The Canadian Armed Forces has reported on efforts it has made to overhaul a culture that has long been synonymous with inappropriate sexual behaviour.
The Armed Forces launched ‘Operation Honour’ in August of last year, which is a military-wide effort attempting to stop harmful sexual behaviour in the ranks.
General Jonathan Vance told The Globe and Mail
that significant steps are being taken to affect cultural change, in line with tasks and timelines it has set.
Vance said that, firstly, military leaders had publicly shown their willingness to combat such behavior with action, showing strong leadership at the top.
This included issuing orders through every chain of command emphasizing that such behavior is a serious problem and the military’s leaders are addressing it.
This was also demonstrated by swift and visible action against a commanding officer in the navy after allegations were made of harmful sexual behavior.
The Globe and Mail
reports Vance has created two gender adviser positions and ordered that education and training become part of military doctrine.
A comprehensive diversity strategy has also been developed in an effort to ensure that the armed forces reflects the gender balance seen in Canada.
“The Canadian Armed Forces is making good progress, notwithstanding the daunting nature of the institutional culture change on a subject as complex and harmful as inappropriate sexual behavior,” Vance said.
An armed forces report indicates that, following the creation of a new sexual misconduct response center to help deal with the problem, over 60 members of the had called to report incidents of sexual assault or harassment.
Twenty-nine called to report sexual harassment, while 34 reported sexual assault. A further 22 non-military members also called to report incidents.
General Vance had promised to make sexual harassment and assault within the military his top priority when he was made Chief of Defence Staff in July last year, arguing that it threatened the morale and operation of the military.
A report by former Supreme Court
justice Marie Deshamps had previously found women in the armed forces are regularly targeted with degrading expressions, sexual jokes and unwelcome touching. Deshamps said the military in general was an environment that is conducive to sexual assault.