Report of the Independent Assessors for the Merlo-Davidson Settlement (Bastarache Report)
Date: April 29, 2021
Fully releasable (ATIP)? Yes
The Merlo Davidson Class Action settlement concerns gender and sexual orientation based harassment and discrimination of women RCMP employees in the workplace.
- The Government of Canada recognizes the devastating impacts of workplace violence, harassment and discrimination and is committed to eliminating it in all its forms.
- All forms of violence, harassment and discrimination in the RCMP are unacceptable and those who engage in such behaviours will be held to account.
- The RCMP is making progress in implementing many of the recommendations in the Independent Assessors’ final report, as part of a holistic, long-term approach to a modern and healthy RMCP. Priorities include:
- Establishing the new Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution, which is set to begin operating in June 2021.
- Addressing systemic barriers for diverse groups of people.
- Modernizing recruitment and onboarding practices.
- Improving leadership development and training.
The Merlo/Davidson Class Action settlement concerns gender and sexual orientation-based harassment and discrimination of women RCMP employees in the workplace from 1974 to 2017.
In 2017, the Federal Court approved a settlement that established a confidential and independent Claims Process and compensation scheme overseen by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, the Hon. Michel Bastarache, as Independent Assessor. A total of 3,086 claims were filed. The Assessor determined that 2,304 claimants were entitled to compensation under the settlement agreement, for a total of $125.4 million in compensation awards. Two other Assessors were added to help with the volume of claims. The terms of the Settlement Agreement provide for the Independent Assessor to “draft a report that will provide an overview of [his] observations and recommendations stemming from his work in assessing claims.”
The final report, Broken Dreams Broken Lives: The Devastating Effects of Sexual Harassment on Women in the RCMP, was publicly released on November 19, 2020. The final report covered a 40-year period; however, the Assessor observes that the conduct reported persisted over time and his report speaks to the culture that currently exists.
The report sets out the treatment that claimants described to the three Assessors, including use of offensive language; discrimination in access to promotions and training; frequent incidents of sexual misconduct; and fear of reprisals if complaints were filed. LGBTQ2S women or women of Indigenous or racialized heritage were found to often be treated even more poorly. It also addresses the impact on the lives of the claimants and their families, including loss of mental health (sometimes including post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation), loss of family and connection, and personality changes.
The report sets out 52 recommendations grouped as follows: systemic barriers; recruitment, training, recruit field training, postings, ongoing training, human resources and staffing, maternity and parental leave and employment flexibility, grievances and discipline, mental health, promotions, leadership, specialized teams, medical examination and civilian members and public service employees. Ultimately, the report indicates that “there are strong reasons to doubt that the RCMP has the capacity or the will to make the changes necessary to address the toxic aspects of its culture” and that “true change can only take hold in the RCMP if independent external pressure is brought to bear on it.”
The response acknowledges that current efforts, being advanced under Vision 150, the RCMP’s plan for modernization and culture change, are aligned with the recommendations in the Independent Assessor's final report. Efforts to date include:
- Continuous improvements to harassment resolution (e.g., centralized complaint intake, additional legal training to decision-makers, fully externalized the investigation of all sexual harassment complaints).
- Significant improvements to RCMP governance and decision-making (e.g., establishment of the external Management Advisory Board; gender parity on the Senior Executive Committee).
- Commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (e.g, integration of Gender-based Analysis+ [GBA+] across the organization; development of the RCMP Guide to Supporting Transgender, Non-Binary and Two-Spirit Employees).
- Enhancements to leadership development (e.g., launch of the Foundations of Leadership course in 2019 providing a leadership continuum from cadet to executive).
The RCMP response acknowledges the recommendations within the final report and commits to four key priority areas moving forward:
- Strengthening harassment prevention and trusted resolution: e.g., a new independent, civilian-staffed Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution, outside the chain of command and reporting to the Chief Administrative Officer.
- Addressing systemic barriers through a culture of accountability, equity and inclusion: e.g., reviewing RCMP core values; identifying, preventing and removing barriers from RCMP policies, programs and operations through the use of GBA+; a new RCMP Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy; a new Well-Being Strategy; and exploring ways to mitigate barriers linked to maternity/parental leave.
- Recruitment and onboarding: e.g., recruitment modernization plan, including identifying new screening tools that promote diversity and inclusion; examining large-scale changes to Depot; and continuing to review the Cadet Training Program, including the impacts of the military aspects of its training environment and curriculum.
- Leadership development and training: e.g., integration of Character Leadership in recruitment, training and promotion processes; training has been launched on unconscious bias, and cultural awareness and humility, and new mandatory anti-racism training will be developed with external experts; a GBA+ will be conducted on the allocation of employee training.
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