'Awkward characterization': Lawson apologizes for 'biological wiring' remark
Published Tuesday, June 16, 2015 9:36PM EDT
Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson has apologized for saying “biological wiring” is to blame for sexual harassment in the military, saying the wording he chose was "awkward."
Lawson, who is stepping down in September, issued a statement Tuesday night, attempting to clarify his remarks.
“I apologize for my awkward characterization … of the issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. Sexual misconduct in any form, in any situation is clearly unacceptable,” he said.
“My reference to biological attraction being a factor in sexual misconduct was by no means intended to excuse anyone from responsibility for their actions.”
Still, many are unsatisfied with the apology, saying it was not Lawson's wording they objected to; it was the intent of his words, which suggested men can't resist harassing women.
Lawson's comments came during an interview with the CBC, in which he spoke about the “terrible issue” of sexual harassment in the Armed Forces.
"It would be a trite answer, but it's because we're biologically wired in a certain way, and there will be those who believe it is a reasonable thing to press themselves and their desires on others. It's not the way it should be," he said.
Questioning whether Lawson was suggesting that men are programmed to prey on and assault women, Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray tweeted: "Is he saying 'boys will be boys'? Deplorable excuse!"
Others complained the comments were insulting to men. They included sex assault prevention educator Julie Lalonde, who tweeted: "Men are not 'biologically wired' to not respect consent. What a misandrist thing to say."
Last April, former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps released a report that revealed a misogynistic, highly sexualized culture inside the Canadian Armed Forces, finding it contributes to the harassment and sexual assault of female members.
Her report found "a broadly held perception in the lower ranks that those in the chain of command either condone inappropriate sexual conduct, or are willing to turn a blind-eye to such incidents.”
She outlined 10 recommendations for fixing the problem, including the creation of an independent centre outside the military chain of command that would be responsible for handling complaints.
On Tuesday, Lawson reiterated his promise to carry out those recommendations.
“I am committed, alongside Canadian Armed Forces leadership, to addressing the issue of sexual misconduct through an action plan based on the ten recommendations provided in Madame Deschamps’ report,” Lawson said in his statement of apology.
Lawson has been Canada’s top general since Oct. 2012. When he steps down in September, he will be replaced by Lt.-Gen. Jonathan Vance, currently the commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command.