RCMP harassment suit settlement: Here’s what you need to know

Click to play video: 'Bob Paulson promises that ‘the fist of God will fall’ on RCMP officers who perpetrate sexual harassment'
Bob Paulson promises that ‘the fist of God will fall’ on RCMP officers who perpetrate sexual harassment
WATCH ABOVE: Bob Paulson promises that 'the fist of God will fall' on RCMP officers who perpetrate sexual harassment – Oct 6, 2016

Former Mountie Janet Merlo called it a great day for “women in Canada” after RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson offered a tearful apology to hundreds of past and current female officers who experienced incidents of bullying and sexual harassment.

“This is a great day for myself, for women in the RCMP, for women in Canada,” Merlo told reporters in Ottawa. “It’s a good day for the RCMP. It’s a turning point. I have total faith that this is the beginning of a new era, hopefully a better era.”

READ MORE: RCMP earmarks $100M in compensation for sexual harassment against female Mounties

Paulson apologized and also announced a settlement of two class-action lawsuits brought forward by former RCMP members Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson.

“To all the women, I stand humbly before you today and offer our sincere apology,” the RCMP commissioner told a news conference in Ottawa. “We failed. We hurt you; for that I’m truly sorry.”

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The apology was directed at the hundreds of women who experienced harassment in the national police force, with some complaints dating back to 1974.

How much is the settlement?

Click to play video: 'Bob Paulson lays out in stark terms the way the RCMP has failed to be gender-equal'
Bob Paulson lays out in stark terms the way the RCMP has failed to be gender-equal

WATCH ABOVE: Bob Paulson lays out in stark terms the way the RCMP failedwomen

Paulson said the government has allotted $100 million for members who experienced harassment, bullying and assault by male colleagues, adding that the settlement does not feature a cap on compensation and the settlement must first be approved by a federal court.

Paulson said he expects about 1,000 women to come forward and seek compensation.

Earlier reports, said the total compensation could involve tens of millions of dollars that would likely be distributed among the hundreds of women who have come forward.

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Under the settlement, plaintiffs would receive financial compensation “based on a scale” of the severity of harm they suffered, according to a report from The Canadian Press.

A look at the past allegations

While the complaints of harassment and abuse date back more than 40 years, Former B.C. RCMP Corporal Catherine Galliford was the first to speak publicly in 2011 about sexual harassment and bullying over her 20 years of service.

The allegations of harassment included: unwanted sexual touching, sexual assault, sexist comment, threats and gender discrimination among others.

READ MORE: RCMP apologizes for harassment, sexual misconduct in workplace

Const. Janet Merlo, a 19-year RCMP veteran from Nanaimo, went public with her own experience of ongoing discrimination and harassment before launching a lawsuit in March 2012 which was eventually joined by hundreds of other women.

According to Merlo’s notice of civil claim, she said she experienced many instances of sexual harassment that left her with post-traumatic stress disorder, including an incident where her commanding officer told her to keep her “f—– legs closed” when she revealed she was pregnant.

“You had better get your priorities straight. You are either going to have a career in the RCMP, or you are going to pop out kids your whole life,” according to the claim. “I have a suggestion for you: next time, keep your f—— legs closed.”

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WATCHFormer and current RCMP officers being harassment hearing (2015)

Former Nanaimo RCMP Officer Krista Carle, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, spoke with Global News in 2015 about her own ordeal that started when she began her career with the RCMP in 1991.

Carle, who also spoke out publicly in 2011, along with Gaillford and Merlo, said the abuse she suffered included having pornography placed inside her desk, enduring graphic sexual jokes and inappropriate touching from male colleagues.

“Over the course of my career I endured quite a bit and it’s given me the courage and the strength to speak publicly about it,” she said.

Will the landmark settlement provide closure for victims?

Click to play video: 'Ralph Goodale glad to see RCMP address ‘extremely disturbing issue’ of sexual assault in the force'
Ralph Goodale glad to see RCMP address ‘extremely disturbing issue’ of sexual assault in the force

WATCH ABOVE: Ralph Goodale glad to see RCMP address ‘extremely disturbing issue’

Following her statement, Merlo embraced the RCMP commissioner and thanked him on behalf of all the other female members who’ve been victimized.

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“They just wanted it to be a better place to work,” Merlo said. “For them I’m really thankful that today finally arrived.”

Davidson, who also spoke at the press conference, said she endured unwanted sexual advances and repeated harassment during her 27-year career.

READ MORE: RCMP misconduct cases more than double after new process implemented

“I love my flag, I love my country and I loved my job; I left way too early,” Davidson told reporters. “I will continue to stand up and right the wrongs if I can … We are, we were and we always will be your greatest asset.”

Speaking with Global News ahead of Thursday’s announcement, B.C. Const. Sarah Brown said a possible settlement brought some relief.

“It was like a hundred pounds came off my shoulders,” Brown said Wednesday. “We’ve been waiting so long to hear what was going to happen.”

— With files from The Canadian Press and Global News

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