$900-million deal reached in class actions on sexual misconduct in military
OTTAWA — The federal government is paying $900 million to settle multiple class-action lawsuits lodged on behalf of survivors of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and sexual assault in the military.
The settlement provides $800 million for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and $100 million in compensation for another class of employees of the Department of National Defence.
Over the past few years, participants in several lawsuits alleging similar misconduct and systemic problems in the military agreed to co-operate in their legal actions against the government.
One claim, filed by three former members of the military, said the Armed Forces was “poisoned by a discriminatory and sexualized culture” that encouraged sexual misconduct and was caused by a failure in leadership.
In a statement Thursday, deputy defence minister Jody Thomas and the military’s top general Jonathan Vance said they acknowledged the “obligation to ensure a safe work environment for all women and men” in the military.
“We hope that the settlement will help bring closure, healing, and acknowledgment to the victims and survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination,” the statement said.
The government had sought to defend itself in court against the lawsuits, filing documents in December 2017 in an attempt to quash them.
But after facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018.
Class members will mostly be eligible for between $5,000 and $55,000, with higher compensation for people who were subjected to exceptional harm and were denied disability benefits related to that harm. Those members could receive up to $155,000.
Lawyer Garth Myers, part of the team representing the plaintiffs in the suit, called the day “historic” and hoped it would provide closure and a healing process for survivors.
In Thursday’s settlement, the government promised to create a way for victims to share their experiences with senior military leaders in a “restorative engagement” program.
The settlement also calls for an external review of existing anti-harassment programs and revisions to how the government deals with disability benefits for survivors of sexual assault or harassment.
The Canadian Press