Mr. Speaker, I hope this is the final time I will have to address the House virtually. I look forward to being in Ottawa next week and hope very much that we will be back to normal sessions come the fall.
I will be splitting my time with the member for .
I just have to say that this is a rare measure that we are requesting of all members of the House of Commons to censure the . The last time anyone was censured in the House was back in 2002, and it has come to this point, because the Minister of National Defence has refused to do the honourable thing and resign, and the has refused to do the right thing and fire the Minister of National Defence. Essentially, that leaves it up to us in the House of Commons to censure the minister going forward, until the voters of Vancouver South have an opportunity to express their displeasure in the upcoming federal election.
I also just want to say to the Speaker, who has stepped into the chair, knowing that he has announced that he will not be running in the next federal election, how much I have appreciated his strength in the chair and his friendship over the years as we served together. I wish him all the best in his future endeavours, enjoying more time with his family.
When we look at this motion, we have to look at the litany of misleading comments made by the over his tenure since 2015. I think all of us are all too familiar with the travesty of the wrongful accusations and the decision by the minister to go on a witch hunt to stop the procurement of the Asterix for the Royal Canadian Navy, and how he threw retired Vice-Admiral Mark Norman under the bus. We know that through 2017 and into 2018, this escalated to a ridiculous level and ended up in the courts. The case, of course, was thrown out by the judge, because there just was not any evidence for it. It was an unnecessary attack on the honourable service and great reputation of a strong military leader, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
However, we have to go back to the very beginning of the 's tenure and look at what happened with his politically motivated withdrawal of our CF-18s from the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The minister was over there meeting with the Government of Iraq, as well as Kurdish officials in Erbil, and he told CBC on December 21, 2015, that he had not had one discussion about withdrawing our CF-18s from the fight. However, an access to information request on the record of a wire message in reference to the Minister of National Defence's meeting with the Iraqi minister of defence on December 20, 2015, just the day before he made that statement, says, “the Iraqi Minister of Defence was clearly focused on Canada's decision to withdraw its CF18 fighter jets from the coalition air strikes, asking [our Minister of National Defence] to reconsider this decision on numerous occasions”. That was the very first step in the minister's very misleading comments to the media and to Canadians.
We should not be surprised, because we also know that the , back in July 2015 when he was running to be a member of Parliament for the first time, claimed on a local B.C. program, Conversations That Matter, that he was the architect of Operation Medusa in Afghanistan. He reiterated that in April 2017, when he was at a conference in New Delhi on conflict prevention and peace keeping in a changing world. He again said that he was the architect of Operation Medusa.
Of course, he was a major back then and had numerous members in the command chain above him who were making the decisions, and there is no doubt that he provided great input and intelligence into how Operation Medusa was conducted, but to claim that he was more than the team is something that is not well regarded within the Canadian Armed Forces or by veterans across this country, and the minister had to apologize.
We also saw the minister take a shot at me back in 2017 over the cuts to tax-free allowances for forces members serving in Operation Impact while stationed in Kuwait at Camp Arifjan at that time. He claimed that it was the Conservative government that had taken away the tax-free allowance. I was able to get up on a question of privilege to point out that the initial assessments were made under the current Liberal government, and those cuts were made by this minister to hardship pay that was in effect back in 2014-15. Again, there was a finding that he misled the House.
Now, the most egregious of all of this, and the one that is really rocking our Canadian Armed Forces right now, is, of course, the crisis of sexual misconduct. I will point out and ask the question: What do the Somalia affair, the decade of darkness and the crisis of sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces today have in common? It all comes down to weak Liberal leadership.
We know that when the news broke that retired General Jonathan Vance, the former chief of the defence staff, had issues of sexual misconduct raised in March 2018, the said at committee on February 19 of this year that he was “as shocked as everyone else at the allegations that were made public two weeks ago”. He was surprised to learn about these allegations, but then at the defence committee on March 3, 2021, the former ombudsman for national defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, Gary Walbourne, said at committee that “I personally met with [the minister] to address an allegation of inappropriate sexual behaviour within the senior ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces, specifically, against the chief of the defence staff, and to discuss my concerns about this allegation. This meeting happened on March 1, 2018.” That was three years before the story became news, when the minister was briefed by Gary Walbourne.
Gary Walbourne went on to say at committee that:
I did tell the minister what the allegation was. I reached into my pocket to show him the evidence I was holding, and he pushed back from the table and said, “No.” I don't think we exchanged another word.
The minister refused the evidence, and we know that, at the defence committee on March 12, 2021, he then admitted that, “I did meet with Mr. Walbourne”. The ombudsman brought up the concerns, but “He did not give me any details”, is what the minister was claiming. Yet, if we look at all of the information that flowed between the minister's chief of staff, Zita Astravas at the time, up into the Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office on March 2, 2018, it all talked about this being a matter of sexual misconduct, which they actually described as “sexual harassment”. Elder Marques, Michael Wernick and Katie Telford, the chief of staff to the , all knew that this was an issue of sexual misconduct.
Therefore, as the minister continues to dodge this and refuses to do the honourable thing and resign, and as long as the continues to back this inept behaviour by the and refuses to fire him, it falls upon us as the House of Commons to censure this minister since he has consistently and repeatedly misled the House.
I call upon all members of the House of Commons in all parties to censure this minister for his continued casual relationship with the truth.
Mr. Speaker, I take no pleasure in rising in the House today. First, I must mention that the and I have something in common: We each served honourably in the Canadian Forces for over twenty years. We both rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and commanded infantry units. These are the things we have in common. The minister served our country particularly well in the various missions he participated in around the world. I thank him for his service.
However, on October 19, 2015, in the federal election, we chose two different paths. I chose to run as a Conservative Party candidate, while the Minister of National Defence chose to run for the Liberal Party.
Let me remind members what the Liberal Party represents for the Canadian Forces. Let us recall the 10 years of darkness of the Chrétien era, marked by the purchase of used submarines and the cancellation of helicopter contracts, a time when our soldiers did not even have combat boots. That is the path and the party that the minister chose.
From that day on, he and I were no longer soldiers. We were now former military members who had become members of Parliament in the House of Commons, a political office. That is when the minister's problems began.
The first step was in 2015. During the election campaign, a tragedy struck hearts around the world. The body of a little boy washed up on a beach in Italy. He was a Syrian refugee trying to flee Syria, which was under the grip of ISIS. Many refugees were seeking asylum. The Liberals opened up many new spots, and we were all for that. We needed to do something to help those refugees.
However, our country was also engaged in combat. Our armed forces and our air force were in Iraq and Syria fighting the enemy, ISIS. What did this government decide to do when it took office? It pulled our CF-18s out of the bombing campaign against ISIS. It stopped fighting the enemy, the enemy that caused the little boy to wash up on the beach and the Syrian refugees to flee in search of asylum. We could never understand that.
When we say that the minister is hiding the truth or misleading Canadians, we are talking about decisions. When we questioned him at length about the reasons behind the decision to pull our CF-18s out, the minister said that Iraq had agreed to it. Later, in an interview with an Iraqi minister, we learned that that was not true. Iraq was very disappointed with Canada's decision.
The next step was a pivotal point in the career of a very talented military member, Vice-Admiral Norman, who was commander of the Royal Canadian Navy at the time. When he heard that the incoming Liberal government wanted to cancel the Asterix contract that had been awarded by the Conservative government, that was the last straw. Vice-Admiral Norman, a man who worked for his troops, the men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy, knew full well that the Conservative government decision to award the Asterix contract to Davie shipyard was the best solution to fix the problems in the navy.
We knew that the first decision of the Prime Minister and cabinet was to do everything in their power to cancel that contract. Vice-Admiral Norman did everything he could to prevent that from happening, and he paid the political price with his career. All he wanted to do was give the Royal Canadian Navy the tools it needed to do its job properly.
What did the Minister of National Defence do to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces were operating effectively around the world? That is the duty of a defence minister. It is about ensuring that his troops have the necessary tools to do their job. Instead, the minister contributed to the problem. He helped ensure that Vice-Admiral Norman became persona non grata. He ended up facing serious charges and the RCMP landed on his doorstep. It is appalling.
This man was expected to be the next chief of the defence staff. He was going to be the commander of the Canadian Armed Forces. Instead, he was forced to retire. The government made sure of that by paying Vice-Admiral Norman's legal costs, which remain secret, so that he would just retire and stay quiet and so the whole thing would go away.
Is that the leadership we expect from a minister? Do we expect the minister to always say yes to the 's nefarious decisions? A minister must be able to stand up and say that something will not work, that we cannot do that. However, the minister said nothing.
In 2018, the Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman went to the office of the to tell him that there was a problem with the chief of the defence staff, General Vance. What did the minister do? He told the ombudsman that he did not want to know about it. The ombudsman was completely taken aback.
The Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman told the minister that a victim had made allegations of sexual misconduct against the chief of the defence staff and that these allegations were not about 30-year-old incidents or incidents involving one too many beers, but were rather very serious allegations about recent incidents. What did the minister do? He did nothing. We learned about this three years later. We just learned about it.
In 2018, during his tenure, the minister chose to hide the information. It gets worse. When the Conservatives were in power, they commissioned a report from Justice Marie Deschamps. She presented her report in 2015, in which she described attitude problems and sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces. What did the Minister of National Defence do with that report? Absolutely nothing.
The full report contained 10 recommendations that the minister could have implemented. He had access to all of the resources and tools he needed to protect women in the Canadian Armed Forces. He could have instituted a process to streamline complaints. That was not done, and we do not know why. We are asking questions, but we will never know.
Why were Justice Deschamps' recommendations never implemented? Was it because, again, the report had been commissioned by the Conservatives? Was it because people did not want these recommendations to be implemented? Was it because people did not want anyone to know? We have no idea.
