THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATIONAL SECURITY AND DEFENCE
OTTAWA, Monday, May 28, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day, in public and in camera, at 1 p.m., to continue its study on Canada’s national security and defence policies, practices, circumstances and capabilities and its study on the subject matter of the elements contained in Part 4 of Bill C-74, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 2018 and other measures.
Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: Honourable senators, before proceeding with the presentations of our witnesses, I will ask my colleagues to introduce themselves.
Senator Jaffer: Mobina Jaffer from British Columbia.
Senator Richards: David Adam Richards, New Brunswick.
Senator McPhedran: Marilou McPhedran from Manitoba.
Senator Oh: Victor Oh, Ontario.
Senator Boisvenu: Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu from Quebec.
The Deputy Chair: I am Jean-Guy Dagenais from Quebec, and I will be acting as chair of the committee replacing Senator Boniface.
Honourable senators and guests, thank you for accepting our invitation. Today we have Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett, Director General, Canadian Armed Forces Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct; Sanela Dursun, Director, Research Personnel and Family Support, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces; and Colonel David Antonyshyn, Deputy Judge Advocate General, Military Justice, at the same department.
Thank you for accepting our invitation. Without further ado, we will listen to your presentations, which will be followed by a period of questions from the senators. Once again, thank you.
Rear-Admiral Jennifer Bennett, Director General, Canadian Armed Forces Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: Mr. Chair, senators, thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee to update you on the Canadian Armed Forces response to the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
I have been leading the Canadian Armed Forces Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct since September 2015, having assumed that responsibility from Lieutenant-General Whitecross. As you heard, joining me today is Colonel David Antonyshyn, Deputy Judge Advocate General, Military Justice, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces; and Dr. Sanela Dursun, Director, Research Personnel and Family Support, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.
Any form of sexual misconduct is a threat to the morale and operational readiness of the Canadian Armed Forces. It undermines good order and discipline, and it is unacceptable. For this reason, Operation HONOUR is a top institutional priority and will remain so indefinitely. Eliminating sexual misconduct requires the engagement and sustained effort of all members at all levels of the Canadian Armed Forces, and we have taken an operational approach that is using language and tools that are familiar to our members and relate to our core raison d’être, operational effectiveness, as well as our principles of team work, trust, respect and duty with honour.
Our mission and the objective are clear, to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour and to ensure that the dedicated men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces are treated with respect and dignity, without exception, in a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.
Information, tools, support and response, research and data collection, vigilance and diligence with respect to conduct are embedded across all levels of our institution — from the initial discussions at the recruiting centre for those considering joining us, through occupational and leadership training, pre-deployment training for operations, policies and programs, direction to leaders, our support programs, conflict and complaint resolution, research, reports and analysis, military police and military justice and the defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged.
Over the past three years, through Operation HONOUR, the Canadian Armed Forces has taken unprecedented action and has made significant progress to implement the 10 recommendations of the Deschamps report and improve victim support, increase awareness and understanding of the issue and its impact on our members, update policies, enhance subject matter expertise of counsellors and those who provide support and assistance to victims and survivors, embed Operation HONOUR concepts into our education and training, hold leaders to account for their response and actions, take decisive action to deter perpetrators, and engage and empower all members of the Canadian Armed Forces to address and eliminate sexual misconduct.
The work of Operation HONOUR is closely linked with other key initiatives related to recruiting and retention, increasing the number of women across our ranks, total health and wellness and transition, and we continue to work with other government departments on initiatives related to diversity and inclusion, gender-based analysis plus, mental health and wellness, gender-based violence, workplace violence and sexual harassment.
Measuring progress and performance is a challenge for all institutions who are addressing sexual harassment and violence in the workplace and we are using the widest possible range of metrics, tools, types of evidence, data and engagement to measure the prevalence and scope of issues as well as the outcomes and impact of our efforts.
In the spring of 2016, Statistics Canada conducted a voluntary survey with the Canadian Armed Forces on sexual misconduct during the initial period of Operation HONOUR. This survey was designed to collect information regarding the prevalence and to understand the awareness of policy, programs and associated support mechanisms as well as reporting trends in order to establish a baseline against which to measure the impact and effect of Operation HONOUR. Participation in the survey was excellent, and the results provided critical information that has been used to further target our efforts. The survey will be repeated by Statistics Canada between September and November of this year to determine what change has occurred, the impact of initiatives to date and challenges or gaps that remain.
Internally we have gone from collecting crude data for monthly reports of incidents from every unit in the Canadian Armed Forces to a fully standardized electronic system with business analytics capability in our Operation HONOUR Case Tracking and Analysis System.
The Office of the Auditor General is currently conducting an audit of the Canadian Armed Forces response to sexual misconduct and will release their report in November. This will provide us with an external assessment of our work to date and another opportunity to adjust our approach based on their findings and recommendations.
In September 2016, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal created sexual offence response teams composed of specially trained investigators located across Canada. Every report of sexual offence, new or historical, is being investigated by these dedicated team members within the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.
Prior to Operation HONOUR, the number of complaints of sexual assault was averaging about 88 reports per year. Since Operation HONOUR, that number has climbed steadily, reaching 277 reports this past year. In addition to the trends in the number of reports, we have evidence from research that clearly indicates an increased confidence that the CAF will respond decisively in such matters.
We are committed to ensuring victims receive the support they need when incidents occur. The CAF continues to enhance resources and programs to ensure a continuum of care and access to subject matter experts from initial support to reporting, throughout any investigation and legal processes as well as transition and continued care. Over the past few months, we have conducted a study with serving and former CAF survivors and those who are supporting them and their experiences and feedback are providing us with valuable insights and informing our efforts.
The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre continues to evolve. It is a valuable resource to those affected by sexual misconduct but also to the chain of command who are asking for advice, assistance and information, validation of their action or support for cases within their units. Last July, the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre expanded their hours of operation to 24-7 to maximize availability and accessibility. Last October, their charter was signed off to replace the initial interim mandate letter and define their roles and responsibilities.
Independent of Operation HONOUR, military judicial processes are also being reviewed and assessed. Victim support is central to this work as well. On May 10, the Minister of National Defence introduced a declaration of victims’ rights by tabling An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. The proposed legislation strengthens victims’ rights within the military justice system, just as the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights strengthened these rights within the civilian criminal justice system.
The proposed Code of Service Discipline declaration of victims’ rights recognizes the harmful impact that service offences have on victims, the Canadian Armed Forces and society. It ensures that victims-of-service offences are afforded enhanced rights to information, protection, participation and restitution, as well as the right to make a complaint should they feel that one of their rights under the declaration has been infringed or denied.
Recognizing the unique nature of the military justice system, some aspects of the proposed legislation go beyond what is contained in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights. For instance, this legislation provides victims with the right to a victim liaison officer appointed to assist them in understanding how service offences are charged, tried and dealt with under the Code of Service Discipline. Effective September 1, 2018, victims will have the right to provide an impact statement at court martial, and the court martial will have the authority to order restitution to victims.
Action is being taken on every allegation of sexual misconduct, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces have been provided with training and resources like our Respect in the CAF mobile app to help them recognize harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour and then respond and support those who are impacted.
Significant progress has been achieved in modernizing, developing and implementing Operation HONOUR-related training and education at all levels of the institution, and since implementing bystander intervention training across the Canadian Armed Forces in 2017, approximately 40 per cent of incidents are now being reported through third parties.
While we are encouraged by the progress achieved to date, we know that much work remains, and incidents of harmful sexual behaviour and sexual offences continue to occur. This is why Operation HONOUR remains a top priority across the Canadian Armed Forces. The institution will be judged not on promises and plans, but on our demonstrated ability to deliver the change Operation HONOUR intends.
And there is evidence of that change and examples of how we are making a difference. Through internal and external research, we are seeing that trust is increasing. Recent survey data indicates that 85 per cent of our members believe their leaders take sexual misconduct seriously, up from 71 per cent previously. Additionally, the vast majority feel that the culture of dignity and respect is enforced at their units. Evidence shows increased comfort with coming forward and reporting incidents to military police and the chain of command. Overall, reporting of sexual misconduct incidents has nearly doubled, and members are reporting less serious offences that might have otherwise gone unreported previously.
I will close with a quote from a long-serving sergeant who recently attended one of our new training programs, entitled Respect in the CAF. He described himself by saying he joined what was considered a harder and meaner military in 1977 as an infantry soldier, and at the outset of Operation HONOUR, he questioned what we were doing and who this applied to, as well as who was to blame. After attending the program, he wrote an article for the base newspaper with a personal perspective that echoes the Chief of the Defence Staff’s vision on what we are trying to achieve through Operation HONOUR.
To quote the sergeant:
. . . this old solider learned something. We require alpha males and females to lead; but their culture has to change so they are able to put themselves in the place of a victim, step in with the support they require and recognize action is not “ratting out” one’s comrade – it is “weeding out” destructive behaviour. The result: a more accepting, diverse and effective unit, organization and CAF as a whole.
This nationally-driven, CAF-wide workshop is designed to foster change in attitudes and behaviours and build a respectful climate and culture. I believe it does so – and very well. I was concerned about where my beloved military was heading. Thanks to this course, I know it is moving forward for the betterment of all. I highly recommend attending this workshop. Respect for one another in the Canadian Armed Forces is what it is all about.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much for your presentation, Ms. Bennett.
Without further ado, we will move on to the period of questions. I would ask Senator Jaffer to ask the first question.
Senator Jaffer: Thank you for your presence here today. I want to thank you for the work you’re doing. You certainly have made progress; there’s no doubt about that. I appreciate you giving us your notes, because it helps to follow you more clearly.
I have many questions on this, and the chair will cut me off at the right time.
I want to start off with some of the things you said. One of them is the ability to deliver, and how you will deliver the program is very important. In the paragraph where you talk about “decisively in such matters,” one of the things I hear from the men and women you work with is that promptly as well is important, not just because people’s careers are at hand.
You talked at the end about culture. I happened to be on a panel just this last month with Lieutenant-General Whitecross. She and I didn’t agree. We didn’t agree because she spoke about this as a culture, and it takes a while for the culture to change. I don’t want you to comment on what she said because it won’t be fair to her or you because you weren’t there to hear what she said. But I was very upset that she felt that this is a culture that takes time to move.
I’m happy to hear what you had to say, but I want to hear from you as to — I heard her as saying that this is a culture that takes a while to change. How do I tell a young girl — and there are many in my province who want to do the great work that you do — who goes to join that, “Yes, the culture will take a few years, and you may get hurt. That’s just a process”? I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying that. I want the culture to change now. I would like to know, as the person now in charge, what is your opinion?
Rear-Admiral Bennett: Thank you for your question. Let me speak to a number of issues in response to your concern about culture. It depends on how people are defining what changes need to occur. Certainly, it’s much easier to change behaviour — it’s more immediate — but it is not lasting. So you can address and concentrate purely on deterrence, which we have, but you also have to look at the underlying causes — why this is occurring and how it has been allowed to occur.
