OTTAWA – More than two dozen service members have been kicked out of the Forces since Canada’s top military officer promised to take no prisoners when it came to sexual misconduct in the ranks.
And that could be just the beginning as defence officials say they are still reviewing dozens of other cases in which military personnel have been implicated in inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance warned Forces members last year that he would seek to remove anyone and everyone who is found to have acted inappropriately.
The move came amid frustration that some members were continuing to engage in such activity despite his unequivocal orders to cease and desist.
“I gave an order to every member of the Canadian Armed Forces that this behaviour had to stop,” Vance said in November 2016. “My orders were clear.”
Figures released to The Canadian Press by the Defence Department show that since the beginning of the year, 29 service members have been forced to leave the military as part of that crackdown.
Ten others have been allowed to stay, but have either been given a formal warning or are on probation or under orders to seek counselling. Four more escaped without any punishment due to a lack of evidence.
Another 83 cases are currently being reviewed by military officials in Ottawa — meaning the number of service members kicked out of uniform because of inappropriate behaviour is almost certain to rise.
It may come as a surprise to hear that some members are being allowed to stay in the Forces despite inappropriate behaviour, particularly given Vance’s hard-line stance.
Col. Lloyd MacKenzie, chief of staff for the Canadian Forces strategic response team on sexual misconduct, said those cases being reviewed include both criminal behaviour and arguably lesser offences such as sexual jokes.
“The release relate for those who have actually been found guilty in a service tribunal or civilian court is something like 98 per cent,” MacKenzie said. “But for those who have told a couple dirty jokes … (the reviewers) look at a whole bunch of different things.”
Among the considerations are the nature of the behaviour, whether the person is a first-time or repeat offender, and if they have been in the Forces for a long time or hold a senior position.
“Where it’s not a repeat problem and there doesn’t seem to be other exacerbating circumstances,” MacKenzie said, “they’re the ones getting the recorded warnings, the counselling and probation.”
Military personnel reported 504 incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the year between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, National Defence has previously reported, with the majority involving jokes and language.
Vance took a hard line on inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Forces after a series of media reports several years ago that described the problem as chronic and endemic.
Those findings were supported by a damning report in 2015 by retired Supreme Court of Canada justice Marie Deschamps, who was recruited by the military to examine the extent of the problem.
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