MPs slam military’s reaction to sexual harassment

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Leading MPs from across Canada have condemned a senior army figure for his archaic approach to sexual misconduct in the military, with some calling for his immediate dismissal.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson provoked outrage on Tuesday, when he made the appalling slip-up during an interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge.

In the interview, Lawson makes an ill-informed attempt at explaining why sexual harassment remains a major problem within the armed forces.

“It would be a trite answer but it’s because we are biologically wired in a certain way and there will be those who believe it is a reasonable thing to press themselves and their desires on others,” he said.

Lawson later apologised for the remark – which he called an “awkward characterization,” – but political figures wasted no time weighing in on the issue.

Justin Trudeau was among the first to offer a public rebuke – “Gen. Lawson's comments the other day were completely unacceptable,” he said. “His excuse was completely inadequate.”

The Liberal leader brought the issue up in the Commons, where he argued that “anyone in a position of leadership must set an example” and called for his immediate dismissal.

“Gen. Lawson should be immediately dismissed,” he said. “His comments are absolutely out of place in 2015, in the society and the country we're trying to build."

Opposition leader Tom Mulclair agreed, calling the comment “completely wrong and totally unacceptable.”

“The military brass simply don’t get it,” he added. “The real problem is no one is working for a change in the culture in the military on the issue of sexual harassment.”

Prime Minister Steven Harper conceded that the comments were “offensive, inappropriate and inexplicable” but pointed out that the general’s term was due to expire this summer, with his replacement already lined up.

The controversy comes just weeks after former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps published a scathing report condemning the “hostile culture” of the Canadian military, where women and LGBT members in particular are at increased risk of abuse.

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  • Jeannie McQuaid on 2015-06-18 8:53:02 AM

    Sexual assault and sexual harassment are NOT about sex or biology. They are about asserting domination, repression, exclusion and dehumanization using sex as the weapon. Until this concept is clearly understood, there will be no cultural change in the military or society as a whole.

  • Tom from Burnaby BC on 2015-06-18 11:24:45 AM

    Interesting article from leadership eh!

    Wonder if they are going to slam the senator in ottawa who just had sexual relations with a teen minor.

    maybe there is a law for us and no law for them.

  • Justin Kent Morris on 2015-06-18 11:26:26 AM

    I am a former Second Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Air Force. I am a victim of harassment and discrimination. I filed Grievances, and General Lawson “ordered” that everything was done fair, and “ordered” that I was treated fairly, stating platitudes and grandiose statements and ignoring virtually everything I have raised in my Grievances. I have made contact with the offices of the NDP Defence critic, Jack Harris and the Liberal Defence critic, Joyce Murray. If you don’t believe me, ask a public affairs or media contact within DND/CAF, my name and service number is: Justin Kent Morris, T61 612 933. Go and ask, and confirm everything I have said. I have also emailed documents to the CBC, CTV, and others.

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