We needed some time to study that. Our first Statistics Canada survey gave us a good baseline. Our second one will help us to understand. We’ve continued to do research; my colleague can speak to that. But we needed awareness and understanding.
At the same time, there are some who argue that we had a sound foundation of principles and an ethos on which the Canadian Armed Forces was founded. Do we need to change the culture completely, or do we need to reaffirm those values on which we serve? Principles like respecting the dignity of all, service before self — those aspects.
While culture change and change within an organization do take time, we aren’t waiting to change the culture all at once. We are taking actions, deterrence, and addressing the behaviour and the conduct.
It’s also very difficult to look at this one type of behaviour or conduct in isolation and not consider all forms of harassment and discrimination.
So I think we have a very good foundation on which we are building. We’re certainly not delaying culture change or looking at that as an obstacle. We are addressing the behaviours and the underlying causes.
What will take you some time to consider is what that cultural model is and how we explain it to others. As I said, the Canadian Armed Forces itself is founded on values that are respectful and reflective of Canadian society.
So I think it depends on how you’re measuring and what you’re doing. Let me assure you that we’re not waiting to take action, nor are we using that as an excuse. Culture change is evolving as we continue to address the issue.
Senator Jaffer: Where I sit, I want many young women to achieve what you’ve achieved -- which is amazing in the era that you are in; they are proud of what you’ve done -- and that is to be able to dream.
The first two years that they are there, if they face harassment challenges, what the young women tell me — because I associate a lot with them and go for training as well, as there is parliamentary training — is that they pay the price if they complain. It is they who have to leave the services. How are we stopping that?
Rear-Admiral Bennett: It’s not just an issue for women. It’s an issue across. It’s everything from visible minorities to women to people who don’t always have the same representation or numbers.
There are a number of aspects to this. One is that they need to be able to see themselves and see their success in service, so they need to be able to see the possibilities. That’s why we’re changing our recruiting approach and our attraction approach not just for women but with Aboriginals and with visible minorities so that people have the opportunity to see what success looks like for people that they resemble or the groups to which they belong.
For us, when dealing specifically with sexual harassment and harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour, the conversation starts at the recruiting centre before someone even joins. We discuss what it takes to be a member of the Canadian Armed Forces, the conduct that is expected. It’s everything from the simple things like you have to get up early and shine your shoes and look after yourself, but also the conversations about our membership and belonging to the profession of arms.
They are also signing waivers now to ensure that they understand the commitment and how they will be held to account for that. That also continues in recruit and basic training, whether you’re doing basic officer training or recruit training in Saint-Jean, where those principles are reinforced. Obviously, when someone is new, there may be more of a chance or an explanation in that. People are being held to account.
And to go back to your earlier question, we are taking prompt action. That starts when someone comes forward and has the courage to report. So we’re encouraging, we’re facilitating, we’re providing tools to people to recognize and to be able to report and then take the prompt action.
I agree that we need to ensure that we’re an employer of choice but across all aspects, whether that’s health care and how they will be looked at after with an injury or mental health. What would happen if there was harassment or other incidents like that? We ensure that they understand our values and principles, what the expected behaviours are and what our response and support will be.
Senator Jaffer: I was there at this committee when the Chief of the Defence Staff spoke about Operation HONOUR, and I really respect him for his leadership on this, and as I do yours, but the challenge I have, as a Defence Committee member, is that I don’t know how to see what advances you’re making. I know it’s only a year old, but our most recent quantitative data comes from Statistics Canada in a report from late 2016, and there’s not been any independent evidence-based research on the effectiveness of Operation HONOUR’s programs as recommended by the Marie Deschamps report.
I really struggle with this. I’m hoping you will tell me how I can do this. How do we make an assessment? I get it. You and the Chief of the Defence Staff have the commitment, I get it, but I also speak to the people who work in the Canadian Armed Forces. They don’t see it like you see it. So I’m stuck in the middle of how I assess it. Where do I get the information as part of the Defence Committee, and when will Canadians expect the next update?
Sorry, those are many questions.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: I can answer those. We continue to be transparent in our approach, and we produce monthly reports of statistics and incidents that are on the Operation HONOUR website. Our next progress report will be released this summer. There are also annual reports published by the Provost Marshal and the Judge Advocate General that have information related to Operation HONOUR. We’ve been doing research internally that Dr. Dursun can speak to.
In terms of us providing information and allowing people to assess that, we’ve continued, and we feel that’s one of the key principles in providing that information.
Again, having reviews constantly is disruptive to progress to a certain extent. Currently we have, as I said, the OAG doing their review. They initiated it last fall. They started a year ago and felt it was too soon to be able to measure, so the OAG report will be available November 20. Statistics Canada, by repeating it every two years, will give us time to have implemented changes or policies and programs.
But if you’d like more information on the internal research that is available and is being published, we’re consulting subject matter experts across other fields, such as academics.
One sign that I can share with you is that New Zealand had not initiated a program, and they took Operation HONOUR in its entirety and rebranded it to Operation RESPECT, and they are implementing it because they feel this is a sound model.
It’s also difficult sometimes to understand what we’re doing because we’re using an operational approach that makes sense to our members in that. So when you’re reading Operation HONOUR in fragmentary orders, those don’t necessarily make sense. But we’re continuing to make regular reports, reporting as well to Parliament, providing an information update to our minister and looking for occasions like this to be able to provide information.
Senator Jaffer: Thank you. That’s very useful.
Senator Boisvenu: Welcome to our guests. First, I want to emphasize the hard work the Canadian Armed Forces have done to solve an endemic problem. In Quebec, we have seen trials of female military members who have had to face juries consisting solely of male military members, which I find utterly unacceptable.
Earlier we talked about culture change, and every culture change requires transparency. When I tell citizens that the Canadian Armed Forces are making laudable efforts to address sexual assault cases, particularly involving women, they don’t understand why those cases are still being adjudicated by military courts. Many countries now hear these cases in civilian courts. I am thinking of France in particular.
Don’t you think that, if you really want to be transparent, cases of sexual assault against women in the Canadian Armed Forces should be handled by civilian courts rather than in the armed forces, which in many instances lack transparency?
Col. David Antonyshyn, Deputy Judge Advocate General, Military Justice, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: Thank you, Senator Boisvenu. It is an honour for me to be here today. This is my first appearance before a Senate committee. I take it very seriously and thank you for the service you are performing for Canada.
There are several parts to that question, and I therefore have several answers, which I will try to keep as short as possible. First of all, the National Defence Act gives military courts jurisdiction over matters of sexual assault and other crimes of a sexual nature. That power was conferred on the Canadian Armed Forces by a parliamentary decision in 1998 respecting offences committed in Canada; that authority already existed for all crimes committed outside Canada.
There was relatively little parliamentary debate at the time over the reasoning behind that decision, but, generally speaking, we can see that the Canadian Armed Forces already exercised that power outside the country — in Germany, for example, where they had troops. The CAF reasoned that it was quite simply logical that it should also have that authority in Canada. As the Supreme Court has acknowledged, the purpose of the military justice system is to maintain troop discipline, efficiency, and morale with respect to all conduct whether it occurs on or off a military base.
So that was the logic behind the act and Parliament’s wish to ensure that Canadian Forces had at their disposal a judicial system that would help strengthen discipline and morale. Offences of a sexual nature have a direct impact on morale and affect troop cohesiveness and discipline. There is a logical connection behind this exercise of jurisdiction both in cases of insubordination and where there is a flagrant lack of respect for Canadian Forces members.
The issue of civilian versus military jurisdiction is one we often hear about. I have been practising military law in uniform for 20 years. The victims and survivors of sexual assault and other sexual crimes may choose where they want to file a complaint. There is no obligation to deal with civilian or military police forces. The choice is up to the victim. The investigation will often be determined by the entity to which the matter is assigned. Some sexual assault cases are investigated by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service and transferred to civilian authorities where they are adjudicated in civilian trials.
Senator Boisvenu: Is that a recent or a historical choice?
Col. Antonyshyn: It’s a historical choice.
Senator Boisvenu: Consider the case of the young woman from Quebec City who had to fight for her rights. The officer in question was found not guilty and she had to go back. That was a difficult experience for her.
I spoke to some victims, and they told me they had no right to speak in the armed forces. The Victims Bill of Rights will soon provide them with support and a voice. Victims were simply excluded from the judicial process. The emphasis was entirely on the military tribunal. Victims had virtually no right to speak, except to testify during the proceedings, and they could raise no opposition.
When you offer the choice to victims who, in many cases, no longer belong to the armed forces when they file a complaint, and when those individuals are very poorly informed, that should not be a choice. Where a military member is a victim of sexual assault, a civilian court will ensure there is a fair representation of men and women among jury members. Will you ensure male-female parity in jury selection for female victims involved in future charges laid in the armed forces?
Col. Antonyshyn: There are several parts to your question.
Senator Boisvenu: Let’s talk about male-female parity on a military jury. Will parity be guaranteed for female victims?
Col. Antonyshyn: The system for determining what constitutes a committee, which is the equivalent of a jury, is decided by the court martial administrator. The process is managed by a person appointed under the National Defence Act who reports to the Chief Military Judge. That individual is independent of the executive of the Canadian Armed Forces. The process is a random one based on Canadian Forces members. There is currently no rule providing that any particular type of victim or person from any particular community must have a particular type of representation. Everything is done randomly. Those are the current rules.
Senator Boisvenu: You do understand that it is intimidating for a woman who has been assaulted to appear before a jury consisting solely of men.
Col. Antonyshyn: Yes. However, the process does not provide for a ratio; instead, it’s random.
Senator Boisvenu: Is it determined by regulation or statute? Could the armed forces change the regulations on their own initiative so that female military personnel constitute 30 per cent or 40 per cent of a tribunal in the case of future crimes of a sexual nature?
Col. Antonyshyn: The Chief of Staff does not have the authority to order that kind of process. You would have to consult the Court Martial Administrator and the Chief Military Judge and follow a regulatory process in order to do that.
You said something about victims’ rights and victims who were ignored. This social change in general is relatively recent. The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights dates back to 2015, not 1955. The rights of the accused and the interests of the state are the two fundamental principles of our Canadian justice system. The contribution and consideration of victims’ rights…
Senator Boisvenu: It’s the imbalance between the rights of victims and those of criminals. Victims are not represented at trial. It is the state that is represented.
Col. Antonyshyn: Absolutely.
Senator Boisvenu: The criminal is represented by his lawyer.
Col. Antonyshyn: Yes.
Senator Boisvenu: That’s what causes the imbalance for the victims in the judicial process in Canada.
Col. Antonyshyn: That’s as true in the civilian as in the military system.
Senator Boisvenu: You believe that so much that you are going to provide support for the victims.
Col. Antonyshyn: Yes.
Senator Boisvenu: I would like that to be the case in the civilian system.
Col. Antonyshyn: Absolutely.
