I want to remind everyone that with the sensitive nature of what we're talking about, and the fact that some of these situations are still under investigation by military police, we want to be very sensitive and respectful in all of our questions, and I know we will be.
I want to take this opportunity to welcome our witnesses today.
From the naval combat systems engineering, we have Lieutenant Heather Macdonald. We have Dawn McIlmoyle, registered nurse; Emily Tulloch, aviation technician; and MJ Batek from the Survivor Perspectives Consulting Group.
Each of you will have five minutes to make your comments. I will hold up my little card when you get close to the end of your time.
We'll begin with Lieutenant Macdonald, for five minutes.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First, I want to say that this issue is too important to get wrong.
For many years, we have been embracing doing more with less, trying to find efficiencies where we could. I feel we've pretty much reached the point where we can’t really do much more with much less.
We're starting to burn out our people. People in the military were already stressed, and then we had a pandemic. The pandemic has not helped. I worry that if nothing comes from this issue, which has so much heat and light, people in uniform will lose hope that any other issue can be fixed, and that could trigger more people leaving uniform than our organization can handle.
My second point is that the navy is unique. From the environment we operate in, the way we operate and the training it takes to make it through our junior ranks, we are unique. That means that any solution that is found to help us cement change for the better will need to be capable of customization for the navy or it will not work for the navy.
Getting justice for incidents of sexual assault is generally very difficult for the average female in our Canadian society. It becomes more difficult when you are trying to get justice through the military under the National Defence Act, where there are more options to plead down to an NDA offence that carries little consequences for the perpetrator.
It becomes even more difficult if you are in the navy and the incident happens on a navy ship at sea or in a foreign port. We do not have police officers with us on ship, so if there is a need for an investigation we rely on our coxswains and chiefs to do unit disciplinary investigations. This greatly reduces the chance that there will be admissible evidence gathered and preserved to help the victim find justice in a court of law. Most times, the victims pay a greater price than the perpetrators when they come forward, and that is why most victims are reluctant to come forward.
We need to fix this. We need to make this a better and safer place for females to work. The #MeToo movement very much exposed our societal gender problems. The military somewhat amplifies those issues, because of the fact that females are also a minority. As a minority we stand out, and we end up being more under a constant microscope than the average male sailor or soldier.
Added to that, females of all rank levels have a very fine line that they have to walk. Act with too much empathy or concern and you are labelled as “mothering”, which is not perceived as a positive or sought-after trait. On the other end, be too firm or decisive and you are labelled a different derogatory term.
One area that I also think we need to understand is what I have heard called the old boys' club. For the most part, what I hear is a denial that it even exists. We are in an organization that relies on the most basic trust of your fellow soldier or sailor. When we find ourselves in hazardous conditions, we rely on the people we are working with to have our backs, to keep us alive. This creates relationships that are strong and cohesive. This is what we want for our organization.
The problem happens when those relationships are taken off the battlefield and applied unchecked. They can further pervert the balance of power and make it even less likely for victims to get justice. We want these relationships to happen. We want to encourage that, but we also need to recognize when those relationships need to be checked. We need to put balances in place to make sure they don't end up poisoning our organization. We can’t get to that if we don't even acknowledge that they exist.
As well, any reporting system we come up with needs to make the victims feel empowered and engender trust in the system and processes. There needs to be independence from the normal chain of command for that to happen.
We really need to acknowledge this is not a black and white issue. There are many shades of grey here. I have worked with many outstanding individuals over the course of my career, and I think it's very important to understand that generally good people may not see the areas where they are doing or allowing harm to be done to others. We need to accept that good people can and should receive appropriate consequences for their actions, and in some cases, it shouldn't always be career ending.
I'm not sure where we go from here. I don't have the answers, but if I were to fall back on my project management skills, which I learned over the course of my career as an engineer, I would say we need to do some thorough options analysis and present some concrete options with the pros and cons, so that we can choose the option that will best achieve the goals of our organization and best serve the members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
When I left the military I felt betrayed, abandoned, broken and like I was still at fault. I could not comprehend how I got charged for being raped. They used my statements against me and forced me to stand beside my attacker.
I couldn't understand why I was harassed on ship and then got released straight out of the psych ward, so I kept asking questions.
I got my release changed, and then I kept thinking, “I'm not the only one”. When I found someone else who was like me, we finally went forward. We went public in Maclean's, and we heard other people come forward. We thought that maybe change would happen.
I was optimistic. They started the ombudsman and they talked about it. Then it all got swept under the rug.
I started a 1-800 number and had people call me because I just wanted people to know they weren't alone. Then I nearly went insane because I had two small children at home and a non-supportive husband. When I left him, I went to nursing school to learn how to actually help people, but I wouldn't even tell people who I was because I was embarrassed for having gone public. I was embarrassed for putting my face on that article and for having been raped in the military.
I had people put me down for it, degrade me for it and tell me that it didn't even happen. In every instance, I've been told that it didn't happen, but because I know myself, I've concentrated on my healing journey. I've put myself through nursing school, working full time with two little boys. I thought I was a failure because I only got 65%. No, that's an accomplishment because I did it while working full time with two little boys. I rarely ever slept.
I went into a field that.... I cared way too much. I wanted to help people, but I burnt myself out constantly because I didn't know that I was supposed to look after me. I was totally about service. I always wanted to help people. That's why I joined the military.
I had to take a cold, hard look at myself because when I left the military I had no self-respect, no self-worth and no self-value. I instilled those into my boys. Then I had a granddaughter and I had to look and see that I needed to change so that I could make a difference for her and for my boys. The only thing I was going to make a difference with was me.
