Ottawa – With the most recent rise in sexual misconduct allegations within the military, the Canadian government is now contemplating taking corrective measures.
A number of Canada’s top military officers have been accused of sexual harassment. 2022 has witnessed a significant rise in allegations in the military. This year, a former chief of defense staff pleaded guilty to criminal charges that stemmed from sexual misconduct while on active duty.
According to the Canadian Department of defense, nearly a quarter of the women military personnel have said that they have been sexually assaulted at some point in their career. The Canadian government even allocated $800 million to settle class-action disputes involving sexual violence.
The outpour of sexual harassment scandals has completely shaken all confidence in the military in Canada. With that being said, the Canadian government did release an independent review by a former Supreme Court justice, Louis Arbor, last week. The objective of this independent review is to address this persistent problem and lack of reformative measures. In four other reports, victims have confirmed that the abuse percolates into all levels within the forces and many victims get penalized for addressing their concerns.
It is alleged in a 2015 report, that Canada’s military has “an underlying sexual culture that is hostile to women, homosexuals and queers members.” Victims of sexual assault and harassment are left to cope alone.
Justice Arbour concluded that prior attempts to reform the military entirely failed. It is a source of shame for the Canadian government, that some of the high-ranked senior military officers including former chief of the defense staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance plead guilty to the charges of obstruction of justice. Gen. Vance was accused of pressuring Major. Kellie Brennan made false statements to the military police about their prior intimate relationship while she was his subordinate. Allegedly the general instructed her to deny any intimate relationship between them. It is rumored that they have a child together.
Not only Gen. Vance but even the military’s head of human resources was accused of sexual misconduct that same year. Additionally, an anonymous soldier who was overseeing and supervising the logistics of Canada’s coronavirus vaccine rollout faced similar charges. A number of senior officers have been sent on leave or forced to retire.
The core problem is that those in the chain of command have repeatedly turned a blind eye to the matter. Back in 2015, when former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps found an “underlying sexualized culture in the military,” no corrective measures were taken. The public naturally assumed that inappropriate sexual conduct is almost always pardoned. These cases merely became obscure examples.
Former infantry officer and attorney, Phillip Millar represents both victims and officers charged with sexual harassment. He has filed lawsuits accusing a former petty officer of sexual assault at recruiting centers. In another case, a high-ranked official was convicted on 12 charges of sexual violence and approximately 25 charges of breach of trust.
Justice Arbour’s Report.
Justice Arbour’s Report laid down the reforms that should be implemented and addressed the impediments to progress within the military. Civilian courts should have “ exclusive jurisdiction in all matters of sexual misconduct under the Criminal Code.”
This government-commissioned report from Louise Arbour came during the peak of sexual misconduct allegations against top military leaders. The rigid and outdated structural systems don’t work anymore. There is a desperate need to modernize them. The justice also suggested alternatives to military colleges, which according to her “appear in institutions from a different era.” According to Defense Minister Anita Anand, only 17 of Justice Arbours’ recommendations will in all likelihood be implemented.
At this time the lack of a conventional approach has made Canadian residents mistrust their systems. As Stefanue von Hlatky, a professor of political studies at Queens University, Ontario said – “ “I’m hopeful for change but, at the same time, is it possible to completely eradicate sexual misconduct in an organization?” Professor von Hlatky added that “The expectation of perfect conduct in an organization is probably not realistic. Only time can tell if proper conduct becomes realistic in any organization.”
- Independent External Comprehensive Review – Canada.ca
- Government releases final Independent External Comprehensive Review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces and outlines next steps to address and eradicate sexual harassment and misconduct – Canada.ca
- NY Times.
- Washington Post