Senator Boisvenu: Do you understand?
Col. Antonyshyn: Exactly. The system is evolving. We’re also considering other options. In 2016, the Director of Military Prosecutions and the Provost Marshal, who is the chief of military police, instituted specific measures, even before the legislation was enacted, to instruct their staff to consider the victims’ point of view. Consideration is also given to the place where the victim filed the complaint. Once the complaint is filed, the Director of Military Prosecutions has an obligation to ensure that the court martial is the best forum, taking into consideration, for example, the victim’s viewpoint. That is the current practice. Is the process perfect? No, because everything can be improved. However, specific efforts have been made.
The number of complaints concerning the court martial system is rising. I don’t have any statistics on that, but, anecdotally speaking, people who have had the choice have preferred the court martial system. I can understand why others prefer the civilian system. It is important to note that their point of view is being considered. This is no longer 1955 or 1965. Things have changed and followed their course in that respect.
Senator Boisvenu: Colonel Antonyshyn, you are a very good witness.
The Deputy Chair: My question follows on that of Senator Boisvenu. Some witnesses have told the committee there has been some internal resistance to Operation HONOUR. Do you have any examples of people who have resisted the operation? If so, do you know whether any measures have been taken against those who opposed it?
Col. Antonyshyn: I can give you a partial answer. Since 2016, we have seen cases in which people were charged with sex offences. We are talking about sexual assaults, but also inappropriate comments, something that would not be considered an offence in civilian law. Were those people opposed to Operation HONOUR? Perhaps. However, they are people who did not meet expectations and had to suffer the consequences of that. I haven’t conducted any statistical or demographic studies on perceptions. Rear-Admiral Bennett is definitely better placed to answer that question, but my day-to-day perception is that there is definitely support for Operation HONOUR. Rear-Admiral Bennett has specific statistics on that.
The Deputy Chair: If you don’t have them with you, could you send them to us? Unless you have them with you right now.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: I do have some examples. I know you’re very familiar from previous testimony with the comments that were made, even about the name, Operation HONOUR, that occurred in the Royal Military College. We immediately dealt with that. Those types of comments and when people use the phrase “hop on her” and things like that, the CDS will tell you, as will all of the leaders, that’s exactly why we need to be persistent in our efforts. That was a teaching moment. We continue to do that.
We take immediate action, whether it’s when there’s an incident or a suspicion of conduct or someone either not supporting or not believing or speaking against Operation HONOUR. We have relieved people of command, leadership, supervisory and instruction positions, sometimes temporarily while an investigation is conducted, but on a permanent basis as well.
We have taken career action on members of the Canadian Forces, and we use not just the disciplinary measures through our judicial system but also administrative and remedial measures.
To go back to the earlier question, one of the reasons why military members will choose military tribunals to take action is because we will take career action. If there is not enough evidence to convict on disciplinary charges, we can still take administrative action, and we have. Whether it’s people who are disrespecting or speaking out, whether it’s inappropriate conduct or behaviour, whether it is incidents like we heard about the name of Operation HONOUR or not believing or beleaguering the work we are doing, action is taken by the chain of command, and people have been held to account, including and up to release from the Canadian Armed Forces.
The Deputy Chair: I would like to ask a supplementary question to that of Senator Boisvenu.
Retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, who appeared before our committee a few weeks ago, supported the idea that sexual assaults should not necessarily be investigated by military tribunals but rather by civilian courts.
Do those most opposed to Operation HONOUR consider sexual assault a disciplinary or a criminal matter?
Col. Antonyshyn: Thank you for your question. That question constantly comes up in connection with our terminology and civilian terminology.
What we call the Code of Military Discipline, which appears in the National Defence Act, is criminal and penal in nature. The Code of Military Discipline includes, by reference, every offence under every federal act, such as the Criminal Code and other similar acts.
A trial before a court martial is a criminal trial, even though it is called a disciplinary trial. What an employer calls discipline, we call an internal and administrative process. That is not what we mean when we refer to the Code of Military Discipline; we are referring to a trial with penal consequences.
The administrative measures that the Canadian Armed Forces may impose as an employer and that may include penalties such as a warning or release from the Canadian Forces, are part of a parallel process in the same way as when an employee is suspected of having committed theft and the employer may decide to institute proceedings against that person.
Both institutions — the judicial institution and the employer institution — co-exist within the Canadian Forces. When someone is charged with sexual assault, it is a crime. And when the person is found guilty, that individual's information is added to the National Sex Offender Registry and his DNA to the National DNA Data Bank.
Senator Boisvenu: I’d like to ask a supplementary question.
Are Canadian Armed Forces crime data forwarded to Juristat and included in all crime statistics in Canada?
Col. Antonyshyn: All crime-related information, including fingerprints, is forwarded to the Canadian Police Information Centre.
Senator Boisvenu: When Statistics Canada reports crime statistics, are data on crimes committed within the Canadian Armed Forces included in those Canadian statistics?
Col. Antonyshyn: I don’t know; you would have to ask Statistics Canada.
Senator Boisvenu: Those statistics come from the police departments in each of the provinces for all reported crimes and are sent to Juristat. Do the Canadian Armed Forces every year send a list of crimes that have been committed and related convictions to be included in Canadian crime statistics?
Col. Antonyshyn: I don’t want to mislead you; we will take note of that question.
However, I can clearly state that the information is compiled and shared with all other police departments. Whether that information is forwarded to Statistics Canada is another matter.
I will close by clarifying one point, and that is that the scale of this information is limited, since we are talking about a few hundreds of cases compared to tens of thousands of cases for Canada as a whole. That also has to be taken into account.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: We do publish the results of the summary trials and courts martial. They are published publicly and are available online and in the annual reports. They’re also included in the reports I mentioned earlier to Senator Jaffer where, on a monthly basis, we initially reported all of that. On a quarterly basis, we now have the information about the charges, what the findings were, what the sentences were for summary trials and our courts martial.
Senator Boisvenu: Do those statistics concern only charges laid or all complaints filed?
Rear-Admiral Bennett: The statistics that I coordinate relate to sexual-based offences or incidents of a sexual nature, but the reports on our military justice system — as well as the Provost Marshal — include all types of complaints and incidents.
Senator Boisvenu: Thank you.
Senator Richards: Thank you very much for your service to our country.
This might have been answered, but I’m wondering about the range of severity of the complaints. You said last year there were 277 complaints, and I’m wondering what the range is. They’re all severe, of course, but what is the range of severity from bullying to sexual language that is inappropriate to physical assault?
This might be a little difficult for me to say, because any sexual assault is horrendous, but you say that 40 per cent now come through a third party, that a third party makes the complaint. There is a chance that this becomes Orwellian. There is a chance that you get the wrong man or woman in this. I’m wondering how you can make sure that that doesn’t happen in these cases, that’s all. I think that’s a fair question, but I’ll leave it to you to answer.
Col. Antonyshyn: We can tag team it.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: We have statistics and we track. There is a difference between incidents and offences. We track reports of incidents. Someone can come forward to their chain of command and report a joke or a type of harassment, but we also track criminal-based offences. I can give you some examples. We will be publishing the last fiscal year report as part of our progress report that will be coming out, but these are also tracked by the military police and are in the last annual report of the Provost Marshal.
We track what we call inappropriate sexual behaviours, sexual assault, sexual harassment, indecent exposures, child pornography, voyeurism, abuse of authority, sexual interference, sexual exploitation. Sexual assault is further broken down by aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault with a weapon causing bodily harm, sexual crimes. We have other types of sexual crime, invitation to sexual touching. As I said, we do track by specific crimes.
To your second question, part of why we have enhanced the skills of our investigators, as civilian police have done, is to ensure very thorough investigations by subject matter experts. It is not just for the investigation with respect to the perpetrator, but also for the care of victims, so trauma-informed victim-centric care is provided.
Our investigations are very thorough. One of our challenges, as Senator Jaffer spoke to, is the amount of time that it takes to ensure a thorough investigation; it’s the same in the civilian system.
In the case of third-party complaints, an investigation will still be initiated, but you need the cooperation and the statements of the victim. But what is happening now is that in some cases that may encourage the victim to take that step or to come forward. Even without a victim statement, we’ll still investigate the type of conduct or what might have occurred in the workplace with that.
So I can assure you that investigations are very thorough.
We are tracking and doing some research on false complaints, when that comes forward, and the percentages for us and amongst our allies are low for that and in society.
Senator Richards: I’m sure they are low, but I just thought it was a question I should ask.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: It’s very valid.
Senator Richards: There was a lawyer here a while ago as a witness. I asked him the following: If a young lady was sexually assaulted at CFB Gagetown, for instance, and went off base to the police or the RCMP in Oromocto and made the complaint, would she be allowed to have the investigation by a civilian — would the trial — and he said no, she would be taken back to the base.
Can you clarify that for me?
Col. Antonyshyn: Yes. Colonel Drapeau and I have great mutual respect for each other, but on this one, I believe it is inaccurate. The jurisdiction is concurrent. There is no precedent jurisdiction, either military or civilian. Both police forces have jurisdiction to investigate any crimes in Canada under the Criminal Code. Both the civilian and the military courts would have jurisdiction over a sexual assault case. It really is a matter of the first investigative authority seized of the matter, and then it might also be a question with the prosecutors on civilian and military sides informed by the views of the victim. But there are routinely cases of a sexual nature that are investigated by the military police and charged downtown. This is the understanding of the law.
Senator Richards: Okay. Thank you.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: There is also the opposite that occurs with jurisdiction, and it’s the complicating factor of witnesses. If an event occurred in Gagetown or Wainwright in a place where you had military exercises involving participants from across Canada, sometimes civilian police will transfer the case to the military police because we will pay to fly witnesses in to take statements.
Cases do go back and forth between the two jurisdictions.
To go back to your first question, I would like to assure you that the Provost Marshall has been working very diligently on unfounded cases and reviewing unfounded cases. In the pre-Deschamps era between 2010 and 2015, 28.89 per cent of the cases related to sexual-based offences were unfounded. When we put a great deal more rigour into the review, between 2015 and 2017, that number went down to 14.57 per cent unfounded, and that number continues to decrease. I am about to receive the 2018 figures from the Provost Marshall.
He is also looking at establishing a model called the Philadelphia model, which involves not only an internal review of the cases but a community-based approach where you have other members who review the unfounded cases. That’s another stopgap we have in reviewing.
Senator Richards: Thank you very much.
The Deputy Chair: I am going to turn the floor over to Senator McPhedran, followed by Senator Oh, but I wish to point out that we have approximately seven or eight minutes left.
Senator McPhedran: I have a number of questions, but the chair has not organized this into two rounds, so I’m going to have to focus in. My time is extremely limited, as is Senator Oh’s. So I’m going to focus in on asking all of you, beginning with you, Rear-Admiral Bennett. What is the difference between what you have described here today, which I understand to be related largely to Canada, and what happens on deployment? Where are the differences? Do the improvements you’ve been speaking to here today carry over to the same degree in the same way in deployment?
