The culture and treatment of women in Canada’s armed forces will be in the crosshairs next week as a second House of Commons committee begins a study following allegations of high-level sexual misconduct in the Canadian military, first brought to light by Global News.
The status of women committee, which studies matters related to gender equality, voted unanimously Thursday to support a motion from several opposition members to study the culture within the military and to review Operation Honour, which is the military’s formal effort to root out misconduct.
The first of four meetings will take place on March 23.
A landmark 2015 report by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps highlighted the “endemic” nature of sexual misconduct within the Canadian Forces and put the blame squarely on a culture that she said was “hostile” to women and LGBTQ2 members.
That culture has come under renewed scrutiny and criticism over the last month-and-a-half as questions remain unanswered over why allegations against senior leaders appeared to be an open secret among many in government and defence circles.
One of the most senior women in the military resigned on International Women’s Day in a decision that she said came as a last resort after seeing military leaders continue to brush off the recent allegations.
In an exclusive interview with The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Lt.-Col. Eleanor Taylor shared her deep frustration with the extent to which she says the military has failed to act to root out sexual misconduct, and the cost that ambivalence will have on the future of the Canadian Forces.
“What I heard from people was disbelief that this could happen, and also a suggestion that this is just a few people,” Taylor said in the interview.
“At the same time that I was hearing that, I was hearing this undercurrent and feeling this undercurrent of seething rage from within the women and other victims in the organization around the shock and surprise.
“For people who live in this organization, this type of behaviour is no surprise.”
Witnesses set to be invited include Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, acting Chief of the Defence Staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, soon-to-be new vice chief of the defence staff Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen, and Deschamps.