'A start': Canada's top soldier on progress combatting sexual misconduct

Canada's top soldier says the military is making progress in addressing sexual misconduct within its ranks.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen.

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Jonathan Vance released the first progress report Monday, on the Canadian Armed Forces’ efforts to address “inappropriate sexual behaviour” after a former Supreme Court judge concluded last year that sexual misconduct was “endemic” in the military.

Vance said the military has adopted, or is working on, a number of recommendations outlined in Marie Deschamps’ damning report.

Since Deschamps’ report was released in March, 2015, the military has opened a sexual misconduct response centre, where members and others can file complaints. The centre operates “outside of the military chain of command,” but provides the armed forces with the information needed to implement new policies, according to the progress report.

The military is also planning to survey its personnel to better understand the scope of the problem, Vance said.

“This will take time, but we are determined,” he said. “The consequences of not succeeding are simply too dire.”

When Vance took command last summer, he vowed to change the military culture and end “harmful behaviour.”

“Last July, I lamented the fact that there were, within our ranks, members who bullied, degraded and even assaulted fellow brothers and sisters in arms, preying on those perceived as different or vulnerable,” he said Monday.

He said that type of behaviour cannot persist and called the first progress report “a start.”

“We have begun to alter some of the behaviours contributing to the problem through increased awareness, stronger understanding and enhanced diligence,” Vance said.

The progress report released Monday shows that 204 individuals, including 156 members of the Canadian Armed Forces, contacted the sexual misconduct response centre between Sept. 15, 2015 and the end of December. Of those, 53 reported an alleged sexual offence and 32 contacted the centre about sexual harassment.

The report says that 23 calls to the response centre were referred to a military police liaison officer, and six investigations have been opened as a result.

NDP defence critic Randall Garrison said Monday that the progress report is encouraging, but the military needs to focus on hiring more women.

Only about 15 per cent of military members are women, Garrison said. He blamed the previous Conservative government for reducing recruiting efforts across the country.

“We’re looking for a commitment from this new government.” Garrison told reporters.



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