David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen More from David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen
Published on: April 30, 2015
Last Updated: April 30, 2015 7:24 PM EDT
The Canadian Forces' efforts to deal with sexual assault and harassment in the ranks won't be effective until the military justice system is overhauled, says an Ottawa lawyer who specializes in such cases.
"You do not have an independent military justice system or police force," said Michel Drapeau, who has represented 65 military members in sexual assault and harassment cases over the last decade. "People do not trust that system."
But Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson said Thursday he has confidence in the military's current justice system. "Those who have come forward with (sexual misconduct) allegations have found that those allegations are well investigated," he stated.
Both were responding to a new report by Marie Deschamps, a former Supreme Court of Canada justice, who was asked by the military to examine sexual misconduct in the ranks. Deschamps' study was prompted by an investigation last year by l'Actualité and Maclean's that suggested there was rampant sexual assault in the military.
The Deschamps report determined that the military has an "underlying sexual culture" that is "hostile" to women and members of the gay community, and that leaves victims of sexual assaults and harassment to fend for themselves.
Drapeau doesn't expect much change in the situation even as the military vows to act. That's because the military's response does not include changes to the military justice and police system, he said.
Sexual assault victims in the military have complained that military police did not take their concerns seriously, or that their immediate supervisors were informed about their complaints, resulting in retribution.
Drapeau said that in 1998, a change in the National Defence Act gave the military justice system sole jurisdiction over sexual assault and other serious crimes. Even if a civilian is assaulted on military property, civilian police and prosecutors are not involved, he added. "Until that time they had to call in civilian police," Drapeau explained.
In cases of harassment and lesser forms of sexual misconduct, the decision on whether there will be any punishment is up to a commanding officer, Drapeau noted. The result is a cosy system that aims at protecting the Canadian Forces "brand" instead of dealing with justice, he argues.
Deschamps acknowledged Thursday that sexual assault and harassment victims don't trust their chain of command. As a result, many incidents of sexual misconduct are not reported, her report noted.
"First and foremost, interviewees stated that fear of negative repercussions for career progression, including being removed from the unit, is one of the most important reasons why members do not report such incidents," Deschamps' report found. "Victims expressed concerns about not being believed, being stigmatized as weak, labeled a trouble-maker, subjected to retaliation by peers and supervisors, or diagnosed as unfit for work."
Drapeau expects only "cosmetic changes" to result from the report.
But Lawson said the military's chain of command has been trained to look after victims of sexual misconduct and that people should trust the current system.
One of Drapeau's clients is Master-Cpl. Stéphanie Raymond, who was harassed and eventually booted from the military after she went to military police about being sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier. The first military police investigation was botched and Raymond had to fight to have it re-opened.
In December 2014, Lawson apologized to Raymond, and admitted she had been poorly treated by senior officers. Lawson also admitted the documents used to fire Raymond contained falsified information.
NDP defence critic Jack Harris said consideration should be given to reversing the 1998 decision that allows military justice system and military police jurisdiction over sexual assaults. "That's been an unmitigated disaster for women," said Harris. "I don't have a lot of confidence anything will change."
Michel W. Drapeau
4 hrs · Edited ·
Le 30 avril 2015. Mme Stéphanie Raymond et Me Michel W. Drapeau sont interviewés par madame Anne - Marie Dussault au Programme 24 heures en 60 minutes concernant le rapport de Madame la juge à la retraite Marie Deschamps. Le système de justice militaire est sévèrement critiqué.
Assault victims sought legal protection from military college dismissal: lawyer
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