With news recently breaking of the Canadian government deciding to settle a class action lawsuit for decades of sexual misconduct and harassment, plaintiffs in the case are coming forward with details of their experience and hopes for the future.
One of the plaintiffs is a female who spent over a decade in the Canadian Armed Forces and also worked as a civilian at CFB Halifax.
Some of the details she shared regarding her encounters with misogyny and harassment include work she conducted while she was part of a small team.
Fern McCuish says she was essentially ‘blacklisted’ by her male counterparts and had her work stripped away from her.
“There was a lot of underhanded tactics being used, there was a lot of bullying. We ended up with a new supervisor who came on board and he was very bullying. I was the only woman who was on the team. I had my work taken away from me. I worked many months,” she said.
She says the tormenting and bullying worsened when she filed a formal complaint.
The workplace environment became too toxic for McCuish and as a result, she said, she became isolated.
“Within the section itself, because it was male-dominated, I found very quickly that the bullying was almost a ‘pack mentality’ and I ended up being treated as the perpetrator, when the person who was actually bullying me — there were several individuals — ended up remaining in the workplace,” McCuish said.
“So, they actually removed me from the workplace and then treated me like I was the problem.”
The federal government has settled a deal worth $900 million in compensation packages to the plaintiffs.
The settlement comes more than four years after former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps released a landmark report identifying what she called an “underlying sexualized culture” in the military that was hostile to women and LGBTQ2 members.
There will be an $800-million cap on settlements for military victims and $100-million cap for civilians.
Another component to the deal is a restorative justice process which both McCuish and lawyer Ray Wagner hope will trigger widespread change in systemic military misconduct.
“That is, trying to change the culture within the Canadian Armed Forces that becomes more receptive to women, for instance. More receptive to the LGBTQ2+ individuals, who identify themselves as such, and of course men have been harassed and sexually abused as well. So, hopefully this turns a page in terms of the restorative justice piece,” Wagner said.
All in all, McCuish says she can finally breathe a sigh of relief and hope future generations don’t endure the same treatment she did.
“It’s a historical moment really to have this type of acknowledgement. Going forward I think that it’s very important that the culture changes.”
WATCH: Canadian Armed Forces sex assault and misconduct settlement reached