November 29, 2016 5:59 pm
Updated: November 29, 2016 6:47 pm

N.S. works to combat sexual misconduct in Canadian Forces

A Canadian flag patch is seen on a soldier's uniform.

THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Lars Hagberg
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Canada’s top soldier, Gen. Jonathan Vance called the results of the survey released by Statistics Canada on sexual misconduct in the military “regrettably sobering.”

Dr. Maya Eichler, a professor at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax calls them “unsurprising.”

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“I think they’re a reflection that the military is really a gendered organisation that has historically been male-dominated and is still dealing with that legacy,” Eichler said.

It wasn’t until 1989 that all combat roles in the Canadian Forces became open to women. Today, women account for just 15 per cent of personnel.

READ MORE: Class action filed against Attorney General over allegations of discrimination in Armed Forces

“I think really what is needed is a wholesale reconsideration of how we train soldiers and what we define as the ideal solider,” Eichler said, adding there needs to be a culture shift within all levels of the military.

“It promotes a kind of masculinity that encourages and promotes violence and aggression. Unfortunately, the kind of sexualized language and behaviour that is so pervasive is often a key component of that masculinity.”

Dr. Eichler said she hopes the survey results act as a wake up call within the military and will help to change the mindset amongst some of its members.

READ MORE: ‘It breaks my heart’: former military member on sexual assault statistics

Operation Honour was launched in 2015 by Vance as a sweeping campaign to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within the forces.

As part of that mandate, the formation of a new Sexual Offence Response Team was announced in September. Specially-trained investigators are stationed in regional offices across Canada, including Halifax.

“Our approach, as it’s always been, is the victim is our priority,” said Capt. Émilie Viau, commanding officer with the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, Atlantic Region.

“We will prioritize the victim’s safety and security when they come forward to us.”

The team receives specialized training to deal with sexual assault, physical abuse, child death along with other sensitive issues. Their office is strategically situated in downtown Halifax outside the base to protect the privacy of those coming forward.

READ MORE: Halifax military police officer charged with sexual assault

“The key message here is ‘don’t be afraid’. We will never do something against the victim wishes,” said Viau, adding part of their mandate is to educate the chain of command on the proper way to deal with sensitive issues.

“If the victim wants to report a crime, or even a witness, and throughout the investigation they don’t feel comfortable, we have other services that are in place to education them and provide them with support throughout that process.”

 

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