Highly anticipated report on military’s sexual misconduct crisis to be released today

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A lengthy and detailed report by former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour on sexual harassment and misconduct in the Canadian military is set for release today.

The minister of national defence, Anita Anand, received the report on May 20 and had 10 days to make it public, according to the review’s mandate. Anand is holding a news conference at 12:30 p.m. ET with Arbour and the chief of the defence staff, Gen. Wayne Eyre. 

More than a year ago, the government tasked Arbour with leading an external review to provide it with recommendations on establishing an independent reporting system that would allow complainants to report their cases without fear of reprisal.

Critics have accused the military of failing sexual misconduct complainants for decades.

Former navy member Dawn Mcllmoyle went public on the cover of Maclean’s magazine in 1998 and said she was sexually assaulted when she was 19, not believed when she reported it and then charged and fined $250 by the Forces for being in the men’s barracks after 11 p.m. The Canadian Armed Forces’ top soldier at the time, Gen. Maurice Baril, was quoted saying that “society is asking us to be better.”

Mcllmoyle said she’s still waiting for the military to change its culture and wants to see an action plan announced today.

“Next year will be 25 years since all of this happened,” she said. “What’s happened? Nothing but reports being written. It’s frustrating.… Words without deeds mean nothing.”

Dawn McIlmoyle went public with her sexual assault case on the cover of Maclean’s in 1998, hoping it would lead to culture change. Decades later, Mcllmoyle said she’s still waiting for that to happen. (Submitted by Dawn McIlmoyle)

Series of scandals

Since January 2021, the Forces’ credibility has been pummeled by an unrelenting series of sexual misconduct scandals. 

Experts have said they can’t think of another military anywhere else in the world that has seen so many senior leaders swept up in scandal at the same time.

Since early February 2021, 13 current and former senior Canadian military officers have been sidelined, investigated or forced into retirement from some of the most powerful and prestigious posts in the defence establishment.

The former chief of defence staff, retired Gen. Jonathan Vance, pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in March. Maj. Kellie Brennan, a staff officer at army headquarters, told Global News that she and Vance had an on-again, off-again intimate relationship. She subsequently testified before a parliamentary committee and claimed Vance had fathered two of her eight children.

Provincial court documents said Vance “willfully” attempted to obstruct justice by repeatedly contacting Brennan and attempting to persuade her to make false statements to investigators.

Vance’s former head of HR, Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, has a 13-day criminal trial set for next year. He was charged in December 2021 with sexual assault and committing indecent acts. Edmundson has denied any wrongdoing.

Vance’s replacement, Admiral Art McDonald, stepped down from the top job in 2021 following allegations of misconduct.

Other senior military leaders have been criticized for supporting perpetrators and accused of failing to help survivors of military sexual trauma.

Attempts to cover up cases of misconduct

Over the past year, CBC News has documented attempts to cover up cases of alleged misconduct and the re-traumatizing effect on complainants of a flawed reporting process.

One of the most prominent women in the Canadian military resigned in March 2021, saying she was “disgusted” by ongoing reports of sexual misconduct in the Armed Forces.

Two other senior female officers said in March they would quit the navy because they claim senior leaders failed to hold subordinates responsible for bungling a sexual misconduct case.

The report by Louise Arbour, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, is the second on sexual misconduct in the military in seven years. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

Arbour’s report is the second independent review of its kind in the past seven years.

In 2015, former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps’ landmark report found sexual assault, harassment and bullying were endemic in the Canadian Armed Forces — and that senior leaders tolerated it.

The Canadian Armed Forces has been criticized for not fully implementing the recommendations in Deschamps’ report.

‘Prevent the military from saying they didn’t know’

The Canadian Global Affairs Institute’s Charlotte Lantoine-Duval studies culture change in the Canadian Armed Forces. She took part in consultations with Arbour in the fall of 2021.

She said this report “was not needed per se” because past reports still need to be properly implemented. It still has value, she added.

“It’s going to provide us with additional information about what the problems are,” said Lantoine-Duval. “And it can prevent the military from saying they didn’t know.”

WATCH: Then-defence minister Sajjan is asked why a second review is needed:

Sajjan is asked why the military needs another report to help end sexual misconduct

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan spoke with reporters Thursday about the plan to change how the military deals with sexual misconduct.

Anand and Eyre delivered a long-awaited and historic apology last year to the women and men whose lives were harmed by sexual assault, misconduct and discrimination in the military.

In one of her first acts as Canada’s new defence minister, Anand announced last fall she would act on Arbour’s interim recommendation and transfer the investigation and prosecution of sexual misconduct cases within the Canadian Forces into the civilian justice system.

 Lt.-Gen. Jennie Carignan, chief of professionalism and conduct, has also been tasked with changing the military’s culture and has said she’s planning a five-year campaign.


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