I have spent the last little while.... I have found like-minded people. I started to heal and then I started to see that not everything was a failure. I changed my mindset.
I was also over-therapized because they all knew I had PTSD, so they kept sending me to therapy. It wasn't helping me because I wasn't in a state to hear what they had to say. Plus, they sent me to a child psychologist. They didn't know what to do with me.
I went to in 2016, when she was promoted to the minister of the status of women. I laid all of the Maclean's articles out for her and told her that we needed to do something and make a difference. She just said to make another appointment. One of her assistants said to join an organization and write a proposal. I was like...oh, my goodness.
I went back to school and I took indigenous studies because I'm constantly educating myself so that I can see different perspectives. Now I can look back at all of it and I can see the change that has happened. I get people telling me, “Thank you for what you did.” It's completely blowing my mind because for 20 years I thought that I was hated and that I did a horrible thing by going public. Now I am starting to see that I am the time-stamp that they can't deny. They can't say that they didn't know it was going on, no matter what.
I have accepted the fact...and I have also seen change happen. I've reached out in very angry ways to high-ranking officials. Instead of being angry with me, they've seen my frustration. They have acknowledged my hurt and my trauma and they've come back with “Thank you for everything you've done and your concern for the military” and “Hold your head high” and stuff like that. It's kept me going.
As bad as a lot of the things were, I hold on to the good of the people I've met along the way. I am still that optimistic person who thinks that change will happen—even though I see it get put down, see it get politicized and see these issues get totally put into an arena that they shouldn't be in.
Now the left takes it too far to the left. The right takes it too far to the right. The actual issue has been forgotten. Every time I see this on the news, I have to remember that I came forward in 1998 and didn't get heard. Many others did too.
There are a lot of people out there who are wanting change. They are wanting to see it happen so badly. They're seeing just little tiny pieces of it, and then they're being disappointed and broken-hearted and devalued because nothing happens. It's empty words. It's broken promises. It's copy-and-paste letters that are all the same to other people. They're just paying lip service.
Hi and thank you, Madam Chair, for the opportunity to speak to you today about my own personal experiences with sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.
I joined the Canadian Armed Forces in July of 2018. Since then, I feel like I've experienced a lifetime's worth of sexual assault and misconduct. I'm here today to tell you that I was raped only one month—one month—into my basic training in Saint-Jean. I was also sexually assaulted during my training in Borden. I have been groped and kissed unwillingly at crew parties and mess events. These degrading behaviours are more common than you think.
On top of all that, I have put up with misogynistic and sexist comments all throughout my career. They range from being told that I only got in because I'm a girl to what an instructor in Borden said to me while looking me dead in the eye: If you've had daddy fix everything for you in your cozy little life, let us know so we can give you a hand.
I believe in the importance of the military. I hope to continue my career and to serve my country to the best of my abilities. My experience with our military justice system, however, has been quite negative. It has left me with a lot of questions about how military police should conduct their investigations. I had three interviews with the military police since I first reported misconduct. Two of those interviews were honestly dreadful. These so-called interviews felt more like interrogation. During these interviews, I felt that investigators were not treating me like a human being. I was just another case file to them. There was no empathy or humanity. It was so frustrating that I left early during the second interview. I felt like I wasn't being heard and was being treated like a criminal. No one should be treated like a criminal when they are that vulnerable and in need of help.
The military police need to improve their training for how to conduct interviews of sexual assault victims. There needs to be a specific course made to teach them that victims need understanding and empathy. If there already is a course, then they need to tear it apart and rebuild it from the ground up.
I also believe that an officer of the same sex of the victim should conduct the interview. In my situation, it wasn't offered that I could speak to a female officer until halfway through my interview, when I started crying. Even then the military police said they would have to reschedule for the next week, because there was no female officer available.
In basic training the leadership tries to ingrain the core values of the military in recruits. These values are duty, loyalty, integrity and courage. These values are taught through PowerPoint and workbooks. However, these values are falling through the cracks. That is how we get this toxic culture that we have been dealing with for so long. It has been abundantly clear that military leadership has not been able to uphold the high ethical standards of integrity. If the leadership can't follow basic core values and set a good example, how are the majority of troops supposed to?
In basic training we are shown this cartoon video that oversimplifies the concept of consent. In my view, the video is little more than a joke. It's all fun to watch, but the topic of sexual misconduct isn't fun. It should be uncomfortable enough to realize that this is a real issue that needs to be dealt with.
In regard to Op Honour, I believe it has served its purpose. It is time to end that course of action and start something else. Op Honour certainly got the conversation going and improved resources and education available to CAF members, but the leadership has been wilfully ignorant of the fact that it has been seen as a joke for years. For many of us, Op Honour has aged like rotten milk. It just leaves a sour taste in your mouth. Serving members at the rank-and-file level constantly make fun of it and degrade its message. To make matters worse, in a cruel irony, it's apparent that the man who created the whole operation is now being investigated under the same pretenses that he swore to fix.
I know that the organization has the potential to evolve and that we can end the toxicity surrounding the military, but that starts with changing the way people think. The only way to do that is by having these discussions, by hearing the stories of victims and by ending the stigma of coming forward to try to right this wrong that has been going on for far too long.
I want to say thank you for giving me this opportunity to tell my truth. As anybody knows, this has not been an easy process for me. Thank you for this opportunity and the chance to speak to you today.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'm here as a veteran military sexual trauma survivor, a military domestic violence survivor and as a representative of the Survivor Perspectives Consulting Group, also referred to as SPCG.
