Canadian Forces release second progress report on sexual misconduct

WATCH ABOVE: Canadian Armed Forces release progress report on efforts to combat sexual harassment. Vassy Kapelos reports.

Incidents of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour are still occurring within Canada’s military ranks, a new report confirms, with 148 new cases reported between April and July of this year.

The progress report on the military’s efforts to combat sexual harassment, made public by the Department of National Defence on Tuesday, states that 51 investigations tackling those cases have already been completed, and 30 individuals have “received career impacting disciplinary and/or administrative action” as a result.

That could include fines or a reduction in rank, and even dismissal. Commanding officers have been fired, officials have confirmed.

Seven cases have resulted in criminal charges, and more charges are pending.

WATCH: Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance announced Tuesday that Canada’s military experienced a 20 per cent increase in the number of reported cases of inappropriate sexual behaviour.

Canadian Forces see sharp increase in reports of inappropriate sexual behaviour over last year
Canadian Forces see sharp increase in reports of inappropriate sexual behaviour over last year

Ten cases were ruled unfounded by authorities, and three were referred to civilian law enforcement bodies. In four other cases, the offender could not be identified “and no further action was possible.”

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Ninety-seven more investigations are still ongoing.

READ MORE: Four military arrests in 10 days ‘a coincidence,’ says department

Canada’s chief of the defence staff formally addressed the second progress report in Ottawa.

Gen. Jonathan Vance and a bevy of top military officials were on hand for the announcement. The guest list included the top commanders of the Canadian navy, army and air force, plus the executive director of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, created last year.

Overall, Vance said that the number of incidents of sexual misconduct reported to military authorities this year has risen 20 per cent over 2015.

“We expected this,” Vance added, highlighting that some of the cases are old ones that people have only recently felt comfortable reporting.

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In early 2015, a scathing report from retired Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps outlined an entrenched “culture of misogyny” in the military.

READ MORE: Minister contradicts military brass on sexual misconduct

Gen. Vance quickly launched the multi-phased Operation Honour to “respond to the crisis” and to “eliminate” harmful sexual behaviour in the military.

A first update on the department’s efforts was released in February. At the time, Vance said there had been good progress, but cautioned that lasting change will take time. He reiterated that message on Tuesday.

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The other military commanders in attendance outlined the efforts being made by the navy, air force and army to combat inappropriate sexual behaviour and harassment. Better training, new tool kits for commanding officers and specific definitions of things like sexual consent and assault are all being used, they said.

Lt.-Gen. Chris Whitecross, commander of the military personnel command, said that the stories she heard during town halls held across Canada to talk about the problem “directly affected me, to the centre of my being.”

Officials were repeatedly asked to provide more details about the number of people who have lost their jobs as a result of Operation Honour, but said they would have more information at the next update in a few months.

The military is now awaiting the results of a massive Statistics Canada survey filled out by 40,000 military members over the spring and summer.

“Frankly, I expect the results to be sobering when we get them in the fall,” Vance said.

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