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Trudeau on military misconduct: ‘I wish I could have done more’

Click to play video: 'Lt.-Gen. Carignan ‘touched’ by Canada’s apology for military sexual misconduct' Lt.-Gen. Carignan ‘touched’ by Canada’s apology for military sexual misconduct
WATCH: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says that “top levels of the military” insisted there was “no problem” on misconduct scandal that has shaken the Canadian Armed Forces. – Dec 16, 2021

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggests the “top levels of the military” told his government there was “no problem” when it came to the misconduct scandal that has shaken the Canadian Armed Forces.

In a year-end interview with Global News Ottawa Bureau Chief Mercedes Stephenson, Trudeau said he wishes “he could have done more.”

Read more: ‘I am sorry’: Anand says Canada failed to act on ‘scourge’ of military sexual misconduct

“Looking back, there’s always things that we wish we had done more and faster. But when the very top levels of the military are insisting that there is no problem, it is a challenge for any government to say ‘OK, you’re wrong, we’re going to get rid of you all, we’re going to bring in an entirely new system,’” Trudeau said.

“I wish I could have done more. I wish I had — I wish I had been able to do more.”

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The Trudeau government has known since taking office in 2015 that sexual misconduct was “endemic” throughout the military and that the culture of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) was “toxic” towards women and LGBTQ members.

Those were the words used by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps in her 2015 report on sexual misconduct in the military – an issue that dates back decades.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau reflects on two Michaels, military misconduct in year-end interview' Trudeau reflects on two Michaels, military misconduct in year-end interview
Trudeau reflects on two Michaels, military misconduct in year-end interview – Dec 16, 2021

Trudeau’s government faced heavy criticism over the past 11 months for not implementing core recommendations from the Deschamps report, which called for the creation of an independent reporting system for military sexual misconduct. The purpose would be so victims could report outside of the chain of command, which Deschamps suggested had a vested interest in sweeping allegations under the rug.

Yet Trudeau has offered little insight into why his government for six years chose to sit on that recommendation, a matter which became a frequent target of criticism during twin parliamentary committee studies of the sexual misconduct crisis this year.

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Read more: Here’s what you need to know about the military sexual misconduct crisis

Canada’s new defence minister, Anita Anand, admitted this week that the government failed to act on the “scourge” of sexual misconduct in the military. In an apology on behalf of the government, Anand said that “countless lives have been harmed because of inaction and systemic failure.”

“This is a failure that our Canadian Armed Forces, our department, and the Government of Canada will always carry with us,” Anand said.

The Canadian Forces’ mishandling of sexual misconduct came to light following reporting by Global News in February 2021. Several of the military’s top brass have been forced out or forced to resign over allegations of improper conduct since then.

In April, the Trudeau government asked another former Supreme Court Justice, Louise Arbour, to conduct an external review into the issue, which is due in the spring. In June, former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish released a report warning the problem remained as “rampant” and “destructive” in 2021 as it was in 2015 when Deschamps wrote her report.

Read more: ‘This time, we will not fail’: Ottawa apologizes to military sexual misconduct victims

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Trudeau told Global News that he wished “circumstances would have pushed us into” doing more.

“But we are there now and we are pushing as hard and as fast and with everything we can, and we are being supported by the extraordinary members of the (Canadian) Armed Forces from the inside who say: ‘About time. Thank you for doing it. Here is our support as well,’” Trudeau said.

Stephenson’s full interview with Trudeau will air on Dec. 25. The West Block’s In Conversation with the Prime Minister will air on Dec. 26 at 11 a.m. ET/CT and 10 a.m. MT/PT.

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