Earlier this week the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) released a second progress report on the work that has been done to address inappropriate sexual behaviour.
The report, which was released online, examines the first six months of 2016 and the progress made on four major pillars of Operation HONOUR: understanding the issue of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour, responding more decisively to incidents, supporting victims more effectively, and preventing the occurrence of such behaviours in the first place.
The report also updated achievements on the 10 recommendations made by External Review Authority, former Supreme Court Justice Mme. Marie Deschamps.
“I am encouraged by the early indications of progress we have made toward eliminating inappropriate sexual behaviour from the Canadian Armed Forces. On the critical area of victim support, there has been much improvement, and I applaud those who have had the courage to come forward and report their experiences. But incidents are still occurring, and this remains unacceptable. We remain committed to resolving this critical aspect of military service. I will not be satisfied until harmful behaviour is eliminated and victims are completely supported,” stated General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff.
According to the report, from April to July 2016, a total of 148 incidents of harmful sexual behaviour were reported to the chain of command. Of these, 97 remain ongoing, 51 investigations have been completed, and a total of 30 individuals received career-impacting disciplinary or administrative action. Disciplinary action included fines and a reduction of charge while administrative actions ranged from warnings and probation to removal from command positions and dismissal from the CAF.
Over the course of 2016, one of the major concerns outlined in the report is the enhanced support for victims. Victim support has increased through several key measures including the expansion of Sexual Misconduct Response Centres; increased training for military health care professionals, military police, and prosecutors; concrete steps to ensure victims are kept better informed throughout the investigative and judicial process; and improved victims support services from military police.
In addition, over the past few months, Statistics Canada has been recruited by the CAF to collect information regarding the prevalence of sexual misconduct in the military, the reporting of harmful, inappropriate sexual behaviour and awareness of Op. HONOUR and its mechanisms. More than 40,000 CAF members have taken part in the survey, and the results are expected to be published in late fall. The results will be used to serve as a baseline for future policies and training to create a cultural shift within the CAF.
“The Canadian Armed Forces is only beginning to implement the change identified in Operation HONOUR, which though now well underway, will take years to instill and consolidate. Most of the initiatives generating this change are in their early stages. So too is the organization’s ability to measure the outcomes that are beginning to emerge. There are initial indications, however, that change is occurring across the organization, and individual members are being influenced,” stated a Department of National Defence/CAF press release.
Additionally, the report also indicates that measures have been taken in the judicial process of addressing sexual misconduct. The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service has established dedicated teams of sexual offence investigators within each regional office to investigate all such complaints. These Sexual Offence Response Teams have been established with the addition of 18 new investigator positions distributed nationally.
The Director of Military Prosecutions has directed offences of a sexual nature be given priority, and efforts should be made that the same prosecutor handles the case from beginning to end; that these cases move through the judicial system as quickly as possibly; and to avoid the victim having to recant their version of events on multiple occasions in front of different individuals.
The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal recently directed that all criminal offences of sexual nature be investigated by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service and policy changes are underway to ensure that victims are provided immediate support by frontline military police.
In cases of allegations of sexual assault where an investigator is considering not laying a charge, National Investigation Service investigators must consult a military prosecutor in order to ensure concurrence with the assessment of the investigator not to lay charges.
“While the first progress report mapped out the Canadian Armed Forces’ headway in implementing both Operation HONOUR objectives and the External Review Authority’s recommendations, this second progress reflects Operation HONOUR’s requirement to get all subordinate commanders at their levels fully engaged across the organization. It is through them that we can hope to achieve mission success,” said Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Commander Military Personnel Command.