OTTAWA — Military police have launched eight investigations as a result of complaints filed with the new sexual misconduct response centre at the Department of National Defence, the country’s top commander revealed Monday.
The information is part of a progress report from the chief of defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, who is leading a crackdown on inappropriate sexual behaviour in the ranks of the Canadian military.
The report references six cases that were referred by the centre to the National Investigative Service between September and December of last year. Vance said two other allegations were received in January.
Overall, the centre, which was set up in response to a scathing report last year by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Marie Deschamps, received 204 phone calls, emails and texts between September and December.
Of these, 53 involved allegations of sexual offences and another 32 related to claims of sexual harassment.
The report, which details other administrative steps taken by the military, represents a first step, said Vance.
“The Canadian Armed Forces has only just begin this mission,” he said in a prepared statement.
“Last year we acknowledged harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour is a significant problem in our organization. This report shows we are moving in the right direction to ensure a professional environment of respect and dignity for every Canadian Armed Forces member.”
Last summer, Vance initiated a wide-ranging effort to eliminate abuse, harassment and assault within the ranks. Designed like a military operation, he set out tasks, timelines and objectives for the military to make the cultural shift.
Deschamps, in a forward written for the report, said the “crisis cycle which has characterized the approach of the Canadian Armed Forces to sexual misconduct to date must be stopped.”
The issue, which gained prominence in the mid-1990s with the introduction of women into combat roles, has resurfaced time and again with publicized reports of abusive behaviour and assault.
The path for change is laid out in the report, Deschamps said.
In an interview, Vance acknowledges the cycle of crisis response isn’t over and he committed to releasing more data, in future reports, that tracks not only reports to the crisis response centre, but how those allegations — and potential criminal cases — are death with by the system.
National Defence is also partnering with Statistics Canada this spring for a survey “designed to determine the nature and scope of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour,” the report said.
The survey will be offered to all 66,000 full-time members and 21,000 part-time members of the military.