Retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor casts doubt on federal plan to crack down on military sexual misconduct

Defense Minister Anita Anand and Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre are preparing to appear before the Standing Committee on Defense in Ottawa on Dec. 13 to discuss an independent review of sexual misconduct by the military.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor says she’s right Ottawa plans to implement her recommendations on tackling sexual misconduct in the military — and she says the findings warrant decisive action, not further research.

Ms Arbor detailed her 48 recommendations in a high-profile report released in May. These included calls for the removal of sex offenses from the Penal Code from the jurisdiction of the military justice system.

On Tuesday, Defense Minister Anita Anand told reporters she had directed the Department of Defense (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to move forward with all of Ms Arbour’s recommendations.she report to congress Outline how the government will pursue each.

But Ms Arbor, speaking to the House defense committee later that morning, said Ms Anand’s report called for “substantial internal review and further working groups”.

Ms Arbor said while promising to implement all of her recommendations, the government’s method of doing so would involve a “business as usual” approach from the military.

She added that although CAF and Do Not Disturb Instead of flatly rejecting the many proposals that have been made to them over the years, they let them “linger forever.”

“I fear my proposals will find their place in the grave of proposals,” Ms Arbor told MPs.

Ms. Arbor’s 420-page report Find CAF fails to stamp out sexual misconduct, and that the handling of these cases by the military justice system “undermines trust and morale within the organization.” She calls it a “systemic failure.”

She recommends that Penal Code sex offenses committed by military personnel be dealt with exclusively by the civil justice system, which already has the jurisdiction to do so.

Her report is the third in seven years to make similar recommendations to the federal government to address widespread sexual misconduct and other issues of military culture.

Ms Anand said she had directed officials to present the option of transferring the prosecution of sex offenses from the CAF to the civil courts. She said she knew civilian authorities had refused to pursue nearly half of the military sex crimes handed over to them in recent years.

Her report said the process of making the transition would include a federal-provincial-territorial “committee of deputy ministers” convened “in the near future” to “inform implementation programmes”.

Ms Anand did not provide a timetable for implementing the changes. Amendments to the Defense Act “will take some time, possibly years,” she said.

But Ms Arbor told MPs the move would not require the broad consultations set out in the minister’s report.

“I’m concerned that this issue is now the subject of further discussion and consideration. It makes it look very complicated. It’s not complicated,” Ms Arbor said. “You want to abolish that jurisdiction, pass an act of Parliament. It’s not hard. It’s a matter of decision, not further scrutiny.”

While Ms. Arbor acknowledged that civilian authorities have been reluctant to take up the cases, she said the military side “is very clear to me that people involved in the process are dragging their feet.”

Ms Arbor also referred to another of her proposals: calling for the removal of the “reporting duty” on sexual misconduct issues, which forces service members to report violations to authorities and has been criticized for placing an unfair burden on victims .

She said the idea had already been researched. She added that the policy simply needed to be repealed, rather than sent back to the task force as the minister’s report suggested. (Ms. Anand’s report said CAF and DND “will task the Reporting Responsibility Working Group to develop a draft policy framework” to develop the exemption.)

Ms. Anand also announced the government’s intention to conduct a review of the Canadian Military Academy, another of Ms. Arbor’s recommendations.

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

Ms Arbor told MPs the proposed review was based on the assumption that military academies “are high-ranking institutions”.

“That doesn’t mean I think this practice should be done with an open mind,” she says.

While Ms Arbor praised the Minister for appointing an external monitor to oversee the implementation of her recommendation – a recommendation in itself – she said the monitor would deal with a “lengthy process” because all the studies and committees now Both must take place.

Ms Arbor also said the review detailed in the minister’s report was mostly internal and therefore missed the central point of her suggestion, “CAF needs to be open to more external, not just review, but input.”

After Ms Arbor appeared at the Defense Council, Ms Anand pushed back against suggestions that the government and military would repeat the same mistakes, pretending to agree with Ms Arbor’s advice only to leave them at a loss.

“The way we ensure culture change in the military is by trying to get it right every day,” Ms. Anand said. “My tenure as secretary of defense has been about making sure that happens.”

In a statement on Tuesday, NDP defense critic Lindsay Mathyssen said that for years, women and men at CAF have faced a toxic culture where sexual misconduct is widespread. She said the response from Conservative and Liberal governments was the same: “more research, more reporting, and more empty promises to CAF members.”

“The ministerial report delivered today is much the same as this government’s report – new scrutiny, new research and many commitments that will take years to implement,” Ms Mathieson said.

Ms Arbour’s report addressed the military’s reluctance to implement many of the recommendations it had previously received.

The military, she wrote, has been “emphasizing the letter over the spirit, and often the appearance rather than the substance.” “I think this is a result of the narrowness in which CAF has traditionally operated and its determination to continue its old ways of doing business.”

The Canadian Press reported

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