In a statement released Tuesday, Anita Anand said the update came following the recommendation by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour to transfer the prosecution and investigation of Criminal Code sexual offences from the military justice system to the civilian justice system.
Earlier this month, the Canadian Armed Forces said that as of May 8, 2023, of the 190 cases reported to the military police there have been 93 referred to federal, provincial, and municipal police services. Of these, 64 have been accepted and 29 have been declined.
Global News first began reporting in February 2021 into allegations of sexual misconduct against senior military leaders, which spurred months of intense national scrutiny and what experts called a “crisis” for the Canadian Forces.
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Arbour was brought on as a result of that reporting to launch an independent review into how to fix the culture of the military, and issued her interim recommendation to transfer all cases to the civilian system in fall 2021.
In May 2022, she tabled her full report, a scathing indictment of a “broken system” that was out of sync with Canadian societal values, adding it poses a “liability” to the country.
Among her recommendations were major reforms to the military colleges where future leaders are trained, and the minister said Tuesday members of a review board probing the colleges would soon be announced.
“We have also implemented screening measures during the pre- and post-recruitment phases, such as new and refined screening and interview questions, tattoo screening, and use of enrollment release processes,” Anand wrote of the changes to the military screening process.
Earlier this month, external monitor Jocelyne Therrien released her first report on the military’s response to the Arbour report, in which she said while progress was being made there was still no “overall strategic plan” to change its culture.
Therrien concluded a “significant level of tangible activity” had been taken within the military on many of the Arbour report’s 48 recommendations, but an overarching plan to manage those changes was needed to ensure reform occurs “in a timely manner.”
The military is struggling to recruit new members — a separate external review last spring warned that the current culture is “repulsing” potential recruits.
But despite the warnings, government and military officials highlighted the progress made so far, something Anand again stressed on Tuesday in her statement.
“Over the past year, we have made progress – and we are continuing to work hard on this mission every day,” she wrote. “Progress is necessary and achievable.”