Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday May 26, 2021
Ottawa failed to properly implement sexual misconduct report, top Defence civil servant says
Canada’s deputy minister of National Defence says the military’s operation to end sexual misconduct in its ranks “lost its way” because the government failed to properly implement recommendations from a landmark report into the issue six years ago.
Jody Thomas said she wasn’t working for the Department of National Defence in 2015, when a scathing report into sexual misconduct by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps was released.
But Thomas said her “observation” is that the Deschamps report was treated like a checklist. She said the government did not “truly” implement it — something the military has been loath to say.
“It was not given the oversight it needed by the civilian part of the department, so my side of the department in terms of monitoring,” Thomas said in an interview on CBC’s The Current with Matt Galloway.
“I think that as little was done as possible to make it look like the report had been responded to without any real change. No structural change, no legislative change, no outside the department, outside the Canadian Armed Forces reporting — those kinds of things that Madame Deschamps emphasized.”
Thomas’s comment is in stark contrast to what the military told Parliament last month.
Brig.-Gen. Andrew Atherton, director general of professional military conduct, told MPs probing sexual misconduct in the Armed Forces that all of the recommendations in the Deschamps report were fulfilled.
“From our perspective, we believe we have achieved all of those 10 recommendations,” Atherton said on April 15. “However, that is our opinion.”
Thomas told Galloway it’s time to be frank.
“My observation would be that it was treated almost as a checklist, and I think it’s time that we were just honest about that,” Thomas said.
The statement is a clear admission of failure when it comes to the Defence Department’s handling of sexual misconduct.
That said, Thomas did say she wouldn’t characterize Operation Honour — the military’s now-defunct campaign to stamp out sexual misconduct — “completely as a failure,” citing the creation of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre and increased reporting.
Eyre replaced Admiral Art McDonald, who stepped aside from the top job in February during an investigation into a sexual misconduct claim. McDonald had replaced Gen. Jonathan Vance, who is also under a military police probe over claims of inappropriate behaviour — allegations that he told Global News he denies. Several other senior leaders have also been swept up into the reckoning.
Eyre repeated his message that the military has “failed as an institution to properly address” sexual misconduct over the decades. He called it an “existential issue” that threatens to make the military “irrelevant” in society and not able to defend the country if it’s not fixed. (CBC)