)
Over the course of the assessment period, the Assessor found consistent and widespread patterns of abuse, assault and harassment perpetrated by male RCMP members and employees against female members. Compensable experiences included derogatory comments, ostracization and bullying, denial of career opportunities, penetrative and non-penetrative sexual assaults, being denied backup in the field, and resulting harm such as anxiety, prescriptions and addiction to medication, eating disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicidal ideation and attempts, and damage to personal relationships.
Notably, the Report also identified the large number of sexual assaults and other inappropriate behaviour perpetrated by RCMP approved Doctors, who assaulted RCMP applicants during their required medical exams. Many claimants could not be compensated for these assaults under the Merlo Davidson Settlement Agreement, as they occurred prior to the claimant joining the RCMP. The Report recommends the RCMP compensate those women who were abused by the medical officers during the application process. Kim Spencer McPhee has filed a class action lawsuit in regards to the RCMP applicant’s exams: Corriveau v Canada (AG).
The Assessor found that “cultural change is highly unlikely to come from within the RCMP” (Executive Summary, Page VIII), and called for an “in depth, external and independent review of the organization and future of the RCMP as a federal policing organization.” (Executive Summary, Page III) The Report makes 52 recommendations for change, including: changes to recruitment strategy such as requiring two years of post-secondary education; changes to the Depot and Recruit Field Training programs; the implementation of actual sanctions for harassers, including suspensions, demotions and removal of supervisory responsibility; the creation of an effective, external and independent body with investigative powers for RCMP employees to report harassment or misconduct; a blind application process for promotions; and increased employment flexibility and support for parents, such as daycares in large detachments .
Kim Spencer McPhee are court appointed class counsel in Greenwood v Canada (AG), a certified class action regarding general harassment and bullying in the RCMP. If you believe you are a class member in either Greenwood or Corriveau, we encourage you to contact our offices at (416) 596-1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.