Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Says Progress Made on Sexual Misconduct, but Admits Long Way to Go

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Says Progress Made on Sexual Misconduct, but Admits Long Way to Go

Article excerpt

Military touts progress on sexual misconduct

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OTTAWA - The military's top brass says progress has been made in the war on sexual misconduct in the ranks, as evidenced by an increase in the number of cases being reported.

But they admit that victory remains a distant and elusive goal, even as questions persist over what repercussions offenders are really facing.

Chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance released an update Tuesday on efforts to root out what a former Supreme Court justice found last year was an "underlying sexualized culture" within the military.

The progress report said during the first six months of the year, military police received 106 complaints of sexual misconduct that warranted a criminal investigation.

That put 2016 on pace for a 22-per-cent increase over the 174 complaints received in 2015. The majority of those are sexual assault cases.

Speaking to reporters at National Defence Headquarters, Vance warned that the military still has a great deal of work to do. But he took the fact more people were coming forward to report sexual offences as an encouraging sign of progress.

"This demonstrates to me that those military members are more confident that they will be heard, and that we will act," he said as the commanders of the Canadian air force, army and navy looked on.

Yet the report did not say how many criminal investigations resulted in charges or convictions.

Julie Lalonde, an assault prevention educator who has lectured at the Royal Military College of Canada, said such information is a "bare minimum" for assessing the military's progress on fighting sexual misconduct, particularly as one of the primary concerns raised by victims was a lack of accountability.

"We should be finding out what's being done with every single one of those complaints," she said. "Not just as an accountability measure, but that's what the victims deserve."

The report did not focus on the 106 cases that warranted criminal investigation. Instead, it focused on disciplinary measures taken in response to 148 other complaints of "harmful and inappropriate" sexual behaviour between the beginning of April and the end of July -- most of which were non-criminal in nature. …

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