Ottawa – The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is not doing enough to understand, respond to and prevent sexual misconduct in the military, finds the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence in its most recent report.
The committee spent six months studying harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian military and the impact of changes made since 2015. It is publishing its findings in the committee’s report titled Sexual Harassment and Violence in the Canadian Armed Forces.
After speaking to 15 witnesses and reviewing publicly available information, the committee has learned that recent attempts to address the issue are lacking.
In 2014, Maclean’s and L’actualité reported that sexual assault in the military takes place about five times per day. In response, the CAF hired, former Supreme Court Justice, the Honourable Marie Deschamps to study the military’s policies and practices related to sexual assault and sexual harassment.
The Deschamps report led the CAF to launch in 2015 Operation HONOUR, which aimed to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within the military and established the Sexual Misconduct Report Centre. The committee finds that while this operation addresses some of the concerns raised in the Deschamps report and in the media at the time, it does not go far enough and fails to sufficiently support the very people it was intended to protect.
Among the committee’s recommendations are policy changes: to make it clear that complainants can pursue their case outside of the military system should they so choose; to provide adequate funding and resources to the Sexual Misconduct Report Centre so that it can adequately support complainants; and to ensure that the CAF makes available medical, psychological, social, legal, and financial support to all CAF members, former members and DND civilians, who experience or are affected by sexual misconduct in their “workplace”, with the understanding that military organizations are “total institutions” where members live, work, train and socialize together.
Immediate and decisive action must be taken to avoid further cases of military sexual trauma and the further erosion of the CAF’s ability to attract and retain qualified Canadians through a safe work environment and satisfying career prospect.
• The committee makes eight recommendations to the federal government calling for changes to CAF policies, support for victims (including assistance navigating the military or civilian justice system), and oversight and accountability mechanisms for Operation HONOUR’s commitments.
• The 2018 Statistics Canada survey results of Sexual Misconduct in the CAF will be reported later this month. The most recent survey, completed in 2016, found that among Regular Force members, 27.3% of women and 3.8% of men have experienced sexual assault at least once since joining the CAF.
• The same survey found that in the 12 months prior to their participation in the survey, roughly four in five (79%) members of the Regular Force saw, heard or were personally targeted by sexualized behaviour.
“It is beyond the time for action. The government has a responsibility to ensure that all workplaces — and especially those in the military — are safe for every single Canadian. Though some steps were taken in 2015, more needs to be done by the government to rectify this situation. ”
- Senator Gwen Boniface, Chair of the committee
“The harrowing experiences of victims were brought to light through witness testimony. What has been made clear to our committee is that concrete action must be taken in order to safeguard the survivors when these types of abuses happen.”
- Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais, Deputy Chair of the committee
“Each and every person who puts their life on the line for this country deserves the utmost respect. No one should have to endure harassment of any kind in the workplace, least of all our heroic soldiers in uniform.”
- Senator Mobina S.B. Jaffer, Deputy Chair of the committee
• Read the report, Sexual Harassment and Violence in the Canadian Armed Forces.
• Follow the committee on social media using the hashtag #SECD.
• Sign up for the Senate eNewsletter.
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