CTV News has learned a former civilian employee wants to be included in the sexual misconduct and discrimination class action lawsuit against the Canadian Armed Forces.
Fern McCuish began her career as a member of the military but then left to further her education, before returning to the Department of National Defence as a civilian employee.
In both roles, she claims she experienced and witnessed abuse of power, harassment and bullying.
“Whenever I did bring concerns to my supervisor, he was caustic and nasty about it,” McCuish said.
McCuish says she was the only female member of a small team. A DND internal investigation eventually concluded two of 11 allegations were founded.
“He followed me down the backstairs in the stairwell and started to berate and harass me outside of my workplace, pointing his finger at me and screaming in the street, in the dockyard,’ said McCuish.
Not long after, McCuish says she lost her job when her unit was closed five years ago.
When she recently learned a Halifax lawyer was launching a class action lawsuit against the federal government, alleging systemic sexual misconduct and discrimination in the Canadian Forces, she tried to get involved but was told she couldn't because she was a civilian employee.
“I don't think that it's fair,” McCuish said. “I don't think that it's fair at all.”
Ray Wagner, the lawyer representing the military members, says at first his firm didn't really consider that civilian employees may also be affected, but he's since heard from several who say they are.
“They raised very troubling circumstances in terms of how they were treated,” said Wagner. “Female civilian workers, who were working in the trades, had expectations, were dealt with very poorly.”
Wagner is now expanding his class action to include civilian employees over the next couple weeks. McCuish says it's the right thing to do.
“I don't feel that I had my say because I was stifled,” she said.
McCuish since moved on and is happy in another job, but she wants acknowledgement and recognition for what she experienced working for Canada's Department of National Defence.
The lawsuit has not yet been certified. Wagner hopes that will happen early in the new year.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell.