Military misconduct: Louise Arbor accuses military of delays

Ottawa –

On Tuesday, retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor accused military leaders of delays in cracking down on sexual misconduct in the military, even as Defense Minister Anita Anand staked her reputation on their success.

Six months after publishing dozens of proposals to improve the military’s handling of misconduct and criminal sexual conduct, Abor handed the scathing indictment to the House of Commons defense committee.

Her testimony coincided with Defense Minister Anita Anand’s progress on these recommendationsAll of these are now accepted.

While Aber acknowledged some positive steps, such as the appointment of an outside monitor to keep tabs on the military’s progress, she was very critical in many other ways.

Chief among them is what she sees as resistance to one of her major proposals: permanently stripping the Canadian Armed Forces of its jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute sexual assault and other related crimes.

“It’s clear to me that those involved in this process are dragging their feet on the military side,” said Arbor, who has served as the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

In an update submitted ahead of Arpur’s appearance at the committee meeting, Anand said the government was in consultation with the provinces and territories to transfer responsibility for sex crimes from the military police and prosecutors to the civilian sector.

Military officials also revealed difficulties in transferring the cases. Anand issued an interim order in November 2021, but the civilian police have refused to accept 40 of the 97 cases referred by the gendarmerie over the past year.

It comes after police forces in some provinces and cities have complained about the need for more money and other resources to integrate the military’s cases into their own systems.

However, Arbor said such demands for money amounted to “postury” given that the number of sexual crime allegations involving military personnel each year is a fraction of the total in the civilian system.

During his appearance at the defense council meeting, Anand stressed the importance of acting on recommendations but rejected calls for immediate change, saying several challenges needed to be addressed.

These include how cases outside Canada are handled, and the capacity of civilian police and courts to handle more files.

Anand also repeatedly mentioned the time it would take to amend the law to formally remove the military’s jurisdiction over sex crimes, but declined to say when the legislation would be brought to parliament for approval.

“My officers will come and present options,” she told the committee. “It would be unwise for me to simply give this committee and Canadians a date.”

While acknowledging that changing the legislation will take time, Alber noted that civilian police already have jurisdiction if the military decides not to take such cases.

“So what needs to be done today is for the military system to stop and the civilian side to start investigating sexual assaults and other forms of sexual crimes committed by CAF members on CAF bases or wherever,” she said.

“So that doesn’t require any changes. That’s it: the military side stops, the civilian side takes over.”

Anand later pushed back against suggestions that the government and military would repeat the same mistakes, pretending to agree with Alber’s advice, only to leave them helpless.

“The way we make sure that culture change happens in the military is by trying to get it right every day,” she said. “And the whole point of my tenure as secretary of defense is to make sure that happens.”

Arbor also took issue with the military’s failure to eliminate the “reporting obligation,” which requires troops to report inappropriate or criminal behavior even if the victim disagrees. This has been flagged by victim groups as a major problem.

The former judge also blasted the Armed Forces for not conducting a promised review of the costs and benefits of Canada’s two military academies — and accused them of already deciding that closing the institutions was not on the table.

“It’s been seven months since my report was done and we’re still at the stage of examining the parameters and the terms of reference,” she said.

“All of this is happening in the context of someone thinking that military academies are ‘high institutions.’ That doesn’t mean I think this exercise should be done with that open mind. “

In her own testimony, Anand said the review would focus on the quality of education, socialization and military training at the Royal Military Academy in Kingston, Ontario, and its Royal Military Academy in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, France. – not whether they need to.

“These universities attract some of the best talent that Canadian society has to offer,” she said. “But let’s be clear: There has to be a major change in the culture of our military academies, and we’re going to make sure that happens.”

The Canadian Press report was first published on December 13, 2022.

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