SPCG was recently created by a small group of military sexual trauma survivors. For decades, we have watched in silence and have now come together to take action, to ensure survivor voices are heard and to create solutions to help combat this crisis.
Just as the Government of Canada uses gender-based analysis plus, which goes beyond sex and gender to other intersecting identity factors, such as race, ethnicity or age, the Canadian Armed Forces should consider the perspective of military sexual trauma survivors at every stage of strategy and policy development.
We at SPCG are willing to work towards the provision of that perspective in a professionally coordinated format. We do not propose to have all of the answers as we are not organizational culture or military justice experts, but we are the unfortunate experts by experience of military sexual trauma.
We can help define this problem, the full extent of which is still unknown. We can point to specific gaps, deficiencies and issues. We know, for example, that the internal reporting mechanism is flawed and that independent oversight is badly needed.
We can help find and develop solutions—immediate, medium and long-term solutions—because we have ideas. We have ideas that can be developed into plans, policies and programs.
For example, we have developed a one-day workshop that can be used in the immediate term to help kick-start the culture shift that is desperately needed throughout the organization. This training package, called the frontline workshop, is survivor born and is based on civilian best practices curated specifically for the Canadian Armed Forces.
The frontline workshop will challenge and confront the social norms and unconscious biases of the attendees. It will shake their foundation and open their minds unlike anything the military has done before. We can provide feedback on and input into strategies, plans and policies every step of the way, during development, implementation and monitoring stages.
Just like any GBA+ analysis of various identity factors, we want to provide the military sexual trauma survivor perspective with potential solutions to the Canadian Armed Forces as a professional voice, as well as to other stakeholders such as Veterans Affairs Canada.
We are currently in the building phase of our organization, but we are aiming to represent multiple identity factors, including men, indigenous, veteran, LGBTQ+ and civilian survivors, among others, as this is not specifically a women's issue. Yes, I did say civilian survivors, because it is important to note that the impact of a sexualized military culture is not limited to members of the military. The impact reaches beyond the perimeter of the workplace and negatively affects the lives of military families, spouses and children as well as the community at large.
A sexualized military culture, in many cases, may lead to military domestic violence, child abuse and civilian sexual assault. Not only does this culture provide a safe place for perpetrators to hide and exist under the protection of a uniform, but it also inadvertently teaches the victims to tolerate the intolerable, which leads to lives plagued with mental health challenges, potential homelessness and future abusive relationships.
The social cost of allowing this toxic culture to survive extends to the Canadian public, and that makes this is a Canadian problem, with real financial and social costs affecting all taxpayers.
In closing, when Lieutenant-General Eyre testified before this committee on March 23, he explained that his approach to changing the sexualized military culture was based on two streams, the second of which included listening and learning. This is exactly where SPCG fits in.
Our team can provide the perspectives needed to ensure that every strategy, every plan, every policy and every program aimed at tackling this crisis is viewed through a survivor-informed lens.
We want to be part of those meaningful consultations as a way to help make the Canadian Armed Forces a better, safer place for those who come behind us.
Thank you, Madam Chair, for this opportunity. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses.
I would like to take a moment to assure you that many of us on this committee and the defence committee recognize that we are the last line of defence. We are the elected officials, and in a democracy it is our responsibility to ensure that our institutions and those who honourably serve in them are protected and are a reflection of our values. We will do our very best [Technical difficulty—Editor] and we have failed. We have known about this, as you so aptly pointed out, for 25 years. When I was a recruit, when I was at military college, we knew. The fact that we haven't done what it takes to fix it is unconscionable.
I thank you nonetheless for still pursuing, coming forward and making sure that we know what we need to know. As you put it, Lieutenant Macdonald, this is far too important to get wrong, and if we don't get it right this time, it will affect everything, our Canadian Forces and our ability to protect the values of our nation and embody them ourselves. It took great courage, and I sincerely thank you.
First, Ms. Tulloch, what bravery, what courage and what an attitude you have to come forward, so right on ya, girl! Don't back down. You deserve this career. Stay with it.
Can you give me some understanding of why it's a joke? Why is sexual harassment not taken seriously? Why do you believe they think it's okay to do what they do?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Yesterday, in the federal budget, we saw an investment of over $236 million with the goals of eliminating misconduct and gender-based violence in the military and supporting survivors. This includes peer-to-peer support, independent legal advice, support for community-based organizations, support for military justice systems and oversight. This will go a long way, Madam Chair.
I want to begin by thanking all of our witnesses today for coming forward and sharing their stories with this committee as we work to end sexual violence in our armed forces.
Ms. Batek, my questions are for you. Within your line of work with the Survivor Perspectives Consulting Group, what have you recognized as a recurring support need for survivors?
We are a group of, actually, five co-founders. Some are retired veterans like me, and we also have serving members. It just came together as a thing that we needed to do as survivors. We are all injured. We all have PTSD diagnoses, so day-to-day volunteering is challenging, but we found that this is a way that we can give back and formally coordinate the perspective of survivors.
There are many peer support groups out there, and we are not a peer support group. That is not our intention. However, obviously, we want to coordinate with as many voices as we can so that, if there's a need for a focus group down the road with a specific identity factor, we can provide that. We can find those people, and we can have those conversations. The people who have come forward to us to talk to us....
