Sajjan Announces Military Sexual Misconduct Review, Plans Independent Reporting System


Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan launches an independent external review into sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces led by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor.

The review will focus on providing recommendations to put in place an independent reporting system so that military personnel can share allegations of sexual misconduct outside the military chain of command – a key request from victims and survivors who say having faced retaliation for too long for coming. cheeky.

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While this review is underway, the military will also create a new internal organization headed by the Lieutenant General. Jennie Carignan as the new head of ethics and professional culture.

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“I am very sorry,” Sajjan told members of the military who were victims of misconduct.

“We have heard you, we have listened and we are taking action. “

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Arbor is the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and, from 1996 to 1999, was the United Nations Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the Former Yugoslavia.

“She is the reason rape is a war crime,” said Anita Vandenbeld, parliamentary secretary to Sajjan, of Arbor’s previous work in prosecuting war criminals.

“That’s exactly the lens through which we want her to look at this.”

Arbor said that while some elements of his tenure are reminiscent of what his predecessor, former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps, did in her landmark 2015 report on military sexual misconduct, Arbor’s tenure goes also beyond to examine all of the factors causing the misconduct.

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“I really believe it takes more than one sometimes,” she told Global News. “The first effort sometimes opens the door. And maybe – six years later – maybe it will be an opportunity to correct things. “

READ MORE: Military Police recommended ending Vance investigation in 2015 within hours of being sworn in

The announcement comes nearly three months after Global News first reported that General Jonathan Vance was facing allegations of inappropriate behavior. In the weeks that followed, Military Police opened investigations into Vance as well as Admiral Art McDonald, Vance’s successor as Chief of the Defense Staff. Several women have also spoken publicly to share allegations of high-level sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces.

Vance denies all allegations of improper conduct. McDonald declined to comment, citing legal advice and the ongoing investigation.

But the allegations rocked the Canadian military, triggering what experts describe as an institutional “crisis” for the force because it believes it is necessary to change a culture that former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps called of “hostile” and “endemic” in 2015.

Deschamps led the landmark report on sexual misconduct in the military that sparked the creation of Operation Honor, the military’s official initiative to end sexual misconduct. But in the years that followed, she said there hasn’t been a buy-in from senior executives to really change.

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“I feel like very little has changed,” she said during testimony before the House of Commons defense committee in late February 2021.

She told Global News in a statement on Thursday that she believed Arbor would be able to examine a different array of factors related to sexual misconduct than Deschamps did in 2015.

“I welcome the appointment of Madame Arbor,” said Deschamps.

“From what I’ve read, his mandate seems to be broader than the one given to me. As such, it wouldn’t be a simple repetition of what I did.

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Sajjan said the issue of sexual misconduct in the military is urgent and that Arbor will be tasked with providing an interim report on his findings in order to expedite the results.

The final report will be made public, he said, but the timeline is not yet clear.

“Over the next few months, Ms. Arbor will provide concrete recommendations on how the DND / CAF can put in place an independent external reporting system for Defense Team members that meets the needs of those who have been affected by misconduct, shielded from any influence of the Chain of Command, ”said a press release announcing the measures.

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The review will also examine “policies, procedures, programs, practices and culture” within the military, and recommend how best to create “lasting culture change”.

The review will also focus on the military justice system, which has often been criticized by victims and survivors who say it does not treat sexual misconduct seriously and too often allows accused persons to plead for less serious offenses. .

“What we hope to be able to develop with Madame Arbor is to understand why this culture persists, how it is allowed to persist,” said Jody Thomas, deputy minister of the Department of National Defense.

Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, acting chief of staff, added that the military “will have to welcome scrutiny with humility.”
“There is no silver bullet for culture change,” he said. “It’s about the policies we create, the standards we apply and how we treat those who have suffered harm. “

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Sajjan, however, was faced with repeated questions about why he is launching another review given that the Deschamps report made a clear recommendation for the creation of an independent reporting system.

The government did not implement this recommendation for the next six years.

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“We thought we were on a path that created better change,” Sajjan said, noting that this does not appear to have been the case.

“It clearly didn’t work,” Sajjan added.

“As she feels she has provisional recommendations, whether in a month, in two months, in three months, she can present those recommendations and they will be implemented immediately,” he said of the Arbor’s work.

“We need to be able to measure our results. This is what it is about today.

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Two parliamentary committees studying the issue of military sexual misconduct have heard damning testimony about the government’s handling of a 2018 allegation against Vance that the then military ombudsman says he shared with Sajjan.

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Throughout, committees also heard repeated testimony raising questions as to whether the military police can be trusted to investigate allegations against individuals at the top of the military chain of command.

Global News reported on Wednesday that members of a private Facebook group for the military police were making fun of Major Kellie Brennan, one of the women at the heart of the allegations against Vance.

Military police say they are examining the posts.

Global News also reported on Wednesday that documents obtained through freedom of information laws and verified with the Department of National Defense show the recommendation to conclude a military police investigation into Vance was made on the day that he was sworn in as Chief of the Defense Staff.

The investigation was not officially concluded until four days after Vance took command.

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Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole was Minister of Veterans Affairs in the former Conservative government that appointed Vance while this military police investigation was still technically open.

He has repeatedly said that the Liberals let down women in the military by not fully investigating the 2018 allegations against Vance, but was faced with questions at a press conference Thursday morning as to whether the Conservatives shared responsibility for letting women down in light of the timing of the end of the inquiry.

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“No,” O’Toole said.

“When I heard a rumor, I made sure it was investigated immediately. When the minister and Mr. Trudeau’s chief of staff learned of a victim’s direct allegations, they covered it up.

O’Toole did not address the fact that records show the investigation was not officially closed until after Vance was sworn in on July 17, 2015.

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Comments online mock Major Kellie Brennan’s testimony on military misconduct

Online comments mock Major Kellie Brennan’s testimony on military misconduct – April 28, 2021

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