Defense Minister Anita Anand says she is preparing the military to act quickly on recommendations from retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor to remove sexual misconduct from the ranks, which could come as early as spring.

Those preparations include laying the groundwork for an “independent oversight mechanism” for the Canadian Armed Forces, as victims and experts have long urged, though Anand says he won’t decide the details until he sees Arbor’s final report.

“I am very open to suggestions from Madame Arbor should they come up in this area,” Anand told The Canadian Press in an exclusive interview.

“I will not move to implement such a process before hearing from her. But I’m certainly working to lay the groundwork to ensure that there is some kind of independent accountability mechanism or body that can hear complaints from survivors and whistleblowers. “

The Liberal government chose Arbor last April to lead an independent review of the military’s handling of sexual assault, harassment and other misconduct in the ranks, and to draw up a detailed plan to finally fix the problem after several past failures.

The review began in response to explosive accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior by several high-ranking military officials, as well as withering criticism of the liberal government’s handling of the issue.

Anand, who took over as Defense Minister in October, said she is in regular contact with the retired Supreme Court judge and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to make sure she is getting the information and responses she needs from the army.

“From those talks, we are awaiting your final report next spring, and we will act on it as soon as possible,” Anand said.

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While few have questioned Arbor’s credentials, liberals have nonetheless come under fire for launching another review after another retired Supreme Court justice, Marie Deschamps, conducted her own study in 2014-15.

Opposition parties and others, instead, have demanded that the government implement Deschamps’ key recommendation to establish an independent center to monitor the military’s handling of sexual misconduct cases and hold it accountable.

#Military preparing to act quickly on Arbor’s plan to combat sexual misconduct: Minister @AnitaAnandMP. #CdnPoli #SexualMisconduct

Anand defended the government’s approach, noting that Deschamps’ review was to uncover the extent of the military’s problems when it comes to sexual misconduct. Instead, Arbor focuses on “pragmatically providing a roadmap on how to implement the reform.”

In an interview earlier this year, Arbor painted a similar picture of the difference between Deschamps’ review and his own.

To illustrate the point, Anand signaled his decision last month to accept Arbor’s call for the military to at least temporarily hand over the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases to civil authorities.

Arbor included a list of actions and considerations for that transition, Anand said, “and I hope and hope that Madame Arbor’s final report, regarding all of her recommendations, will contain a similar roadmap for implementation.”

The recent debate over the handling of allegations of sexual misconduct by the government and the military has seen numerous experts and victims, as well as opposition parties, demanding more external accountability and oversight to keep the Armed Forces at bay.

Some have called for an office of the inspector general to be created that can investigate complaints made by individual military members, or for the office of the military ombudsman to be strengthened by having him report to Parliament instead of the defense minister.

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However, the military has long resisted those calls and set up barricades to prevent such independent monitoring, even after the investigation of Somalia in the 1990s and the publication of Deschamps’ final report in March 2015.

At times, such obstruction has come with the tacit approval of any government in power, while at other times the military has been able to elude or convince its political masters that such oversight would harm the Armed Forces.

Anand said greater accountability is at the heart of her work as Defense Minister and that she is “fully aware of the benefits of an independent oversight or accountability mechanism” thanks to her prior experience as a lawyer and corporate governance expert. .

When asked how he will overcome any resistance within the military to necessary reforms, Anand noted that his work earlier this year led the federal government’s effort to procure COVID-19 vaccines as evidence of its ability to get things done.

At the same time, Anand said he has felt in his conversations with senior leaders and junior service members since his appointment “a desire for change in the Canadian Armed Forces, there is a will for reform to occur.”

She added: “My opinion is that in order for us to have an Armed Forces that can protect Canada and go out into the world… we need to have a force where recruitment is strong, where members feel they can come and be safe and secure while doing their job. “.

This Canadian Press report was first published on December 14, 2021.

Reference-www.nationalobserver.com

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