When all these problems are added together, the situation looks very serious. The Canadian Armed Forces are in turmoil. The head of the armed forces, the former chief of defence staff, is under investigation. The new chief of defence staff, who was in the position for one month, is under investigation. Generals are stepping down. Discipline and sound operations management within the Canadian Forces are evaporating. The soldiers and officers have no one to lead them. What is going on?
On top of that, there is the case of Major-General Dany Fortin, a man I have known for a long time, a great soldier. He was put in charge of Canada's vaccine rollout, and he did an outstanding job. However, a complaint was filed against him. We do not know when or where it came from. Major-General Fortin was not informed of it. The decision was made to push him aside. The story went public, and he ended up getting all sorts of negative attention from the media, the public and the government without knowing what was happening or why. Today, this man is being forced to take legal action against the government and the Prime Minister to defend his reputation. Is that any way to treat the best members of the Canadian Armed Forces?
Major-General Dany Fortin was brought in, in a public way, to help the country get out of the COVID-19 crisis, and how was he treated? He was not informed or even given a chance to explain a situation that may not even be true. We do not know. That is how the defence minister and this government operate, and that is why we can no longer trust the Minister of National Defence.
I would like to remind the House that this has nothing to do with the soldier that the minister used to be. He served his country with distinction. However, he became a member of Parliament and a minister on October 19, 2015, and it has been a catastrophe ever since.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address the motion the has put forward. He presents this motion in an attempt to wage personal and partisan attacks rather than focusing on our members who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. He is a veteran. I am a veteran, and I expect better.
I will not, and I repeat, will not gloss over the fact the defence team is going through a very difficult time right now, particularly those who are survivors of sexual harassment, assault and abuse of power. As the largest and most diverse employer in Canada, the defence team is a microcosm of our Canadian society. We see the same problems reflected in our organizations that we see play out in other areas of our society.
We have had to reckon with inequality, systemic racism, sexual misconduct and abuse of power. It is uncomfortable. It is painful, and it is inconsistent with our ideals as Canadians and as human beings.
The experiences we have heard over the past few months from those who have experienced sexual harassment and assault in the Canadian Armed Forces is appalling. To every member of the Canadian Armed Forces, and to every person in the Department of National Defence who has been affected by sexual harassment and violence, I am truly sorry. Whether it was recently, 10 years ago, 20 years ago or 30 years ago, we were not there to support them.
As somebody who has put on the uniform, I know the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence need to do better. We all need to do better. I know our current reporting systems are not enough. Too often, people do not feel able to report misconduct our of fear of reprisal and retribution. This has to change, and this will change.
It is why I asked Madam Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court justice, to lead an independent external comprehensive review of our institutional policies and culture. Over the coming months, we expect Madam Arbour to provide concrete recommendations on how the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence can set up an independent external reporting system for defence team members that meets the needs of those who have been impacted by sexual misconduct.
We know we have a lot more to do to regain our members' trust. We are committed to making a lasting change, one that sheds the toxic and outdated values, practices and policies that harmed our people.
This motion from the is not about supporting our members. In fact, the opposition had the opportunity time and time again in this very Parliament to be part of the solution. Instead, opposition members have consistently chosen to obstruct the progress.
In the past weeks, the and his party voted against almost a quarter of a billion dollars to help eliminate sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces in budget 2021. They voted against supporting peer-to-peer services. They voted against increasing access to the sexual misconduct response centre for members of the Canadian Armed Forces. In fact, the leader of the official opposition and his party voted against our commitment to implement new external oversight mechanisms to bring greater independence to the processes of reporting and adjudicating sexual misconduct within the military.
This is staggering hypocrisy from the and the Conservative Party, which should not be unexpected from the Conservatives. They have done this at every turn. If the Conservatives want to talk about fighter jets, let us talk about the Conservative record on fighter jets.
After years of cuts from the Conservatives, our air force could not generate enough aircraft to answer our NATO and NORAD commitments at the same time. We are committed to procuring 88 advanced fighter jets to show our friends and allies we will be there for them when we are called upon, and we have stepped up. How they chose the number of 65, I do not know, but I am going to guess they needed to cut. They needed to balance their budget.
When it comes to our contribution in the fight against Daesh, our work alongside our coalition partners has reached success. I will not be apologetic for our government's stance and the operations we have conducted with our allies. By increasing our ground presence, along with that of our partners and allies, the coalitions worked to reduce Daesh's territorial control by over 98% on the ground.
When the Conservatives sat back, Liberals stepped forward. We worked with the U.S., NATO, regional partners and allies to increase peace and stability in the region. Just a few months ago, we announced that we would extend our work in the Middle East by deploying up to 850 Canadian Armed Forces personnel to support the global coalition, the NATO mission in Iraq and capacity-building activities in Jordan and Lebanon because we know this is a regional issue. Canada will remain a reliable partner in multinational operations around the world.
If the wants to claim a cover-up, he should look no further than himself. We want to talk about preventing things from happening. We learned from media reports that the leader of the official opposition himself was aware of allegations of sexual misconduct regarding General Vance prior to his appointment as chief of the defence staff, an allegation from the general's time in Gagetown, as it was reported. It was an allegation that the leader of the official opposition said that he had investigated.
The former national security advisor, Richard Fadden, said to a parliamentary committee that this is not true. Let me quote Mr. Fadden. Speaking of when General Vance was stationed in Naples, he said, “I did a bit of an inquiry into what was happening with a lady who subsequently became his wife. That was the extent of the involvement.”
After this non-investigation, it seems that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service received political pressure to stop its investigation into Vance, an investigation that just happen to end right before his swearing in as chief of the defence staff under the Conservative government.
The continues to say that he passed along sexual misconduct allegations by General Vance in July 15. He continues to claim that those were looked into, despite evidence to the contrary. I ask this House, how can the Leader of the Opposition's story be credible if General Vance was appointed after no investigation of the knowledge that the leader had? Almost immediately after the allegations were made, pressure was brought to bear and the investigation was suddenly dropped.
Unlike the Conservatives, I know how important our people in the Canadian Armed Forces are. That is why they are at the very centre of our defence policy. Chapter number one states that.
Women are working tirelessly to create a culture of dignity, respect and inclusion for all members, to ensure that the organization is truly as diverse as the Canada it serves, and to be the employer of choice for Canadians of every background, not just for the few that some members want. Our defence policy, “Strong, Secure, Engaged”, commits to promoting diversity and inclusion as core institutional values.
We have taken a number of steps to increase representation of women and other unrepresented populations at all levels of the organization. Right now, Lieutenant-General Carignan is the chief of professional conduct and culture at the organization. She and her team will unify and coordinate the ongoing and evolving efforts to create positive and lasting change across the defence team.
At NATO's Allied Joint Forces Command Naples, we have Lieutenant-General Joe Paul, a member of the Huron-Wendat First Nation as deputy command. While he is there, he will help to prepare, plan and conduct military operations in order to preserve the peace, security, and territorial integrity of all NATO alliance members. This sends a powerful message to the indigenous community of our alliance.
Over the coming weeks, Lieutenant-General Fran Allen will become Canada's first female vice-chief of the defence staff. All these members are deserving of these important roles, and they help build a senior leadership that is more representative of the Canadians they serve each and every day.
We have also integrated gender-based analysis plus across all our policies, programs and services to remove barriers to inclusion and better support our personnel. We are addressing all forms of hateful conduct in our organizations with anti-racism and anti-harassment efforts. This is why last year I created an advisory panel on systemic racism and discrimination with Captain Door Gibson, Sergeant Derek Montour, Major Sandra Perron and Major-General Ed Fitch, who are all retired.
They have lived experiences of facing discrimination, anti-Semitism and anti-indigenous prejudice, and they are working to help build a Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence that are more welcoming and inclusive for our members. Their recommendations will make sure that people within the military, including instructors, are better supported and free from discrimination, racism and harmful behaviour, whether they are women; Black, indigenous and people of colour; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, queer, two-spirited, LGBTQ members of the community; or part of a religious minority.
Along with the anti-racism secretariat, this work will help the defence team eliminate all forms of racism, prejudice, bias, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and white supremacy from within our organization.
Where the previous government did little to improve things for those who wear the uniform, and removed the training, the sharp training that was there, we have taken action. In 2019, we received royal assent for Bill , historic legislation to evolve the military justice system by aligning it with the civilian justice system in important ways, while remaining responsive to the unique needs of our Canadian Armed Forces. The act enshrines victims' rights into the code of service discipline. We are working with our members so the regulations for that bill meet the needs of the survivors, rather than the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence.
Earlier this month, we tabled a third independent review of the National Defence Act by former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish. This is one of the most comprehensive independent reviews of the military justice system in a decade. Justice Fish's recommendations provide one of the largest overhauls of the National Defence Act and the Canadian military justice system in recent memory.
I have accepted the 107 recommendations in principle. As we speak, we have already begun to implement 36 of those recommendations to further improve the military justice system to bring greater confidence to our members, who wear the maple leaf on their shoulder.
All this work is in addition to the independent external comprehensive review that former Justice Louise Arbour is leading to help us build on and refine our efforts to address and prevent sexual misconduct in our organizations. Over the coming months, Madam Arbour will provide concrete recommendations for how the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence could set up an independent external reporting system for defence team members that meets the needs of those who have been impacted by sexual misconduct.
This system needs to be focused on those who have been impacted by misconduct, be responsive to their needs and be outside the chain of command and the Department of National Defence. Any less cannot be accepted, and any less will not be accepted.
Madam Arbour and her team will provide significant direction on how we must evolve to support affected people, and how we can ensure that every incident is handled appropriately. Part of this work also includes looking into the current structures in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence and the sexual misconduct response centre to see how we could strengthen them to provide greater confidence to those who need support.
