Wagners is actively investigating a potential class action into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
Misconduct and harassment is a deep-rooted problem in Canadian military culture. Complaints of sexual misconduct deemed “founded” have risen by 22 per-cent in 2016 compared with 2015. In 2015, 174 founded complaints of sexual offences were identified. Moreover, a 2015 external review into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the CAF concluded that underreporting is a common phenomenon.
The external review, headed by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Marie Deschamps, revealed a sexualized environment in the CAF, which is conducive to serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault. The external review report concluded that members of the military frequently suffer from degrading expressions, sexual jokes and unwelcome touching. Reports of inappropriate relationships between members of differing ranks and date rape highlighted the use of sex to enforce power relationships and to punish and ostracize members. The report noted that there is a broadly held perception in the lower ranks that those in the chain of command either condone inappropriate sexual conduct, or are willing to turn a blind-eye to it.
The report also concluded that the CAF processes to identify, report, investigate and resolve incidents of sexual harassment are too complex to be effective, and do not yield appropriate outcomes. Resulting sanctions are often a mere slap on the wrist, making it unsurprising that most victims choose not to report an incident.
In addition, the review uncovered insufficient data collection relating to occurrences of sexual harassment or sexual assault, and thus little accountability in the chain of command for the incidents.
A survey of 40,000 members of the CAF is currently underway by Statistics Canada to determine members’ personal experiences with sexual misconduct. The results are due to be published later this year.
Last month alone, two members of the Canadian Armed Forces in Halifax were charged with sexual assault of fellow members arising from unrelated incidents.
If you or a loved one have been affected by sexual harassment or misconduct in the CAF, we invite you to contact Wagners on a confidential basis for more information.