Sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces remains as “rampant” and “destructive” in 2021 as it was back in 2015 when a landmark federal report first documented the extent of the problem — and pressing reforms are needed now, according to a new report released Tuesday.
Former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish’s independent review of the military justice system was tabled in the House of Commons on Tuesday morning. In it, Fish said his work had heard extensive evidence that “confirmed the factual findings” of the 2015 report by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps.
“The nature, extent and human cost of sexual misconduct in the CAF remain as debilitating, as rampant and as destructive in 2021 as they were in 2015,” Fish wrote in his report.
He said he hopes to see “rapid implementation of the pressing reforms” he recommended in the report, including removing the current requirement for military members who experience sexual misconduct to report that through their chain of command — a key barrier flagged by Deschamps in 2015.
“I see no reason, for example, to delay removal of the present duty of victims to report their victimization to the chain of command, which impacts on their autonomy and, I have been told, risks their exposure to reprisals, ostracization and pressures to withdraw their complaint.”
The report makes a total of 107 recommendations to change the system.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Department of National Defence said officials accepted in principle all of those recommendations and will start work to implement 36 of them in the short-term.
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Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan appointed Fish in November 2020 to lead a review into the military justice system and how it can be made better. The system has long been criticized for failing to take sexual misconduct allegations seriously enough but reporting by Global News earlier this year into allegations of high-level sexual misconduct has sparked an institutional crisis for the Canadian Forces.
Multiple military police probes into senior leaders have been launched, as well as two parliamentary committee studies that have heard repeated testimony from witnesses who say the military justice system failed them when they tried to report sexual misconduct and sexual violence.
A Global News investigation revealed less than one-quarter of military police investigators on sexual misconduct cases are female — far less than the number in three major Canadian civilian police forces.
READ MORE: Less than one quarter of military police investigators on sexual misconduct are female
The data mirrors larger trends in the makeup of both military police writ large as well as the broader membership of the Canadian Forces as a whole — despite efforts to increase the number of women in the military over recent years, the figures remain low.
One in seven members of the Canadian military as a whole identified as women in 2019.
In 2020, women made up just 15.8 per cent of regular force members and 16.6 per cent of reservists, for a total representation of just 16 per cent.
Similar numbers appear in the military police overall as well. In 2015-2016 female members made up 14 per cent of total military police, a number that has risen in the years since to 16.9 per cent in 2016-2017, 24 per cent in 2017-2018, 24 per cent in 2018-2019, and 25 per cent in 2019-2020.
Victims and survivors of sexual misconduct in the military have testified repeatedly over the last three months about how they say they were left shaken by recent experiences of trying to report allegations of sexual misconduct to male military police investigators.
More to come
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