The Canadian Armed Forces is rife with sexual misconduct and harassment of women, according to a proposed class-action lawsuit that claims systemic gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination.
"Sexual misconduct and harassment is a deep-rooted problem in Canadian military culture," Halifax-based lawyer Ray Wagner said Monday after filing a statement of claim against Ottawa with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
"The accounts of rampant, routine sexual discrimination, bullying and unwanted sexual advances against female members are astonishing," he said. "This frequent misconduct is part of a troubling and deeply embedded culture that female members have been forced to endure. It's time to step back, acknowledge how wrong it is, and take a stand against it."
The plaintiff in the case is Glynis Rogers, a 29-year-old former member of the Canadian Armed Forces from Nova Scotia, but if the case proceeds, the class could include any women who claim similar treatment.
'Suffered in a great way'
According to her statement of claim, Rogers joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 2006, and says she was subjected to persistent and systemic gender and sexual-orientation-based discrimination, bullying and harassment by male members, particularly during training.
She says female members were called names and treated as being weaker and inferior to male members.
The claim alleges the Attorney General of Canada is vicariously liable for the alleged misconduct.
A spokesperson confirmed the Canadian Armed Forces had been served with the lawsuit, and said the government is deciding its "next steps."
Wagner said it will likely be sometime next year before they know if the class-action suit will proceed.
Report found 'endemic' bad behaviour
He said it's hoped the case would change the culture within the Armed Forces and give women a channel for reporting any abuse.
Wagner said an eventual case would seek damages, but the amount wouldn't be determined until its known how many women decide to be part of the class.
In a 2015 report, retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps found bad behaviour was "endemic" in the military — an institution steeped in a macho culture that leaves women fearful to report abuse.
At the time, the Canadian military said it acknowledged two key findings in the report. It agrees with Deschamps that a misogynistic, highly sexualized culture pervades the Canadian military. The military brass also concurred that eradicating that culture will take a concerted effort from defence leadership.