Politics

Defence minister and Canada's top soldier to apologize to sexual misconduct victims

Canada’s defence minister will join the country’s top soldier in delivering a formal apology to survivors of sexual misconduct in the armed forces on December 13.

Dec. 13 apology will be streamed on Canadian Armed Forces Facebook page

Defence Minister Anita Anand will formally apologize to military survivors of sexual misconduct Dec. 13. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Canada's defence minister will join the country's top soldier in delivering a formal apology to survivors of sexual misconduct in the armed forces on December 13.

"All Defence Team members should be treated fairly in a workplace that is safe and free of any kind of harassment and discrimination," says a joint statement from the federal government.

"We know there is much more work to do to create lasting and positive culture change, and we will continue to listen to and learn from those affected to ensure we are taking the necessary action to make that change."

Defence Minister Anita Anand will apologize on behalf of the Government of Canada. Her deputy, Jody Thomas, will apologize on behalf of the Department of National Defence. Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre will apologize on behalf of the armed forces.

The apology will take place at 1 p.m. and will be streamed live on the Canadian Armed Forces Facebook page. Afterwards, the video of the apology will be posted to the Forces Twitter and YouTube accounts and the Sexual Misconduct Apology web page.

Since early February, the military has been besieged by allegations of sexual misconduct involving some of its highest-ranking leaders. Over a half dozen top ranking commanders have been either the subjects of complaints or have been sidelined over how they handled misconduct cases.

This past spring, the federal government appointed retired Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to come up with proposals to end the abuse, intimidation and sexual assault that have been endemic in the military for more than generation. Her review, which began in April, is expected to last about a year.

In response to one of the interim recommendations Arbour gave to Anand's predecessor, Harjit Sajjan, Anand announced earlier this month that she was transferring the investigation and prosecution of sexual misconduct cases within the Canadian Forces into the civilian justice system.

Gen. Wayne Eyre — shown here addressing a repatriation ceremony at the Osan Air Base in Pyeongtaek, South Korea in 2018 — was named chief of defence staff last month. He replaced Art McDonald, who stepped aside following claims of sexual misconduct. (Jung Yeon-je/Associated Press)

Arbour's review of military misconduct is not the first. Six years ago, the former Conservative government launched its own external review of sexual misconduct in the military, led by another former Supreme Court justice, Marie Deschamps. She recommended the government establish an independent agency for reporting misconduct.

That recommendation was largely ignored. Instead, DND created a sexual misconduct response centre — which, while independent of the military chain of command, only provides advice to victims.

With files from the CBC's Murray Brewster

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