The Canadian military has accepted it has a major culture problem after an eye-opening new survey revealed that 960 of its members reported incidents of sexual assault in the past year.
“Harmful sexual behaviour is a real problem in our institution. We know it, and we are trying to tackle it head on,” said chief of defence staff, Gen Jonathan Vance.
“I’m more motivated than ever to eliminate this behaviour and the perpetrators from our ranks,” he added, noting that the results from the survey had been “regrettably” sobering.
Conducted by StatsCan, the survey analysed more than 43,000 responses and revealed that around 27 per cent of female armed forces personnel have been sexually assaulted during their career – significantly higher than the 3.8 per cent of men who have experienced the same.
Commissioned by the military, the landmark survey found 1.7 per cent of military members had been sexually assaulted in the past 12 months – nearly double the 0.9 per cent rate of sexual assault among working Canadians.
The study also found that 79 per cent of respondents reported seeing or hearing inappropriate sexual or discriminatory behaviour, including jokes, unwanted comments, sexually explicit material being shared or displayed, insults, or pressure for dates or relationships.
Vance also reassured any victims who had been reluctant or unwilling to come forward for fear of reprisals and urged them to trust the process.
"The negative consequences will be for those who are perpetrators, not those who report," he said.
In July last year, Vance launched Operation Honour as a sweeping campaign to eliminate abuse, harassment and assault within the Canadian Armed Forces – since then 30 people have been removed from supervisory roles or positions of command, 18 of them permanently.
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