Canada military finds it overestimated progress on combating sexual misconduct

Government department did not complete questionnaire to ensure national defence ranks as the best military at recruiting women and minorities The Canadian military said on Sunday it overestimated its progress in addressing accusations of…

Canada military finds it overestimated progress on combating sexual misconduct

Government department did not complete questionnaire to ensure national defence ranks as the best military at recruiting women and minorities

The Canadian military said on Sunday it overestimated its progress in addressing accusations of sexual misconduct by the end of 2017, according to an assessment from Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s department.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance’s department last August told Sajjan’s office that the Armed Forces would outperform its commitments on addressing harassment and racism in an assessment meant to prepare the government for changes to sex discrimination legislation.

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“From early 2018 it became clear there was more to do, and it became clear what additional work was needed to meet the strategic goals,” Public Safety and National Defence said in a statement, referring to the early part of the year.

The assessment said that while progress was made in tackling the “military’s culture of sexual harassment” in Canada, it was the second-highest among Canadian public services, with gender inequality and racial discrimination still a concern.

Officials at the defence ministry could not be reached for comment.

Sajjan and others within the military and political class have publicly acknowledged the military’s failure to tackle sexual misconduct that continues to blight the military, which is set to spend about $900m (£748m) on addressing claims of sexual assault and other misconduct this year.

“It’s a simple matter of fact that we did not know of everything until late January. The situation has changed since the assessment,” Sajjan’s office said in a statement.

Ranking the military’s effort to address sexual harassment as having the best record when the government plans to eliminate discrimination in its defence services was an outgrowth of a judicial inquiry into the deaths of three Canadian reservists in Afghanistan in 2010, from which the military avoided prosecution on several criminal charges.

Sajjan said in December that he had already planned to review the military’s investigation policy on whether complainants should go to civilian police and will conduct the review as part of the government’s efforts to eliminate sexual violence.

Canadian chiefs of defence staff have also said they are taking steps to address sexual misconduct by the military.

For the first time in August, commanders had all three of the military’s officer and enlisted ranks explicitly trained on how to report sexual harassment and harassment. A week later, commanders were told they should bring forward complaints without fear of inaction and make every effort to hold perpetrators accountable.

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