Rear-Admiral Bennett: Yes. It starts right from our pre-deployment training, access to information and resources. We identified some gaps, depending on whether Canadians were deploying as individuals or were deploying with other nations. One example is the sexual assault examination kits; there wasn't a standard for collection or preserving the integrity of evidence. We’ve addressed that for members of the Canadian Armed Forces deployed outside of Canada.
Also, our pre-deployment training is much more extensive in informing, engaging and providing that information in advance to members.
Our Respect in the CAF app has a geo-locator that will show civilian and military resources in all of the locations where Canadian Armed Forces members are employed and deployed. It includes international locations.
We also deploy military police, when possible, as part of the contingent, and they have a specific sexual assault examination kit and response kit available.
There is always the reach-back capability to the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre for Canadian resources and advice. There are also our members who are stationed in our defence liaison areas in Europe and around the world.
Senator McPhedran: In terms of the information-gathering you’re doing to try and assess the implementation of Operation HONOUR, are you seeing any differences between the information that’s coming back in deployment situations as compared to in-Canada situations?
Sanela Dursun, Director, Research Personnel and Family Support, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: A few years ago, a study was conducted where it was pointed out that being on deployment is a risk factor for women for sexual assault. According to that study, about 25 per cent of sexual assaults happened during deployment. From the research perspective, one of the actions we took was to initiate a NATO group that will look across with our NATO partners, understanding that sexual violence is an issue for many militaries, to take a cohesive approach to understand the challenges, different pieces of legislation and issues. It is also to eventually provide a tool that each NATO nation will be able to collect and share the information, because we do serve together at deployment. From the research perspective, that’s one strategy we took.
Senator McPhedran: Thank you. But my question was actually geared to Canadian cases and the difference between deployment and in Canada.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: If I can take that question on notice, we’ll look at the data and research we have. I don’t have it broken down by location specifically here in incident, but in our tracking and analysis system we’re able to do that.
Senator McPhedran: Thank you very much.
Senator Oh: You mentioned visible minorities. Can you tell us a little bit about visible minorities? Canada has been diversified so much now. I notice our Armed Forces are pretty diverse now. A lot of people have joined the Armed Forces.
Do visible minorities come forward and make complaints about sexual misconduct and sexual assault? Do you keep statistics? What is the percentage?
Rear-Admiral Bennett: It is optional for people to self-identify in the CAF. To my knowledge, we aren’t currently tracking by a breakdown. We do have a gender-based breakdown, but I don’t think we’re tracking based on some of the other diversity categories. We could certainly look into that.
I will say, though, that yes, people are coming forward in greater numbers, but the SMRC isn’t tracking via that means, and I’m not sure they’re doing so in research. We can look into that and provide greater information for you.
Senator Oh: It would be good to see the comparison, how the conditions are and whether they are treated fairly, just like everyone else.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: I can assure you they are, through our work with employment equity, diversity and inclusion, but we aren’t currently capturing data that way because Canadian Armed Forces members have the option to self-identify.
Ms. Dursun: The Statistics Canada survey broke down the experiences of sexual harassment by visible minorities. I’m looking at the report right now, and they did not find any differences. However, in other research studies, it’s not unusual to find that visible minorities are at greater risk, similar to LGBTQ2 members and members of other designated groups.
Senator Oh: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: We have five minutes left. Senator Jaffer, if you have a brief question, we can allow Senator McPhedran another question.
Senator Jaffer: It’s the question of accountability. The Deschamps report says there should be outside accountability. You do have the centre you’ve established, but there is an outside accountability. Can you address that?
I know the centre that’s looking, but that operates within the department. I was wondering if you’re going to look at the Deschamps report’s third recommendation that talks about outside accountability.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: There are several opportunities to review that. Let me assure you that the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre is independent from the Canadian Armed Forces and from the chain of command, so it reports to the deputy minister. Part of that model was in order for us to facilitate the opening and to be able to provide the services of that.
We did open the centre six months ahead of the original plan, and we do have independent agents and actors already in our structure. So the JAG is independent even though JAG wears a uniform and is part of the Provost Marshal.
We do respect that independence and the confidentiality of the information. We also don’t direct the activities. The SMRC and the executive director report to the deputy minister.
Many people are looking at that, and there may be something in the OAG report that makes a recommendation, but the SMRC is also continuing to evolve. We haven’t completely implemented all of the Deschamps reports. The three that are remaining have to do with the SMRC, what they would be responsible for and the reporting relationship. At this time, though, we felt it was vital to establish victim support services external to the chain of command to facilitate the reporting where people felt comfortable, and then, as it was up and running, see what the impact and the effect are.
We have a lot more data and more research now than we did when Ms. Deschamps was conducting her study. We’re not finding some of the same issues as we once did. People are going directly to the military police, and there are a great number of calls to the SMRC for information, but people are willing to use our system to report.
Again, it’s not something that we’re immediately looking at as we evolve victim support services, but there is some potential as the SMRC comes into their own to be able to look at and review that and the opportunities for other external reviews.
Senator McPhedran: My question is about the gathering of the data and information for your assessments about the effectiveness of implementation. The first part is this: To what extent are you attempting to do follow-up surveys on more than one occasion with those who have been parties to complaints, to get an understanding of their experience when the case is over? Is that built into your methodology? Are you doing it now? Do you plan to do that?
The second part is to Rear-Admiral Bennett to share with us. The whole nature of implementation is that priority shift because, as you just pointed out, if you’re doing well, then what you were focusing on at the beginning isn’t what you should be focusing on as your implementation progresses.
If you would, please share with us what you now see as the priority areas for the next stage of implementation.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: If I could answer your second question first, our areas of focus have continued to be shaped by our research gathering. The Statistics Canada survey was an excellent opportunity because it was the first time we had the voice of our members specifically on this topic. Previously, there had been a few questions on the larger harassment survey or the mental health or the well-being surveys. This was targeted specifically. We continue to repeat that through other internal surveys, between the StatsCan surveys. We have a Your-Say Survey, we have morale and we have a unit climate survey, so we continue to repeat that.
But as we’ve looked, one thing that we’ve done is the type of incidents. Originally, there was a great deal of focus on the more serious sexual-based offences, but we realized there is a greater preponderance of inappropriate behaviour in the lower level. As well, looking at harassment and type of harassment, we’ve been able to break that down, again, to target our efforts.
Looking at bands of categories of ranks or ages or locations, as well, has helped us to target and realize that we need a different approach with recruits. We need a different approach in occupational training that we need to shift. So we continue to look and adjust those.
Our main focus remains victim support, and that will continue to be the case. It is paramount. We’re continuing to enhance that support.
We also realize that we need to embed and maintain the momentum of Operation HONOUR not simply by having this initial response. We are about to move to a more strategic plan, a long-range plan that will encompass more kinds of conduct and aspects of diversity and inclusion and all forms of discrimination as opposed to the silos that we currently have for some of these issues. So we will have a more comprehensive approach to our workplace, to well-being and to care and support, but still targeting some of those main areas. But you can’t simply target sexual discrimination or sexual harassment without looking more holistically at the larger aspects about harassment in the workplace or violence in the workplace there.
Again, I would say victim support remains.
The Deputy Chair: Pardon me for interrupting. We have another witness waiting, and we have already exceeded the allowed time limit. We have rules for the Senate committees. I want to thank Ms. Bennett, Ms. Dursun and Mr. Antonyshyn for their testimony, which will be very useful in drafting our report. Thank you for taking part in our committee’s study. Once again, we also have strict rules to follow.
Rear-Admiral Bennett: We do too.
The Deputy Chair: Now I wish to welcome the Honourable Marie Deschamps, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, who is appearing as an individual. Welcome to our committee and thank you for joining us by video conference. I imagine you have a presentation to make. Then it will be a pleasure for us to ask you a few questions. Please proceed.
The Honourable Marie Deschamps, C.C., as an individual: Thank you. Nearly three years ago to the day, your committee invited me to answer your questions, and I am pleased to accept your invitation once again. I have one preliminary remark to make and two substantive matters to address.
My preliminary remark is that the armed forces have not asked me to provide follow-up. Consequently, the information I have comes from victims who have managed to communicate directly with me and from people within the organization who are mainly involved in the process associated with sexual harassment and assault. That is my preliminary remark. Consequently, I have no privileged information or any particular familiarity with what has happened over the past three years, apart from these two sources of information and, obviously, what I may have read in the public reports.
My first substantive remark concerns the policies of the Canadian Armed Forces, and my second addresses the responsibilities of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, known by the unfortunate acronym SMRC.
As regards my first point, I noted in my report deficiencies in the drafting of the Canadian Armed Forces’ sexual harassment and misconduct policies. Some policies are harder to change, but others seem to me to be quite easy. For example, the harassment policy, DAOD 5012-0, with which you are now no doubt quite familiar, is drafted in very narrow terms and does not cover certain situations that should be covered.
For example, a situation in which a hostile environment is created by sexist remarks is not covered by this policy. One of the reasons why we found it was not covered is related to the criteria used, because the remarks concerned must be directed at one person in particular. Consequently, where no single person in particular is concerned, the Canadian Armed Forces policy does not apply.
In my report, I cited as an example a situation in which female military members entered meeting rooms and saw, written on whiteboards, highly offensive comments and unacceptable words that were clearly aimed at women. Those members may not file complaints for this type of situation because no single person in particular is concerned. Many other armed forces cover this type of hostile environment situation, and it would not take much to include it.
My report also covers other situations and examples. As you may read in the public policies, the changes that have been made to them are so minor as to be virtually superficial. Much more could have been done in three years. Some changes would not have been hard to make. Those changes could have been made for the armed forces alone and not for the federal public service as a whole. That was not done. When supervisors do not have the necessary tools to correct a situation, it is hard to understand how they can change the culture. They cannot even condemn situations I felt could quite easily be corrected three years ago. That is my first point.
My second point concerns the responsibilities of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre. The centre that has been created is not even a shadow of the centre I outlined in my report. If you go to my recommendation 3, which calls for the centre’s creation, you will see that it describes a whole series of functions. The stated functions range from the filing of reports to data collection, including the monitoring of penalties imposed, obviously, and the provision of victim support. They also include participation in policy drafting and in consultation for prevention and training purposes.
It seems to me that the centre that has been created has acquired a staff that is nevertheless independent. An executive director has been hired, a professional, Dr. Preston, who I think is a highly competent person. What I observe, however, is that the decision has instead been made to assign most of the responsibilities to another organization that, moreover, is headed up by Rear-Admiral Bennett, whom you have just heard. From what I had understood, this strategic team was initially put in place merely until the centre had started up. I had understood that increasing responsibilities would be assigned to the centre. I do not know whether that will one day be the case.
What I see now is that the centre serves as a victim support centre. I would not want the centre’s responsibilities to be reduced from a support standpoint. However, in my view, if the centre had a much broader field of jurisdiction, it would promote the support that is provided to victims and encourage them to report. For the moment, reports are still made within the armed forces, prosecutions are still conducted within the armed forces, policies and training are still done within the armed forces, and the centre thus appears to be a small organization with very few responsibilities.
