Women and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef says she is working with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on deciding how the government will act to fix the military sexual misconduct crisis, but offered no details when asked about her involvement in the response.
Monsef told Global News on Wednesday that the military is facing a “reckoning” after multiple women in the Canadian Forces shared allegations of high-level misconduct.
“These institutions that are meant to keep the rest of us safe should also be safe for those who sign up to do that important work,” Monsef said when asked what she is doing to push for action.
“My colleague Minister Sajjan and I are working very closely with partner organizations to create that greater safety, and we will have more to say on next steps we’re taking very soon.”
She said she was set to speak with both Sajjan and others on the matter later Wednesday.
“I think all of these institutions are going through the reckoning that is happening, and it’s thanks to the courage of survivors and the silence breakers that have come forward,” she continued. “Minister Sajjan and I are in regular conversation about this. We have another chat later today with other partners.”
Both are now facing twin military police probes.
Vance denies all allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
Monsef would not say whether she supports calling a public inquiry into the matter, which former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps described as “endemic” in her 2015 report into military misconduct.
Monsef also did not clarify what exactly her role is in working with Sajjan, who is facing intense criticism over his handling of an allegation against Vance that was shared with him in 2018.
Sajjan has said he had his staff referred the matter to the Privy Council Office, which shortly afterwards abandoned the probe. Sajjan has said he did not follow up or request any other examination.
Both the current and a former military ombudsman have rejected Sajjan’s claims that it was their job — not his — to investigate the matter further, despite the complainant wanting confidentiality.
The commander of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service also rejected Sajjan’s claims that it would have been “political interference” for him to request a probe of the allegation, or to follow up on why the Privy Council Office abandoned a review following the allegation.
Political opposition members, as well as defence and military experts, have called for Sajjan to be removed from his position, arguing there is no trust among military members that their concerns will be taken seriously by him if they come forward given his handling of the 2018 allegation.
Sajjan has refused to acknowledge that multiple experts have now repeatedly said his characterization of his lack of responsibility in the matter is wrong, and that those he has argued could have done more did not actually have the powers to do so.
He dodged questions on the rebukes by both the current ombudsman and military police commander during a press conference on Tuesday, and said that he handled the 2018 allegation properly.
Monsef did not provide a timeline for the work she says is underway now.
“We’ve been working with our partners to better understand specifically what measures we should be introducing. We’re accelerating the pace of some of the work that we were already going to be doing,” she said. “We will have more to say on that very soon.”
It has now been two months since the government promised an independent, third-party review of the high-level military misconduct allegations and said it would act to fix the problem.
No details have yet emerged of that promised review, or when the government will act.