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Defense Minister Anand is moving cases of military sexual misconduct to the civil justice system

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In one of her first acts as Canada’s new Secretary of Defense, Anita announced today that she was moving the investigation and prosecution of sexual misconduct cases within the Canadian armed forces to the civil justice system.

The move follows a recommendation from retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor.

The military has faltered over a series of sexual misconduct investigations. Since early February 2021, 11 current and former senior Canadian military leaders have been marginalized, investigated, or retired by some of the most powerful and respected positions in the defense establishment.

“There is no doubt that there is a crisis in the Canadian armed forces,” Anand said Thursday evening in CBC’s Power & Politics. “This crisis has been brought to light many times in the past few months.”

Arbor leads an outside investigation into sexual harassment and misconduct in the Canadian military. She advises the federal government on how to set up an independent, external reporting system that enables victims to report acts of violence and misconduct without fear of reprisals.

Your review, which began in April, is expected to take about a year. Anand’s move today is in response to one of the preliminary recommendations Arbor made to Anand’s predecessor, Harjit Sajjan, last month.

I fully accepted Madame Arbor’s recommendations to move the investigation and prosecution of sexual misconduct cases to the civilian system. pic.twitter.com/ZD8Hr6bF9c

– @ AnitaOakville

Arbor said the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) should continue to conduct administrative reviews of sexual misconduct cases in parallel with civil courts, regardless of whether those cases lead to charges.

However, Arbor said that “special attention” should be paid to “how and when civil authorities – as part of an investigation – should provide relevant information about the investigation to CAF leadership”.

CLOCK | New defense minister discusses when changes will come into force

“It would be careless to propose a specific timetable”: Defense Minister

Defense Secretary Anita Anand told Power & Politics on Thursday that the timetable has not yet been set for when investigations and prosecutions of cases of sexual misconduct within the Canadian armed forces will be formally moved into the civil justice system. 13:24

Anand did not say when the change would take effect. She said that since she was sworn in as Secretary of Defense last week, work has been done to facilitate the move.

“We don’t sit around waiting for something to happen. The teams are currently in active discussions,” said Anand.

The government has also not yet decided whether the postponement will be permanent. Arbor is currently recommending that the cases be temporarily transferred to the civilian system.

“If they choose to make this a permanent solution, we will of course respond,” added Anand.

Changes could help restore confidence in the military

Experts studying Canada’s military culture say the move is an important step in restoring confidence in the military and making it easier for victims to come forward.

“I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s something victims have been asking for a long time,” said Megan MacKenzie, Simon’s Chair in International Law and Human Security at Simon Fraser University.

“I think it shows that the new minister is ready to act decisively to follow the recommendations of Justice Arbor and previous experts.”

Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the move suggests Anand will bring a new sense of urgency to the sexual misconduct crisis.

She said Sajjan seemed unwilling to push for any major change – something she said could be due in part to his long military career and familiarity with internal structures.

“It seems it’s easier for [Anand], for sure, “said Duval-Lantoine.

Harjit Sajjan, who served as Minister of National Defense for the past six years, did not act decisively against the military’s sexual misconduct crisis, experts and critics said. (The Canadian press)

While Duval-Lantoine said the change was a sign of hope, she also noted that many of the barriers that victims of sexual assault face remain – such as complainants’ fear of reprisals or concerns about traumatic details to people to repeat who might doubt their claims.

“I don’t want to cry about the win yet because it’s just one of the first steps,” said Duval-Lantoine.

Immediate action: Arbor

While the full report won’t come out until spring next year, Arbor said in her October letter to Sajjan that she is making tentative recommendations because action must be taken immediately.

“Since my appointment, it has been announced that survivors have continued to come forward and allege allegations. have raised [general officers and flag officers] who were in key management positions and then were given leave of absence, “she said.

“These recurring allegations of historical sexual misconduct against senior CAF leaders and the related investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service have led me to believe that immediate corrective action is needed to restore confidence in the CAF.”

In a media statement, Arbor said she welcomed Anand’s decision.

“As outlined in my interim report, the issue of sexual misconduct in the CAF has opened the institution to unprecedented scrutiny and an equally unprecedented opportunity for change in my mandate,” she said.

CLOCK | Retired Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish praised the decision

“I am delighted” – Retired Judge Responds to Ottawa’s New Sexual Misconduct Policy

Defense Secretary Anita Anand announced today that she is moving the investigation and prosecution of sexual misconduct cases within the Canadian armed forces to the civil justice system. Retired Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish told Power & Politics the move showed in his report that the minister “is ready to act immediately on a key recommendation”. 5:03

Survivors of sexual assault and misconduct in the ranks who testify before the recent parliamentary committees have called for an external reporting point.

These committees opened hearings after the country’s two senior military commanders – retired General Jonathan Vance and Admiral Art McDonald – were separately charged with improper conduct.

Some senior executives face allegations of sexual misconduct and are being investigated by the military police. Two people were charged with criminal charges related to the allegations. Some have launched public campaigns to fight for their jobs.

In some cases, military leaders have been suspended for sexual misconduct in response to their handling of files.

The investigation often came to light only after journalists started asking questions to the Department of National Defense (DND).

DND says the military police “do not proactively disclose the existence of an ongoing investigation” as doing so could compromise the integrity of that investigation. The investigations will be publicly confirmed on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the investigation, privacy rights and the public’s right to information, the department said.

Arbor’s review of military misconduct is not the first. Six years ago, the former Conservative government launched its own external investigation into sexual misconduct in the military, led by another former Supreme Court judge – Marie Deschamps. She recommended that the government set up an independent reporting agency.

This recommendation was largely ignored. Instead, DND created a center for sexual misconduct responses that, while independent from the military chain of command, only provides advice to victims.

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