Alleged rape survivor asks why 'the military's judging their own' in possible voyeurism case at Toronto base
Dawn McIlmoyle-Knott worries case will dissuade other victimized soldiers from coming forward
As military police investigate allegations of voyeurism against a soldier at one of its facilities in Toronto, a former member of the military who alleges she was sexually assaulted during her time with the Canadian Forces says these kinds of investigations should be carried out by an independent body.
Dawn McIlmoyle-Knott formally left the Canadian Forces in September 1993 after she says a male colleague raped her. Five years later, she was awarded 60 per cent of a military pension after the Veterans Review and Appeal Board acknowledged that the Forces did not do all it should have to help her recover from what it called a "traumatic event."
But while her last day of service was more than two decades ago, McIlmoyle-Knott said the case reported on by CBC Toronto earlier this week has her worried that little has changed in the organization.
"After seven months, they haven't got to the bottom of it when they have the phone?" said McIlmoyle-Knott. "This should have been taken care of absolutely immediately."
Suspect should be fired: former soldier
In June, a female soldier found a smartphone planted inside a third-floor women's change room of the military facility in Toronto's Downsview area, which CBC Toronto reported on Wednesday. Phones and recording devices are strictly prohibited on that floor, according to a source in the Forces.
That same source told CBC Toronto that the female soldier immediately handed the device over to a senior officer.
In an emailed statement to CBC Toronto, Maj. Cynthia Larue confirmed "that a member of the Canadian Armed Forces is currently the subject of an investigation by the Canadian Forces Military Police in relation to a report of alleged voyeurism at a defence establishment in Toronto."
"I don't think that's right because the military's judging their own." - Dawn McIlmoyle-Knott , former military member
But McIlmoyle-Knott said she's concerned because the solider who is the suspect in the incident has been allowed to continue serving.
In November 2016, Canada's top solider Chief of Defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance vowed to punish or expel all abusive perpetrators from the military after a survey by Statistics Canada found that 960 full-time members, or some 1.7 per cent of the regular force, reported sexual assault in the previous year.
The survey also found 79 per cent of members in the regular force saw, heard or personally experienced "inappropriate sexualized behaviour" during the previous year, including inappropriate verbal or non-verbal communication, sexually explicit material, unwanted contact or suggested sexual relationships.
More than 43,000 military members voluntarily took part in the survey.
"If there's a zero-tolerance policy then [Vance] should stick to what he says and he should have that man fired," McIlmoyle-Knott said.
For her, the fact that the soldier remains with the Forces is "a sign that things haven't changed and it kind of seems that they aren't serious about what General Vance said in December."
'Military's judging their own'
In a statement to CBC Toronto, the military said it takes all allegations seriously and that, in every case, investigations are conducted to determine the facts, analyze the evidence and, if warranted, pursue appropriate charges.
But McIlmoyle-Knott says the Forces has long been "a men's club" and that an outside body should be brought in to probe allegations of sexual harassment or assault.
"I don't think that's right because the military's judging their own," she said. "I think something like that should be outside the military jurisdiction. It should be a civilian process."
In 2015, Vance moved to implement Operation Honour, a 10-step plan to eliminate sexual assault and harassment inside the military following a report by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps that found sexual misconduct was "endemic" inside the Forces.
Vance's predecessor, Gen. Tom Lawson, fed into the perception of indifference in the military by attributing sexual harassment to the "biological wiring" of soldiers — comments he quickly apologized for.
The December announcement was welcome news to McIllmoyle-Knott, but she remains wary about whether any actual change will result from it and worries women will continue to suffer in silence.
"A lot of women come forward and they're not believed. And they're questioned, they're victimized and they're revictimized over and over again about what happened to them."
"I know all too well."
With files from John Lancaster