The Trudeau government is trying to quash a class-action lawsuit that alleges rampant sexual misconduct and gender discrimination within the Canadian Armed Forces, CTV News has learned.
Plaintiffs in the case allege systemic sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination.
Veteran Amy Graham, one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, said the Liberal government’s attempts to stop the lawsuit contradicts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s public support for victims of sexual misconduct.
In a recent speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Trudeau said he was "unequivocal" in his support for women who come forward with allegations.
“He was on the international stage coming across as a feminist, coming across as supporting women's rights, saying how courageous it was for these women to come out, and how difficult it was. And behind the scenes nobody knows that he's trying to dismiss our case,” Graham told CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson.
“I'm very disappointed -- actually disgusted is probably a more accurate term.”
The military has made extensive efforts to stamp out sexual misconduct. Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance said last April that he planned to remove any military members found guilty of sexual misconduct. In 2017, more than two dozen service members were kicked out.
Despite those efforts, the federal government argued in court filings that it does not “owe a private law duty of care to individual members within the CAF to provide a safe and harassment-free work environment, or to create policies to prevent sexual harassment or sexual assault."
The Prime Minister’s Office would not comment on the lawsuit.
However, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan insisted the government supports victims.
“We want to encourage people to actually come forward if they have any allegations or any type of concern, and that's very important,” Sajjan said.
Conservative Defence critic James Bezan says the prime minister’s words don’t match his government’s actions.
NDP MP Niki Ashton echoed similar criticism, calling the move “deeply hypocritical.”
With a report from CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson in Ottawa