Royal Military College cadets struggled with questions of sexual consent: Educator

The issue of drunkenness and sexual consent was part of a sex-assault prevention educator's lecture to Royal Military College cadets last fall that provoked a hostile response from some of the mostly-male audience.

Royal Military College apologizes for 'unprofessional behaviour'

9 years ago
Duration 3:02
Featured VideoAn expert in sexual assault prevention says she was whistled at, catcalled, and laughed at by cadets at the Royal Military College

The issue of drunkenness and sexual consent was part of a sex-assault prevention educator's lecture to Royal Military College cadets last fall that provoked a hostile response from some of the mostly-male audience.

It is also at the heart of two of the three allegations of sexual assault made in courts martial for two Royal Military College officer cadets on trial this week in Kingston, Ont.

Julie Lalonde says some officer cadets at Canada's only federal university resisted the presentation she gave, in which she highlighted the current law on consent in Canada — namely, the voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.

Lalonde's Draw-The-Line.ca campaign teaches that consent for sex cannot be given where someone is incapable of giving it, because of drunkenness, for instance.

Lalonde told CBC News several cadets in one session argued, "women who drink too much are enabling their own rape." Lalonde said it was the rowdiest and most hostile crowd she had ever addressed.

A cadet who contacted CBC News on Thursday said he attended the third-year briefing, which was considered the most hostile.

The cadet, who spoke on condition of anonymity because cadets are not allowed to speak to media without permission, said the mostly male audience objected to Lalonde's message that men are the problem when it comes to sex assault because most rape is perpetrated by men.

More contentious, he said, was her responses when the cadets pressed her about sexual consent and intoxication, including sex when both participants were intoxicated. Under the law, Lalonde said, the male could still be accused of sex assault.

"At this point all respect for the presenter was lost and she struggled to carry on with the presentation in the face of people ignoring her," he said, although the cadet added he did not hear "cat-calls" or threats made to Lalonde.

Do you know something about this story?

Contact James Cudmore and share your story.

As CBC News first reported Thursday, Lalonde was able after five months to secure an apology from the school's commandant, Brig.-Gen. Al Meinzinger.

Officer cadets in red uniforms, black pants and white helmets are shown parading in front of a large, ornate brick building.
The Royal Military College of Canada was forced to apologize to a sex assault prevention education for the reaction to her lectures by some cadets at the college. (Mary White, DND/Combat Camera)

Lalonde complained about being whistled at, laughed at and openly disrespected by the officer cadets she had been invited to speak to.

Meinzinger later apologized for the "unprofessional behaviour" of the school's cadets, including "several incidents that could constitute harassment." He said corrective action had been taken against the most difficult cadets but warned without identifying details about the worst offenders, no formal discipline could be meted out.

The cadet who contacted CBC News said that discipline amounted to second- and third-year cadets receiving remedial training from a military instructor.

On Friday, a spokeswoman for Jason Kenney, who as minister of defence is also chancellor of RMC, said the military will "never accept sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces."

"The Royal Military College has committed to addressing sexual misconduct through its sexual misconduct and harassment campaign plan, and we support them in that," Lauren Armstrong wrote to CBC News.

Continued on Twitter

Following her four sessions on Oct. 4, 2014, Lalonde took to Twitter to complain about the experience.

"I trained 90 per cent of the cadets at RMC today so I think I've earned the right to set the world on fire now, right?" she wrote.

That, and other strong comments from Lalonde provoked a reaction from some cadets.

"Ma'am, I loved the message you were presenting, but seeing these tweets has made me rethink [...] my opinion of you," one tweeted her.

"As an RMC student, I'm so glad you love to complain about us on your Twitter page. Real professional," said another tweet screencaptured by Lalonde.

Julie Lalonde, a sexual assault prevention educator, gave four talks at RMC last fall. (Julie Lalonde)

Other tweets were deleted after she officially complained.

The college asked Lalonde to provide more information to help identify students who wrote e-mails to Lalonde complaining about her message.

"Unfortunately, if the individuals cannot be identified then it will not be possible to take administrative or disciplinary action against them," Meinzinger wrote.

Lalonde told CBC she couldn't believe the reaction from the college to her complaint.

"I was told there were going to be consequences for my behaviour, that what I had done had embarrassed the institution, that I had been incredibly unprofessional because I had dared to tweet that it had been a difficult day to do training for 8 hours."

"And I think that's indicative of something. I was owed an apology from the institution — but instead they wanted an apology from me."

Lalonde did get that apology, eventually.

And she says not all cadets were hostile to her message. One even stood up and addressed his colleagues, she recalled.

"The way that men talk about women at RMC is f---ing disgusting," Lalonde said the cadet said. "Shut up and listen."

Thursday, on Twitter, Lalonde said it was that comment that has haunted her and recalled the difficulty in dealing with the college.

And she said the story has prompted feedback that has made her believe telling her story was worth it.

"I've been overwhelmed with supportive responses since the story broke. I'm struck by how many RMC graduates and former students have reached out to me to validate what I went through," she said.

"Unsurprisingly, I've also been contacted by women who were harassed or assaulted by RMC cadets and who thanked me for breaking the silence around RMC."

Mobile users: View the document
(Text KB)
CBC is not responsible for 3rd party content