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'We Failed You': Female Mounties Receive Apology After Decades Of Harassment

Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers perform a march at an event last month in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers perform a march at an event last month in Vancouver, British Columbia.

For decades, female officers belonging to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have claimed harassment, discrimination and abuse within the Mounties.

They received a historic apology on Thursday from RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, along with news that the government has set aside a multimillion-dollar compensation package.

"Instead of succeeding and thriving in a supportive and inclusive workplace, many women have suffered careers scarred by gender and sexual discrimination, bullying and harassment," Paulson told reporters.

At times visibly tearful, Paulson added: "You came to the RCMP wanting to personally contribute to your community and we failed you. We hurt you. For that, I am truly sorry."

He apologized to all Canadians, adding that he knows they are "disappointed" by "some of these very public and shameful examples of disgraceful conduct within our ranks."

Watch his remarks here:

"The government has set aside $100 million" for the compensation package — that's about U.S. $75 million — but there is "no cap on payments," as reporter Dan Karpenchuk tells our Newscast unit. Here's more from Dan:

"Two class-action lawsuits against the RCMP have been before the courts for five years.

"They include allegations of rape, unwanted sexual touching, physical assault, sexist comments, threats, gender discrimination, harassment and bullying.

"It's expected that about 1,000 former and current employees of the RCMP will seek compensation."

The agreement "must still be approved by a Federal Court," the CBC explains. It adds that "compensation claims will be paid at six different levels, based on the severity of the acts and the impact on the woman's welfare and career. The process will be confidential, but does not compel women to refrain from speaking about their experiences publicly."

Janet Merlo and Linda Davidson, the former Mounties who filed the two separate class actions, welcomed Paulson's apology at the emotional news conference. According to The Toronto Star, while serving in the force, Merlo "endured sexist comments, sexual pranks, verbal abuse and double standards," while Davidson "was groped by a male supervisor who shoved his hands down her shirt and grabbed her breast."

"I represent 500 women who have reached out and who experience the same things that I did and that Linda did," Merlo told reporters in video carried by Star. "They all wanted change too. They all loved the RCMP, they loved their jobs, and they just wanted it to be a better place to work. A place for their daughters to want to work. A good career, a beautiful career. And for that I'm very thankful that today finally arrived."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.