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Merger sought by Armed Forces class action plaintiffs

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 @ 1:16 PM | By Carolyn Gruske

What were formally five separate class actions against the Canadian Armed Forces are attempting to come together under a single umbrella.

The complaints against the federal government are seeking policy changes to redress systemic sexual assault, harassment and discrimination in the Canadian Armed Forces. Initially, they were filed in Ottawa, Toronto, Quebec City, Halifax and Victoria.

The plaintiffs in all five cases have entered into an agreement to prosecute the cases together. Currently, they are co-operating and sharing resources in order to take a more national approach. Koskie Minsky LLP represents the plaintiffs in Toronto. Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne & Yazbeck LLP is handling the suit in Ottawa. Quessy Henry St-Hilaire filed in Quebec City. Wagners is working on behalf of the Halifax plaintiffs. Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota LLP represents the plaintiffs in Victoria.

The motions for certification, which will decide if the cases can proceed as class actions will be heard in the Federal Court the week of July 9, 2018.

According to Nov. 2016 data from Statistics Canada, 4.8% of women in the Canadian Armed Forces had reported being sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months. Among those serving in the Primary Reserve, 8.2% of female members reported being victims of sexual assault in the previous 12 months. Additionally, 27.3% of women reported having been victims of sexual assault at least once since joining the Canadian Armed Forces.

Nicola Peffers is a plaitiff in the Victoria suit. "Staggering" is the word she uses to describe the Statistics Canada figures.

“Among working Canadians, 0.9% reported being victims of sexual assault in any situation. Why are the numbers almost five to ten times higher in the military? How many victims must there be in order for Canada to take action?”