Federal Court approves $900M deal to settle military sexual-assault cases

OTTAWA — The Federal Court has approved to a $900-million agreement that will settle multiple class-action lawsuits by survivors of sexual harassment and assault in the military.

The federal government agreed in July to pay $800 million for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and $100 million for another class of employees of the Department of National Defence to settle six overlapping cases filed in recent years.

The lawsuits made claims about sexual harassment, gender discrimination and sexual assault.

The Liberals began by fighting the lawsuits in late 2017, but reversed course weeks later in early 2018 to begin settlement talks.

The judgment released Monday afternoon says most, but not all, of the members of the classes in the lawsuits wanted the deal approved by the court.

Judge Simon Fothergill, in his ruling, agreed the settlement should be approved, but wrote that such a deal is "inevitably a compromise" that is "unlikely to give all parties precisely what they want."

In July when the settlement was announced, lawsuit members were told they would be eligible for between $5,000 and $55,000.

A further $100,000 each could go to people subjected to exceptional harm, such as those who suffered post-traumatic stress disorder from the way they were treated and were denied benefits for the related disability.

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.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 25, 2019.

The Canadian Press