Canada Tasha Kheiriddin: Trudeau's 'feminist' Liberals shut down a probe into military sexual misconduct
Trudeau’s military misconduct response highlights ‘pattern’ of ignoring complaints: Singh
Jagmeet Singh says the government's lack of action in responding to the allegations about high-level appointees sends the message that women's complaints are not taken seriously.In an interview with The West Block's Mercedes Stephenson, Singh said the government's lack of action in responding to the allegations about high-level appointees sends the message that women's complaints and safety are not being taken seriously.
While the country reels in the grip of COVID’s third wave, and the federal government scrambles to get more vaccines, many political issues that would normally take centre stage have been shunted to the sidelines. One of the most serious matters is the investigation by the House of Commons’ defence committee into allegations of sexual misconduct against former chief of the defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, and what Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau knew of them in 2018.
In February 2021, a month after Vance retired,that Vance allegedly had an ongoing relationship with a woman whom he significantly outranked, and that he allegedly made a sexual comment to a second, younger female soldier in 2012, three years prior to him being appointed to head the Canadian Armed Forces. The matter is now under investigation by the military police. So are separate misconduct allegations against Vance’s successor, Admiral Art McDonald, who stepped down in February after just a few weeks on the job.
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Experts testified on the military sexual misconduct crisis on Thursday, describing the extent of the problem as a 'national embarrassment.'It comes as the House of Commons Status of Women committee probing misconduct in the Canadian Forces heard that the allegations of high-level sexual misconduct in the military are a “national embarrassment” and that efforts to address the issue so far have failed to focus on survivors.
This week, Liberal and Bloc Quebecois MPs teamed up tothe committee, under howls of protest by the Tories and the NDP. The Liberals say that the 25 hours of testimony already heard by the committee is sufficient; the opposition counters that there were key witnesses the committee had yet to hear from. Those witnesses include Sajjan’s former chief of staff and a senior adviser to Trudeau. Their testimony is key to either substantiating or refuting damning testimony the committee heard from other witnesses, including former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne.
Walbourne told the committee last month that hewith Sajjan to raise sexual misconduct allegations involving Vance in 2018, but Sajjan was not interested in hearing them. “I tried to show him some evidence. He refused to look at it,” Walbourne testified. He added: “After this meeting, there were over a dozen requests from myself to the minister to meet. All were rejected.”
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Sajjan’s version differed. Hethat he didn’t allow Walbourne to provide him with details of the allegations because “any investigation should be free of political interference.” He further said that he directed Walbourne to submit the allegations to the “appropriate independent authority.”
According to Walbourne, Sajjan reported the meeting to the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office, which asked Walbourne for information about the complainant. But this was a catch-22: the complainant had not given Walbourne permission to divulge any of her details unless she was assured of “top cover” — i.e., confidentiality and protection — by the defence minister, the same person who was refusing to hear the details of her complaint.
The PCO then dropped the investigation for lack of evidence. Shortly thereafter, Vanceof $50,000, signed off by the prime minister. Trudeau’s office explained that these increases are based on “the recommendation of the civil service.”
Liberals shut down probe into sexual misconduct in Canadian military
“Until we get to the bottom of who knew what when, we have not concluded this study," warned NDP MP Randall Garrison.That decision comes as the Conservatives and NDP members of the committee argue no one has yet taken responsibility and the probe should continue.
The women who came forward to the committee are frustrated, dispirited and angry. In the words of, representing a group that led a class-action lawsuit against the federal government over sexual violence in the Armed Forces, “It is outrageous that two chiefs of the defence (staff) have faced allegations within weeks of each other, but it is even more outrageous to accept that one thousand and six hundred people report a sexual assault on average every year within the CAF.”
It is indeed. It is equally frustrating that a government and prime minister that continually flaunt their feminist credentials are failing to tackle misogyny and harassment within one of this country’s most important institutions. Canada’s military has an abysmal record on sexual misconduct and violence, dating back well before the current Liberal regime.
Ironically,, “We must prevent the fear and the barriers that prevent people from coming forward. We need a complete and total culture change.” Yes we do. And when a PM holds himself out as a champion of women’s equality, on everything from abortion rights to gender parity, women have the right to expect transparency and action, not silence and shutdowns.
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