Class-action lawsuit launched against military over alleged sexual misconduct
A Canadian flag sits on a members of the Canadian Forces leaving from CFB Trenton, in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (The Canadian Press/Lars Hagberg)
Published Tuesday, November 29, 2016 6:05PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, November 30, 2016 10:41AM EST
Members of a support group for military sexual assault survivors are launching a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian Armed Forces.
Several members of the military sexual trauma (MST) peer-support group, called “It’s Just 700,” filed a notice of action in Ontario Superior Court on Monday. In court documents, the group alleges that the military systemically failed to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment and protect its members.
The group also alleges that the military discouraged victims from reporting incidents, failed to investigate ones that were reported and retaliated against armed forces members who did come forward.
The notice of action was filed on the same day that Statistics Canada released a survey which found that sexual assault was more likely to occur in the Canadian military than in the general population.
The law firm representing the group’s plaintiffs, Raven Law, wrote on its website that the group decided to initiate legal proceedings “in an effort to change a system that condones sexual misconduct and punishes victims instead of perpetrators.”
A Department of National Defence spokesperson says that the military is looking into the matter.
“Once served, the Government will study the Statement of Claim in detail to determine next steps,” according to the statement emailed to CTV News on Wednesday.
It’s Just 700 was created in March 2015 and currently has 106 members, including nine men.
In a news release issued Tuesday, the group took issue with the Statistics Canada survey, which found that 1.7 per cent of regular force members and 2.6 per cent of reservists, or part-time members, said they were sexually assaulted in the last year.
The group said the rates of sexual misconduct should be much higher because “key military groups,” such as members who were taking courses or have been released from the armed forces, were excluded. It’s Just 700 also claims that the continued stigma associated with reporting sexual misconduct skewed the results of the survey.