Armed Forces

"Regrettably sobering"

Nearly 1,000 members of the Canadian military say they were sexually assaulted in the last year

Nearly 1,000 members of the Canadian military say they were sexually assaulted in the last year

Nearly 1,000 full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces say they were sexually assaulted some time over the last year, according to a new survey conducted by Statistics Canada that provides further evidence of rampant sexual misconduct in the forces.

The number represents 1.7 percent of the military.

Chief of Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance told a news conference Monday he was “extremely disappointed” and that the findings were “regrettably sobering.”

Only one in four incidents of the sexual assaults disclosed through the survey were reported to a superior.

The survey, commissioned by the military as part of its efforts to combat widespread sexual abuse within its ranks, also found that Canadian soldiers were almost two times more likely to endure sexual assault than the general population. And women members of the military were four times more likely than their male counterparts to endure sexual assault in the last year, even though there are significantly fewer women than men in the force overall.

Statistics Canada defines sexual assault as “unwanted sexual touching, sexual attacks and sexual activity to which the victim is unable to consent.” The majority of the sexual assaults reported in the survey included unwanted touching. Beyond that, 79 percent of those who responded to the survey said they experienced or heard about “inappropriate sexualized behaviour.”

The survey received responses from just over half of members with the regular and reserve forces.

Last July, Gen. Vance launched “Operation Honour” to address sexual harassment and assault in the force after a scathing report by a former Supreme Court justice slammed the military for a “misogynistic” culture of “endemic” of sexual harassment. Vance pledged to eradicate the problem in due course, boasting that the forces have “never failed on operations in the past.”

A few months later, some military recruits and personnel made fun of the operation, jokingly dubbing it Operation “Hop on Her.”

There are also a number of ongoing sexual assault investigations against members of the force. Earlier this month, a reservist was charged with sexual assault for an incident that reportedly occurred at a base in Halifax. Shortly before that, a captain was charged with sexual assault against another member of the military for an incident that allegedly took place at a base in New Brunswick.

Cover: Photo by Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

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