One of the most senior women in the Canadian military says she believes the current push to address the crisis of sexual misconduct is unique from past efforts, which she says only targeted “symptoms.”
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Lt.-Gen. Jennie Carignan said despite previous initiatives by the Canadian Forces, the root issue of culture was never fully addressed.
“This time we are going at the heart of the issue,” she said.
“We have been looking at symptoms historically. But what we have learned in the past six years is that we had not gotten to the heart of the problem … what is the environment that allows all range of misconduct to take place?”
“This is where we are going to be intervening.”
Carignan was named in April to the newly created post of chief of professional conduct and culture amid a national reckoning over allegations of high-level sexual misconduct.
In the months since Global News brought the first of multiple exclusive reports to light, the military has been embroiled in what leaders have acknowledged represents an existential “crisis” for the Canadian Armed Forces.
Monday, Gen. Wayne Eyre, chief of the defence staff, delivered a historic apology to survivors and victims of military sexual misconduct, alongside Defence Minister Anita Anand.
“You were let down. You were hurt. And when you tried to get help, we did not react,” said Eyre.
“I am sorry. We sincerely apologize for the trauma that you have experienced. To those who suffered in silence, we are sorry. To those who shouted until you could shout no more at great personal risk only to have no one listen to you, we are sorry.”
Anand described the problem as a “scourge” within the Canadian military — one that successive governments have repeatedly failed to adequately confront.
“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,” she said.
“These institutions failed you, and for that we are sorry. I am sorry.”
Carignan last week said she has heard firsthand from large numbers of members who are “hungry for change” and when asked what was different from previous efforts, she pointed to leadership.
“At the very senior leadership, the chief of defence is very much engaged, the deputy minister is very much engaged,” said Carignan last week.
“What was not obvious to us collectively around the table is now being discussed and seen, which is a great difference. Five years ago, if I were to ask around the table, ‘What are we doing about culture?’ I would get silence,” she added.
“That’s not the case now.”
Former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour is currently leading a review into how best to set up an independent reporting system for military sexual misconduct.
Her final report is due this spring.