Home Stamp collecting Army failed to protect women in uniform from sexual assault, says former judge Louise Arbor

Army failed to protect women in uniform from sexual assault, says former judge Louise Arbor

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Former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, right, and National Defense Minister Anita Anand, center, release the final report of the independent review into sexual misconduct in the military in Ottawa on May 30 2022. The Chief of Defense is also present. General Staff, General Wayne Eyre.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The Canadian Armed Forces have failed in their attempts to eradicate sexual misconduct and should permanently transfer all criminal sexual offenses to the civilian system, refer harassment complaints to the Human Rights Commission, appoint an external monitor and consider scrapping Canada’s military colleges, a high-profile new report concludes.

The damning report was released on Monday and authored by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour. It is the third report in seven years to give the government similar recommendations to address sexual assault in the military. All three were written by former Supreme Court justices. Monday’s report calls for urgent and far-reaching changes to the way the Forces operate to “create an equal and safe playing field for women in the profession of arms.”

One of the dangers of the Forces’ current operating model “is the high likelihood that some of its members are more likely to be injured, on a daily basis, by their comrades than by the enemy,” Ms. Arbor wrote. .

Ms Arbor’s report finds a “disconnect between rhetoric and reality” in what Forces leaders said they would do to end sexual harassment in the military and what actually happened.

In an April 2015 report, former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps found that women in the Canadian Armed Forces routinely experience sexual misconduct, including degrading comments, harassment, rape by a date and inappropriate relationships between people of different ranks. At the time, the Canadian military refused to promise to adopt the main recommendation, namely to create a fully independent body to receive complaints of sexual misconduct.

In response to this report, Ms. Arbor noted that there had been a “flurry of activity” from the Forces to try to resolve the problem. “Unfortunately, these efforts have so far failed,” Ms Arbor wrote.

Ms Arbor’s latest report was sparked by a sexual assault in the highest ranks of the military last year. As the former Chief of the Defense Staff, current Chief of the Defense Staff (now dismissed) and other senior officers were investigated for harassment or assault, the government asked Ms. Arbor to study the issue and see how the Canadian Armed Forces could set up an independent reporting system.

“They need to change the way they do a lot of things – and profoundly,” Ms Arbor concludes. The “discredit” that the sexual misconduct crisis has brought to the military is a “justified condemnation of an archaic and deeply damaging organizational culture.”

Each of the recommendations in the 420-page report are interrelated and based on the assumption that others will also be implemented, Ms Arbor wrote.

“I know that those who experience these issues on a daily basis are quite capable of determining the best way to proceed, if they accept the general orientation and the changes that I am proposing. On the other hand, I also believe that if they don’t, no amount of detailed recommendations will produce the desired result,” she said.

On Monday, Defense Minister Anita Anand said the government accepted the report in full, but had so far only committed to implementing 17 of the 48 recommendations. The rest, she said, will be reviewed by the Forces and the government and if any recommendations are rejected, the government will explain why they are not being acted upon.

The government will issue a final decision on all recommendations by the end of the year. Ms Anand said the government will appoint an external monitor to monitor the process.

Ms. Arbor’s report recommended that the independent monitor produce monthly reports that are made public.

The government will also accept recommendations related to changes to promotion and succession policies, diversification of the military’s senior ranks, and changes to the military’s sexual misconduct response centre.

“This report will not fall by the wayside,” Ms Anand said Monday in response to repeated questions about how the government will ensure this latest report drives change, rather than gathering dust on a shelf.

Amid the sexual misconduct crisis that gripped the Forces’ senior officers last year, former Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish found that sexual misconduct in the military “remains persistent, concerning and widespread”. The June 2021 report said sexual assault cases should be transferred to the civilian military system until sweeping changes are made to overhaul the military justice system and protect victims.

At the time, the government did not immediately act on the recommendations. However, within two weeks of Ms Anand becoming defense minister last fall, she accepted Mr Fish’s recommendation, which was repeated in Ms Arbour’s interim recommendations.

To ensure the recommendations are implemented, Ms Arbor recommends that Defense Minister Anita Anand appoint someone to oversee their progress. This person should produce monthly reports that are made public, Ms. Arbor said.

More soon.

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