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Canadian Armed Forces Class Action – How do Class Actions Work?
A Class Action is a type of lawsuit in which one or several persons, called the “representative plaintiffs”, sue on behalf of a larger group of people (“the class”) who share similar circumstances or injuries. A class action attempts to have common or similar claims resolved in a single proceeding, rather than in multiple repetitive individual actions, with the result of the class action being binding upon all class members and opposing parties.
The representative plaintiff in the Canadian Armed Forces Class Action is Glynis Rogers. She is the named party who files the case and is eventually appointed by the court to represent all members of the class.
There is a special step in class actions, called certification, which essentially constitutes permission by the court to be a class action. Until then, the suit is considered a “proposed” class action.
To be certified as a class action, there will be a hearing where the court will consider a number of factors, including: whether there is a cause of action and identifiable class; whether there is a suitable representative plaintiff; whether there are common issues; and whether a class action is the preferable procedure for the resolution of common issues.
If the court believes a class action is appropriate, it will certify the action. Certification is a procedural step: it is not a trial of the merits, and thus does not focus on whether the allegations are true. That will occur at trial, only if the action first gets certified.
Following certification, there is an “opt-out” period where any member of the class is entitled to “opt-out” of the proceeding. Someone may choose to opt-out if they want to start their own individual lawsuit. By opting-out, you will not be entitled to future recovery arising from the class action. If you do not opt-out, you are deemed to be part of the class.
After certification, the action will proceed in one of two ways.
(i)First, it may settle out of court by the parties negotiating an agreement. Sometimes, class actions that get certified will settle after certification, but before the common issues trial.
(ii)Second, it may proceed in the manner of a traditional lawsuit, moving towards resolution of the common issues at a trial before a judge. In this case, the common issues trial will focus on the fault of the Government for the systemic discrimination, bullying, harassment and sexual assault of female members.
Thereafter, there will be a notice period where members of the class are required to submit their claim. At this stage, known as the “claims process”, you will submit information about your own experiences.
We understand that some individuals, particularly those currently employed by the CAF, may be hesitant to become involved in litigation indirectly against their employer. All submitted claims and information you provide Wagners will be held confidential, and will not be disclosed to the CAF or to the Government of Canada, unless you were to first consent to its release.
If and when it comes time to distribute monetary relief, the court has broad discretion to assess individual issues, and divide relief in a flexible and fair way. It is too early to provide specifics on if, when, and how there may be compensation awarded.