Canadian Armed Forces: Changes are underway but slow to materialize

“I am told that they can sometimes contradict each other,” Ms. Therrien wrote in her Nov. 7 report released on Monday.

“So even relatively simple policy changes can take months of work for many people,” she describes.

In her first report last spring, Ms. Therrien called for the creation of a multi-year plan to track the progress of the military’s efforts to implement culture change.

She said the Army’s chief of professional conduct and culture, Lt. Gen. Jennie Carignan, developed such a plan this summer. This was not published.

“It is critical that the plan indicates that results will be measured and reported, not the completion of activities,” Ms. Therrien wrote.

Check out the definition of sexual misconduct

Ms. Therrien said the highest levels of the military are clearly working to address the problem of sexual misconduct.

However, it is a long process.

Changes to eliminate the use of a military definition of sexual misconduct and use a standardized definition of sexual assault in the Criminal Code will be “ready for approval” by the end of 2023, Ms. Therrien says.

The move is part of ongoing efforts to address the 48 recommendations made by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor in a damning report on military culture in May 2022.

But updating the ministerial policy that uses these definitions “involves more process.”

And it will take until the end of 2024 to update the force’s guidelines to apply the Canada Labor Code’s definition of harassment, she said.

The Arbor report also called on the federal government to remove the military’s jurisdiction over all sexual offenses under the Criminal Code – something Defense Minister Bill Blair said on Monday.

However, when asked when this change would occur, Mr Blair was less certain.

“I will propose a legislative solution to this problem in the coming months and hopefully this year,” he told reporters.

The Government accepted an interim recommendation from Ms Arbor in November 2021 to refer these offenses to civil authorities.

Since then, 275 cases have been reported to the military police. Ms Therrien said 142 of them were handed over to the civil police, which accepted 101 cases and rejected 41 others. Rejected cases were investigated by either the Armed Forces National Investigation Service or the Military Police.

The report shows that the 133 cases that were not referred to civilian police fell into several categories: incidents that occurred outside of Canada, victims who did not want to continue investigations, or victims who wanted to continue working in the military justice system.

Mr Blair said he did not believe this was in line with the spirit of Ms Arbor’s recommendation that the military judiciary continue to handle cases.

“Frankly, we want all these cases to be investigated by the relevant police and tried by the civil criminal justice system,” he said. That’s why we’re changing the law.”

Tyrone Hodgson

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