Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. Female service members and veterans are blasting the way Canada's military police investigate allegations of sexual assault and harassment in the ranks.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Female service members blast military police over sexual misconduct investigations

Female service members blast military police over sexual misconduct investigations

OTTAWA — Female service members and veterans came out swinging at Canada’s military police on Tuesday as they related their own individual experiences after having come forward to report a sexual crime or misconduct.

The women, who were testifying before a House of Commons committee, also suggested victims of such acts often end up paying the price for coming forward while perpetrators are largely let off the hook.

“Most times the victims pay a greater price than the perpetrator when they come forward,” said navy Lt. Heather Macdonald. “That is why most victims are reluctant to come forward. We need to fix this, we need to make this a better, safer place for females to work.”

The hearings at the committee on the status of women come as the federal government and Canadian Armed Forces are grappling with allegations of misconduct involving several senior officers, including chief of the defence staff Admiral Art McDonald.

The specific allegations against McDonald, who temporarily stepped aside in February after the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service launched an investigation, have not been publicly disclosed.

But Global News has reported that the allegation relates to sexual misconduct and relates to an incident involving Macdonald, the navy lieutenant who appeared at committee. The outlet reported she was frustrated that someone had leaked details of her case to the media without her consent and she declined to detail the allegations.

CBC has reported that the alleged incident occurred during an exercise in the Far North in 2010 when the admiral was captain of HMCS Montreal.

The admiral has not responded to repeated requests from The Canadian Press for comment.

Macdonald did not speak about the case, nor did committee members ask her about it.

She instead spoke about the challenges women in uniform face when trying to report inappropriate or criminal behaviour both at sea and in general, including the approach taken by military police investigators.

“It is like you’re being interrogated, and like you’re a criminal,” Macdonald told the committee.

Air force technician Emily Tulloch related a similar experience after she came forward to report having been sexually assaulted, describing her meetings with military police as “dreadful.”

“During these interviews, I felt investigators were not treating me like a human being, but just another case file to them,” Tulloch told the committee.

“There was no empathy or humanity. … I felt like I wasn’t being heard, and that I was being treated like a criminal. And no one should be treated like a criminal when they’re that vulnerable and in need of help.”

Military police commanders have previously spoken about the steps they have taken to better deal with sexual misconduct since retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps released a scathing report on the Armed Forces’ handling of such incidents in 2015.

Those measures have included specialized training and even dedicated units tasked with investigating such cases.

Tulloch told the committee she has “experienced a lifetime of sexual assault and misconduct” since joining the military in July 2018.

“I’m here today to tell you that I was raped only one month into my basic training at (Royal Military College) Saint-Jean. I was also sexually assaulted during my training in Borden and I have been groped and kissed unwillingly at group parties and mess events. And these degrading behaviors are more common than you think,” she said.

Military police need to improve their training for how to conduct interviews of sexual assault victims, she told the committee.

“There needs to be a specific course made to teach them that victims need understanding and empathy. And if there already is a course, then they need to tear it apart and rebuild it from the ground up.”

Tuesday’s frank and at times raw testimony came one day after the government said it was adding $77 million in new funding and redirecting $158 million from other areas to increase victim support services and develop new prevention training.

It has also said that it plans to add independent oversight to the military’s handling of sexual misconduct complaints, though it has yet to provide further details.

Several of those testifying underscored the importance of such external accountability, with Macdonald suggesting one option would be the creation of an independent inspector-general like what some of Canada’s allies have in place.

Numerous experts and survivors have echoed that suggestion in recent months, arguing that the military has repeatedly shown its inability to bring about real change on its own.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Apr. 20, 2021.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Military

Just Posted

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read