Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Vance: CAF Sexual misconduct an ongoing problem

By: David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen 

Canada’s top soldier says sexual misconduct is still a problem in the military, with six people convicted of such offences in the last eight months and another 24 subjected to severe administrative action. 
FRED CHARTRAND / THE CANADIAN PRESSChief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said the military is still tallying how many leaders have been released from the Canadian Forces because of sexual misconduct, saying it is still a problem in the military. Six people have been convicted of such offences in the last eight months.
“Incidents of harmful sexual behaviour are still occurring,” Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said Tuesday.

“We’ve removed people from command positions. We’ve dismissed people from the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Vance said the military is still tallying how many leaders have been released from the Canadian Forces because of sexual misconduct.

“We do know that leaders have been removed,” he said. “They are in the media right now. I don’t want to speak about them because they are before the courts.”

Vance said he expects more bad news when details of a survey of military staff come in. “I expect results to be sobering when we get results in the fall,” he said. “Quick fixes will not work.” Vance launched Operation Honour, or Op Honour, last year to deal with sexual misconduct in the ranks after a scathing report by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps who found sexual harassment and misconduct, including assaults, appeared to be widespread in the Canadian Forces.

Her April 2015 report raised warnings about a “sexualized culture” that subjected women in uniform to abuse ranging from sexual jokes and harassment to rape. She also found sexual misconduct “endemic” in the Canadian Forces, but condoned by the military leadership.

During her year-long investigation, Deschamps interviewed hundreds of full- and part-time military personnel, as well as commanding officers, military police, chaplains, nurses and social workers.

The interviews pointed to what she described as a “hostile sexualized environment” in the military, particularly among recruits and the junior ranks.

“At the most extreme, these reports of sexual violence highlighted the use of sex to enforce power relationships,” noted Deschamps’ report, “and to punish and ostracize a member of a unit.”

The military’s leadership came under particularly harsh criticism. Deschamps found military personnel “became inured to this sexualized culture as they move up the ranks,” with officers turning a blind eye to inappropriate conduct and senior non-commissioned officers “imposing a culture where no one speaks up.”

“Underlying all these concerns is a deep mistrust that the chain of command will take such complaints seriously,” her report noted.

There have been concerns about how seriously some in the military take the issue of sexual abuse.

Then-chief of the defence staff Tom Lawson, who has since retired, came under fire last year for his claim that sexual harassment was still an issue in the Canadian Forces because people were “biologically wired in a certain way.” His comment sparked widespread outrage and Lawson apologized.

The Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont., was also in the headlines after it emerged that a guest speaker on sexual misconduct was belittled and harassed as she tried to conduct a seminar. The general in charge of the college eventually apologized for what was acknowledged as “unprofessional behaviour.”

Some recruits at the Royal Military College, as well as other Canadian Forces personnel, including individuals at the National Defence headquarters in Ottawa, have dubbed Vance’s initiative Op Honour as “Hop On Her” — a play on words suggesting sexual aggression.

Vance said Tuesday he understands that there are those who are skeptical of ongoing efforts to stop sexual misconduct but the situation is improving.

“We’ve made a good start.”