Hamilton reservist disciplined for sharing intimate picture of female soldier

Just months after being briefed on inappropriate sexual behaviour, soldiers with Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders shared and viewed an intimate image without consent. The incident showcases what's working and what still needs to change for Canada's military to root out sexual misconduct. Part 1 in a 3-part series.

Part 1 in a series examining discipline for Hamilton-area soldiers

Four soldiers with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada were disciplined after an intimate image of a female soldier was shared through Snapchat in 2016. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

The photo showed a Canadian soldier lying nude on a bed, her breasts exposed, her face clearly visible.

It was an image meant to be seen by only one set of eyes, and the corporal with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada who received it from his girlfriend didn't want to show his fellow soldiers.

But with peer pressure mounting and a crowd gathered around him in the barracks at the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre in Meaford, Ont. he scrolled to the photo on his phone.

As a group of five to seven male soldiers stared at the screen, another corporal named B. Miszczak pulled out his cell and snapped his own picture of the image.

Word about the photo spread quickly. So did the picture itself after Miszczak shared it with others through Snapchat.

The series of events involving soldiers from the Hamilton regiment is described in court martial documents and disciplinary records released to CBC News under Access to Information laws. Of the more than 150 pages detailing discipline actions taken over the past nine years, it resulted in the most severe punishment.

Photo sharing a betrayal

The photo was personal, intimate and supposed to stay that way.

Instead it was swapped among soldiers, a betrayal that highlights shortcomings in how the military handles sexual misconduct, particularly in training and victim support, identified by the auditor general last week. This week, CBC Hamilton is examining military discipline among area regiments, how the military handles misconduct and the issues it raises.

The first in a three-part series examining military discipline for units based in the Hamilton area. 

    Miszczak faced two charges under the Forces' Code of Service Discipline: One for committing an offence punishable by standard, criminal law and the other for committing an act to the prejudice of good order and discipline — both charges were in connection to transmitting the intimate image without consent.

    On March 13, 2018, during a court martial at the John Foote Armoury in Hamilton, he pleaded guilty to the second charge and was reduced in rank to private.

    A year before the photo was shared all members of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, including the four soldiers who were charged, received a briefing about sexual misconduct. This photo shows members of the Hamilton-based regiment during a recent ceremony. (Dan Taekema/CBC)

    He was also served with a notification of intent to recommend release from the Canadian Armed Forces, but the military won't say whether or not that release has happened, citing the Privacy Act and a desire to respect Miszczak's rights.

    Soldiers received training less than a year before

    Two master corporals — who the military noted outranked the subordinate soldier they asked to show them the picture — were convicted during a summary trial and each received a sentence of "caution one year," considered a minor punishment.

    We found that the chain of command delivered briefings and training that ... created confusion, frustration, fear, and less camaraderie.- Auditor General's 2018 Fall Reports

    The corporal who shared the original image of the soldier he was in a relationship with was found guilty and reduced in rank for six months.

    He is referred to as Corporal V. in court martial documents. Those documents say the image was sent to him with the "expectation [it] would not be shared with others and would remain private."

    The woman in the photo was serving as a member of another reserve unit when she took the picture.

    She was "extremely distraught" when she found out it had been copied and sent out among her fellow soldiers.

    Just months before the incident the soldiers involved, along with every other member of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, were given a briefing focused on inappropriate sexual behaviour and creating a workplace free of abuse.

    Some soldiers still have 'farther to go'

    In an email to CBC News Commodore Rebecca Patterson, director general of the Canadian Force's Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct, said training and education has had a "very positive impact" on many soldiers.

    "Unfortunately, some have farther to go, in terms of achieving understanding and awareness, and modifying their attitudes and behaviours," she wrote.

    The court martial was held at the John Weir Foote Armoury in Hamilton. (Dan Taekema/CBC News)

    A chapter in Auditor General Michael Ferguson's fall report released last week credits National Defence for putting in place several systems and services as part of the Operation Honour program.

    But the auditor also determined the policies, education and training about sexual misconduct are "not adequate" despite increasing awareness.

    "We found that the chain of command delivered briefings and training that did not increase members' understanding of how to respond to and support victims," reads the report, "but instead created confusion, frustration, fear, and less camaraderie."

    Careless acts and humiliation

    Despite issues raises by the case, court marital documents also showcase how some progress is being made as the military continues efforts to confront sexual misconduct.

    After receiving the photo, another corporal in the woman's unit reported it to the chain of command. Within half an hour, sergeants from both regiments involved gathered their platoons and lectured them about the inappropriateness of what had happened.

    The soldiers were also ordered to stop sharing the image and to delete all copies of it.

    The photo was shared while the soldiers were staying in the barracks at the 4th Canadian Division Training Centre in Meaford, Ont. (4th Canadian Division Training Centre/Facebook)

    Even Miszczak regretted what he'd done and took action, according to an agreed statement of facts from the court martial, which states he "realized that his actions had been inappropriate and deleted the image from his cellphone."

    Miszczak is also said to have cooperated fully with the military police investigation and to have provided a statement admitting what he had done.

    At the end of the court martial, military judge Lt.-Col. Louis-Vincent d'Auteuil acknowledged Miszczak recognized his responsibility for what happened.

    "I do understand that today will be the end of this process," he said. "But also it could be the beginning of another."

    But, the judge added, the case highlights just how quickly modern technology and careless actions can lead to other service members being humiliated.

    "It doesn't take much to create a situation that may put people, especially fellow members, in an awkward situation where their respect and dignity may be challenged."

    About the Author

    Dan Taekema is a reporter/editor with CBC Hamilton. Email: daniel.taekema@cbc.ca