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Canadian military women face greater risk from peers than enemy: 400-page Arbour Report exposes ‘culture’ of sexual harassment in armed forces

Defense Minister Anita Anand welcomed and accepted the recommendations provided by the former Supreme Court justice and ordered immediate implementation of 17 of them. "The rest", she said, "would be implemented after further analysis and planning".

On May 30, a 400-paged report widely known as the ‘Arbour report’ on the sexual violence in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) revealed that the Canadian military women face greater risk from their peers than their enemies. The report was released by former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour in presence of Anita Anand, the minister of national defence in Ottawa on Monday.

Arbour in the report mentioned that the risk of harm faced by the Canadian military women in the CAF is on the day to day basis and that this culture must change. “When thinking about culture change in response to the sexual misconduct crisis, the CAF leadership seems to have been incapable of examining which aspects of its culture have been the most deficient. One of the dangers of the model under which the CAF continues to operate is the high likelihood that some of its members are more at risk of harm, on a day-to-day basis, from their comrades than from the enemy”, she was quoted.

The former Supreme Court justice was assigned a task last year to investigate the claims of sexual misconduct and military harassment against women in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). Highlighting the severity of the issue, Arbour issued the document recommending 48 directions to change the culture of sexual misconduct inside the military.

The document, that was submitted to Canada’s Defense Minister Anita Anand also included recommendations about subjects including the military justice system, definitions of sexual misconduct, as well as military colleges. Arbour emphasized many failures of the military over the years to address misogyny, discrimination, sexual violence, and trauma experienced by the female members of the military.

“The handling of sexual offences by a military court in the past 20 years has done very little to improve efficiency, discipline, and morale … therefore, I see no basis for the Canadian Armed Forces to retain any jurisdiction over sexual offenses”, she was quoted.

17 recommendations to be implemented immediately, the rest after analysis and planning

Anand meanwhile welcomed and accepted the recommendations provided by the former Supreme Court justice and ordered immediate implementation of 17 of them. “The rest”, she said, “would be implemented after further analysis and planning”. She said that it was important to review the military justice system and that she would consult provincial and territorial authorities. While an external monitor would be appointed to oversee the implementation of the recommendations, Anand said that the progress regarding the same will be reported to the Parliament by the government.

It is important to note that the study by the former Supreme Court Justice, Louise Arbour is a third-of-its-kind study commissioned to investigate the claims of sexual misconduct in the Canadian military. Several of Canada’s top military officers have been accused of sexual harassment for the past two decades, including the Canadian army commander being the latest pick. In the year 2021, the Canadian Military postponed the appointment of its next army commander, Lt Gen Trevor Cadieu after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him.

Also, in the year 1992, Navy veteran Dawn McIlmoyle, aged 19 back then was brutally raped by a fellow sailor in presence of another man who allegedly enjoyed the incident. “When I came forward, they charged me under the National Defence Act for being on the male floor, which I was taken to,” McIlmoyle was quoted. The victim formally left the army in the year 1993.

Interestingly, a similar report authored by retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps was released in the year 2015 in the name to review the sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces. The report highlighted that Canada’s military had an underlying sexualized culture that was hostile to women and lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, and queer members. “Cultural change is therefore key. It is not enough to simply revise policies or to repeat the mantra of zero tolerance”, the report read.

Reports mention that about a quarter of Canadian military women say that they have been sexually assaulted during their military careers. Also, the government has set aside nearly USD 800 million to settle class-action lawsuits by current and former military members involving sexual misconduct.

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OpIndia Staff
OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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