We will also examine the performance evaluation promotion system in the Canadian Armed Forces with a focus on how leaders are selected and trained. This review will also look at the military justice system's policies, procedures and practices to see how we could make this system more responsive to the needs of those who have experienced misconduct while holding perpetrators accountable. As Madam Arbour does this important work, she will be able to provide interim recommendations to the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence, and we commit to acting upon it immediately.
As we continue our work with the defence team, we have created a new organization of professional conduct and culture under the leadership of its chief, General Carignan. This will be responsible for carrying out and creating the conditions for cultural transformation by unifying, integrating, and coordinating the ongoing efforts across the Department of National Defence.
Their goal is to ensure that our actions and behaviour reflect the very best parts of our organizations of Canadian society. Their efforts will closely align with the work being carried out by the external review and will be informed by best practices, as well as experts, advocates and those who have lived experiences, inside and outside our institutions, at all levels.
We are dedicated to creating lasting cultural change across the defence team, change that is enduring and that meets the needs of those who have experienced sexual harassment and violence. The motion that the has put forward does nothing to help those in the Canadian Armed Forces. It is more focused on personal attacks and petty games, something that I have unfortunately been far too accustomed to. That is okay.
It is disappointing, though, but it comes as no surprise from a party that is focused more on fanning the flames of division, a party that refused to acknowledge structural racism, like the did in September of last year, or in the midst of a pandemic when Dr. Theresa Tam, who is Canada's chief public health officer, had her loyalty to our country questioned, because of her name and the colour of her skin, by a Conservative MP. It is a party that voted against a motion to condemn Islamophobia.
The based his entire leadership campaign around the slogan “Take Back Canada”. From whom?
This motion is below the dignity of the House, but it is clear that is exactly the type of divisive and dog-whistle politics on which the Conservative opposition depends.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
It is with great frustration that I rise today to speak to the motion that was introduced on this Conservative Party opposition day:
That, given that the Minister of National Defence has clearly lost the respect of members of the Canadian Armed Forces, including those at the highest ranks, for, amongst other things, (i) misleading Canadians on the withdrawal of fighter jets in the fight against ISIS, (ii) misleading Canadians about his service record, (iii) presiding over the wrongful accusation and dismissal of Vice-Admiral Norman, (iv) engaging in a cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces, the House formally censure the Minister of National Defence to express the disappointment of the House of Commons in his conduct.
It is no secret that the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the motion. The Bloc Québécois has already asked for the resignation of the because of his ongoing failure to address sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. I was with our leader, the member for , and my colleague from at the press conference where we asked for his resignation.
The censure proposed by the motion does not get rid of this minister, who did not take sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces seriously. As set out in the motion, the minister committed a number of mistakes, although the most serious is protecting General Vance and attempting to cover up his bungling, including failing to implement the recommendations of the 2015 Deschamps report.
As the critic for status of women and gender equality, I will start by addressing these issues in my speech. I am very sensitive to these issues, and I will speak with due respect for the victims who testified at the Standing Committee on National Defence and the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. I will then address a few other scandals that have rocked the Canadian Armed Forces. I will close with some suggestions to help improve trust in the armed forces.
First, while the was supposed to implement the 2015 Deschamps report, it appears that he has done nothing and that he even tried to bury General Vance’s file. I cannot believe that I am still here going over the entire unfortunate story.
Former justice Marie Deschamps released a scathing report on March 27, 2015, concerning what she considered widespread sexual misconduct in the armed forces and the sexist culture that turned a blind eye to such misconduct. The report had been commissioned in the wake of accusations against Warrant Officer André Gagnon, who sexually assaulted a subordinate, Corporal Stéphanie Raymond, in December 2011. Corporal Raymond appeared before the committee, testifying to the harm she has suffered.
Corporal Raymond filed a complaint against Warrant Officer Gagnon in 2012, but her chain of command turned against her, and she was eventually dismissed for misconduct in 2013. Warrant Officer Gagnon was acquitted in 2014, but, in 2021, after Corporal Raymond appealed the ruling, he finally pleaded guilty.
Corporal Raymond’s situation, and the accusations she brought against the armed forces, led to former justice Marie Deschamps’ report. The report contained 10 recommendations, the most important of which was to make the complaint reporting system independent of the armed forces and of the Department of National Defence. That was in 2015, and, although we are now in 2021, nothing has been done.
When she testified before the Standing Committee on National Defence in February 2021, Marie Deschamps said that very little had been done since the release of her report in 2015 and that little had really changed. She repeated these statements before the Standing Committee on the Status of Women last March.
I will nevertheless take the time to point out that these allegations are not new, and that they began under the Conservative government, since it was in April 2015 that Jonathan Vance was named as the future chief of the defence staff. Allegations of sexual misconduct had been raised against him shortly before his appointment. A few months later, in July 2015, the former minister of veterans affairs and current asked his chief of staff to talk to Ray Novak about another allegation against General Vance. This allegation involved an inappropriate relationship.
General Vance denied all misconduct, and the investigations went nowhere, since there was no evidence. The military police apparently also investigated the case. On July 17, 2015, General Vance was appointed chief of the defence staff, and one of his first policies was to roll out Operation Honour, which sought to put an end to sexual misconduct. That takes guts.
How is it possible that General Vance, who was the subject of very serious allegations, was appointed, given his role and his mandate as chief of the defence staff, as the person in charge of doing something against sexual misconduct?
In fact, the very same day that General Vance become chief of the defence staff, the military police decided to drop the investigation against the man who had now become their boss. That is quite the coincidence.
The operation, which was abandoned by the current chief of defence staff, had moderate impact, but it obviously had no effect on the senior officers who were above all that. In short, the Conservatives decided to appoint someone against whom accusations had been made when he was the boss of the Canadian Armed Forces, when they knew that his mandate would be to address sexual misconduct in the forces.
Now let us look at some of the allegations under the Liberal government.
On March 1, 2018, then ombudsman Gary Walbourne met privately with the . Walbourne attempted to discuss a case of sexual misconduct involving Vance. The victim did not want to go any further in the process because she was afraid of reprisals, preventing the ombudsman from going forward. However, the ombudsman, who had credible evidence against Vance, wanted to show it to the minister, who categorically refused to even look at it.
The ombudsman wanted the minister to intervene to protect the victim, since she was Vance's subordinate and he could wipe out her career with the snap of a finger. The minister was unreceptive and hostile. Apparently, he categorically refused to look at Walbourne's evidence and left the meeting abruptly. The minister then referred the case to the Privy Council Office. After that, Walbourne tried to talk to the minister 12 times, but the minister refused to meet with him, and Walbourne retired a few months later.
The Prime Minister's Office and the Privy Council Office exchanged emails about the situation. After that, the situation deteriorated and other facts came to light. The scandal was made public in February 2021, when Global News reported accusations of misconduct against Vance, including his relationship with a subordinate and obscene emails exchanged in 2012 with a much younger servicewoman. The woman who had been in a relationship with Vance publicly stated that she had been threatened by Vance on several occasions. Vance believed himself to be untouchable. He said that he controlled the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.
The standing committee on national defence decided to investigate the allegations against Vance. The Minister of Defence appeared before the committee a few times and contradicted himself. Moreover, the Liberals did not hesitate to obstruct the investigation to prevent Liberal employees Zita Astravas and Elder Marques from being called to testify. I was personally there when I was a substitute member of the committee. It was a sad time.
From Elder Marques' testimony, we know that everyone around the was aware of the situation, but the Prime Minister himself continues to deny any knowledge of it. When other employees were called by the House, the Liberals sent the Minister of Defence instead. They said that they did not want their employees to testify.
The Liberals willingly turned a blind eye to the allegations. The Liberals decided to ignore the issue, while the minister flatly refused to meet with the former ombudsman 12 times and would not even look at the evidence, claiming he did not want to interfere in the investigation.
The Prime Minister's entourage knew that there had been allegations against Vance, even if the Prime Minister himself did not have all the details. Everyone around him suspected that these allegations involved sexual misconduct. There were actually emails that mentioned sexual misconduct directly. The Minister of Defence even said that the nature of the accusations against Vance did not matter and what mattered was to take action. Well, the Liberals did absolutely nothing. They did not even implement Justice Deschamps’s main recommendation, namely to make the complaint process completely independent of the military to receive all complaints of sexual misconduct.
The facts speak for themselves. As of today, four generals have had complaints of misconduct brought against them. In 2021, six years after Justice Deschamps’s report was released, the Liberals decided to appoint former justice Louise Arbour to conduct another investigation into how to improve the system. That should have been done in 2015, not in 2021. The minister never took the situation seriously. Only when he had his back to the wall did he decide to do something, but only to save his own skin, after pressure from the opposition parties in the House and the committee investigations.
To add insult to injury, the second-in-command of the Canadian Armed Forces, Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, decided to play golf with former general Vance, despite the fact that Vance is under investigation by the military police and the military police is under Lieutenant-General Rouleau’s command. This incident led to Rouleau’s resignation and brought to light the federal government’s failure to implement an independent system to handle cases of sexual misconduct. The Liberals have done nothing since 2015 and that inaction has consequences, as this incident shows.
Since my time is running out, I will not have time to talk about everything I would have liked to address in my speech. I have been studying this case in the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the Standing Committee on National Defence for months now. There is so much going on.
In closing, the Liberals claim that they are unaware of the nature of the allegations against Vance, with the Minister of Defence even saying that the nature of the allegations does not matter. All these events have further eroded the public’s and women’s confidence and harmed diversity, in particular. We must consider the victims. The Liberals and their Minister of Defence failed to act to restore confidence in the armed forces.
One last thing: We may think none of this really touches us, but the father of a former military member recently admitted to me that his daughter had to resign when she became pregnant. Her superior officer, with whom she had had a relationship, asked her to have an abortion to keep the matter quiet. She refused, and was asked to resign. This is still happening in 2021. We must act for the sake of the victims.
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague from Shefford for her excellent speech and for agreeing to split her time with me.
