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RCMP to get more money to settle sexual harassment lawsuit

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The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is getting more money to cover a historic class-action lawsuit after more women than originally expected came forward with stories of harassment and sexual abuse.

The settlement covers all women who were harassed while working for the RCMP during and after September 1974.(Valerie Zink/Reuters)

The federal government is promising to give the Royal Canadian Mounted Police more money to cover a historic class-action lawsuit after more women than originally expected came forward with stories of harassment and sexual abuse.

Today, Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos tabled the supplementary estimates in the House of Commons, which includes a top-up of more than $50 million for the RCMP to cover the out-of-court settlement.

Known as the Merlo-Davidson settlement, after plaintiffs Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson, the lawsuit covers all women who were harassed while working for the RCMP during and after September 1974. Each victim is eligible for a payout of between $10,000 and $220,000.

When the settlement was announced back in 2016, the government set aside $100 million to cover the claims but said it was open to increasing the sum if necessary. The 2019-2020 supplementary estimates include a line giving the settlement another $50,135,621.

The RCMP originally expected about 1,000 people to submit claims. In the end, the assessor's office received more than three times that number. Facing more payouts, the RCMP flagged the need for more money in a memo to Public Safety Canada last year.

Successful claimants are awarded compensation on a sliding scale, ranging from level one claims — which cover sexualized comments — to level six claims involving "forcing [the] complainant to engage in penetrative sex acts."

As of Dec. 1, independent assessor Michel ​Bastarache (a former Supreme Court justice) and his team have rendered decisions on 2,514 of the 3,131 claims.

Duclos will introduce a bill sometime this month seeking approval for an extra $4.9 billion in funding across government departments.

The RCMP has reached a second settlement — for about another $100 million — for women who worked for the force in non-policing roles, including municipal staff, contractors and volunteers.

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