PM orders review of Justice arguments against military sex misconduct lawsuit

PM orders review of Justice arguments against military sex misconduct lawsuit

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau put Justice Department lawyers on notice Wednesday for their response to a proposed class-action lawsuit on military sexual misconduct, saying their arguments are out of line.

The lawsuit was brought forward last year by three former service members who say they were harassed or assaulted while in uniform. They are seeking $800 million for themselves and others in similar situations.

Justice Department lawyers filed documents in late December in which they asked the Federal Court to quash the suit, which comes as military leaders are pushing for a culture change to eliminate all forms of sexual misconduct in uniform.

The documents include a number of arguments for why the lawsuit has no reasonable chance of success and should therefore be dismissed before going to trial.

Officials for Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan refused last month to comment on the federal lawyers’ response because the case was before the courts.

However, after Trudeau’s intervention Wednesday, Wilson-Raybould raised the idea of taking a less adversarial approach and reaching an out-of-court settlement.

Earlier in the day, Trudeau said the lawyers’ arguments were “of concern to me, and I’ve asked (Wilson-Raybould) to follow up with the lawyers to make sure that we argue things that are consistent with this government’s philosophy.

“Obviously the lawyers’ argument does not align with my beliefs or what this government believes.”

Trudeau did not say exactly which arguments were of concern, and his office refused to provide further information.

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