Today, we are discussing a motion moved by the Conservative Party, which reads as follows:
That, given that the Minister of National Defence has clearly lost the respect of members of the Canadian Armed Forces, including those at the highest ranks, for, amongst other things,
(i) misleading Canadians on the withdrawal of fighter jets in the fight against ISIS,
(ii) misleading Canadians about his service record,
(iii) presiding over the wrongful accusation and dismissal of Vice-Admiral Norman,
(iv) engaging in a cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations in the Canadian Armed Forces,
the House formally censure the Minister of National Defence to express the disappointment of the House of Commons in his conduct.
I do not think anyone in the House will be surprised to learn that we will vote in favour of this motion, in light of its troubling elements. The facts have accumulated over time, which has led to a loss of confidence. That is why the Bloc Québécois is calling for the resignation of the .
We look at all these things that have happened, but the last straw was the whole issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. The situation has completely deteriorated and the minister has mismanaged it from the start.
As we know, General Vance was forced to retire and it was not until after he retired that we finally learned about the allegations of sexual misconduct that were made against him, which triggered an investigation by the Standing Committee on National Defence, as well as a study by the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. When two committees look into an issue at the same time, it is obviously a big deal.
Shortly thereafter we also learned that General Vance's replacement, Admiral McDonald, also had to step down, also because of allegations of sexual misconduct.
This has been going on at the upper echelons of the military for some time and it is troubling since the current Minister of National Defence was notified of the problem by Gary Walbourne, who was national defence and armed forces ombudsman at the time, but has since retired. He went to the minister to advise him of a major complaint against the chief of the defence staff, General Vance. It was serious.
The minister told him he did not want to know about it, that he did not want anyone to talk to him about it, that he did not want to see the evidence and that the ombudsman should instead go talk to the appropriate authorities. In fact, the minister refused to look at what the ombudsman wanted to show him and then refused to meet with him again thereafter. The minister adopted this culture of wilful ignorance, choosing to turn a blind eye and act like nothing happened.
Unfortunately, even though some people on his staff appear to have passed the information along, it is hard to know who was aware of what and when. There are different, contradictory versions of events. When asked, the minister initially said that he was not aware. That is completely untrue, however, because we have now learned that he was aware. He met with the ombudsman, who wanted to talk to him about the situation.
Then, the minister started saying that he was not aware of the nature of the complaint in question. However, once again, Mr. Walbourne said that he very clearly told the minister about the nature of the complaint. Furthermore, media reports revealed that the public servants had emailed each other, proving that the minister was aware of the nature of the complaint, in spite of what he had been claiming. Worse yet, the minister then claimed that the nature of the complaint was not ultimately an important factor.
That is how he chose to handle it. Rather than apologizing and telling us that he did not give us the right information and that he tried to hide the fact that he did not take the action he should have, he decided to minimize the situation and tried to convince us that, ultimately, it was not that important.
It is especially disappointing to see a minister behave like that, particularly because of the message that it sends to the Canadian Armed Forces. The message is that this is not serious, not important. The government is going to close its eyes to complaints. The government is going to say that it does not want anything to do with this sort of thing and that it does not want to get involved because politicians should not interfere with investigations. That is the minister's position.
Nevertheless, we asked the former ombudsman if it would have constituted interference to meet with him to look at the evidence. At that time, there was not even an investigation under way. He said that it would not. The ombudsman that replaced him and who is in office today told us that it would not be interfering at all and that is exactly what he would have done.
We asked the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service or CFNIS if it would have constituted interference for the minister to do his job by simply looking at the evidence and agreeing to meet with the ombudsman. He said no, not at all. We also asked the CFNIS whether it would have constituted interference for the minister to request an investigation. Once again, the CFNIS said no and added that that would only be the case if the minister sought to undermine the investigation. However, it must be said that the minister did basically undermine the investigation by not asking the CFNIS to investigate and by refusing to obtain the information. However, there was no investigation. It was easier that way.
We then learned that the information did make the rounds. The Privy Council Office was informed of the situation. One of the 's advisers, Elder Marques, was apparently informed of the situation and was asked to investigate, at least to some extent. The Prime Minister's chief of staff was also informed of the situation. However, one after the other, they all claimed at the beginning, when speaking with the Prime Minister, that they did not know and his staff did not know. We were getting different versions all the time, and information was coming out in dribs and drabs. Unfortunately, we are up against a government and a party that are trying to undermine the work of the Standing Committee on National Defence.
I have been a member of that committee for months, and our work has been stalled for months now. Every time a witness is called or a witness expresses a desire to appear, the government and Liberal members filibuster. As a result, nothing is moving forward and nothing is getting done. The filibustering is only getting worse. It has been about three or four weeks since we have been able to have a single meeting where we have intelligent discussions and actually do any work. We are just wasting time. This is especially frustrating because this government prides itself on being a democratic government when, really, it is just undermining the committee's work.
Why did he decide to hinder the work of the committee? That is the question. Why does he absolutely not want us to know what happened? Since the witnesses kept contradicting each other, after we heard the last one, we decided to invite more. We asked for the Minister of National Defence's chief of staff so that he could give us his version of the facts, but that was blocked. We cannot speak to him. On one occasion, the minister even showed up in place of his chief of staff to tell us what he would have said. That is something. He knew what the other guy was going to say. Why are the Liberals so scared of what he might tell us?
For now, what we have observed is that the Minister of National Defence was not up to the task. He did not do his job, and, because of that, to protect itself and to prevent things from going smoothly, the Liberal Party has been systematically obstructing the investigation. The Liberal members of the committee are preventing us from doing our job. If I were a citizen and I saw that, I would be really angry and frustrated. In addition, what message does this send to people who work in the Canadian Armed Forces?
What message does this send to women? The message is that, when things like this happen, when a minister is not up to the task and when there are unacceptable situations in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Standing Committee on National Defence will be prevented from doing its job because the government wants to protect its friends, and because it wants to protect those who did not do what they should have done. That is what is really going on.
We have a who is not up to the task. Rather than do his job, when he could have implemented the recommendations of the 2015 Deschamps report, the minister decided to go back to square one instead. I do not even know if he read the Deschamps report, which contained good recommendations and indicated that the situation in the armed forces was hard to believe. He decided to go back to square one and commission another report that they also may not look at in order to stall.
For example, he allowed Mr. Vance to take charge of Operation Honour, when, in the end, he was setting the wolf loose on the sheep. He gave him a raise. Worse than that, we found out that, in the meantime, the second in command of the armed forces, Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, who is also vice chief of the defence staff and head of the military police, went to play golf with the retired General Vance.
All this shows just how much the minister's inaction created a climate of impunity in the armed forces, and that is totally unacceptable.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I am honoured today to speak to this motion. I am the granddaughter of Bert McCoy. He was a gunner in the Royal Canadian Air Force who always lived a very large life, including being shot down over Belgium during the Second World War. He spent two years in the underground trying to fight his way back to my grandmother and my mother in Canada. An interesting part about this story is that he had to escape from some German soldiers, and speaking French saved his life. I sometimes think that the reason I fight so hard for Franco-Albertans is that French saved the life of my grandfather.
He was a magnificent man, and I am proud to stand today in his honour, but I have to say that how we protect and stand up for the women and men who defend this country defines us as parliamentarians. It is one of our most fundamental duties.
We ask members of the armed forces to risk their lives, to be away from loved ones, and to defend all of us and others around the world. There can be no more important thing than those women and men knowing that we have their backs. Women and men have lost confidence that this has their backs. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces have heard the minister mislead them. They have heard the minister mislead parliamentarians, the media and Canadians.
I do not want to be harsh on any member of the House. I understand that we all have very difficult jobs, and I honestly believe that almost all members want to do what is best for Canadians, but the has acted in a way that requires a response.
In 2016, the quashed an inquiry into Canadian transfers of detainees to local custody in Afghanistan, where they faced torture. An inquiry would have revealed why the transfers were not stopped and why these war crimes were never reported. In making this decision, the minister was in an apparent conflict of interest. He served as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan at the time of the transfers and would have had knowledge of the torture of detainees. No public inquiry was ever conducted into Canada's role and responsibility with regard to the transfer of Afghan detainees. More recently, the minister turned a blind eye to evidence of war crimes committed by Iraqi troops being trained by Canadians as part of Operation Impact.
In 2017, the claimed to be the architect of Operation Medusa. This was not true. He exaggerated his role, which of course is an affront to those members who fought in Afghanistan. Honour means telling the truth. Honour means not taking credit for the work done by others. The minister stole honour that was not his.
Despite the 's poor record, this is not just an issue with the Minister of National Defence. The focus on the Minister of National Defence is necessary, and I will support this motion, but I want to outline why I believe the inexcusable actions by the government, in relation to its support for members of the Canadian Armed Forces, are not the issue of just one minister. In fact, this is not the issue of just one party. There is an insidious and dangerous reality that goes farther than one minister.
The has failed the women and men in uniform. The Liberal government has failed the women and men in uniform. There is a pattern of looking the other way. There is a pattern of not doing the work that needs to be done to meet our international obligations to report war crimes and torture. As always, the failures of many do not affect the government. They affect our brave servicewomen and men in this country, and they affect those who need our help around the world.
One of the most shocking failures was the inability to protect women in the military from sexual harassment and violence.
The government has been in power for six years, and in those six years there have been 581 sexual assaults in the military, with 221 incidents of sexual harassment logged. This abject failure to protect women is a stain on our country.
Women are tired of being told to be patient. They are tired of being told their concerns have been heard and then nothing changes. As important as the Liberals say the issue is, the did not even include an explicit mention of dealing with sexual misconduct in the 2015, 2019 or 2021 mandate letters to the .
The did not care.
I spoke earlier today about a survivor who called my office because she did not trust her member of Parliament. She did not know where to turn, so she phoned my office. I spoke to her for over an hour about her concerns that her anonymity and safety would be compromised, and that for her having a career in the Canadian Armed Forces was now impossible.
