Sexual misconduct in Canadian Forces remains ‘persistent’

A staffer alleged she was raped

Sexual misconduct in Canadian Forces remains ‘persistent’

Former supreme court justice Morris Fish has proposed recommendations for a complete overhaul of the Canadian military’s approach to handling cases of rape and sexual assault. The report has come in following the alleged cover up of a string of cases involving top ranking military leaders.

The latest headliner allegedly involved a commander in charge of HR management, Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson. Former military personnel Stephanie Viau claimed that Edmundson had raped her nearly 30 years ago. The allegations made were some of the ‘most serious’ claims made against military leaders recently, reported CBC. In a shocking turn of events, the military put Edmundson on indefinite paid leave but have refused to allow the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to investigate the claims.

In her statement, Viau alleged that she had to endure a toxic culture of misogyny when she was in service. She claimed that colleagues played pornographic videos on board the ship, frequently made sexist comments, and walked in on her in the shower.

The case is emblematic of the long-held practice of silencing and managing cases of misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). This was why Fish centred his recommendations on encouraging the recognition and support of victims’ rights. In his report, he reflected how sexual misconduct in the CAF “remains persistent, preoccupying and widespread”, despite repeated attempts to address and curb the problem. “It has had a traumatic impact on the lives and careers of victims,” wrote Fish. “A corrosive effect on discipline and morale and a marked tendency to undermine public confidence in the CAF's institutional capacity to solve the problem internally.”

To date, no cases of sexual misconduct in the military have been passed on to the RCMP for investigations. Viau’s lawyer Paul Champ has questioned the military’s approach to the case. “If this case can’t be handled in the sensitive and independent manner that it requires, how can any woman in the Canadian military come forward and feel confident that her complaint will be investigated properly and thoroughly and decisions will be made in an independent manner?”

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