Frankly, it's unbelievable. I've connected with classmates from the Royal Military College who I haven't spoken to in 20 years and who are coming to the realization that what we went through was not okay. We weren't allowed to speak at that time or our careers would have been over, and we were pitted against one another. It's incredible that we are now in this situation where we can talk about it and where we can make a change, and that is all we want to do.
Again, we're putting it on survivors who are volunteers at the moment, but we want to do this in a professionally coordinated format. It helps take all of those voices that are angry, that are yelling, that are shouting out there and then strip that down to the bare basics of what the problem is, what the connectors are and where the data is. We don't have that data. We don't know the full extent of this problem. I think that those are things that are very important if we are going to be able to combat this. We need to know how far it goes.
We are hoping that the training program we developed, which is based on, as I said, civilian best practices, is completely different from Operation Honour. It had its successes, but it has had, unfortunately, as discussed, so many issues that it's become a joke.
This course is different in that it takes what has already been discovered as best practices within the civilian world and applies them to the military. For example, we talk about real world situations in the workshop. We're not talking about having it led by somebody who has been handed the pamphlet in the morning and starts out by saying, “Let's get this bleep, bleep, bleep over with,” which immediately makes everybody in the course think it's just a joke and that they just have to pay lip service to it and get it done.
No, we need to have professionally trained leaders for these courses, and we want to have survivors accompany those people in the courses so that they can provide that perspective. If you have somebody whom you know has been raped standing in front of you, you are less likely to make a joke and belittle that person, because they're standing in front of you.
We have heard from people who were sitting in these Operation Honour classes, and they said the entire culture was being made fun of. They are sitting there suffering because they are survivors and cannot speak up. They're alienated by everybody around them who is joking about Op Honour and whatnot. It's excruciating for a survivor to be put in this position.
This training course is completely different in how it will work towards changing those unconscious biases and social norms, and we are working on a pilot program for that. We unfortunately can't speak more about it, but it is in the works.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Lieutenant Macdonald, Ms. McIlmoyle, Ms. Tulloch and Ms. Batek, your testimony sheds light on this sad reality that survivors are going through.
My initial questions will focus on this topic, which is important to me.
Many of you have spoken about post-traumatic stress disorder. We now know that the Canadian Armed Forces has evolved and are supporting soldiers with PTSD.
As survivors, do you feel that PTSD is treated in the same way among victims of sexual assault or misconduct?
Some of you have addressed this question. I invite those who would like to respond to me to do so.
I'll take that a little bit. I would say that it's not taken the same way, and that because you don't get that diagnosis, you don't get the same supports as someone who is diagnosed with PTSD.
As well, there's a reluctance to be diagnosed, because for all that we've made progress and it's “you can still be promoted if you have a permanent medical category,” the medical system we have was originally constructed around physical ailments. If you get a broken leg, you get a temporary medical category, and then to come off that, you have a medical doctor say that you're a 100% fine. If you have a mental health issue, it's very hard to ever come off the temporary medical category, because there is no way that a doctor can say that you're a 100% fine. It quite often will lead to a permanent medical category.
There is still a lot of reluctance, if you have a permanent medical category, especially for something like mental health, like PTSD. They don't want to put you in positions that might have a lot of stress or might.... That will cripple your career in some cases. They, first, don't treat it the same as PTSD, so you're closed to a lot of the help that you'd get for PTSD, and second, there's a lot of angst around even getting a permanent medical category with regard to mental health, because our system is set up for physical ailments much better than it is for mental health ailments.
We need to separate those systems so that mental health ailments are treated by mental health professionals and not the same as physical ailments. Sexual assault should also be given the same support systems as PTSD.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to echo how much I appreciate all the witnesses coming forward. It's certainly not easy, but I hope the findings of this study ultimately help you and other people.
One of the things we have heard repeatedly, meeting after meeting, is that there seems to be this disconnect. We're hearing from people who had served, are serving, and they have a very different take on what's actually happening on the ground versus what those in leadership positions think. There's an idea that things are changing, that there is a movement towards that change, but I wanted to ask a couple of questions specifically about the treatment of people who do come forward.
We heard from the provost marshal—and SMRC as well—that the confidentiality of people who come forward is held at the highest level.
Can you talk about, potentially, the reality of its being different? How can we change that system to ensure that confidentiality? A lot of people have talked about the independence of it, but as it exists, what would you suggest?
It was quite a bad welcome to the military.
I think the options we have to really look at are training and recruitment.
In regard to the NIS, that was one of the interviews that did not go well for me. That was a person who.... I felt I wasn't being heard. I think we really have to take a step back and retrain these people who are supposed to be taking our stories, dealing with them and investigating them.
We really need to retrain them in how to be a people person. I know they have to be non-partisan, but it gets to the point that when a victim is telling you that they were raped or sexually assaulted, as much as you want to be non-biased, you still have to treat them like a person and not a case file.
When it comes to mental health, the military has to outsource a lot of the time. For example, I'm seeing a civilian therapist. I think the military should honestly take a step back and look at recruiting officers or other people into service who are therapists and psychologists who are actually professionally trained and have a degree to handle the aspects that sexual assault and sexual misconduct envelopes.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would like to start by saying thank you so very much to our witnesses for being here today and for sharing these shocking and painful stories. It's very hurtful to hear that this can be happening in the Canadian Armed Forces. It's very true what you say, which is that it affects all of us as Canadians—every single one of us. All of us on this committee are thankful to you wholeheartedly. It takes a lot of courage and wisdom to come and share your experiences, despite being treated the way you were and shunned. Whatever you went through, you are here today. You are strong women. You are an inspiration to all of us.
