Canada

Responding to the allegations

June 15 1998
Canada

Responding to the allegations

June 15 1998

Responding to the allegations

In the wake of the Maclean’s reports on sexual assault and harassment in the Canadian Forces, the National Investigation Service of Canada’s military police has set up a task force to deal with both new and old allegations of sexual misconduct. So far, of the 26 cases cited in the May 25 and June 1 issues of Maclean’s, the sevenmember task force has determined that only three had been properly investigated. Of the rest—all of which will be looked into—15 had not been investigated at all before, two will be reopened, and six cases need further review.

Other cases, meanwhile, continue to come to the

military’s attention, especially through calls to The Forces’ new sexual harassment hotline, 1-800-290-1019. “We’re keeping busy,” says Capt. Bud Garrick, operations officer of the NIS. “The calls come in constantly. What we have to do is assess each one to determine if it’s

harassment or a sexual offence, and from there it’s assigned appropriate priority. As you can imagine, with this 1-800 number, people are using it for other means as well. There’s all sorts of complaints coming in on it.”

Last week, the military was rocked by fresh scandals. At CFB Edmonton, the NIS charged a private in the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry with sexual assault, assault with a weapon and uttering threats in connection with an alleged May 28 assault on two civilian women. As well, two other soldiers on the base were suspended as Edmonton city police and the NIS investigated a complaint by another civilian who alleged she was sexually assaulted by soldiers at the

base on the night of May 30. Maj. Douglas Martin, a military spokesman, said soldiers in Edmonton “are very upset” by the new allegations. “It’s a sad reflection on ourselves. It’s not the behavior of a Canadian soldier, not the behavior we condone as Canadian soldiers. It’s a kick in the guts.”

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Maurice Baril has personally contacted some of the sexual assault victims who have stepped forward in Maclean’s. Recently, he also set in motion an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct within the 62nd Field Artillery Regiment in Shawinigan, Que., after receiving an anonymous

letter. Last week, the NIS said it had found no evidence of criminality in the Shawinigan case, but one officer was suspended and a board of inquiry was set up to investigate allegations that the officer had relationships with several subordinates—which is against military protocol. Maj. Marc Rouleau, a Montreal-based spokesman, says the Shawinigan situation is “disturbing,” coming on the heels of an unrelated allegation of sexual assault by a Shawinigan-based soldier in February. That incident is still under investigation.

Meanwhile, in the House of Commons last week, Defence Minister Art Eggleton continued to face criticism from the opposition. NDP Leader Alexa McDonough, for one, took aim at the military’s previously slow response to individual assault allegations. But Eggleton declared that action is now being taken. “We have put in place the mechanisms,” he said. “And we put in place the training—to make sure we show support for our policy of zero tolerance.”