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Report on Canada’s Military College

March 30, 2017

Emma Phillips questions some of the conclusions in the Report on the Royal Military College of Canada

Last November a report was commissioned into the Royal Military College of Canada following several suspected suicides and allegations of sexual misconduct. The review was conducted by a panel of current and former military officers.

The panel’s report, released to the public yesterday, contains many recommendations. However , the CBC’s The National reports that “the military says it has found no cause for alarm after a report was released on suspected suicides, alleged harassment and low morale at the Royal Military College of Canada.”

Global News reports that the changes highlighted by Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance involve “improving medical and food services for cadets on campus, adding more support staff and investing additional dollars to fix critical infrastructure at the school, including the library and dormitories.” As well, Gen. Vance intends to address the “‘negative’ stressors affecting students and the need for increased levels of support staff” and “inconsistent leadership” at the college.

However, the report says that female cadets feel safe at the college, and that the panel heard of only “a small number of allegations of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour.”

The evidence before this panel appears to have been quite different from that unearthed by retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Marie Deschamps, who conducted an External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces. Her 2015 report states that:

In  the  colleges  the  [External Review Authority] visited — the Collège  militaire  royal  du  Canada  and  the  Royal  Military College  of  Canada—participants  reported  that  sexual harassment  is  considered  a “passage obligé”, and  sexual  assault  an  ever-present  risk. One  officer  cadet  joked  that  they  do  not report sexual harassment because it happens all the time.

The latest report’s findings were also surprising, considering the verbal abuse directed at a sexual assault prevention educator who was asked to speak to cadets at the college in 2014.  She was catcalled, laughed at and openly disrespected by the officer cadets during the talks, and described the cadets as “the most hostile audience she had faced in a career of speaking about sexual assault prevention.” It took five months for the school’s commandant to apologize for that behaviour, and the abuse intensified after she went public about her experience.

While Gen. Vance is relying on the findings of this latest report to conclude that there are no systemic causes for concern at the college, Emma Phillips suggests in an interview with the CBC that, given Justice Deschamps’ findings concerning the under-reporting of sexual harassment and violence, it is unlikely that cadets will come forward. This may particularly be the case where, as here, the military was investigating itself and there does not appear to have been a complete guarantee of confidentiality.

Watch The National’s report, including Emma’s comments, here:

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Emma Phillips

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Human Rights & Equity Law