I see how you went through these experiences and you continue to fight. You have undefeatable spirits. Thank you so much for your service to our country.
I'm sorry. I'm getting emotional. We all feel it. I see all my colleagues' faces on the screens. Thank you so much. Please never ever give up. We are here for you. One of my colleagues said that as politicians, but also as community we are here for you.
Ms. Tulloch, I'd like to start with you, please.
Can you please tell us a little bit about what you think is important for people to know? Especially women and those marginalized who are coming into the armed forces and who are in the armed forces, what message would you like to give them?
Madam Chair, thank you.
I'm Bernie Boland, retired lieutenant-colonel, who served honourably in the Canadian Armed Forces for over 30 years. For the past 12 years, I was an engineer in the public service. I retired in December 2020.
At the March 23, 2021, committee hearing, stated, “I take any allegation, regardless of rank or position, very seriously”, “We are committed to addressing all allegations, no matter the rank and no matter the position”, and “Sexual misconduct, harassment and inappropriate behaviour are not acceptable. We must call them out for what they are: an abuse of power.”
My testimony will present a concrete example of the difference between what DND practises and what it purports in addressing misconduct.
My case is comprehensively documented. The committee clerk has over 30 documents that chronicle the systemic and aberrant manner that senior executives who are commissioned to stamp out misconduct do not.
In the pursuit of justice, I followed the prescribed process. The defence officials assigned to assure that justice prevails robbed me of my right to advocate and denied me the opportunity to confront the offender in a balanced and equal justice for all, adversarial-based legal system.
In 2016, I reported wrongdoing and misconduct when an employee I had the privilege of supervising requested that I report the harassment and human rights violations perpetrated upon her by a senior engineering manager. I reported it. He was promoted. We faced reprisal and retaliation.
Her case is now at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal awaiting adjudication on discrimination and deferential treatment due to age, gender, ethnicity and being a Muslim.
Once I reported the misconduct, I became an organizational threat. In retaliation, and to exonerate those responsible and culpable for the misconduct and human rights violations I reported, DND, in a formal departmental submission to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, secretly made me the scapegoat for the misconduct. I was made aware of DND's surreptitious actions by the woman harassed.
DND secretly making me a scapegoat was reprehensible, and I vehemently protested. On January 13, 2021, I formally submitted a complaint to against the deputy minister, Jody Thomas, for condoning, as proper departmental conduct, DND's secret scapegoating of me.
's chief of staff acknowledged receipt of my complaint and assured me that it would be handled according to the applicable law. Jody Thomas is a Governor in Council appointee. No one from the Privy Council contacted me.
To ensure that my complaint against Jody Thomas did not drop off the radar, or more correctly wasn't institutionally ignored, I sent a February 7, 2021, registered letter containing my complaint against the deputy minister to , with info copies to Katie Telford and the Clerk of the Privy Council, Ian Shugart. The letter's subject is “Defence Leadership Corrupts the Harassment Resolution Process to Protect the Harasser”.
No one from the PMO or Privy Council contacted me. However, 's seriousness and commitment to addressing all allegations, regardless of rank or position, against the deputy minister, a Governor in Council appointee, was summarily and arbitrarily dismissed without investigation by Mr. Kin Choi, a subordinate of the deputy minister.
Though assured that the applicable law would be followed, Mr. Choi's expedient exculpation of his boss, Jody Thomas, broke the law. Specifically, Mr. Choi violated Bill 's workplace harassment and violence prevention regulations. Mr. Choi is responsible for the coordination and implementation of Bill C-65 in DND. He is also DND's functional authority for harassment prevention and resolution. Mr. Choi's conduct is rife with conflict of interest and bias.
After Mr. Troy Crosby, assistant deputy minister, materiel, deemed that DND secretly making me a scapegoat to the CHRC was proper conduct, I formally complained to , because the deputy minister did not take timely action on my complaint against her subordinate, Mr. Crosby.
Mr. Choi, a peer of Mr. Crosby's, summarily and arbitrarily dismissed, without investigating, these allegations. Mr. Choi also summarily and arbitrarily dismissed my grievance against Mr. Crosby for Mr. Crosby's failure to follow procedural fairness. The director general who made the submission to the CHRC secretly making me the scapegoat reports directly to Mr. Choi.
Notwithstanding the above, the most sinister aspect of this departmental behaviour, which must not be overlooked, is that DND overtly sanctions a covert program of secretly making scapegoats to the Canadian Human Rights Commission to exonerate those responsible and culpable for harassment and human rights violations. This is appalling. It must end immediately. The CHRC and the human rights tribunal must be made aware of it.
There is a cultural problem in the defence department, but there is institutional reluctance to distinguish between the approximate and ultimate cause of this problem. From my perspective, the ultimate cause is a breakdown and failure in leadership to act in an ethical, morally appropriate, determined and deliberate manner to arrest and eliminate misconduct. Instead, they too often conduct it and condone it.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Canadian Armed Forces is in a crisis. Disappointingly, it is a long-standing crisis that extends back more than 20 years. In four cover stories published in 1998, Maclean's magazine alerted the Canadian public of a deep-seated crisis of rampant sexual misconduct in the Canadian military. Since that time, sadly, little has changed. In response to the 1998 sexual misconduct stories, Parliament, in its wisdom, transferred the powers of investigation and prosecution of sexual assault to the military. Parliament left it to the military to solve their problem internally. This was a huge mistake.
Given the recent revelations, which include the current and former chiefs of the defence staff as well as the commander of military personnel command being investigated for sexual misconduct, it goes without saying that instead of getting better, things got worse—much worse. There have been signs of this current crisis for decades, which should not have gone unnoticed.
