Military sexual misconduct apology coming before end of year, Anand’s office confirms

Click to play video: 'Canadian military sexual misconduct survivors still wait for apology from Ottawa'
Canadian military sexual misconduct survivors still wait for apology from Ottawa
Survivors of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces are still waiting for an apology from the federal government, as the number of claimants in a class-action lawsuit continues to rise. Mercedes Stephenson explains how this apology will be different from other high-profile apologies the federal Liberal government has issued – Nov 16, 2021

The apology promised two years ago to survivors and victims of military sexual misconduct will come before the end of this year, with a firm date coming “shortly,” the defence minister’s office confirms.

In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for Defence Minister Anita Anand said the planning for the apology is happening now but what that apology will look like is still to be determined, based on conversations with survivors and victims.

“We expect that the apology will take place before the end of 2021 and we intend to announce a firm date very shortly,” said Daniel Minden in an email.

“We are consulting with survivors’ groups to receive their input on their preferred structure for this apology. Planning for the apology is ongoing, and we look forward to sharing further details in due course.”

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It is still not clear whether Anand plans to participate in offering that apology herself.

A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence added the event will be virtual.

“We recognize that this apology is an important part of restoring relationships with those harmed by sexual misconduct and that this matter is deeply personal and emotional for those who have been affected,” said Daniel Lebouthillier in an email.

“Given our preference has always been for an in-person event, we monitored the pandemic’s progress closely with the hope that public health measures would allow it.

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“However, given the unprecedented impact of the pandemic, we are now looking at a virtual event at a date — this year — that remains to be confirmed.”

READ MORE: Military sexual misconduct survivors were promised an apology in 2019. Why the delay?

Military officials confirmed in November 2020 to the Canadian Press that an apology was in the works but did not give a clear timeline. That report suggested it would be the head of the military who offers the apology, rather than the defence minister or prime minister.

Advocates for survivors and victims, however, have said they believe the apology should come from the defence minister and the prime minister as well, given the extent of the military sexual misconduct crisis and the government’s failures to implement key recommendations from the 2015 Deschamps report.

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That landmark report documented the extent of the longstanding issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces, describing the problem as “endemic” and the culture of the military as “toxic.”

READ MORE: CAF commander to issue formal apology as part of sexual misconduct settlement

In 2019, the government reached a $900-million settlement over a class-action lawsuit from survivors and victims of military sexual misconduct. The deadline for claims under that process is midnight Pacific Time on Wednesday, and so far more than 18,000 survivors and victims have come forward to submit claims.

“The most important thing is for any class members who are interested in participating in the class action to submit a claim form before the deadline, even if they need to add details after the deadline has passed,” said Andrew Astritis, a lawyer with RavenLaw and part of the legal team working on the process.

“They can contact class counsel or the Administrator to help them provide additional details at that time.”

The Federal Court certified the class action and approved a settlement deal reached with the government on Nov. 25, 2019, while the claims process opened on May 25, 2020.

But by December 2020, the process had received just 2,729 claims.

READ MORE: Should past military probes be reviewed by civilians? Anand says it’s something to consider

That number has soared, however, over the course of 2021 amid an ongoing reckoning and what experts have deemed an institutional “crisis” facing the Canadian Forces as multiple senior leaders face allegations of sexual misconduct.

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Global News reported on the first of those allegations exclusively on Feb. 2, 2021.

In mid-June 2021, the number of claims stood at 6,666 then rose to 7,346 as of July 13 — an increase of 170 per cent from December 2020.

Claims rose again to 13,522 on Nov. 8, and as of Wednesday stand at 18,232.

Click to play video: 'Claims in Canadian military sexual misconduct lawsuit nearly double'
Claims in Canadian military sexual misconduct lawsuit nearly double

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