This is a woman who has served our country, and she does not even feel safe telling the government about the concerns she has as a survivor of sexual harassment within the military. I did not know what to say to her. I did not know how to help her. I did not know how to relieve her concerns. I did not know what to do, because I do not have confidence that the government cares about sexual harassment survivors. I do not have confidence that the Conservative government, when it was in power, had the best interests of women in our military at heart.
Can members imagine being a survivor, and being brave and strong enough to come forward with that story of survival, and then finding out that General Vance was golfing with the people who were investigating him? The old boys' club nonsense that she is trying to stop and prevent, because she wants to make our military better, results in them going for a golf game. How old boys' club is that? How inexcusable.
These women do not get action. They get another inquiry. The must answer for this, but more importantly the must answer for this.
As I said, my confidence in the government has failed, but I do not believe the Conservative government acted better. I am sad to say the Conservative government under Stephen Harper, with Jason Kenney as the minister of defence, bears the same guilt. Jason Kenney knew General Vance was accused of sexual harassment, and unbelievably he appointed the general to lead Operation Honour. In what world is it reasonable to have somebody accused or suspected of sexual harassment be in charge of the investigation into sexual harassment? The absurdity is shocking to me.
While I am disappointed in the , the and the Liberal government, I find it incredibly rich that the Conservatives have the gall to stand in this place and not acknowledge the role their government has played in harming the women of our Canadian Armed Forces.
There is enough blame to go around. Government after government has failed women in this country. They have created a toxic work environment where women cannot work safely in our military. Is anyone surprised that enrolment is low? Can anyone be surprised that women do not flock to participate in our military?
In conclusion, I will support this motion because the needs to answer for his actions, but I want to reiterate that the , the minister, the government and the opposition bear the burden of knowing they have not protected women in this country.
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona for her interventions, which are always extremely relevant, heartfelt and full of humanity.
To quote Shakespeare's Hamlet, something is rotten in the state of Denmark. I get the impression that something is rotten in the office of the Minister of National Defence. He has abandoned the men and women of the armed forces time and again. He has engaged in cover-ups, tried to ignore the facts, and tried to sweep things under the rug, and he misled the parliamentary committee when he was answering questions. The members of the armed forces deserve much better than that. They are courageous men and women. They take risks. They are prepared to make sacrifices, and they keep us and our country safe.
In my opinion, the men and women who serve in the armed forces must be respected. They deserve better. The abandoned them and chose to turn a blind eye to serious allegations, including allegations of sexual misconduct, and other problems, such as the things that happened in Iraq. He always tried to cover up instead. It seems that the minister's modus operandi is to avoid fixing the problem, look away or sweep problems under the rug. For him, it is out of sight, out of mind. However, that is not how it works.
The Minister of National Defence, protected by the and by the entire Liberal government, let down all the women who serve in the armed forces, first and foremost. That is unfortunate, because it blatantly contradicts the Liberal rhetoric about how they are a feminist government that cares deeply about the plight of women and their advancement to achieve real equality.
On several occasions, the minister, protected by the Prime Minister, failed the test. The people who work in the armed forces have a unique calling. We should be grateful to them. Personally, I am grateful for my grandfather, Urgel Boulerice, who served in the armed forces in World War II. It makes me think about my colleague from Edmonton Strathcona, who spoke of her grandfather. Her story was very interesting. These people have the right to work in a safe and healthy environment. The Liberal government failed to meet its obligations.
We are dealing with a deleterious climate, a culture of impunity and a toxic culture. Despite all the reports and recommendations, the Liberal government, the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence were unable to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. All workers in Canada have the right to a safe and healthy work environment, including those who serve in our armed forces.
I have not met many military personnel, since there is no military base in my region. In my riding, Rosemont—La Petite‑Patrie, there is a legion, and I have met with its members a few times. I am not as close to the issue as some of my colleagues. However, I spent three days on a frigate between Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John's, Newfoundland. For three days, I lived with sailors on the HMCS Ville de Québec, which, I must say, is a very nice name. I met extremely dedicated professional men and women who want to do their job well and who have absolutely unbelievable stories to tell, including about counter-piracy operations off the cost of East Africa. I salute their work and their bravery. If I mention this, it is because I am trying to address this situation as a matter of women's and workers' rights.
I want to take a step back and ask everyone here a question. For us, as members of Parliament, what does it mean to engage in politics? We must listen to people. We must connect with people. We must listen to their problems and try to find solutions. When Yann Martel spoke at an NDP convention, he said that politics requires empathy, the ability to stand in someone else's shoes to better understand their life.
I must admit that I have had a privileged life and that there are some hardships that I cannot understand. I am not a part of a minority, I have not been excluded, I have not faced discrimination, and I have not been the victim of racism or sexism. I think it is essential to be able to stand in someone else's shoes and demonstrate humanity, solidarity and friendship.
I want to take some time to read a poem from Jacques Prévert that puts us in that frame of mind. I think this kind of point of view is worthwhile and plainly relevant to this discussion. It will take two minutes, and then I will get back to the topic at hand. Here it is:
The sun shines for all mankind, except of course for prisoners and miners, and also for
those who scale the fish
those who eat the spoiled meat
those who turn out hairpin after hairpin
those who blow the glass bottles that others will drink from
those who slice their bread with pocketknives
those who vacation at their workbenches or their desks
those who never quite know what to say...
those you won't find anesthetized at the dentist's
those who cough out their lungs in the subway
those who down in various holes turn out the pens with which others in the open air will write something to the effect that everything turns out for the best
those who have too much to even begin to put into words
those whose labours are never over
those who haven't labours
those who look for labours
those who aren't looking for labours
those who water your horses
those who watch their own dogs dying
those who daily bread is available on a more or less weekly schedule
those who go to church to keep warm in their winter
those whom Swiss Guards send outdoors to keep warm
those who simply rot
those who enjoy the luxury of eating
those who travel beneath your wheels
those who stare at the Seine flowing by
those whom you hire, to whom you express your deepest thanks, whom you are charitable toward, whom you deprive, whom you manipulate, whom you step on, whom you crush
those from whom even fingerprints are taken
those whom you order to break ranks at random and shoot down quite methodically
those who go on forced marches beneath the Arch of Triumph
those who don't know how to fall in with the custom of the country any place on earth
those who never ever see the sea
those who always smell of fresh linen because they weave the sheets you lie on
those without running water
those whose goal is eternally the blue horizon
those who scatter salt on the snow in all directions in order to collect a ridiculous salary
those whose life expectancy is a lot shorter than yours is
those who've never yet knelt down to pick up a dropped hairpin
those who die of boredom on a Sunday afternoon because they see Monday morning coming
and also Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday
and Saturday too
and the next Sunday afternoon as well.
I think this tells us that we must be able to see those with different lives and different challenges who are suffering. Right now, in the Canadian Armed Forces, there are people who are struggling and who are suffering. That is why there have been allegations of misconduct and investigations. Unfortunately, the Minister of Defence, instead of trying to put himself in the shoes of those who are struggling and suffering, preferred to try to bury the situation time and again.
He did that in the case of the investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct, but that was not the first time. There are things that trouble me immensely about the current Minister of Defence's instincts. Remember that, before this whole unbelievable story, there were videos of Iraqi military personnel committing crimes against Iraqi women, including sexual assault, rape and maybe even murder. What was the Minister of Defence's response? He told us not to watch the videos.
In 2016, after becoming Minister of Defence, he decided to set aside an investigation into the transfer of prisoners in Afghanistan when they were handed over to local authorities who were known to routinely practise torture. This is a complete violation of all of our international commitments and the Geneva Conventions. We should not be transferring prisoners if we think they are going to be mistreated or tortured.
There is overwhelming proof that the minister is incompetent, and that he is not deserving of our confidence or of that of the House. For these reasons, the NDP is asking for his resignation.
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for . As the strong, proud and ready member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, I am honoured to represent Garrison Petawawa.
Today's motion is about the legacy of the Canadian Armed Forces during the current 's tenure. He needs to step aside, since he is not prepared to admit each time he failed to uphold his oath of office to the Canadian people. He was under the direct supervision of the . There is no room in the Prime Minister's Office or the Department of National Defence for sexism, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, discrimination, harassment or any other conduct that prevents the institution and the whole of government from being a truly welcoming and inclusive organization.
Canadians understand that a culture change, starting with the , is required to remove his culture of toxic masculinity behaviour to create an environment where everyone is respected, valued and can feel safe to contribute to the best of their abilities. As the member of Parliament for Garrison Petawawa, I know that respect is precious. If the has any respect for the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, he would have resigned a long time ago.
I have worked very hard to earn the respect of our women and men in uniform. They are heroes. This was in the 2018 briefing note to the chain of command, up to the , the individual at the top who claims ignorance of war crimes:
We remain uncertain whether appropriate action was effectively taken...I am an ethical man and I believe in our moral doctrine and the LOAC (Law of Armed Conflict). I am bothered by the fact that my assigned duties allowed me to train and enable people who in my mind were criminals.
These soldiers are also my constituents. I have a direct responsibility in calling out this dereliction of duty on the part of the . I acknowledge the trust they placed in me when they acted with a conscience. I will always have the backs of the women and men in uniform.
On behalf of the people of Canada and on behalf of our Conservative government-in-waiting, I thank the soldiers who first raised the issue of war crimes, and then continue to raise these concerns. They have the gratitude and full support of the Conservatives, even if the Liberal Party continues to slough them off and act vindictively towards the soldiers who reported what they saw.
It is obvious to those who care about things like international treaties and the law of armed conflict that the has many lessons to learn. He needs to take lessons from the official opposition when it comes to serving his country. The minister claims no politician should ever start investigations. How quickly he forgot his own advice when it came to an hon. naval officer, like Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. What the ordered, however, was not an investigation against Mark Norman, it was a witch hunt that ended badly for the Prime Minister and his minister.
