The federal government has formally apologized to the victims of military sexual misconduct, following a settlement with thousands of current and former Canadian Armed Forces members.
During the apology, which was streamed online, Defence Minister Anita Anand acknowledged the failures of successive governments to protect those who signed up to defend Canada.
CTV National News Parliamentary Correspondent Kevin Gallagher has five key takeaways from Monday’s apology:
- Even though the apology came at the request of plaintiffs in the $900-million class-action settlement, it went much broader than Canadian Armed Forces Members and veterans. A specific apology for family, friends and spouses of survivors was also included.
- There were multiple references to structural issues in how the military deals with sexual misconduct, causing many to suffer in silence, have their complaints suppressed, and even threatened with reprisals if they came forward. Key cultural concerns that need to be rectified.
- Deputy Minister of National Defence Jody Thomas shared her experience as a member of the navy, where she witnessed misogyny, homophobia, hazing, exclusion, open contempt and abuse of authority. Thomas says she knew if she complained, or spoke up, she would be considered weak. Her story is one I’ve heard from other victims when they talk about the “toxic culture” in the Canadian Armed Forces. Something at the root of the problem.
- Gen. Wayne Eyre’s personal promise for real and lasting culture change. It’s a promise CAF members have heard before, and one they will judge Eyre’s legacy as chief of the defence staff by.
- While the apology from the defence minister, top general and highest-ranking national defence bureaucrat were largely well received, one sexual assault survivor told me Gen. Eyre could have gone further. Victims are often assaulted by commanding officers, or face threats or reprisals from their direct commanders to stay quiet. Eyre could have issued a Canadian Forces general order compelling local chains of command to issue apologies directly to individuals, as the trauma and mistrust runs deep within the ranks.