In 2010, Colonel Russell Williams confessed to sexual assault of at least four women, the murder of two women—one civilian and one master corporal serving under his authority—and to having illegally invaded the homes and bedrooms of over 80 of his neighbours. In 2014, Maclean's and L'actualité magazines published the results of their investigation into sexual violence within our military, with Stéphanie Raymond, the victim of sexual misconduct by one of her male superiors, on its front cover. In 2015, retired Justice Marie Deschamps published a devastating exposé concerning the sexualized culture of the military. Her report made a number of recommendations, a number of which would be ignored and remain ignored by DND.
There is more. According to a survey by Statistics Canada in 2018, approximately 900 regular forces members were victims of sexual assault the previous year. Just let that sink in.
The following year, the 2019 Statistics Canada survey showed that 68% of Royal Military College students witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in 2018. Also, it reported that more than one in seven female students experienced sexual assaults in 2018, many of which were not reported.
In response to this long-standing crisis, the current senior management team at National Defence, led by the current , the current deputy minister and the since-departed CDS General Vance, joined ranks to put into place a program under the exaggerated title of Operation Honour as a means to bring discipline and fundamental respect and safety for women in the military. Truth be told, Operation Honour has proven to be based on conjecture and to be mostly an exercise in hyperbole. It is not working. Since the announcement of Operation Honour, our military's crisis has worsened.
Given my long-standing interest in this matter, over the past decades I have often appeared before parliamentary committees. I have co-authored several legal texts, and I have provided commentary on this subject in which I have proposed reforms to the military justice system.
Following my appearance before the Standing Committee on National Defence on February 22 of this year, in answer to the comments made by the before the same committee, and in the absence of any demonstrated proactivity from any of the leaders of our five political parties to deal with this crisis, I felt compelled to co-author a book titled Canada's Military Justice System Is in a Meltdown: Will Government Act? This book proposed some specific legislative reforms to address this crisis. It is produced in bilingual format and is available for free download at www.mdlo.ca.
At its core, this book recommends two things.
First, given the clear and compelling evidence that DND is unable to effectively deal with the enduring crisis of sexual misconduct and the deepening loss of public trust in the military high command, which has been decimated by allegations of sexual misconduct, and in the absence of substantive government leadership and action, Parliament should amend the National Defence Act to return jurisdiction for sexual assaults to civilian courts. This can be done simply and most quickly by amending section 70 of the National Defence Act.
Second, Parliament should appoint a civilian personality as inspector general of the armed forces—who will report to Parliament.
Ladies, I look forward to answering any questions that you may have. Thank you.
He is the head of the institution in question and has been in office for five years. The media has been very generous in reporting cases of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. Close to him, some of his immediate subordinates are themselves the subject of allegations. I heard the minister testify that because the ombudsman did not disclose the identity of the person who made the complaint, he could do nothing in those circumstances.
What he said goes against all my knowledge and interpretation of the role of a leader, be it military, political or otherwise. Certainly, people of a certain age or profession receive complaints from time to time that are made anonymously. Police officers, courts, and lawyers receive them, as do, certainly, public servants here and there in the public service. An anonymous complaint doesn't mean that it's unfounded. It doesn't mean that we should look the other way and ignore it. There is a certain natural justice that needs to be established, because the person who is the subject of the complaint needs to know about it and perhaps even respond to it. There is something we need to do rather than sit back and do nothing.
It left me wanting more when I heard the minister say that he couldn't do anything about such a complaint. To date, I have yet to hear from the minister, despite the rosary of complaints that we've received against a number of senior members of the Canadian Armed Forces, complaints that are damaging the morale, reputation—both at home and abroad—and the effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces.
I haven't heard the minister say what he's going to do to fix the situation and put measures in place to give victims confidence. I've heard absolutely nothing so far. We're waiting to see what will happen, what will be decided, either by him or his government.
I never said I was asking for his dismissal or resignation. I asked him to take note of these complaints, because that's his primary role. By law, he is responsible for the direction and control of the Canadian Armed Forces.
In our case, it is a society within a society. We have to tell it like it is. The military organization has its own system of policing, health, justice, and so on. It's completely hidden from scrutiny and accountability. Only two small, powerless committees play a bit of a watchdog role. They are the Military Grievances External Review Committee and the Military Police Complaints Commission.
Otherwise, the Department of National Defence is basically untouchable. Ultimately, it's not accountable to anyone in Parliament. As I said before, the whole situation around sexual misconduct has been going on for 30 years. In 1998, Parliament decided to transfer jurisdiction from the civilian courts to military, and things have gone from bad to worse since then.
A number of countries, including the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and several others, have established an “inspector general” position, which is a civilian who reports to Parliament and who has investigative powers, oversight and the power to hold the military to account. This person has the necessary staff to conduct investigations, and make judgments and recommendations. The inspector general's primary role is to act as an agent of Parliament, to provide briefings, advice and accountability to parliamentarians who are on these committees.
Right now, it's another way to assure victims that their complaints will be received, investigated, and not interfered with. Retired Lieutenant-Colonel Boland gave an example. This is one way of doing things. It's about increasing accountability and responsibility and, in those circumstances, giving victims confidence. The majority of victims don't report the crime, don't trust the military justice system and fear reprisals.
That's something that we can and should do. It was recommended by Justice Létourneau in 1997, when he wrote his report as part of the Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia.
