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The Forces reacted to the Deschamps report on sexual misconduct as though her 10 recommendations, like the commandments to Moses, had come directly from God
Hmm, let’s see:
Exhibit 1: A vice-admiral is presumed guilty by his superiors, mysteriously suspended by Chief of the Defence Staff Jon Vance, suffers grave reputational damage as a result, is finally charged criminally more than a year later — and then is cleared when government prosecutors announced they had no reasonable chance of conviction and stay the charge.
Exhibit 2: Military procurement continues as the toxic nightmare it always is in this country, given that procurement is linked to regions and regions have their advocates and friends, depending on the government of the day.
The problem of two naval supply ships that the aforementioned vice-admiral, Mark Norman, was working to solve at the direction of the then-Stephen Harper government — Canada’s previous two ships respectively rusted out and burned — remains.
The new supply ships are being built by Seaspan Shipyards in British Columbia, yet construction was only slated to begin this year and the delivery dates of 2021 and 2022 are reportedly looking highly unlikely.
In the interim, the only ship doing the actual job — refuelling and resupplying Canadian warships at sea — is the MV Asterix, the Chantier Davie shipyard retrofit that the government leases.
As my former colleague Matthew Fisher once wrote, not only did the ship come in on time and under-budget, but the Asterix has been so good that she should be formally invited to join the Royal Canadian Navy fleet and be renamed HMCS Vice-Admiral Mark Norman.
Exhibit 3: What if they had a museum to honour fallen Canadian soldiers but their comrades couldn’t get in to see it?
Golly, that’s just what they’ve done at the Department of National Defence (DND).
The soldier-built memorial that was at Kandahar Air Field for the duration of Canada’s almost 13-year-long mission in that country was quietly unveiled last week to an audience of military brass and bootlickers. Neither families of the 159 fallen, nor media, nor troops were invited to the May 13 unveiling. The event itself wasn’t disclosed publicly until May 16, and only then on the Forces’ official Facebook page.
I offer these exhibits as evidence that the military has obvious problems beyond the curse of sexual misconduct, such as the blight of bureaucracy.
I mention sexual misconduct because Wednesday came the release of a Statistics Canada survey that finds little progress in the Canadian Forces’ war on the scourge.
This is not to say the military should not be seriously addressing sexual assault, which is different (it involves violence or the threat of violence) from the catch-all “misconduct,” which includes a broad range of behaviour, such as inappropriate comments and “getting too close,” as the StatsCan survey notes.
It was in the spring of 2015 that former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Marie Deschamps released her report on the breadth of sexual misconduct in the Forces.
Confidentiality and anonymity were the report’s imprimatur. Its language was florid: There was a “sexualized culture” with the forces that was so pervasive, Deschamps said, that it was “conducive to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault” and overtly hostile to women.
In her introduction, Deschamps said “The problem of sexual misconduct in society at large cannot be overstated.”
(Curiously, it was very much what Vance appeared to be trying to say of the Kandahar memorial on Facebook: “The importance of this hall … cannot be understated.” Surely he too meant “overstated”? That said, in my view, Deschamps overstated the problem, as Vance understated the memorial’s importance.)
In any case, the Forces reacted to the Deschamps report as though her 10 recommendations, like the commandments to Moses, had come directly from God.
As the fourth “progress report addressing sexual misconduct” noted in February of this year, under Vance, the Forces moved from an organizational approach to the problem to the “operational imperative.”
This was hugely significant, the report says, “because it attached to the endeavour the same priority of war-fighting, peace-enforcement, emergency and humanitarian operations the (Forces) had executed with little pause over the past two-plus decades.”
Thus was born on Aug. 14, 2015, Operation Honour, its goal to eliminate sexual misconduct by connecting with members “in a language and with a focus they understood instinctively and responded to reflexively.”
In other words, maybe the troops would think Op Honour was a real military operation, or as the progress report put it, it would “generate decisive results under challenging circumstances, just as the (Forces) has done in military operation after military operation…”
Not so much, as it turned out, according to the StatsCan survey. (These surveys, voluntary and of course by definition self-reported, will be done every two years apparently.)
About 36,000 active members, from the regular or full-time force and the part-time militia, responded. Response rates were down among both groups.
And while apparently more members believed Op Honour was a stunning success, the actual improvement in reported incidents was minimal. As the survey put it, “Experiencing repeated pressure from the same person for dates or sexual relations and offering workplace benefits for sexual activity did not decrease in either the regular force or the primary reserve.”
Looks like those troops weren’t fooled after all.
Mea culpa: In my column on the secret Kandahar memorial Wednesday, I said “widows and families” hadn’t been invited. I should have said widows and widowers. Capt. Nichola Goddard, who was killed in an ambush May 17, 2006, was married. Jason (Jay) Beam is a widower.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019