Saturday, May 2, 2015

Some Thoughts on Canadian Forces Sexual Misconduct Report

There is much to think about in the aftermath of the report on the challenges women encounter in the Canadian Forces.  The striking piece, of course, is the finding that there is a culture of misogyny in the CF--not because we are surprised it exists but because it so completely wipes away the denials of the past year or two.

Still, the military is resisting: that most of the report's recommendations were met with "accept in principle" which really means: "we don't want to do it, and perhaps will find a way to evade as the spotlight shifts elsewhere."  That might be a smidge unfair, but there really has been an incredible lack of leadership here.  As Stefanie Von Hlatky asked, where are the defence minister and prime minister on this?   The Prime Minister is Iraq!  Well, isn't that convenient?  The defence minister deferred to the military: "Kenney’s spokeswoman said the issue was better left to military leaders to deal with."  Yeah, because that has worked so far.

The timing was not just convenient for Harper, but for the military.  The outgoing Chief of Defence Staff Tom Lawson has handled this problem poorly, but he is going away.  The new CDS, Jon Vance, can point to this report and the problems as being something that he inherited.  Which suggests something else about timing--there was a long gap between when the decision to pick Vance was leaked and when it was announced.  Which might be due to many things, but having this report come out before he takes the job is probably very much a blessing for the new CDS.

Anyway, back to the response with the typical first Canadian instinct--don't compare us to the Americans:
“Additionally, the American and Canadian processes are not parallel or identical,” Armstrong [DND spokesperson] said. “Canada’s military has taken an independent approach to investigating sexual misconduct within its ranks and is now implementing its action plan in response. The government supports that effort.”
How about Australia instead:

"I was struck by the lack of comment from the prime minister and defence minister,” said Stefanie von Hlatky, who specializes on gender in the military at Queen’s University. “It signals that it’s not a priority, and it would feed some doubts in my mind about the government’s seriousness.”
In the days, weeks, and months ahead, we need to keep a focus on this.  How to do that?  Follow @svhlatky.

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