While I am proud and ready to defend the honour and reputations of the women and men who serve as the members of the Canadian Armed Forces, I cannot say the same about the current . The reputation has been maligned by the government of our country. The lack of leadership and direction from the has created many casualties.
First is the . The motion put forward by the says it all. Seeing the Minister of National Defence reduced to repeating mindless talking points is sad, when he had a strong role model sitting next to him, the former minister of justice, the MP for . As a principled woman, she knew when it was time to stand up and act honourably.
The next casualties of the 's lack of leadership are the women in uniform who have been victims of sexual misconduct under his watch, and the double standard on the way women and men are treated by the so-called, let me grope for his self-label, “feminist Prime Minister”.
Let us talk about the female officer who was charged, convicted, fined and removed from her post. Her treatment was in direct contrast to the treatment afforded to Lieutenant-General Christopher Coates who, while serving as deputy commander of NORAD, had a consensual relationship with a civilian woman serving with the U.S. military in Colorado Springs.
He was allowed to continue his post before being transferred home last summer to take over the military's joint operations command. Coates was due to be transferred to the senior NATO post in Naples, Italy, until news of the affair became public. Now, ignoring the family relationship between Coates and DND deputy minister Jody Thomas, this example of the double standard women in uniform face every day from the government is appalling. We can add that to the casualty list on sexual misconduct.
The 's own chief of staff, Katie Telford, did nothing to rein in the problem of the Prime Minister's toxic masculinity and seriously address the problem of the sexual misconduct crisis in the military. That makes her part of the problem and she should have resigned her position when her complicity was exposed.
The next casualties of the lack of leadership and direction by the and his are all the serving women in the Canadian Armed Forces. From the highest-ranking general to those who are still around, to the newly enlisted, who should be eager to serve their country, but who are now demoralized by the actions of the Prime Minister.
There are also fine individuals like Mark Norman and former armed forces ombudsman, Gary Walbourne. I am a member of the Standing Committee on National Defence. We invited Gary to come to our committee. He stated for the record he met the in 2018 to discuss an allegation of sexual misconduct against former chief of the defence staff, Jonathan Vance.
When he offered to show the proof of the allegation, former armed forces ombudsman Walbourne stated the government pushed him away and refused to review the evidence. “The only thing I ever wanted the minister to do was his job,” he is quoted as saying at the time that this happened. He then observed that “doing nothing wasn't the response I was looking for”. Doing nothing is the legacy of the and the government. This is now a government-wide scandal.
The next casualties in the DND scandal are the MP for and the MP for . The endless filibustering of the Standing Committee on National Defence will not go unnoticed by voters. They also had a role model like the member who had also left the Liberal caucus who used to sit beside them in the government caucus. To retired general Andrew Leslie, the former member of Parliament for Orléans, who resigned rather than being reduced to a mindless government cheerleader, I thank him for his service to this country.
The last point I will now deal with is the myth that some elements of the bought media repeat is that the military fared okay while the member for has been sitting in the defence minister's chair. Under the 's time, though the government may have committed spending more money on the military in real dollars, it is all promised spending. The devil is always in the details. My constituents clearly remember the decade of darkness when Liberals slashed budgets, starting with disbanding the Canadian Airborne Regiment.
For spending to actually happen, soldiers have to rely on a future elected Conservative government. Of the purchases that have actually been delivered so far, they are mired in controversy. Who is Adam Coates again? By all tests, the has failed Canadians.
Madam Speaker, Canada's military is in crisis on the 's watch. An institution that has been revered for over a hundred years, Canada's military has liberated occupied nations, fought for democracy, freedom and peace, and brought honour and respect to our country and Canadian citizens. Now it is facing some of the darkest days in its history.
Canada's military is entrusted with protecting and preserving Canadian values, but it must also embody them. However, serious abuse of power, sexual misconduct and discrimination at the highest levels in Canada's military continue unchecked, and the and the have failed to act. That is why today's opposition day motion calls on the House of Commons to censure the Minister of Defence, and why it is so important.
Members of the government will cry that today's motion amounts to nothing more than petty partisan politics. That, in itself, is evidence that the current government understands neither its sworn obligation, nor the dire situation that Canada's military is in.
Members of Parliament are elected to govern, and governing is much more than merely passing laws. Governing, at its most fundamental, is about ensuring that those entrusted with leading the country embody the values of honesty and integrity that Canadians expect, and are held to account when they have broken that most sacred trust.
In his direction to ministers in 2015, the charged them with “[c]reating the culture of integrity and accountability that allows [them] to earn and keep the trust of Canadians”. The Prime Minister went on to say, “Whether a Minister has discharged responsibilities appropriately is a matter of political judgment by Parliament.” Therefore, any attempt to characterize today's opposition day motion as partisan or petty politics must be vehemently rejected. It is the role of Parliament to judge a minister, and not one we take lightly. Today, this House of Commons is fulfilling that most difficult and serious responsibility.
The has not acted with integrity and accountability. Instead, he has consistently misrepresented the facts, refused to answer direct questions, failed to implement important changes to improve the military's culture and turned a blind eye to serious allegations.
In 2018, allegations of serious misconduct were made against the former chief of the defence staff, General Vance. For three years, the knew, and key officials in the Prime Minister's Office, the Privy Council and the minister's office knew, and they all did nothing. No one else would have known, if two parliamentary committees, the defence committee and the status of women committee, had not decided to study this serious military misconduct.
What Canadians have learned through the testimony at those committees and in the media has simply shaken us to our core: hours and hours of jarring testimony detailing accounts of abusive power, misogyny, rape, sexual harassment and discrimination.
We heard testimony of investigations that were never carried out or were covered up, evidence that was lost or tampered with, and serious crimes that were pleaded down to an administrative slap on the wrist, purged from the records and simply forgotten. We heard from victims who were threatened into silence and themselves blamed for what had happened to them. They told us how their careers were destroyed and they were drummed out of the military. Perhaps most tragically, we heard from victims who believe they will never be able to get justice for what happened to them.
To quote retired Colonel Bernie Boland, “The entire institutional weight, influence, power, intellect and knowledge is directed against [victims] rather than what it's purportedly supposed to be.... Equal justice for all is not being applied here at all.”
All of this, in Canada's military? How could this possibly happen in a country like Canada, where justice, accountability and the rule of law are our foundation?
The former chief of the defence staff, General Vance, the highest military officer; then his replacement, Admiral McDonald; Vice-Admiral Edmundson; General Fortin; General Rouleau; and Vice-Admiral Baines are all either under police investigation or have had to step aside for questionable conduct. Even more general and flag officers are complicit, through their actions or their silence.
The failure of Canada's military starts at the top of the chain of command, and the top is the . Under the National Defence Act, the defence minister is responsible for the management and direction of the Canadian Forces, and it is his duty to hold those at the most senior levels to the highest standards. A military has great power. It is the one group of people in Canadian society entrusted with the ability to bear arms and to commit acts of violence on behalf of the country. In a democracy, citizens need to know that the military is held in check by our elected officials.
The had a responsibility to take swift and immediate action regarding the allegations against Vance, but for three years he did nothing. While he may not have conducted the investigation himself, it was up to him to ensure that one was done. As elected officials, our loyalty is to country first, before party and before individuals; we are here to act in the best interest of the country.
That is what we also ask of our military, and Lieutenant-Commander Trotter risked his personal well-being to do what is right. He said, “as an officer in the Canadian Armed Forces I swore an oath to Queen and country to fulfill my duties, and there's the old adage of service before self. There may be blowback. There may be career implications”. He further stated, “My personal conviction as an officer of the Canadian Armed Forces is that I will put the service and my service members above my own needs and safety.”
Canadians rely on ministers to do the same, to put this country and Parliament before themselves and to accept responsibility when they fail to do so. However, after months of questions in the House and numerous appearances at committee, not once has the accepted any responsibility. Not once has he said he should have done something differently and, most important, not once has he committed to holding accountable those who have failed in their duty. Lasting change will only come when those who have failed are held accountable.
Governing does not mean to delegate and disappear. It means ensuring that government departments and public servants deliver the services Canadians need, to the standards they expect and in a manner that brings honour and pride to Canada as a nation. When it comes to the conduct at the highest level of the Canadian Armed Forces, the and the say it is not up to them.
If the and the are not responsible, then who is? The defence minister has clearly shown that he will not accept responsibility. He will not act honourably, admit he has failed in his duties and resign, and the Prime Minister will not hold him accountable and fire him. Rather than standing up for women, the Prime Minister has reinforced an entrenched and toxic military culture. His inaction has emboldened the old boys' club and denied women the opportunity to be believed.
Women in the military have earned the right to serve equally with respect. All men and women in uniform have sworn to give their lives for their country. In return, their elected officials must vigorously ensure they are protected by Canadian values.
Service to country is who I am at my core. My father was a major-general who served in the military. I followed him, like many others, in uniform and was honoured to wear the Canadian flag on my sleeve.
The has lost the trust and confidence of the military and Canadians. The crisis in Canada's military will not end until the defence minister is censured. I implore all of my colleagues in the House to support this motion and censure the defence minister.
Madam Speaker, unfortunately, what we have been listening to is very much political partisanship. The Conservatives, in particular, have spared no expense in looking into individuals and attacking their character. We have seen that virtually since 2015, and nothing has changed. Even during the pandemic, the Conservative Party remains focused not so much on policy, but on character assassination. I am disappointed once again, but not surprised, by the behaviour of the official opposition.
I was in opposition for many years, as I said before. Never before have I seen an opposition party attack personalities to the degree that this party has in opposition, even at a time when Canadians want us to work together. It is also disappointing to see the Bloc and the NDP join forces with the official opposition. I refer to it as “the unholy alliance”. By joining forces, they are trying to give a false impression to undermine the public's trust in our institutions.
