Ottawa (AFP) - Canada must pay almost a billion dollars in settlements to hundreds of military victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault and gender-based discrimination, a federal court ruled Monday.
The victims, some of whom still work in the Canadian armed forces or the defence ministry, filed class action lawsuits in 2016 and 2017 after an independent investigation found "an underlying sexualized culture" in Canada's armed forces "that is hostile to women and LGTBQ members, and conducive to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault."
A settlement was reached in July and endorsed by the vast majority of some 700 victims. The settlement was formally confirmed on Monday.
Each victim will receive between Can$5,000 ($3,760) and Can$50,000 depending on the gravity of the case.
Some plaintiffs "who experienced exceptional harm such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may be eligible for up to an additional $100,000," the court ruled.
The settlement "contemplates numerous systemic changes and programs," including "a restorative engagement program and other measures to rebuild the relationship between class members and the military, and promote culture change."
The armed forces must also undergo an external five-year review that will measure the institution's progress in addressing sexual misconduct in order to make recommendations to senior military officials.
The top leadership of Canada's military has redoubled their efforts in recent years to eradicate cases of sexual assault and harassment in its ranks by providing better support to victims and punishing perpetrators more severely.
A November 2016 official probe found that at least three cases of sexual aggression took place every day in the Canadian armed forces, usually committed by a superior against a victim of lesser rank.