Canada’s top soldier received advice from a group of sexual misconduct survivors on how to refine his public statements about unethical behavior, as well as assurances that the organization was not pushing for senior officers to be harshly punished.
According to the Department of National Defense, that July 7, 2021 document sent to the office of General Wayne Eyre and requested by this newspaper under the Access to Information Act could not be found.
But that’s not true.
The document has been provided to this newspaper by people concerned about how the Canadian military has dealt with ongoing sexual misconduct scandals.
And the false claims by DND personnel and military personnel about the document in question represent the latest in the troubling handling of records requested by the department under the access law.
The latest incident involves an email sent by Lori Buchart, director of the sexual misconduct survivors’ group, INJ700. In her correspondence, she provided Eyre with public relations advice and assured him that her group did not expect senior officers to be punished too harshly for her wrongdoing.
That correspondence with Canada’s defense chief was requested under the access law, which allows the public to obtain government-held records for a fee.
But instead of acknowledging its existence, Anne Bank, head of DND’s Access to Information branch, sent a letter on November 18, 2022 to this newspaper stating that an extensive search had been carried out and that it could not be found. said document.
On March 4, 2023, this newspaper informed the department that it had the very document that DND claimed could not be found. It was only then that DND said an error had been made, the department claimed in an emailed statement.
Eyre and Defense Minister Anita Anand declined to comment. The bank did not provide comment.
The “situation…is an isolated incident,” the department stated in its email.
However, the army and the department have a long history of incidents involving the destruction of records and the withholding of documents dating back to the Somali murder scandals of the early 1990s.
In December 2018, a military officer at the trial of Vice Admiral Mark Norman testified that Canadian forces circumvented the freedom of information law when records existed.
In January 2019, this newspaper reported that, despite being warned that what they were doing was potentially illegal and punishable by imprisonment, senior military commanders did not disclose important documents requested under the access law. Subsequently, a military police investigation blamed an employee despite having written evidence showing the involvement of senior officers.
This newspaper and some sexual misconduct survivors have also requested other records related to the INJ organization and its close relationship with the Canadian military leadership. Those records continue to be retained by the department.
DND access analyst David Matlak declined to say when the logs would be published.
Buchart sent a retained log to senior military leaders on September 28, 2021, outlining the need to “direct INJ700 of any ATI requests.”
It was obtained by this daily sources.
Buchart did not provide comment on why that advice included military leaders.
But, in response to other questions about his emails, Buchart noted that his philosophy “is that those who have caused harm must be held accountable through consistently and ethically applied legal, administrative, and/or other policies/processes.” .
Buchart, who has since resigned from INJ, stated that he believed “restorative processes should be used to support victim healing, help members learn from mistakes, and facilitate culture change for CAF and/or other affected organizations.” “.
Sexual misconduct scandals have resulted in more than 10 senior officers being charged or removed from their military jobs.
He also prompted senior staff in the DND’s Access to Information branch to implement a warning system designed to alert then-Deputy Minister Jody Thomas whenever a request was made by a member of the public or the media about sexual conduct cases. inappropriate.
In March 2021, Deirdra Finn, then the director of the access branch, provided information to Thomas outlining specific details about four requests from members of the media and three from the public. She also reported that, by that time, 12 access requests had been received on topics of sexual misconduct.
Thomas’ office would also receive specific release dates for each request, according to an email Finn sent to his boss, Joanne Lostracco.
The names of those who submitted the applications were kept anonymous but were classified as members of the public or media.
The leader of the group for sexual misconduct survivors assured military leaders that she did not want officers to be punished too harshly.
Military leaders called the sexual misconduct scandal a public relations war