Merlo-Davidson revisited

January 18, 2024
Veterans ombud Nishika Jardine.
Veterans ombud Nishika Jardine has acknowledged there is progress on this file, which saw at least 10 members of the Merlo-Davidson class-action lawsuit see other benefits clawed back when they received their settlement. Photo: Doug Crawford 

It appears that the issue of pension clawbacks of claimants in the Merlo- Davidson settlement is being fixed. Greta Mortensen, whose story Sage covered last summer, has now had her pension clawback removed and the money taken from it returned, though without interest.

“The VAC sent me a paper. And all I had to do was put a yes or no on it,” Mortensen says. “The yes or no was referring to my part of the class-action lawsuit related to my PTSD claim. And I put no, and that was the end of it. Then I got the money back that they’d taken.”

Mortensen refers to herself as an RCMP “constable for life.” She spent 21 years working with the Mounties in Vancouver’s Lower Mainland, never being promoted as alleged punishment for rebuffing her superior officers’ sexual advances. With a workforce adjustment that gave her the 25 years needed for full pension, she left the force in 1995. Unfortunately for her, that pension was at the lowest possible level, since she was never promoted.

In 2017, officers Janet Merlo and her co-plaintiff Linda Davidson won their class-action lawsuit against the RCMP for discrimination, harassment, bullying and even sexual assault of women and LGBTQ members.

A total of 3,086 claims were filed between August 2017 and May 2018 in the Merlo-Davidson settlement. The assessor determined that 2,304 claimants were entitled to compensation under the settlement agreement, for a total of $125.4 million in compensation payments. The RCMP apologized, promised to change its toxic culture and acknowledged the recommendations made by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Michel Bastarache.

Mortensen, who now lives in Edmonton, joined the lawsuit and had her claim approved as a level 2 “mild injury.” The most severe cases were considered level 6 and included officers who had been raped by their comrades.

Being the good former cop, Mortensen didn't want to get busted for double dipping. So when she applied for a job-caused PTSD disability pension, she also told VAC that she’d been part of the Merlo-Davidson settlement. VAC then began clawing back her pension.

VAC Veterans Ombud Nishika Jardine investigated and said she’d heard about fewer than 10 such clawback cases.

Jardine is still watching the file, but acknowledges the progress, saying that VAC reached out to each affected individual and her office is satisfied that VAC has made appropriate adjustments to its approach.

For its part, VAC writes that “due to the confidentiality framework of the settlement agreement, the department did not receive a list of Merlo-Davidson settlement compensation recipients.” The pension claimants who did self-identify as class-action claimants, received a letter asking for information to show the lawsuit did not cover their disability pension claim.

“If the claimants provided additional information indicating that a portion of the settlement did not compensate for the same pensionable disability, their disability pension reduction amount was recalculated, and a corrective payment was issued. These claimants are now receiving a higher monthly disability pension,” reads the VAC’s statement.

If claimants didn’t respond to the letter, their pension was not reviewed and no changes were made.

For Mortensen, the entire process has been terrible.

“I’m disgusted with the whole thing,” she says. “Most of us who were involved in the lawsuit wish we had never heard of it because it’s been nothing but a nightmare from the get-go. It’s been two years of a lot of anxiety… If anything, it’s putting more stress and anxiety on us.”


This article appeared in the winter 2023 issue of Sage magazine as part of our “Veterans Corner” series, which tackles current veterans issues and answers questions we receive from veteran members and their families. While you’re here, why not download the full issue and peruse our back issues too?