The Canadian military is set to reopen just under two dozen sexual assault cases it had previously deemed “unfounded.”
But dozens of others deemed credible still have no hope for future prosecution because of what the military describes as a lack of evidence.
That decision comes following an internal review of cases the military police had called unfounded that was sparked by a major 2017 investigation by the Globe and Mail that found police dismiss one in five sexual assault cases as baseless. Police forces across the country subsequently reopened 37,000 cases.
Earlier this year, that investigation won the coveted Michener Award, one of the highest awards for Canadian public service journalism.
A total of 23 of the military cases will now be identified further, which a military spokesperson said will result in investigators considering the use of additional interviews, better documentation and other investigative tools in each case.
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One hundred and thirteen cases of the 179 files reviewed from early 2017 to July 2018 remain classified as unfounded.
However, 43 cases were found to have been misclassified.
That means military police no longer believe there is no merit to the case.
But in contrast to the cases being reopened, military police do not believe there is any viable path forward for them to try to obtain evidence that could be used in a prosecution. As a result, they have been re-labelled as “founded-unclear” in military records.
The Canadian Forces has been grappling with the issue of sexual misconduct for the last three years following a damning 2015 report by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps that found sexual harassment and misconduct were rampant in the military.
Deschamps deemed the problem a “culture of misogyny.”
“As a result of these attitudes, there is a broadly held perception in the lower ranks that those in the chain of command either condone inappropriate sexual conduct or are willing to turn a blind eye to such incidents,” the report said.
Shortly after the release of that report, the military launched Operation Honour to tackle sexual harassment and misconduct.
It launched an independent reporting centre for sexual assault cases that gives victims the option of coming forward without having to report incidents directly to their superior in the chain of command, which had been flagged in the report as a problem discouraging victims from coming forward given fears of professional repercussions.