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The Supreme Court of Canada will not hear an appeal from the federal government trying to stop a $1.1 billion class action against the RCMP over bullying and harassment.

The lead plaintiffs in the class action, veteran RCMP members Geoffrey Greenwood and Todd Gray, say there was a culture of systemic intimidation and harassment in the force that was condoned by RCMP leadership.

The class action was first filed in 2018, and a Federal Court judge certified it in 2020.

The federal government fought the case from the beginning, arguing the RCMP had an internal administrative resolution process for workplace harassment claims that precludes the use of a class action to address the issue.

The Federal Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s ruling certifying the class action last fall. The federal government then sought to have the Supreme Court of Canada review the decision.

In a decision Thursday, the Supreme Court dismissed that application with costs, paving the way for the class action to proceed.

As usual, the Supreme Court gave no reasons for the decision to dismiss the appeal.

In a submission to the Supreme Court asking it to hear the appeal, federal lawyers argued when there is an internal dispute process in a workplace, court intervention should be exceptional.

Allowing the class action to proceed would harm the “broad mosaic” of internal dispute mechanisms right across the federal public service, including the RCMP, federal lawyers argued.

The plaintiffs argued that the recourse available to them was to go up the chain of command to officers who were either part of the problem or who chose to protect the perpetrators of the harassment.

They called the government’s appeal “the latest chapter” in decades of government attempts to avoid accountability for the toxic culture of bullying and intimidation in the RCMP.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said in a written statement that she respects the decision of the court.

“Separate and apart from the court proceedings, I recognize there is always more we can do to improve our workplace,” she said. “Ensuring a more equitable workplace free of harassment, violence and discrimination is a top priority for the RCMP.”

She pointed to the launch last June of the Independent Centre for Harassment Resolution, a centralized and independent unit specifically established to resolve harassment and violence within the force.

“I am determined to bring about positive change at the RCMP,” Lucki said.

This is not the first class action against the RCMP over alleged harassment. In 2016, a settlement was reached in a class action from hundreds of women who said they were sexually harassed and abused while members of the RCMP.

Ultimately $125 million was paid to 2,304 women.

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