The federal government is directing officials at the Department of National Defence (DND) to immediately drop their appeal of a recent Federal Court ruling that would further extend the deadline for submitting claims in a military sexual misconduct class action settlement, Global News has learned.
A Federal Court judge ruled on Jan. 6 that late claims can be accepted in the Canadian Armed Forces-Department of National Defence (CAF-DND) Sexual Misconduct Class Action Settlement until Feb. 5.
A statement posted on the Department of National Defence’s website on Jan. 17, however, said the ruling “compromises the integrity” of the final settlement agreement (FSA) negotiated by the parties and approved by the court, and announced plans to appeal it.
The directive to drop the appeal came after Global News repeatedly asked the Prime Minister’s Office and Defence Minister Anita Anand’s office to justify the appeal and received no responses. A government source says the order to drop it came from the political level.
“After careful consideration and in line with our government’s commitment to cultural change, Canada has reversed its decision to appeal the Federal Court’s ruling. As such, the deadline to submit a request to file a late claim is February 5, 2023,” a spokesperson for Anand’s office said in a statement.
The court’s ruling approving the extension came in response to an application originally brought by 12 individuals who were seeking to be able to join the class action after missing the deadline to do so last year. The law firm Koskie Minsky LLP argued in federal court filings that some 640 people may be eligible if the late applications would be approved.
The reasons given by late claimants for being unable to meet the deadline were due to the emotional and psychological difficulties they suffered as a result of the sexual misconduct experienced in the CAF-DND, the law firm suggested.
Koskie Minsky and RavenLaw, another firm representing some of the claimants, told Global News that DND’s reasoning for launching its appeal were “deeply troubling.”
“On the contrary, the court’s decision is consistent with the settlement agreement as well as the principles underlying it, including the importance of having a process that is restorative and trauma-informed,” the firms said in a statement.
According to the class action settlement website, roughly 20,000 people have come forward so far.
Sexual misconduct has plagued the CAF for years, and the Trudeau government has promised reform within the military.
Late last year, Anand unveiled what she described as “an ambitious roadmap” to reform CAF culture. In her report tabled Dec. 12, Anand said she had directed DND and CAF to pursue “an all-hands-on-deck effort” to address the dozens of recommendations made by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour when she released her long-anticipated report into the culture of the Canadian military in May.
The review was formally launched a year before the report was released — in May 2021 — in response to exclusive reporting by Global News into allegations of sexual misconduct at the highest ranks of the CAF.
Arbour’s report found the CAF was an institution that is fundamentally out of sync with the values of Canadian society, and that poses a “liability” to the country.
—With files from Aaron D’Andrea