Key points from the Deschamps report on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces
Published Thursday, April 30, 2015 2:57PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, April 30, 2015 5:00PM EDT
Marie Deschamps, a former Supreme Court justice and author of an inquiry into sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces, speaks at a news conference in Ottawa on Thursday, April 30, 2015. (Adrian Wyld / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
An external review of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Forces was publicly released Thursday.
The findings of the external inquiry, led by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps, found that Canadian Forces soldiers face a hostile environment within their own ranks, particularly female and LGTBQ members.
The 100-page report is based off of hundreds of interviews with members of the Canadian Forces, from all ranks and divisions.
Here are some of the key findings from the external review:
- The report found that there is an "underlying sexualized culture" within the Canadian Forces that is hostile to women and LGTBQ members. If left unchecked, this culture can lead to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
- This sexualized environment within the CAF is characterized by frequent swearing and "highly degrading" expressions referencing women's bodies, sexual jokes, unwelcome sexual touching and discriminatory comments about women's abilities.
- Some participants reported instances of sexual assault, date rape and instances of relationships between lower rank women and higher rank men. In some reported cases, sex was used to enforce power dynamics in relationships and to punish and ostracize a member of a particular unit.
- As soldiers move up the ranks, they become used to the sexualized culture.
- There are strong perceptions that there is an upheld culture where no one speaks up against sexual misconduct or assault, which deters victims from reporting such incidents.
- A large proportion of incidents of sexual harassment, misconduct and assault in the military are not reported.
- Many interviewees said they feared that reporting incidents would lead to negative repercussions for their career.
- Victims expressed concerns about not being believed, being labelled as weak or being deemed a trouble-maker if they spoke out.
- There is a strong perception that the process for reporting sexual harassment or assault is not confidential, and there is a deep belief that the chain of command does not take complaints seriously.
- Interviewees would like to see the creation of a reporting process that lies outside the chain of command, similar to processes in place in the U.S., Australia and France.
Processes and procedures
- Existing processes to address incidents of sexual harassment and assault are not effective, and can be cumbersome for the victim. For example, before a complaint of harassment is finally resolved, parties may have to go through three separate stages of attempted resolution – something the report deemed as "overly long and burdensome."
- There is a pressure on CAF members to resolve the complaint at the lowest level.
- Very little data is collected by the Canadian Forces on incidents of sexual harassment or sexual assault. The existing tracking tools are used inconsistently, or not at all.
- Many interviewees said that when they brought their complaint forward to a supervisor they were not taken seriously.
- Sanctions that were given out to alleged offenders were perceived as being meaningless, and often described by interviewees as a "slap on the wrist."
- Some of the victims who did report an incident of sexual harassment or assault described the reporting experience as "atrocious."
- Support services for victims are only available in a few locations, and services are often limited.
- Existing training for CAF members on prohibited sexual conduct does not seem to have any impact.
- Many interviewees said training courses are generally not taken seriously, and the sexual harassment training in particular is often mocked.
- In many cases, the people conducting the training sessions were seen as being complicit in the prohibited conduct.
Call for policy changes
The report concludes by calling for broad policy changes in the CAF to address the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
Suggested changes include pursuing cultural change, installing strong leadership, integrating women in top leadership positions, and creating an independent agency to handle reports of sexual misconduct and provide support to victims.
The report also recommends giving sexual assault victims the ability to file their complaints to civilian authorities.
In response to the report, the military released an "action plan" to address sexual misconduct. The action plan includes a strategic response team that will be appointed with dealing with the problem.