Freeland says military doesn’t understand harassment issue

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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says Canada’s armed forces have a toxic culture and that the military leadership “simply doesn’t understand” when it comes to handling cases of sexual misconduct.

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Ms Freeland, also the finance minister, was responding to news that a layman who had offered an affirmative reference letter for a convicted sex offender was assigned to provide a review of sexual misconduct reports in the military judicial system. had gone. The general was fired this week after public outcry from sex-assault survivors.

“It is clear that there is a toxic culture and it is clear to our government that, as the prime minister said, this needs to change, and it will be,” Ms Freeland said at a news conference with Justin Trudeau on Wednesday. .


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She acknowledged the “incredibly hard work” that members of the Canadian military go through every day. However, she said that “it seems as if the leadership did not find the issue of harassment”.

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Ms Freeland also said: “I think the reality is that there is a systemic problem with the treatment of women in the Canadian Armed Forces, the treatment of sexual assault.”

He and Mr Trudeau were asked about the case of Major-General Peter Dawe.

Mr Trudeau said that, despite the work done by the government and Canadian forces, “the military doesn’t understand that the survivor needs to be at the center and the unique priority of everything regarding sexual misconduct and harassment in the military.” Is.”

In April, the general was relieved of his duties as commander of Canada’s Special Forces after the CBC reported that he had written a character reference to a soldier convicted of sexually assaulting the wife of a major four years earlier.

However, the Department of Defense recently confirmed that General Dawe was assigned to collect and review recommendations from external reviews conducted by three retired Supreme Court justices, all of whom were to varying degrees from military sexual misconduct. deal with. Earlier this week, he was reappointed.

On Wednesday, Acting Chief of Defense Staff General Wayne Eyre acknowledged that General Dawe’s actions needed a closer look.

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“As we make this significant culture change, I know we must be as transparent as possible, working and engaging with our stakeholders while creating an environment that holds individuals accountable for their actions and decisions and Lets learn from mistakes and developments. I and the Canadian Armed Forces remain committed to doing better,” Gen Eyre said in a statement.

Conservative MP James Bejan said liberals have their own questions on the harassment file.

“Justin Trudeau hired Harjit Sajjan as Defense Minister after covering sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. It’s clear Justin Trudeau has never gotten it when it comes to sexual assault in the military,” Mr. Bejan said in a statement.

In April, Mr Sajjan said former Supreme Court Justice Lewis Arbor would conduct an independent review to provide recommendations on how the Canadian Army and Defense Department could create a system outside the military for those affected by sexual abuse.

The decision was made after the Liberal government faced months of pressure to deal with allegations of sexual misconduct in the military.

Six years ago, another former Supreme Court judge, Marie Deschamps, recommended that an independent center of accountability for sexual assault and harassment be established outside the forces.

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Ms Arbor said when she was named to her new role that Ms Deschamps’ findings were a “shell-shock” and it was time to get into the “naughty nitty-gritty” of external oversight.

With a report by Kristy Kirkupo

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