Canada settles armed forces sexual misconduct suit

The Canadian government has agreed to pay a nearly $1 billion settlement to members of the Armed Forces and Department of National Defense who allege widespread sexual misconduct.

The settlement does not admit liability, according to a statement, but it does reserve a total of $900 million for both members of the class action lawsuits and current or former employees “who experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.”

Their individual payments will range between $5,000 and $55,000 depending on the type of treatment they experienced, with exceptional cases eligible for $155,000, according to the statement. That amount will also be affected by how many people file claims.

“We’re a government that takes sexual misconduct extremely seriously,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters, according the CNN news partner CBC. “No one should feel unsafe in their place of work, in their communities.”

Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said the Forces “will continue to learn from these survivors as we take steps to achieve lasting and positive change,” according to CBC.

A hearing to approve the agreement is scheduled for September.

Steps have been made within the forces to combat harassment with initiatives like Operation Honor and the launch of a sexual misconduct response center to take in complaints and carry out investigations, the CBC said.

However, prior to the settlement, government lawyers tried to halt the class action suit, telling a court that the government does not “owe a private law duty of care to individual members within the CAF to provide a safe and harassment-free work environment, or to create policies to prevent sexual harassment or sexual assault,” according to CBC.

The federal government moved to settle soon after Trudeau said that language was “of concern.”