I served in the Canadian Forces, albeit for a short period of time of just over three years. I enjoyed every day that I served in the forces posted out in Alberta. This is a government that has demonstrated a very strong, powerful commitment to the Canadian Forces. We have seen legislation, we have seen budget initiatives and we have seen a , who I would argue is second to no other in recent memory, commit to building a stronger, healthier Canadian Forces.
For those who have been following the debate on the floor of the House of Commons or in the committees, I will note what the unholy alliance of opposition parties is trying to accomplish. I suggest that the opposition, collectively, is feeling frustrated, and has joined forces to do what the Conservatives have been doing since 2015. It is quite upsetting that they have chosen the once again.
I remember when Jason Kenney heckled across the chamber to say he needed translation for English. That is where things started getting pretty rough for the opposition, and Jason did not want to back down. He wanted to take his shots at the .
As my colleague put in a question, this issue is not new. Sexual harassment and abuse of power are very serious issues in the forces. This was true back in the eighties, when I was there. I suspect members will find that they predate that time, and I suspect that they will likely continue. However, there are things we can do to minimize them and hopefully get them out of the system.
We have a who understands the members of the forces, so when the Conservatives attack his character, I take exception to it. Virtually from day one they have been attacking this particular minister on a personal level. I note Jason Kenney again, and what I would suggest to be racial comments from him.
Prior to being the Minister of National Defence, he was a detective with the Vancouver Police Department. Prior to that, which is how most know him quite well, he had a role in our Canadian Forces. I will expand on that a little later. He was the first Sikh Minister of National Defence and was also in command of a Canadian Army Reserve regiment. Those are just some of things people will find about the minister if they do a very basic google search. To say that he should relieved of his responsibilities or should step down is just silly.
When I look at what we have been able to accomplish through the leadership of the , the investments today and the commitments for tomorrow for members of our Canadian Forces, I will compare that any day to what Stephen Harper and the Conservatives did.
I made reference to the fact that sexual harassment did exist. There is an imbalance. There is the shame and the exploitation. They are very real. The has been very clear that we are committed to making the much-needed institutional and cultural changes that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces need, and we continue to make that commitment.
We have invested in the health, safety and well-being of all our defence team members. We have committed well over $200 million in the most recent budget toward eliminating sexual misconduct. The has indicated that we will look for ways in the coming days to ensure there is an independent system established to deal with this issue. The minister has been very clear to those who want to listen and do not have the selective hearing my Conservative friends across the way do that he has absolutely no tolerance, zero tolerance, for any form of sexual misconduct and that we acknowledge the courage of those who have come forward.
Those are not my words. That is the sentiment of the and he has made that very clear not only to members of the Canadian Forces, but all Canadians. That is the reality. We have invested money, we have a process system that will ultimately see some tangible results, but that is not good enough for the Conservatives. They say he should have done more. It is really ironic.
I asked the Bloc and the NDP, who say they will support this motion, about the behaviour of the leader of the Conservative Party. That is not a problem for them. I do not hear them saying anything about that. I asked them if they were going to give him a pass and they completely avoided the question. Like the buy-in on this Conservative motion, they want to focus on the minister.
What did happen? Back in July 2015, allegations were first raised under the Conservative government. What is truly amazing is that the was one of the individuals who was made aware of the rumours of misconduct. How many questions did he ask on the floor of the House in regard to that? When did he start asking questions? It would be an interesting question for the leader of the official opposition.
It was serious enough that the asked his staff back then to notify the then prime minister's chief of staff, who then took it to the Privy Council Office for a review. In other words, they took the very same steps our has taken. The primary difference might be that our minister did it a whole lot quicker than what the current leader of the official opposition did. What a double standard.
Are the NDP, the Bloc, the unholy alliance, saying that no harassment of this degree took place over the last 10 years, that this is relatively recent and that our party is ultimately responsible? There is an institutional issue that needs to be dealt with, and this government, in particular the , are committed to dealing with that issue, unlike Stephen Harper and the current who both had a chance to do so.
For the members at the standing committee, in particular those from the opposition parties, where was their interest in this issue pre-2015? Did they attempt to study the issue? Often what happens is issues come up and committees will respond to them, departments will respond to them. That is typically what would give the committee the mandate to look into things and to investigate them.
I do not think members are naive. I believe we all understood there was a very serious issue, just like I know there are very serious issues with systemic racism in other institutions, whether it is with the RCMP or the Canadian forces. These issues exist. If the standing committee had wanted to study the issue in a truly non-partisan way, I am sure there would have been far greater progress.
Earlier today, when we had the tabling of reports from committees, we even heard some members comment on how effective committees could be when their members worked together. With the official opposition, policy does not matter. It is how its members can tear down the government and the people who make up the Government of Canada. That is their primary objective, and today the focus is on the , again.
I asked a question about the character of the individual. I referred to this quote earlier, a wonderful quote by Brigadier-General David Fraser, who was in charge of NATO's regional command south in Afghanistan back in 2006. His comments reference today's . He said:
I have had the pleasure of having Constable and Major [Minister of Defence] work for me for the past nine months on OPERATION ARCHER/ATHENA, Canada’s contribution to the global war on terror in Afghanistan. I must say that Major [Minister of Defence] is one of the most remarkable people I have worked with, and his contribution to the success of the mission and the safety of Canadian soldiers was nothing short of remarkable.
He tirelessly and selflessly devoted himself to piecing together the ground truth on tribal and Taliban networks in the Kandahar area, and his analysis was so compelling that it drove a number of large scale theatre-resourced efforts, including OPERATION MEDUSA, a large scale conventional combat operation that resulted in the defeat of the largest TB cell yet identified in Afghanistan, with over 1500 Taliban killed or captured. I rate him as one of the best intelligence officers I have ever worked with—fearless, smart, and personable, and I would not hesitate to have him on my staff at any time in the future.
Members in my constituency look see him as a hero, and he was. Literally tens of thousands of people look up to him, and the Conservative Party wants to take him down. They are saying that it is not personal. What garbage. The NDP and the Bloc might be fooled into believing that, but I am not.
Many thousands of people who know the do not believe it either. They understand what is taking place today. Shame on the combined unholy alliance of the opposition parties that have made the determination to try to censor a hero, a Minister of National Defence who has brought not only legislation before the House but budgetary measures to increase the funds for the armed forces, which Stephen Harper could not and did not do. I would compare the current minister of defence to Jason Kenney any day.
Do members of the unholy alliance of opposition parties believe there should be no consequences for the current ? Had he acted based on the standards that the opposition parties are talking about today, General Vance would never have been in the position in the first place.
At the end of the day, the opposition members had a choice. They could continue their character assassination line, something which they started back in 2015, as the records will show, going after one minister after another with a special focus on some ministers over others. It is not the first time they have called for a minister to resign. On the other hand, they could have actually talked about an issue. After all, we are in a third wave of the pandemic. Canadians are dying because of the COVID pandemic.
Yesterday, a bogus question of privilege was raised by a member who stopped just before Private Members' Business. He still has not come back to finish it. That shows just how important the question of privilege was. I stood and said that it would be a good opposition day motion, because it was on policy. The member wanted to talk about issues affecting the pandemic, Canadians, taxation policies and so forth.
The problem is that the opposition wants to shy away from policy. It does not want that. The official opposition wants to assassinate the character of those within cabinet and try to give a false impression. That is really unfortunate. No matter how hard that focus is, whether it is on the floor of the House or in our standing committees, this is a government that will continue to be focused on the pandemic and on ensuring Canada is in a good position to recover, no matter what sort of approach the unholy alliance of opposition parties chooses to take.
I am very disappointed in the Bloc and the NDP. I hope that at some point they have the ability to justify their behaviour—
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for .
Normally when I rise in the House, I am very pleased to put words on the record about all the issues we talk about here, but today I rise with extreme frustration and disappointment concerning the sexual misconduct in the Canadian military, the lack of results from the Liberal government and the failure of the to take this issue seriously.
The Conservative motion on the table today rightfully calls for the resignation of the because of his record on this issue, and because of the men and women in our Canadian Armed Forces who have been sexually exploited and who he has let down.
I listened intently to the minister's speech today in response to our motion. I was waiting and hoping that he would express regret for his record on failing to address sexual misconduct in the military, but he did not. There was no personal acknowledgement that he had thus far failed to send a clear message to the most powerful men in our military, who report to him, that this behaviour will not be tolerated and that this culture is no longer acceptable.
The minister has been in charge of our military for over six years, yet in that time, and especially in the last five months, we have seen eight senior ranking military officials resign in disgrace over allegations of sexual misconduct under his watch. In the five months since the scandal concerning General Vance broke, who at the time was the head of our military, it has only gotten worse.
Most recently, Canadians learned that the man who has authority over the investigation of sexual misconduct went golfing with the man accused of that misconduct. After five months of headlines, they thought it would be okay to go golfing together, which is the clearest violation of conflict of interest that I have ever heard of.
When I saw that headline the other day about the golfing scandal, it truly sickened me to know how little has really changed after the last five months of repeated headlines and conversations about this scandal. I cannot imagine how that headline was received by the men and women in the military who have been raped, abused and mistreated by their superiors, and for them to know that nothing has changed.
This was after the minister answered dozens and dozens of questions in the House, in committee and from reporters on this issue since it broke in February. Time and time again, he has said that he is essentially proud of his progress on this issue, with that disclaimer of, “Oh, there's much more work to do, but don't worry, we'll get to it”.
Well, the fact that the man in charge of the investigation thought it would be acceptable to go golfing with his buddy, the man accused of the misconduct, is all the information I need to know about how this Liberal minister clearly failed to pass on the message he has so proudly shared in the House of Commons with members from all parties. He is happy to say the words to reporters, to the opposition and to his voters, but he is, apparently, incapable with following through, being a leader and laying down the law. He is the head of our military. The buck stops with the Liberal .