Those are the two points I wanted to make: the policies that, in my opinion, could have been altered to promote, on the one hand, sanctions and, on the other hand, a culture change, and a centre that is probably independent in what it does. However, it has been assigned so few responsibilities that I feel this measure does not go as far as I would have liked.
Having said that, I am prepared to answer your questions.
The Deputy Chair: Madam Justice, thank you for your presentation.
Senator McPhedran: Ms. Deschamps, heartfelt thanks for the work you have given to us and the time and, I’m sure, extra efforts on your part to produce what you have.
I wanted to pick up on the point you made about addressing a toxic or hostile environment. I always find it so interesting that it doesn’t seem to be appreciated fully how allowing that kind of hostile environment affects the chain of command. And for people who have to work in that kind of toxic or hostile environment, what it says to them about the chain of command and about the lack of trust that they can give to any management that allows that to persist.
I think what you said, at least in the translation, was that the centre we see now is not even a shadow of what you recommended. The idea that the strategic response team is supposed to lead to a much more comprehensive set of services in the accountability centre prompts my main question. It would appear that at the present time, the centre is not conducting any independent research, that any research being done is by the existing research arm already established that researches — I’m sure they’re all very important questions — many issues.
For an acceleration toward your vision, what would you see as being the next most critical area of research that aligns with your vision and your recommendations? What needs to be done, and done now?
Ms. Deschamps: In my view, research is intimately related to the collection of data. As I see now, the data is not centralized, and that dates back to conversations that I had a year ago. I don’t know where it is today on May 28, 2018, but for me, without data, you cannot do research.
I see this centre as an integrated centre. In order to collect data, you need to have one central point where the allegations are brought. The first place where I would start is to grant the centre the authority to receive the report by the members. I have made a list of where the members could report not only the assault but the misconduct or the conduct that made them uncomfortable. Without this initial information, the centre cannot have a comprehensive view of what is going on in the Canadian Forces.
That does not mean the victims could not also go to the chain of command, but at least the information has to be relayed back to the centre. So the victims need to be able to go to the centre to report, but if the victim chooses to go somewhere else, these other interveners, these other actors need to give the information to the centre.
My first suggestion is to start with giving the centre the authority to receive all the reports from the members. That is the first step in the collection of data.
Also, if the centre has this comprehensive view, it will be in a better position to do all the other things. But that’s also the first element to follow up on accountability, to follow up on what is done within the Canadian Armed Forces with those reports.
Senator McPhedran: Or not done.
Ms. Deschamps: You can collect the data, but all this starts with reporting. They need to know who is reporting. They need to be entitled to receive the report. There needs to be one central, focused point for the report. That is my first suggestion.
Senator McPhedran: Thank you so much.
The Deputy Chair: Madam Justice, based on your remarks and those of Senator McPhedran, I would say my impression is that the Canadian Armed Forces have put a mechanism in place but that they want to retain full control over the process at the time an accusation is made. Do you have the same impression as I?
Ms. Deschamps: I searched through the policies to see who had authority to receive allegations, and the centre is not there. The centre is not what it was at the outset. People initially scoffed at it and characterized it as a call centre. Now I think it does positive work, but the strategic team that was put in place six months before Ms. Whitecross’s report was released has ultimately been assigned the main responsibilities, not the centre.
Senator Jaffer: First of all, I want to say to you, Justice Deschamps, that you have done groundbreaking work. You have left a real legacy and really empowered women, young women especially, who are being harassed, especially sexually. Thank you for your work. You’ve done a tremendous amount of work.
I am saddened to hear, and perhaps we will look at a recommendation, that DND has not reached out to work with you further.
In your report, you stated that definitions are central pillars of any policy that aims to tackle sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. If I’m not mistaken, Recommendation 5 of your report even includes a whole list of terms that you recommend creating definitions for.
From what I have seen, the Canadian Armed Forces policy simply does not match what you have called for. For example, there is no clear definition of “sexual assault.” The thing that really upsets me is that the definition of sexual harassment is not separated from general harassment, which means it is still narrower than the Supreme Court’s definition of the term. There is no recognition of the role of consent in the Canadian Armed Forces’ definition, and, finally, there is no description in the definition of “adverse personal relationships” that addresses relationship between members of different ranks.
Justice Deschamps, can you explain how creating clear definitions for these terms can help the Canadian Armed Forces create a unified approach around sexual misconduct?
I have put to you a bit of an impromptu question that you may want to reflect on. If you want to give more thought and send your answer in detail to the clerk, you may do so — or answer now and then send details. We need to make a recommendation on definitions that you had in your report.
Ms. Deschamps: I prefer not to add to my report and to add some kind of explanation that risks creating more debate than helps you in writing your report.
As all legislatures know, definitions are the basic tool for understanding a policy. People will tease the Income Tax Act for calling a dog a cat, but in the context of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment, it is very important that definitions that are found can be understood by all members — by the 100,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces. They have to know what is permitted and what is not permitted. Once it is clear enough for them to understand, then there is no reason why the chain of command cannot intervene to impose a sanction when there is an attitude or conduct that contravenes the policy.
These definitions are the basis of any understanding by the members, and they are also the basis of the possibility for the chain of command to intervene in order to impose a sanction whenever there is a violation.
As you know, if there is no sanction, there will never be any change of culture in the forces, which is something we aim to see.
Senator Jaffer: I respect what you said very much, and I accept what you said as well. You stand by everything you determined in the report, and you still say that clear definitions are very important if we are to make progress on this issue.
Ms. Deschamps: Yes, very much so.
Senator Jaffer: I have another question for you, and that is about sexual misconduct. There is a fear of consequences from the chain of command. Senator McPhedran asked you about that, but I would like to ask you further on that.
If an attacker or perpetrator faces a summary trial, and it happens within the victim’s unit, and if the perpetrator faces a court martial, the victim is still made aware of the case. No matter what happens, the victim is not allowed privacy and is vulnerable to retaliation. I’ve heard from people that they’re frightened of reporting because of the chain of command. Sometimes it can be their superior.
In Part 5 of your report, you even raise the possibility of referring cases to the civilian justice system, like France does. Can you elaborate on your recommendations?
I was going to ask you a question about the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, but you covered that so well. Thank you.
Ms. Deschamps: I gather you’re referring to the possibility of victims going to the civilian courts whenever there is sexual misconduct. Is that what your question is?
Senator Jaffer: Yes, as they do in France. That’s my question.
Ms. Deschamps: That’s a different question. It’s not the victims going to the civilian court, because in France it’s a special part of the civilian courts that do all the military justice cases. It’s a different system than France. What I suggested in the report is that the victims be given the option to go to the civilian courts.
I have to again underscore that excluded from my mandate was the structure of the military courts. I put my focus on victims and not on reform of the military court system. When I drafted the report, I thought that if the victims were free to go to the court they chose, they would feel more comfortable to report. Then there would be more chances they would be supported and helped.
It starts with a victim-focused approach, asking the victim whenever they come for a report, “Do you want to report, first of all? Do you prefer to have simply confidential support?” That’s the very first thing. When you say they are afraid of retaliation, that’s an understanding at the basis of the psyche of the victims who will not report. If they are offered the possibility to go to a centre where they can report in confidentiality, then the centre will ask them, “Where do you want to go?” Maybe they don’t want to go anywhere. They just need support. If they report, they can go either to the civilian or to the military court.
I don’t have a firm idea that the civilian court is a panacea. Civilian courts have their own problems. Sometimes a victim may decide to remain in a military court. My recommendation was to give the victims the choice.
Now, I know that a number of cases are tried before the civilian courts, but if you look at the number carefully, you will find out that those are mostly family violence. For family violence, civilian courts are often very well organized, because it’s a topic in which a lot of effort has been put.
If you look at the statistics of the number of victims who go to civilian courts, you have to keep in mind that this is not necessarily the kind of situation that I looked at. Only a very small portion of those victims that I met would have gone to civilian court. What I suggested is that you should offer those victims of sexual harassment within the military the option.
Senator Jaffer: Thank you.
Senator Boisvenu: Madam Justice, welcome to the community and thank you very much for your involvement in this very important matter. You no doubt heard the National Defence representatives say earlier that sexual assault victims may choose between civilian and military tribunals. Do you think the victims in those cases really have a choice to do so, or is a kind of directive being imposed on them, requiring them to choose a military tribunal as a result of their duties?
Ms. Deschamps: I found it extremely difficult to get to the bottom of this matter. I may not have heard all the questions, but I heard one at the end of Rear-Admiral Bennett’s testimony to which she responded that many victims actually appear before civilian courts. It was not apparent from my investigation that victims had the choice. That is why I made the recommendation.
Now I am told that they have the choice and that many victims opted for civilian courts even before my report. I was provided with statistics that, once analyzed, indicated instead that cases that wound up before civilian courts were domestic violence cases. In one group of cases, the victims were civilians. When military members went into cities located near their bases and committed sexual misconduct offences, they could be prosecuted in civilian courts.
When I met with military victims, I didn’t sense that they could freely choose to appear in civilian courts. I didn’t sense that that was their choice.
Senator Boisvenu: I understand.
Ms. Deschamps: On the contrary, a protocol is being discussed between civilian prosecutors and the military police.
Senator Boisvenu: We have had little to say about the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, which authorities want to implement in the armed forces. How do you perceive that instrument? Will the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights afford victims more independence in the choices they may make, whether they opt for civilian court or military tribunals? Will the bill promote greater transparency in the way sexual assault victims are treated?
Ms. Deschamps: I examined the bill in another case more than a year ago and am therefore familiar enough with it to give you an adequate answer. Perhaps you could cite a few provisions that come to mind.
Senator Boisvenu: I’m mainly talking about support. The idea would be to recognize that victims have rights like those granted to civilian criminals, such as the right to appear before a judge alone or before a jury, because these are fundamental rights. If we have a victims bill of rights in the armed forces, we will have to acknowledge that they have fundamental rights.
When a government adopts a victims bill of rights, I find it unfortunate that those fundamental rights remain more wishes than rights. Nowhere do victims have recourse to a court where they can have those rights recognized, as is the case with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, under which criminals may go to court to assert their rights and seek to have legal proceedings suspended. A judge hears the complaints in those cases. Canada has a victims bill of rights, and there will eventually be one in the armed forces. The fact remains that it is hard for us to find a place where the rights provided for in that bill can be validated in the courts. That validation will occur within the armed forces.
Ms. Deschamps: It all depends on how it’s drafted for the armed forces.
Senator Boisvenu: I’ll send you a copy.
