April 17th, 2021

Advocates demand sweeping changes to military complaints process for sexual violence

By The Canadian Press on April 8, 2021.

Members of the Royal Canadian Air Force attend a flag ceremony in Toronto on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017. Advocates are calling for fundamental reforms to the complaints process for survivors of sexual violence in Canada's military. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

OTTAWA – Advocates are calling for fundamental reforms to the process for complaining about sexual violence in Canada’s military.

Christine Wood, co-chair of the military sexual-trauma survivors group It’s Just 700, told a parliamentary committee today that reporting and investigating an incident must happen outside the chain of command, and that a greater focus on recovery is needed.

Wood, a former air force reservist, wants an independent body for complaints and a national platform for therapy and online peer support.

Julie Lalonde, an anti-harassment educator, says the Canadian Armed Forces needs a clearer definition of military sexual trauma to properly respond to a sexualized culture hostile to women.

Acting defence chief Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre said last month the military is developing a suite of new programs aimed at tackling inappropriate behaviour in the ranks, including a “playbook” for handling misconduct allegations against senior officers and an updated code of conduct with more concrete definitions of unacceptable actions.

The House of Commons committee on the status of women is the second panel of MPs to probe the Liberal government’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against senior military officers, including former defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance and his successor Admiral Art McDonald.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 8, 2021.

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