Thank you, Madam Chair and members of the committee. I apologize for the connectivity issues I've been having today.
My name is Dr. Maya Eichler. I'm an associate professor and Canada research chair at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.
For the past decade my research has focused on gender integration and sexual violence in the Canadian Armed Forces. I take this opportunity today to share with you my two main recommendations for how your committee can best help address military sexual misconduct.
The first is to focus your efforts on developing an inclusive military culture. The second is to focus your efforts on setting up an external oversight mechanism to bring about and sustain this new inclusive military culture.
I recommend a focus on military culture change because it is the only way to address the larger root causes of sexual misconduct in the military workplace. The mere fact that we are still here today talking about these same issues that have been brought before numerous parliamentary committees for many years shows us how much resistance there remains to creating a more inclusive military institution and culture. The present situation is not a new crisis, nor is it solely about sexual misconduct. This crisis is an outcome of the historical institutional design of the military as a quintessential masculinized workplace.
Until 30 years ago, all combat-related roles and positions were open only to men. The very infrastructure and policies of the military were designed for men. Bathrooms, accommodations, equipment, uniform design, vehicle size, airplane cockpits and medical care norms were based on the average male height, weight, strength, shape and physiology. The same is true for military personnel policies that were also designed to support men's lives, needs and leadership styles.
As a result, the military institution and its culture privilege male service members, specifically white, heterosexual male service members, and this has created systemic legacy barriers and inequities for women and for others who fall outside the presumed “ideal” or “norm” such as LGBTQ+ members, racialized and indigenous members, or members with a disability. It is up to them to expend the extra time and energy required to figure out how to fit into a system that was not built with them in mind.
Previous attempts to address military sexual misconduct have focused on superficial and simple solutions, such as lifting legal barriers, increasing the number of female recruits or ordering members to stop engaging in sexual misconduct. To date, there has never been an attempt to develop and apply a comprehensive strategy of military culture change. This would require a redesign of the military workplace to allow for a more inclusive understanding of what it means to be a member of the Canadian Armed Forces.
This brings me to my second point. The past 30 years have shown that the military cannot be expected to achieve the necessary culture change and institutional redesign on its own. I therefore strongly recommend the establishment of a permanent, independent external oversight mechanism not just to ensure the military institutional culture redesigned but also to ensure that that redesign is sustained in the long term.
I have suggested three key principles for what this oversight should look like in a recent Policy Options piece from March 12, which I co-wrote with military veteran Dr. Karen Breeck. We suggested that the new agency should have a broad mandate. Ideally it will look something like the civilian inspector general's office. This new agency needs to report directly to Parliament and should be informed by the voices of lived experience, of those most impacted by the military's problematic culture. Effective oversight is no guarantee that military culture change will happen, but I believe it is its most important precondition.
I would like to see us move beyond quick fixes and investigations, beyond a narrow focus on sexual misconduct in individuals. True, systemic military culture change will require long-term efforts at redesigning the military institution. It will require public and political engagement, and most importantly, it will require an oversight agency with a mandate to report to Parliament. I see no other pathway to ensuring accountability for a military workplace that is safe and inclusive for all, and I see no other pathway to ensuring that we're not here five years from now having these same conversations again.
For the sake of all Canadians, in uniform and not, I urge you to seize this opportunity to bring about true, systemic change in the military.
Balancing both family and military work is a huge challenge from what I have heard from the many women veterans I have interviewed for my research. I think the fact that the military does so little to accommodate having a family is certainly a disincentive for women to join. It is certainly a reason that many women leave. That has been established by outside research as well as DND and CAF research. The challenge of balancing family and military work is the reason that women leave, so it's a retention issue as well.
We know that having available child care is a big challenge, especially when you are reposted, because you often have to join a wait-list again. Another challenge is having 24-7 child care. Military work is a 24-7 job, so you need military-specific child care in order to be able to do the job.
The final thing I would say is that personnel policies are an example of policies that have been designed with men in mind. The norm is the male heterosexual service member who has a civilian spouse who can sort of pick up the slack. Of course, if we want women to join, we need to find ways for them to be able to be parents and be “good soldiers”. However we redesign family policies, it will also be to the benefit of all the men in the Canadian Armed Forces. This is a burden that falls primarily on women, but finding good solutions here will benefit all members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
One final point is that a lot of women in the Canadian Armed Forces are single, but a lot of them are part of a dual-service couple, with both a male service member and a female service member. It creates additional burdens when two people in the family are expected to be available 24-7 for the military. That is an additional burden that I would like to point out. Being a female service member and a female military spouse is a dual burden that I would like to draw your attention to.
Thank you, Madam Chair. It's lovely to be back here. Of course, it would be better if we had a different topic that was not so difficult to hear.
I want to thank all of the witnesses for being on this call today, for joining us and for sharing their stories and their insight. It's a very important conversation. I'm glad I get the chance to hear some of this testimony.
I'd like to start with retired Lieutenant-Colonel Boland, if I may, and ask a series of questions.
Mr. Boland, you note in your testimony that you took several approaches to try to seek justice. That included submitting to the Federal Court of Canada an application for a judicial review of DND's grievance dismissal. You gave notice to the registrar of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to be a party to the tribunal hearing. You filed a complaint with the on DND's breach of your Bill rights.
We are told that there are processes and policies in place. However, the people involved in upholding these processes are not following them. What oversight measures would you recommend so that these processes are indeed followed?
The process in and of itself on a single event is adequate, but the overall approach does not have what I would call a programmatic approach to it, so they dealt with it individually. Each one is separate.