Ms. Deschamps: I haven’t seen the specific bill for the armed forces. Civilian courts increasingly take victims’ voices into consideration. Victim statements are now an integral part of the sentencing process. They are an integral part of the process that leads to a verdict. The fact that victims’ rights are set forth in a bill can only afford them a more solid foundation. Whether or not they are called “fundamental”, what is important is how they are interpreted by the courts and to what extent victims invoke them. Fundamental rights are rights that are based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Some subtle distinctions must nevertheless be made. Victims may be better protected, of course, but you must remember that we have made considerable progress since the era when I practised criminal law, in the 1970s.
The Deputy Chair: I have a supplementary question to that of Senator Boisvenu. As you said, Madam Justice, many military victims file complaints against a military superior. That may be what encourages them to appear before a military tribunal, because sooner or later they will return to the ranks of the armed forces. My impression is that life will not be easy for victims who opt for civilian courts and then return to the ranks of the armed forces.
Ms. Deschamps: I’m not sure it’s easy on either side. The important point in this process is also for the victim to feel that justice has been done. Unfortunately, I sensed that there was a major lack of trust in the process.
Senator Oh: Madam Justice, thank you for your excellent presentation. I have a question for you. The external review into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces found that female and LGBTQ members experience sexual assaults and harassment at higher rates than others.
I’m curious as to whether minority groups are also affected, especially considering efforts to encourage visible minorities and others to join the military.
In your investigation, to the best of your knowledge and in your view, is this also an issue?
Ms. Deschamps: The integration of minorities in the forces is certainly an issue. However, within the meetings that I had, I did not have the occasion to see a distinction between two women, one coming from a minority group and another coming from a traditional Western, White origin. I cannot say there was this distinction that we can see, for example, in the workforce. I have not seen within the military a distinction between minorities and the other groups.
Senator Oh: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Madam Justice, before concluding, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that, two weeks ago, we heard from retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, who said that experienced police officers would do a better job of conducting sexual assault investigations than military police, whose expertise is more of a disciplinary nature. Do you agree with that view?
Ms. Deschamps: We excluded from my investigation everything pertaining to military justice, which is to say courts martial. That was not addressed in my investigation. I nevertheless met with people from the special unit that was established for the armed forces, and I know that some people are specially assigned to sexual misconduct investigations. As you know, the armed forces afford more opportunities for travel from base to base when military personnel are transferred from province to province and from one base to another. There is also a question of speed and efficiency.
As to whether investigations can be conducted more effectively by investigators from the province in which the misconduct occurred, I would say yes in some cases and not necessarily in others because the career of a military member takes a new turn every two years. That is the posting rate that we observed in 2015.
In my opinion, civilian investigators are not always in a better position to conduct investigations. The thrust of my recommendation is still that victims should be given the choice.
Senator McPhedran: Your Honour, I know that you didn’t recommend this, but we also know that in civil lawsuits very often it’s a class action that actually makes a substantial change within an entrenched culture.
So to address the very legitimate concerns around hostile work environment, I litigated these cases in the corporate sector, and of course it’s very helpful when you have multiple claimants.
My question is whether you would see a problem with this if we were to look at a recommendation that would allow for complaints specific to a hostile or toxic work environment and that would allow multiple claimants to come together to make such a complaint.
Ms. Deschamps: I don’t want to start presenting arguments, but certainly I agree with you that class action is a very powerful tool when it comes to changing approaches, attitudes. These are tried before civilian courts.
I don’t have any recommendation to make and I don’t have any suggestion to make, but certainly class action is something that could be looked at by your committee.
Senator McPhedran: Thank you so much.
Senator Boisvenu: Thank you very much, Madam Justice. Your report is now three years old. We have learned that the armed forces have implemented six of the 10 recommendations they adopted from your report. What role did you play in the implementation of your report?
Ms. Deschamps: None, to give you a short answer. I had no role to play, and, when the armed forces said they had implemented six recommendations, that depends on how you read the recommendations. I told you the centre does not correspond to what is described in my recommendations. The centre and its responsibilities are described in recommendations 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10. So I don’t know how you can conclude that six of the recommendations have been implemented if the centre’s responsibilities are not those described.
Senator Boisvenu: I’m going to ask you a final question, and please feel free to answer it. Do you feel the armed forces failed to implement your report in a rigorous and determined way?
Ms. Deschamps: I don’t want to make any value judgments. What I see is that not a lot of progress has been made.
Senator Boisvenu: Thank you very much.
The Deputy Chair: Madam Justice, thank you for your testimony. We will definitely take it into account in drafting our report. Thanks as well for taking part in our committee’s study.
Ms. Deschamps: It is my pleasure.
The Deputy Chair: Now we welcome Marie-Claude Gagnon, founder of the It’s Just 700 group. Thank you for accepting our invitation, Ms. Gagnon. We will hear your remarks, and then the senators will ask you questions.
Marie-Claude Gagnon, Founder, It’s Just 700: I prefer to warn you that I am suffering from laryngitis. So I’ll do what I can.
It’s an honour to speak here today, and I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to present my thoughts and observations on such a complex and sensitive topic.
My name is Marie-Claude Gagnon. I am a former naval reservist, a military sexual trauma survivor and the founder of It’s Just 700, a group that allows men and women suffering from military sexual trauma to reconnect with peers, receive support and learn about services available to them, whether or not those services are provided by the Canadian Armed Forces, Veteran Affairs Canada or through other applicable agencies.
Today I will be presenting you with recommendations that can come together under three umbrella terms: better oversight, accountability and care. Each recommendation will be illustrated by factual examples from several Canadian Armed Forces members injured by sexual violence after the implementation of Operation HONOUR, an initiative purported to assist victims of sexual misconduct within the Canadian military.
You are welcome to invite members of my group to speak with you to gain more perspective in specific areas as you see fit, if it would be beneficial for you as you endeavour to learn about the unique challenges facing these survivors of military sexual trauma.
First, there is a lack of oversight and accountability. In 1996, a call for change was made after a series of articles in Maclean’s magazine about rapes in the military. These articles triggered several initiatives within the military at that time aimed at improving training, establishing a hotline, undertaking survey-based research and a commitment to provide status reports. Slowly, as time passed, this momentum was lost. The hotline was discontinued. There were no more surveys and status reports, and the headlines faded away with the initiatives that the military had begun in earnest.
If we look at the present, 20 years later, we are told that this time things will be different. But I am seeing signs of history repeating itself, which is unfortunate.
The Canadian Armed Forces progress reports made an impressive list of commitments, but the status of these commitments is hard to find since the last progress report was over a year ago. This is despite the promise of quarterly reports.
The court martial review that was to be delivered by July 2017 was only released in 2018, only subsequent to intense scrutiny by journalists who submitted several access-to-information requests and despite the military denying the existence of such a review. This lack of follow-through and denial by the military is concerning, especially considering the vulnerable population of victims we are speaking about today.
Further, in a related vein, the recommendations to improve prevention measures for sexual assault and treatment of service-related sexual assault victims found in the 2014 Caring for Canada’s Ill and Injured Military Personnel report of the Standing Committee on National Defence were not carried out.
The 2018 federal budget committed $5.5 million over four years to rape crisis centres close to military bases, but we don’t know what kind of services will be offered or how this money will be spent. These funds are in addition to the $5.5 million that was given by Status of Women Canada to fight gender-based violence and was, according to the Canadian Armed Forces, all given to the family crisis team. Given the lack of transparency and accountability of the CAF with regard to these failed initiatives, I recommend strong, independent and continuous oversight with mandatory regular and in-depth reviews with clear reports and timelines and consideration for victim input and feedback as to the effectiveness of such investment.
Second, military sexual trauma needs to be taken seriously.
The bystander training message from the Canadian Armed Forces is that both men and women are responsible for providing a safe workplace. However, we have seen very little representation of strong male leadership involved with the sexual response team. In fact, the sexual response team has been headed up primarily by women, which, optically, insinuates that this is mainly a women’s issue.
Further compounding the lack of credibility of the sexual response team is the fact that the SRT has not been allocated adequate resources. The failure to meet its commitments has also not gone unnoticed, which sends another troubling message, no matter whether it is unintended: Military sexual trauma and the SRT don’t matter.
For example, in December 2017, aircrew were given new whistles. A Canadian Armed Forces member decided to take one of the whistles and tape it to the crew room whiteboard, in a very public environment, and label it “Jake’s Op HONOUR whistle.” The implication here is that, given the lack of effectiveness of the SRT, many feel that it is acceptable to mock and ridicule this very serious topic. You will see a picture on your document.
Strong and credible male role models and champions are necessary to give a strong image that this is not just a women’s issue. For example, a seasoned combat arms leader versus a staff officer, no matter how senior, with little operational experience, sends a strong message to the rank and file as to the importance of this issue. Incentives to attract qualified and motivated candidates into those roles should be given.
An official day highlighting military sexual trauma among the Canadian Armed Forces and risk analysis for all types of settings is also recommended.
Third, retaliation is not handled properly. Unfortunately, many victims provide me with very disturbing examples of retaliation with little repercussions from the CAF leadership. Let me explain. At the present time, in 2018, victims facing retaliation have no place to turn without creating more retaliation for themselves; they have no recourse. For example, this text warning was given to a victim seeking care:
I listened in on a huge meeting about you. . . . So make sure you had no mental issues before you joined. . . . If they dig up those records, your release will be just a release. . . . I think they have your civil records tho. All the people you accused are now writing against you.
When the member flagged the text to her chain of command, they recommended that she simply ignore it. “When you pass a fault,” the saying goes, “you have created a new standard.” Telling a victim that they should ignore retaliation does little to validate their experience and often hampers substantive healing.
In the context of the Reserve Force, where employment is not as stable, victims placed on medical category are held back for years from training or being commissioned, or they are simply not renewed for subsequent employment contracts.
After she submitted a complaint, a letter was written to a victim’s unit commander suggesting that her component transfer from the reserves to the Regular Force be denied. This letter prompted an assessment of her mental health state, with the sole intention of medically releasing her from the service, as was later discovered through an access-to-information request. The victim chose to voluntarily release in disgust.
Another victim got an official letter stating that she lacked the courage to come forward sooner. Her behaviour enabled the respondent’s behaviour to escalate. She was recommended for counselling for her unethical behaviour.
This shocking behaviour on the part of the Canadian Armed Forces is simply unbelievable in this day and age. If the Canadian Armed Forces cannot support victims with dignity and sensitivity, how can we expect them to come forward at all?
Another victim saw her aggressor, a senior officer, voluntarily release, knowing he will be rehired by his chain of command as a senior civilian supervisor in government. There is no mechanism to stop such tactics on the part of aggressors leaving the Canadian Armed Forces to transfer to the public service within DND where they are free to terrorize their victims again but under a different disciplinary framework. Again, this is unacceptable.
We recommend urgent interim measures until proper processes are in place to handle retaliation against members reporting harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Fourth, proper data tracking is needed. The 2016 survey Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces was not administered to members of the Canadian Armed Forces on administrative, medical or parental leave, on deployments, on course or in training, including young members at the Royal Military College and the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School. It is widely accepted that these groups are the most at risk for experiencing sexual violence.
The Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis is taking active steps to improve their methodologies in this field, and these changes are expected to take years. The concern is that decisions based on incomplete and therefore inaccurate data are being made to the detriment of the Canadian Armed Forces. Complete and representative data are required to inform good decision making within the Canadian Armed Forces.
We also have no data on what happened to the victims of the 267 reported incidents highlighted in the Canadian Armed Forces progress reports.
We recommend exit interviews for those with military sexual trauma and more data, including cradle-to-grave stats on what happens to those who put in complaints. In fact, exit interviews should be conducted for all members leaving the Canadian Armed Forces, and such interviews should include questions on military sexual trauma to ensure better data collection.
Fifth, support is inadequate. The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre provides a hotline that redirects victims to services. That is not a centre, and that is not support. This is unacceptable. The 2016 progress report announced that a peer support network would be fully developed over the next six months. That never happened. In the best case scenario, military sexual trauma victims will be accepted into a program not designed for them, get treatment in the United States, or be sent to local support groups or military spousal services. None of these situations are ideal, and these programs often do not meet the unique needs associated with victims of military sexual trauma.
We recommend that immediate interim action be taken to avoid further harm to men, women, LGBTQ2+ victims and their families. Last week alone my group had to intervene in three high-risk suicide situations. Military sexual trauma support groups are needed to break the isolation of members injured by sexual violence in a military context, to learn about services available through Veterans Affairs and within the Canadian Armed Forces, to develop subject matter experts with in-depth knowledge of the needs of military sexual trauma victims and to provide a pool of people injured by sexual violence who can be accessed for research and data analysis.
Finally, the Canadian Forces Health Services has been missing in the conversation. Due to the unique nature of military work, the Canadian Armed Forces has its own health care system but often outsources care even while on deployment. That includes immediate care.
Rape kits are not standardized interprovincially and may not be admissible in the civilian court system or any other courts, if required. To be clear, if someone is raped, and their rape kit is done by a military health professional, the results of their rape kit may not be admissible in court. Please let that sink in.
When the Canadian Armed Forces members serve in foreign conflict zones, the issue of rape kit standardization can become even more complex at the expense of the victim. By the way, that also touches civil society that gets treatment from the same military personnel.
The Canadian Forces Health Services' response has also been inconsistent in its duty to report. One victim saw her plea for care reported and was subsequently forced to see the matter being investigated. Another was pushed by her military doctor for a medical release at her first appointment following her rape. Another was told by her military doctor that rape victims were not sent to see psychologists. This service was reserved for soldiers with combat-related trauma.
We recommend that the Canadian Armed Forces have their own psychologists and psychiatrists to provide knowledge-based training to external caregivers regarding military sexual trauma and to policy-makers on the prevention, reporting, documentation and examination of cases, especially the ones unique to the Canadian Armed Forces, with a focus on minimizing negative impacts to victims and to allow the person to return to duty.
Canadian Armed Forces leadership also needs guidance for its leaders on how to respond in such cases to minimize the impact not only to the victim but to their respective unit as well.
My final observation is that systemic discrimination is prevalent in the Canadian Armed Forces, and no process is in place to look into it or to address it. Old ways need to be challenged by GBA+ experts and taken seriously.
To summarize, I believe better oversight, accountability and care are key to ensure a true victim-centric Canadian Armed Forces.
Again, thank you for allowing me to be so candid and for taking the time to hear my concerns regarding the lack of progress in the Canadian Armed Forces regarding military sexual trauma.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for your excellent presentation. Before turning the floor over to my colleagues, I’ll take the liberty of asking you a question.
Has the posting system been used to correct the problem in certain situations. In other words, let’s say an officer is having a problem with a soldier. Following a complaint, a transfer is made. We’ve seen this in certain organizations where the situation is resolved by transferring someone from Gagetown to Kingston. Could the posting system have been used in an attempt to solve problems within the armed forces?
Ms. Gagnon: Previously, I think so. Now, when someone files a complaint, there is a process. If the two people work together, a transfer may be made so they no longer work together.
However, you have to think of the career managers, who decide where someone will be posted following that kind of complaint. Do they know whether there is a risk the individual may work with that same person again a few years after the new posting? There is currently no mechanism to ensure that a victim will not have to work again with the supervisor who previously assaulted him or her.
Senator McPhedran: First, thank you for coming when you’re not feeling well, and thank you for the very careful thought that’s gone into the analysis that you’ve shared with us today.
I’d like to go to the general question of organizations that exist for survivors, victims and complainants; there is a range of words that could be used.
Correct me if I am wrong, but my impression from previous witnesses and from your presentation today, as well, is that little or no funding is made available for direct supports from sources with expertise and experience from within the Canadian Armed Forces. Your organization, if I understand correctly, is largely volunteer.
This is an excellent presentation that you’ve made here today with very specific recommendations and with a lot of information, clearly, in the background that’s resulted in those recommendations. .
What more do you think an organization like yours could do if you had reliable funding to support your mission?
Ms. Gagnon: To be honest, the group I started is not funded at all. We have no funding, and we’re not looking to get funded. It was a group that we gathered together after the Deschamps report. The reason we call it It’s Just 700 was because there were 700 people who reported, and a lot of military members were saying that it was just 700 people. So that night, that’s why I came up with the name.
A group like ours was, basically, initially just a group to support each other. There was no intention of any sort. But when we saw that common issues were being raised, we thought that instead of keeping it to each other and crying together, we would try to make a change and voice it so that there will be a change.
A group like mine allows a complete independent oversight, I would say, and we are being contacted on many different occasions to provide researchers with members who were injured. Given the fact that the SMRC does not do follow-ups to contact, there is no way for them to provide members, so we are the ones who do. If people have questions for an inquiry and they need the perspective of the victims, they come to us because we are the only place where victims are going.
We have people that want to create pilot projects and do research in trying new things right now. One thing that was stopping them in the past was that they had no idea where to submit their projects so that they could have a pool of people to benefit from them. But having our group, we allow them to be informed, so then our members can go.
We also inform people about all their services, like Veterans Affairs. Even if you’re still in service, you are still entitled to some things with Veterans Affairs, like SISIP and a bunch of different things. This is really unique to the military. So we are informing people what they can have and how they are supposed to fill out the forms.
And we compare notes. A lot of people use it because, again, victims are not informed of their rights. Somebody will say, “I was told this. How about you?” or “My doctor told me they had a duty to report to them. Has it been the case for you?”
So it allows comparisons, and then people can have a better answer. For us, it helps us to find the issue and bring it forward.
Senator McPhedran: I need a little more clarification on this. So what we have and what we’ve seen here today is that all the presentations made to us prior to you from the Canadian Armed Forces were made by people very securely employed. They were here, with all that security, doing their job and doing it well.
Ms. Gagnon: Yes.
Senator McPhedran: Your organization is fuelled by passion and commitment. Like so many volunteer organizations, it has a great deal to do with the individuals who are giving so much of themselves.
Is there concern for the sustainability of this?
Ms. Gagnon: Yes. We are getting a lot of requests for inquiries to be part of consultations and to handle and provide support. Like I said, two nights ago at 3 a.m., a suicide, people at high risk. All these things come. We are 230 people at this point in the group, and we’re all victims as well, so obviously we can help each other to the point of what we can do without hurting ourselves more.
When the SMRC started, I was hoping that they would have been that place and that would have been a complete independent oversight to be able to come here and talk the way I speak about victim input and to be able to provide victims, when needed, just like OSISS is doing for operational stress injury. They are the subject matter experts; they are the ones providing for people who come back injured and informing members of all the supports available to them. We don’t have that. We’re not in that. We’re not invited into this. The only thing we’ve been told is that we can always go to the website and find the services ourselves.
It’s really different. I don’t think it’s right that there’s no care for us because it just happened that our injury, even though it was work-related, was not due to combat.
Senator McPhedran: Thank you.
Senator Jaffer: Thank you very much, Ms. Gagnon, for your presentation. We really have a lot to think about.
Before I ask you my questions, I want my colleagues to know that Ms. Gagnon very much pushed us to do this study and helped us graph this study, so we owe you a lot. Thank you very much for your leadership on this issue, and we appreciate you having the faith in us that we will do a fair study. So thank you very much, Ms. Gagnon.
From what you have said, of course we know that you understand that victims are facing real horrors about sexual misconduct. Unfortunately the only thing I have heard about the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre is that it fails to give, as you have already said, victims what they require. What I have heard is that there is no specialized support for male, LGBTQ2, ethnic or minority victims and that the support centre does not offer victims any form of medical leave despite the fact that they have experienced serious medical trauma.
Most important, victims are not given access to legal services, meaning they are on their own if they wish to seek accountability for the horrific misconduct they have suffered.
Can you describe how issues affect victims you represent and identify areas of improvement for the centre? You said you have already given them. If there are no others, I respect that. But from what you hear, what should the centre really be doing?
Ms. Gagnon: I really agree with what Justice Deschamps mentioned. Her vision should have been the vision that happened with complete oversight and accountability. I think we had the same thought on that.
Senator Jaffer: My second question, in an interview with CBC News, you stated you were worried about the fact that there is currently no support groups or research to make sure people are satisfied with the services they are offered after experiencing sexual misconduct.
I agree. That is a concern that they aren’t, and there is no way of knowing whether people are happy if there is no follow-up. If victims see other victims are being left without proper support, they are likely to be discouraged from reporting in the first place.
You know the challenges of the Armed Forces are very different. They have a command, a structure, and if victims report, they’re seen — especially if their supervisor is the person who abused them; they don’t see anywhere to go. As somebody who has gone through the system, can you name — it may be difficult for you to do it now — three things that when you suffered, had they been in place, your recovery would have been faster?
Ms. Gagnon: One of them would be probably a written process and policies. The reason why is because the ombudsman will make sure it’s followed. But what if the process is not written? That is considered advocacy for them. Then we have no place to turn. So we have, I would say, ripple effects of what happened, like a medical release linked to a sexual trauma, because you don’t meet the universality of service any more.
If you want to challenge that kind of process, it’s not a gender issue, so you cannot go to human rights for that. You cannot go to the ombudsman about that either, because it’s not that process. It has to be addressed, but how? The only way to do this right now is to go to the media.
That would be one of the things; how to look into systemic discrimination or processes right now and make sure that they make sense for everybody, like the GBA+. Those are the kinds of things that would have helped, because at least in my case I could see there was a lot of procedural unfairnesses going on that is not necessarily tied to discrimination itself, but it was probably just not thought through initially or with that lens. So that’s one thing.
The second would be the retaliation. So when a person reports an incident, the retaliation needs to be handled. If it’s not, there is a high risk that this gets worse. At this point, it’s a little bit unfair when a victim reported incidents before it got worse, then it got worse and now you’re the one who has to get the burden on top of it to now report and fix and go through the whole legal system, even though you did what you had to do, you did your duty to report. So that would be another thing.
