Lt.-Col. Eleanor Taylor formally requested her release from the Canadian Forces on International Women’s Day in an email shared on Monday with Global News.
In it, Taylor says she is disgusted over the allegations and believes the military is not capable of holding its top leaders to account over sexual misconduct allegations against them.
“I am sickened by ongoing investigations of sexual misconduct among our key leaders. Unfortunately, I am not surprised,” wrote Taylor in the email, which was shared with Global News by multiple senior male leaders in the military — some of whom described reading it as a clarifying moment for them.
“I am also certain that the scope of the problem has yet to be exposed.”
Taylor’s decision comes as the military reckons with what experts have called an institutional “crisis” sparked by allegations of sexual misconduct against high-level leaders, including both Gen. Jonathan Vance and Adm. Art McDonald, the former and current chiefs of the defence staff.
McDonald stepped back last month and Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre is acting in his place.
Global News first reported on Feb. 2 that Vance is facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour from two female subordinates. He denies all allegations.
McDonald stepped back from his role on Feb. 24 after military police opened an investigation on unspecified allegations, which one witness told the House of Commons defence committee last week was related to alleged sexual misconduct.
The Ottawa Citizen first reported on Taylor’s decision on Tuesday afternoon.
Sources say Taylor’s decision left several senior male leaders in the military grappling with the realization of how bad the problem is for her to have made the decision that she did.
Taylor, who was one of the few women to have commanded an infantry company during the Afghan War, also played a central role in the military security planning for the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
“Without a doubt one of the most talented and capable officers I have ever known,” said retired Lt.-Gen. Mike Day, former Canadian special forces commander.
Taylor has been described to Global News by sources who worked with her as calm and collected, and someone whose decision and clear frustration has left her former colleagues stunned.
“Throughout my career, I have observed insidious and inappropriate use of power for sexual exploitation,” Taylor wrote in the email formally requesting her release.
“Some senior leaders are unwilling or (perhaps unable) to recognize that their behaviour is harmful both to the victim and to the team. Some recognize the harm but believe they can keep their behaviour secret.”
“Perhaps worst of all are those in authority, who should know better, but lack the courage and tools to confront the systemic issue.”
Taylor said in the email that she has been “both a victim of, and participant in” what she described as a “damaging cycle of silence,” and said she was not proud of that.
“I am not encouraged that we are ‘investigating our top officers.’ I am disgusted that it has taken us so long to do so,” she wrote.
Taylor said she had been encouraged to see the launch of Operation Honour, which is the military’s formal effort to root out sexual misconduct in its ranks.
Vance launched that in 2015 in the wake of the damning report by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps that found sexual misconduct is “endemic” throughout the military.
The military’s “toxic” culture towards women and LGBTQ individuals was a key target of that report, which also pointed the finger at the chain of command structure for covering up and minimizing misconduct within the ranks of the military.
Taylor said the failure of the military’s top leaders to set an example has “poisoned” Operation Honour.
She said the military should get rid of the name “Operation Honour,” noting “it is now harmful.”
“Where there are great discrepancies of power, abuses will occur. This is not surprising,” she wrote.
“That we are incapable of effectively addressing these abuses when they manifest as inappropriate sexual behaviour in senior leaders needs to be acknowledged.”
Sources tell Global News that Taylor has now been invited to speak at the army’s upcoming meeting of top leaders from across the country which will lay out strategy and plans for the coming year.
Sources say army leaders were struck by Taylor’s remarks, and want to hear from her on needed changes.