There isn't a program around it. There's no compliance checking. There's no quality assurance. There's no verification that the execution of the process is compatible with its promulgated means and mechanisms. There's no feedback from those who are affected by that. As a complainer, was I satisfied that the process satisfied what it was supposed to do in a fashion that satisfied the pursuit of justice?
Definitely, you can't have those who are responsible for putting something in place to be policing whether they actually conduct what they are supposed to do, because as soon as you raise a complaint, it's effectively complaining against those who are supposed to be doing that.
There's no independence, and very few have the capacity to weigh things in a balanced fashion between complaining about the process or complaining about me. They all take it too personal and do not really do what they are supposed to, which is what they are paid to do in the positions they are put in.
The only response I got throughout this was from Mr. Choi, the assistant deputy minister. Remember, I'm dealing with things over a five-year program.
Three years ago, or thereabouts, he basically either dismissed what I was bringing forward or thereafter ignored it. Because of that, I engaged the . In my correspondence to him, through his chief of staff, I was not asking him to investigate things. I was asking him to have things investigated.
The manner in which that was done, to have a subordinate, who worked for the deputy minister, absolve peers, subordinates, himself and everything else, was certainly deficient in the rendering of a just, legal and equitable approach to things.
I have a research partnership with It's Just 700 that is looking specifically at identifying some of the barriers to veterans benefits and services. Together, we did a study where we looked at 10 years of Veterans Review and Appeal Board decisions in cases related to military sexual assault. We have seen some very good changes at the Veterans Review and Appeal Board over the last two years. Those came about really in response to the advocacy of MST survivors and, in particular, the work of It's Just 700 and Marie-Claude Gagnon, and also very much in response to the class action lawsuit and the final settlement agreement.
To me, that shows how important that external pressure has been and how important the advocacy voice of survivors has been. We want to really ensure that, however we move forward in finding solutions, the voices are also included of MST survivors, male and female, but also of other military members and veterans who have suffered discrimination and have been long defined as “the other” in the military institutions. I think it's really imperative as we move forward.
I hope we move forward with a strong independent external oversight mechanism. I recognize that it will take some time to develop and to figure out the details, but I hope that even in the initial phase of discussing what the options are and how we move forward on what has been suggested by a lot of subject matter experts, we ensure that we have consultations with MST survivors, as well as women veterans, advocacy groups and LGBTQ veterans groups such as the Rainbow Veterans of Canada, but also the indigenous and racialized veterans advocacy groups.
Yes. There have been a lot of different ideas floated over the last couple of months, or two months, I guess—from a watchdog agency to a civilian inspector general office. Personally, based on my research, I am really advocating for a broad mandate here, for a sort of civilian inspector general office. I would like to see some of the existing functions of the CAF ombudsman and the sexual misconduct response centre integrated into that new structure. What is important to me is that the new agency not only focus on investigations, but that it can also take some initiative in guiding what the culture change is going to look like in the military and in offering some accountability over those culture change initiatives.
I think it's really important that it is focused not just on military sexual misconduct but on broader culture change issues, and that the agency really looks at these issues as interlocking: sexism, homophobia, gender-based violence, misogyny and ableism, all of those interlocking systems that have produced a problematic military culture. We need to address them not in silos but together. I think an agency like that could do that, hopefully.
Now, you asked me about the short term. I think the very first step would be to assemble a group of subject matter experts, as well as survivors and other veterans advocacy groups, to begin developing a proposal for what this needs to look like. I think we can start small very quickly and then, hopefully, build up to a really robust external oversight mechanism.
One of the problems we have not discussed here at all is that, in addition to the problem of sexual misconduct, parallel to it, we have a significant breakdown in the military justice system. The court martial system simply doesn't work. Three of the four military judges have self-declared not to be independent, which is a crucial element for anybody acting in a judicial function, so they don't.... I've seen it. I've represented a number of victims of sexual assault. I can relate a case that perhaps make the points clearer.
She was a victim of a sexual assault by one of her colleagues at the military college. In accordance with the Canadian Forces tradition, a court martial takes place within the unit lines of the accused. If you are a victim—in this case, a cadet from the military college—and you lay a complaint against one of your fellow cadets, the court martial would take place in open court at the military college. Guess who the audience is going to be. It's going to be 60 to 70 to 80 cadets. She will be sitting in the witness chair for four or five days going into intimate details as to how she was dressed, where he put his hand, how she responded and so on and so forth, looking at 60 pairs of eyeballs of her colleagues—first-, second- and third-year cadets—who she will be living and serving with for the rest of her career. If she does this, this particular lady who's in the forces will never go through that again.
I've represented another person who had been assaulted in a unit in western Canada. The court martial took place within the unit line, which was within the canteen. All of her former subordinates—all of the non-commissioned officers and so on—were there. She was a health professional. She testified for three days. She didn't know where to look.
This is a military justice system where, in fact, justice is about to be made with a conviction system that is far below what we have in civilian court. The system doesn't work.
That's why, among other things, we need to take sexual assault out of the military. The military are trained to conduct warfare. They're managers of violence. That's what their trade is. They're not there to settle sexual assaults, to investigate sexual assault and to pursue it.
To ensure the safety, dignity and integrity of our women soldiers—I married one of them—we want to make sure that, in fact, they have a place where they can report the crime and the crime can be investigated fully by an independent police force that is trained and experienced in doing so in a court of law that does this on an ongoing basis. This is not taking place. Until this changes, victims will not have confidence in the military justice system. They won't report the crime and the problem will continue.