The third is to have access to support, no matter whether you want to report or not. I think that’s key because I find with my group, a lot of people are not willing to report or do anything, not even get VAC access. After maybe a week or two of seeing other people and how great it helped them, it gives them that boost to do it for themselves. So the care at the beginning needs to be there to give people the resiliency in order to do that next step, whatever that next step is.
For us, we don’t push. We don’t judge. We just let people do what they need to do and get the care they need.
Senator Jaffer: Ms. Gagnon, I don’t have a next question because my other colleagues have questions. I just want to say to you that when Whitecross was on a panel with me and said culture takes a long time to change, when I look at you, Canadians lost a great person who would have served us well in you, and I thank you for your service to Canada.
Ms. Gagnon: Thank you.
Senator Richards: Thank you very much for being here today. You mentioned that your group stopped or prevented or helped prevent three high-risk suicide preventions in the last week, and you mentioned that they didn’t go to Veterans Affairs. I’m wondering. They wouldn’t trust Veterans Affairs. Would people at high risk of suicide because of this trauma trust Veterans Affairs? Have you replaced Veterans Affairs in respect of this?
Ms. Gagnon: We have had a really hard time discussing with Veterans Affairs about these matters. We have been pushing to be part of these ministerial advisory groups. We were told that initially — I got in after I was told I was going to be joining one group. The group started. I learned about it through other people. So I had to push again. Then I was accepted to the client service group, even though I was looking for more mental health or policy. I’ve been told that because it started already, the only way I can have access to these groups is if somebody steps down.
What that means is that out of 77 people within those advisory groups, I was the only one representing sexual trauma, and there was only 3.5 per cent representation of women that served or are currently serving in the military for Veterans Affairs.
It is really difficult for us to bring up issues that are specific to our needs because we’re asked to take the top three priorities and vote on the top three for everyone. Obviously our top three are not the same as a combat injured veteran's. So I asked numerous times to consider having another type of consultation that is adding more people like me in the consultation so that we can have a voice that will actually do more than warming the bench. That never happened. Never got contact.
What I would say to you is that for us, the biggest matter is to have access to the benefits, because the way it was designed, again, was for combat-related injuries.
I’ve talked to people informally about adopting more the American model, which makes more sense to us, and apparently some changes were made. That I learned only from a House of Commons hearing, from a person, but I don’t know what the changes are.
All I know is that when I had a question on my own, I couldn’t challenge it through the ombudsman, because again, it’s not procedural fairness. It’s just a procedure. It’s just the procedure was wrong. So we had to gather other cases together, bring it to Charlottetown, 19 cases together, so they can look into it, assign us an investigating officer so they can look into our needs.
I don’t see how one person can do that. It took me over two years just to do that.
Senator Richards: As a follow-up — she is not here, and I respect her and I respect her contribution today — how do you feel about Rear-Admiral Bennett’s comments today concerning this?
Ms. Gagnon: Which part?
Senator Richards: The part where she said things were happening and getting done, the process was working, and they were eliminating this kind of behaviour within the Armed Forces. Overall, do you think that’s true?
Ms. Gagnon: For me, I’m outside now. I left the military. All I know is that whatever has been planned, the way it trickles down is not always the way it is planned, and I understand. It’s a big institution. I don’t think there was ill intent on this. I enjoyed looking at the new FRAG O 004 order. Annex A is really interesting. I’m wondering how it’s going to happen. It is the same with the bill of rights. It’s a bit of good news. But again, those are plans.
A lot of plans were made that never happened in 2016 and 2015. So for me, until I can see a difference, it’s really hard. Just like in 2016 when the progress reports came with recommendations that seemed amazing, I’m hopeful. But at the same time, we need to see it happen.
Senator Richards: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Ms. Gagnon, following on from Senator Richards’ question, you say it is hard to secure grants or assistance for your organization. What relations do you have with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence? They should normally be listening to groups such as yours because you help them by suggesting possible solutions. What are your relations with those two departments?
Ms. Gagnon: First, we have never requested any grants because we are not an organization. So we haven’t tried. I know that other organizations have tried. The fact that our work does not involve all veterans is often an obstacle. If our work involves only women or certain types of injuries, that’s considered a disqualifying factor for obtaining funding, in the case of those who have tried, I believe.
As regards our relations with National Defence, we have been consulted on a few occasions, perhaps five or six times to date.
It’s really more difficult with the Department of Veterans Affairs. I was at the stakeholder summit meeting and initially part of the client service advisory group. I decided to have myself replaced, not because I didn’t think that was important, but as a result of the time involved. I am a single person, and I work full time. Consequently, I felt it was not necessarily the place that could promote changes for us. I nevertheless wanted to have representation, but not necessarily to spend more time on a file that, in my opinion, would not result in a solution for our needs.
The Deputy Chair: When you had meetings with the Department of National Defence, did you feel that they were merely listening to you or that the meetings were producing results? You can hold meetings and listen to people, and afterwards it’s all forgotten. Do you get the impression they are listening to you? What you’re telling us and what we’re studying today are important for the Canadian Armed Forces and for the victims.
Ms. Gagnon: For the moment, the Canadian Armed Forces are listening to me more than Veterans Affairs Canada. I had a conversation with the Chief of Defence, which was productive. People listened when that was discussed.
As for Veterans Affairs Canada, I didn’t want to put too much emphasis on that because I know another committee is examining this issue. The problem is that, despite our requests to meet with departmental representatives, we have never been invited. I haven’t been able to discuss our problems.
At the stakeholder summit — not the last one, but the previous one — I spoke with General Walt Natynczyk — I think the videos are still available — and one thing I asked at the time was that he start monitoring data on the number of traumatic incident cases associated with sexual assault to determine which ones are accepted or rejected. I was told the department would look into the matter because it was important to understand who was receiving services. A sexual trauma event is not considered as causing an injury. Injuries are like post-traumatic stress syndrome. There are others, such as generalized anxiety and major depression.
It is a source of injury, and the department does not conduct studies on sources, only on injuries. I think it is important to know the various problems and the number of injured persons and to determine whether they are able to obtain the services they need, unlike in the case of other types of injuries. That would be important for all types of injuries.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much, Ms. Gagnon.
Senator Boisvenu: Welcome to the committee, Ms. Gagnon. We are suffering from the same throat problem.
You’ve been experiencing these events since the early 2000s. That’s a long period of time. I looked at the statistics: 27 per cent of women in the Canadian Armed Forces reported that they had been assaulted compared to 4 per cent of men. In 2015 alone, 5 per cent of women said they had been assaulted, 50 per cent of that number by their superior officers. Consequently, it is very difficult for them to report the incidents because their careers may be jeopardized. I am certain many women do not report in order to protect their families and careers. Thank you for doing it for those who have not. You are a model for those women.
Where does the class action you filed against the Canadian Armed Forces stand? I know it was filed in 2017, but we have had no news of it. Do you have any information on your end?
Ms. Gagnon: No, I’m not a representative and, consequently, have not been informed of the discussions under way.
Senator Boisvenu: You heard Judge Deschamps earlier because you were seated in the room. She says she takes a very sceptical and harsh view of the Canadian Armed Forces given the report she submitted. What is your opinion today on the period you lived through in the 2000s when you were assaulted? Are you as sceptical as Judge Deschamps about the seriousness with which the Canadian Armed Forces are addressing the problem?
Ms. Gagnon: I think the armed forces will take all the minor things seriously and make examples of them. The same phenomenon occurred at the outset, in 1996, when certain cases were seized upon to make examples of them. That’s not necessarily good because it makes people angry more than anything else. Honestly, that’s not what people necessarily need. They need attention when they report major incidents. I’m not saying it’s not important to talk about sexual misconduct, but the people in my group, for example, see what happens to people who report cases. In my group, I conducted a fairly informal survey, to which only 70 persons responded. Failing other types of data, that’s the best we have. Of the 77 people who reported a case, only 7 per cent were subsequently able to remain in the Canadian Armed Forces, for a number of reasons. They do not have the impression that they can safely report a case or that doing so will not hurt their career.
Senator Boisvenu: According to your scientific survey, a large percentage of complainants, 93 per cent, leave the armed forces a few years later for various reasons.
Do the attackers leave the armed forces or are they protected when they hold senior positions?
Ms. Gagnon: The Chief of Defence recently decided to conduct an administrative review of all persons who reach the court martial stage. Based on what I have observed in my group, that has not been the case. Some individuals went through the proceedings, and the review was not done and will not be done.
The report outlines 267 cases. Of those 267 cases, perhaps some 20 individuals have left. That’s very few when you see the number of cases that have been reported. I don’t know to what extent people are able to stay or not. That will depend on the seriousness of the cases and of the evidence adduced.
From what I understand, outside the Canadian Armed Forces, an internal process is available to ensure workers’ safety, regardless of what happens in criminal court. Interim measures are taken. The decision is made as to what will be done to protect the work environment. Since the Canadian Armed Forces have an internal court process, it’s as though the two were combined. If people opt for a court martial, they must wait until the end for a decision as to whether an administrative review will be done. The process goes on forever, approximately four years. At that point, the victims in most cases do not stay.
Senator Boisvenu: Did you file a complaint in your case?
Ms. Gagnon: I communicated with my chain of command. It was different at the time, I didn’t file an official complaint.
Senator Boisvenu: There was no internal or external process.
Ms. Gagnon: No.
Senator Boisvenu: Do the victims you know feel free to choose between a civilian trial and a trial before a military tribunal?
Ms. Gagnon: I was very surprised to learn that victims have the choice today. Very recently, for example, one individual was a victim in an incident that occurred outside the individual’s military duties. It took a very long time to determine whether the case would be handled internally or externally.
Senator Boisvenu: There is a problem with decisions. Are you talking about the victim or the armed forces?
Ms. Gagnon: The armed forces decided. A 17-year-old woman was recently charged with consuming alcohol as a minor. She reported that she was assaulted by two men while she was under the influence of alcohol. It was therefore decided that the assault had to be adjudicated in civilian court. Proceedings were instituted against her since she had consumed alcohol as a minor. That was not a choice. I have never heard it said that someone had a choice between the two.
The Deputy Chair: Ms. Gagnon thank you for your insightful testimony and your courage. Please be assured that we will take your testimony into account in drafting our report. We hope this will help you find solutions to assist victims of sexual assault in the armed forces.
Senator McPhedran: A point of order. I would seek some guidance on this. To my ears, much of the testimony we heard today was very similar and could be helpful to our report on Bill C-74 because of the specific reference to Veterans Affairs and the specific information about the same exclusionary conduct. So I want to ask if we could consider the testimony not only for the report that is our focus today. Are we allowed to consider it in looking at the report on Bill C-74? I wanted to ask while the witness was still here.
The Deputy Chair: Perhaps the question should be forwarded to the clerk. I can release the witness if you wish. As we will be meeting to consider our reports, we could discuss the matter amongst ourselves.
Thank you once again, Ms. Gagnon. Your testimony has been very helpful.
We will continue the meeting by considering a draft report.