OTTAWA – Defense Secretary Anita Anand said she was preparing the military to act quickly on the recommendations of retired Supreme Court judge Louise Arbour to remove sexual misconduct from the ranks , may arrive as early as spring.
Those preparations include laying the groundwork for an “independent surveillance mechanism” for the Canadian Armed Forces, as victims and experts have long urged, although Anand said she would details will not be decided until Arbour’s final report is reviewed.
Anand told The Canadian Press in an exclusive interview: “I am very open to suggestions from Madame Arbor if they are coming in the field.
“I’m not going to move on to any such process before I get a response from her. But I’m definitely working to lay the groundwork to make sure there’s some sort of mechanism or agency that’s responsible. independent responsibility can hear the complaints of survivors and complainants.”
The Liberal Government tapped Arbor last April to lead an independent review of the military’s handling of assault, sexual harassment and other misconduct within the ranks, and provide a blueprint to eventually fix the problem after several past failures.
The review comes in response to explosive allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior by several senior military officers, as well as to allay criticism of the Liberal government’s handling of this problem.
Anand, who took office as defense minister in October, said she is in regular contact with the retired Supreme Court judge and former United Nations high commissioner for human rights to ensure she receives information and the answer she needed from the military.
“From those conversations, we are looking forward to her final report next spring, and we will act as soon as possible,” Anand said.
While few questioned Arbour’s credentials, the Liberals were criticized for issuing another review after another retired Supreme Court judge, Marie Deschamps, carried out the research. own in 2014-15.
Instead, opposition parties and others have asked the government to implement Deschamps’ key recommendation of setting up an independent center to oversee the military’s handling of cases of sexual misconduct. and take responsibility.
Anand defended the government’s approach, noting that Deschamps’ assessment was to explore the extent of the military’s problems when it comes to sexual misconduct. Instead, Arbor focuses on “providing a realistic road map of how reform can be implemented.”
In an interview earlier this year, Arbor painted a similar picture of the difference between Deschamps’ assessment and her own.
To illustrate this point, Anand points to her decision last month to accept Arbour’s call for the military to at least temporarily hand over the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases to civil authorities.
Arbor includes a list of actions and considerations for that transition, Anand said, “and I expect and hope that Madame Arbor’s final report, of all her recommendations, will there’s a similar route to take.”
The recent debate surrounding the government and military’s handling of sexual misconduct allegations has seen many experts and victims as well as opposition parties demand accountability and oversight. more outside surveillance to keep the Armed Forces in check.
Some have called for the creation of an inspector general’s office so that it can investigate complaints by individual military members, or for the military ombudsman’s office to be strengthened by reporting to Congress instead. defense Minister.
However, the military has long resisted such calls and placed barriers to prevent such independent surveillance, including after the Somali investigation in the 1990s and the publication of the report. Deschamps’ last in March 2015.
Such obstruction is sometimes accompanied by tacit approval of whichever government is in power, while the military can evade or convince its political gurus that such surveillance would hurt. harm to the Armed Forces.
Anand said greater accountability is at the heart of her work as defense minister and she is “fully aware of the benefits of an independent oversight or accountability mechanism” thanks to Her previous experience as a lawyer and expert in corporate governance.
When asked how she would overcome any resistance in the military to needed reforms, Anand pointed out that her job earlier in the year was to lead the federal government’s effort to buy COVID-19 vaccine as proof of her ability to get the job done.
At the same time, Anand said she has sensed in conversations with senior leaders and junior members since her appointment “a desire for change in the Canadian Armed Forces, a willingness to reform .”
She added: “My view is for us to have an Armed Forces that can defend Canada and reach out to the world. protected while they do their job.”
This Canadian Press report was first published on December 14, 2021.