When it comes to this culture of old boys' club men protecting each other from accountability for demeaning and disrespecting women in our military, the minister has demonstrated that he does not have the ability to follow through on his words. Otherwise, the golfing scandal would have never happened. That is why we are asking for his resignation today.
I want to speak for a moment about what it is like for the thousands of women in uniform who have served our country, and the millions more women in Canada who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. I say women, but of course, we know that men also experience this. In fact, 30% of the sexual misconduct complaints in our military are from men, so it is important that we do not forget them. However, I can only speak from a female perspective, and that is what I will be doing today.
I will use the example of the email that General Vance sent to his junior officer, whom he far outranked, because not only does it show what he thinks is acceptable behaviour, but it speaks perfectly to the broader issue of the power imbalances in the workplace when sexual relations are brought into it.
A junior ranking military official met General Vance at a function, and he offered her mentorship and career advice if she ever needed it. It is pretty exciting as a young, aspiring career woman to get an offer of mentorship by a superior, especially an older man, which is very valuable.
We live in a man's world, so we cannot put a price on that career advice, and I can imagine she was quite excited for the opportunity. However, when she emailed him for that career advice, he concluded his reply with, “Or...we could throw caution to the wind and escape to a clothing optional island in the Carribean...I hear the beer is good there... Cheers, JV”
Now, I do not know this woman, but I do know how she must have felt reading that email. She was probably excited to see the email pop up in her inbox, to see what he was going to say, but she opened it only to see that he was propositioning her for sex.
Make no mistake, this happens all the time, but when it happens, when one gets a message like that, whether it is in person, a text, an email or a phone call, a woman instantly gets a pit in her stomach. It is like a vice grip. Her heart starts beating. She may start to sweat. She is sickened with anxiety and dread because she knows in that instant that everything has changed for her, but not for him.
I am not sure whether his comment was flippant or deliberate, and I am not sure which one is worse, but with it General Vance changed the entire dynamic of that relationship. Why is that? These types of relations are against the rules in the military, which he would have well known. If these were unwanted advances, which clearly they were, now the junior member had to deal with an ordeal that she did not ask for.
Now it is a situation that she is going to stress over. She is going to lose sleep over it and try to navigate it without damaging her career. This woman had to figure out how to push back and say she was not interested without damaging his ego. All women in this chamber will know that when a man makes advances they do not want there is that nervous laughter: “Ha, ha, so funny. Get your hand off me”. I think all the women in this chamber have probably experienced that at some point or another.
Every woman I know certainly has had to deal with this at some point in her career, and it is particularly insidious when it is at the workplace. Perhaps there is an aggressive drunk at a bar. We know the feeling of dread and of having to try our best to let these men down gently so we do not hurt their egos. Make no mistake, I have met thousands of men who are amazing allies to women, but I have come across those insidious men in my career and in my life.
A woman knows that if she does not tread carefully, verbal abuse can ensue or perhaps violence. It can affect her career if her name comes up for a promotion, for example, or for a new posting or new opportunity, and the old boys are talking about who they are going to pick for that promotion or that new posting. She knows that if she hurts a man's ego with her response, it might affect the reference he would give her when her name comes up. Let us be real here. That is what is going on. That is what women have to deal with when unwanted sexual advances come their way from male superiors in the workplace, and this happens all the time.
It is particularly insidious at work because it affects a woman's career. Everything that she put work into is at stake in that ridiculous moment when someone thoughtlessly says something to her. General Vance did that to this servicewoman. He might not have given it a second thought, but if that is the case, that is how detached from reality he really is. That is how drunk on power he and his fellow high-ranking military officers really are. They have no idea what it is like for the women they do these things to.
We know this kind of behaviour is just the tip of the iceberg. It is symbolic of a greater problem. Women have been sexually abused, raped and harassed day in and day out in our military, all while trying to do their jobs, keep their heads down and advance their careers like everybody else.
There are land mines like this everywhere for women as they rise up the ranks in their careers. I know it. I have lived it, just like millions of other women. I am not unique, but it is real and it happens every single day.
What is most disappointing is that the Liberal government was elected twice on its feminist promises and credentials, yet here we are six years later with no feminist change seen in our military. The has spoken at length about this, yet nothing has happened. The scandals just keep rolling out. Every day there is a new headline. These men thought that going golfing during an ongoing sexual misconduct investigation was somehow acceptable just a few days ago. That is the minister's record on this issue. That is why we are calling for him to resign.
Before I conclude, I have two quick things to say. I want to seriously thank the Conservative members on the defence committee for their dedication and their tireless effort. I am very proud to serve alongside them. They have been tireless in their pursuit of justice for the women and men who have been mistreated in our military.
To the men and women in our military who have suffered through this hell, and I do not choose that word lightly, I say we are with them. We have their backs and we will not stop until there is a reckoning in our Canadian military.
I will conclude with a message to women Liberal MPs in the House. I know that they are all proud feminists, but now is the time to walk the talk. If they are going to go door to door in the next election and tout their feminist credentials, they have to stand up for women when it counts. It counts today.
The has failed the women in our military. He has failed to stand up for them. He has failed to fulfill his duty and hold these powerful men accountable. He has failed to send the message that it is not okay to go golfing with the accused when an investigation is going on. There is no way around it. There is no other way they can try to spin it. That is the reality.
I know that in their hearts the Liberal members, particularly the women, know what I am saying is correct. The might be a nice guy, but that is not the point. He clearly cannot fulfill his duty.
In conclusion, the current has proved he cannot defend women who have been sexually harassed, raped and abused. The women in our military only need seven Liberal MPs to abstain or, better yet, vote for his resignation. He could still be an MP, but he should not have control over changing the culture in our military after he has let us down as women so profoundly. I would ask seven Liberal MPs to please consider this and do the right thing.
Madam Speaker, it is hard to follow a member like the member for . She basically made the entire case for this motion. I am not going to repeat what she said because she passionately explained to Canadians and her constituents the exact matter at hand: the 's dereliction of duty, his failure to take command of the situation, to own responsibility for it and to do the right thing.
This is a motion that calls for the 's censure. The House of Commons is unsatisfied with the quality of his work. It is not enough to simply keep repeating that he is doing something. I have heard Liberal MPs say this repeatedly. The member for made the best possible case that could be made in the House, and it is still not enough. I hear from constituents and read in the papers that he is just not doing enough. He has failed. He has not done the job.
The refuses to relieve him of his responsibilities, so we are at a point where we have to censure a member. Earlier today the member for mentioned that 20 years had passed since a member had been censured in the House in this manner for the performance of their duties and responsibilities to Canadians. It has been a very long time.
The issues are the sexual harassment and misconduct allegations in the military, the treatment of Vice-Admiral Norman and the continuing cover-up of what is going on. They include misleading Canadians on the withdrawal of fighter jets in the fight against ISIS. They go on and on. The Canadian Forces are in disarray. The men and women in uniform do not have a leader who is willing to take command. At last count, eight or nine senior officers in the military had either resigned, been fired or been relieved of command duties. That is huge. We have no commander-in-chief and there is no Governor General, either. The is supposed to be the one responsible at the moment, and I do not think there is any faith in his ability to deliver on everything that he is supposed to right now, which is why Conservatives are asking for a vote of censure on him.
“The first rule of politics: never believe anything until it's been officially denied.” That is a Sir Humphrey Appleby quote. There will be a Yiddish proverb at some point. I will think of one.
The has denied knowing anything, but then there were internal access to information requests that came back saying the minister knew. There was a long chain of information from the Privy Council of what it knew, when it knew it and when it was informed these were #MeToo sexual harassment allegations. Now we have that information and it is unbelievable that we are here, nearing the end of June and still debating who is responsible for the failure to address these systemic problems in the senior ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Brigadier-General Gordon O'Connor served the House very honourably. He was the minister of national defence over a decade ago. He used to say that sexual harassment and misconduct issues in the military were issues of command. There is a command responsibility for senior officers to look after those in the lower ranks, and to make sure they are treated correctly by their commanding officers. Commanding officers who cannot keep control of their troops have failed in their duties of command, in just the way the has failed in his responsibilities of command.
The reason I know Gordon O'Connor, a former brigadier-general, former “zipperhead” or tank commander and former minister of national defence in the House, is because I was a junior exempt staffer in his employ. I know exactly what he expected of senior officers in his ranks. That is well over a decade ago now, so I am dating myself. As my staff always remind me, there is a generational divide between them and me.
The Yiddish proverb I am thinking of is, “Words should be weighed, not counted.” The motion has weighty words in it. Conservatives are asking for censure of a for his performance and failure in the conduct of his duties. He has a responsibility to the men and women in the armed forces to ensure, first, that their commanding officers do not mistreat them, and second, that he follows through on investigations to make sure they are safe from their own members in their workplace. They expect the enemy on the battlefield to be shooting at them, trying to end their lives and kill them.
What they expect in return is that we have their backs, that the has their backs and that when he sends them into harm's way, he sends them with commanding officers who are able to ensure their personal safety from their own. That is a minimum requirement we should expect from the minister and the senior ranks of the military.
I know that the member for will appreciate that I have gone through the 's departmental plans that he signed off on. After question period I will refer to the departmental plans, but they show that the minister, who signs off on these documents every time they are submitted with the estimates that we have to vote on, and the military have not been taking it seriously.
I read here, “To be determined by 31 March 31 2021”, and then it defers it until 2022 and future years. There are no targets in place. There is no plan in place in their own departmental plans. They have not said anything in about here fixing actual goals for dealing with the problem. They are literally kicking it down the road. They are waiting for future years to take care of this. There is talk publicly, but as for the actual plans for the civil service and what it is supposed to be doing, there is nothing there.
After question period, I will fill members in on the rest.