The Canadian Armed Forces are facing new calls to create an “explicit exception” for victims of sexual misconduct and their confidants from having to report incidents to their commanders.
The request is one of dozens of recommendations contained in a new report released Tuesday after nearly two years of consultations involving survivors and military officials.
The government accepted the inquiries as part of its $ 600 million settlement agreement with members of the Armed Forces and defense officials who experienced inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.
The “duty to inform” regulation obliges service members to report any type of inappropriate or criminal behavior, whether sexual or not, to higher authorities, which initiates a formal reporting process.
However, the Survivor Support Consultation Group report says the so-called duty to report was a “recurring topic of concern” during its work, echoing past criticism about forcing victims and their confidants to report incidents when they are unprepared. or they don’t want to. .
“Currently, all CAF members are bound by a statutory obligation to report all misconduct, including sexual misconduct,” reads the group’s report, which included three class action members and three military personnel.
“Of particular concern is how the duty to report sexual misconduct affects a survivor’s autonomy about whether, when and how to report their experiences, and whether and how to seek support after an incident.”
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The reference to seeking support addresses what the report describes as a long-standing ambiguity about whether the duty to report also applies to military personnel and clergy.
“Taken together, the ambiguity and inconsistencies in medical care and chaplaincy add to the vulnerability of survivors at a critical time,” he says.
The advisory group’s report says it is not the first to raise concerns about the requirement, noting that it has also been criticized by survivor groups such as It’s Not Just 700, as well as the federal auditor general in 2018.
#Militar faces new calls to end the ‘duty to inform’ by #MisconductSexualMisconduct. #CDNPoli
“Survivors must be able to choose if, when and where they feel safe to report,” it reads. “In the context of CAF in which investigations are not carried out by independent authorities, the ability of victims to choose and receive support without reporting is essential.”
While the report calls for an exemption “from prosecution for failure to report sexual misconduct,” it allows such an exemption to not apply to cases where there is an imminent risk of harm, or where children or national security are involved.
Military commanders have previously resisted removing the duty to report, and military police said it has helped increase the number of reported cases of sexual misconduct that have been reported to them, particularly by bystanders or other third parties.
However, others have said it discourages reporting and the lieutenant general. Jennie Carignan, the senior officer responsible for leading culture change in the military, indicated last week that an exemption is being considered.
“We are working on the policy coverage for this,” Carignan said during an update on her work as the military’s first chief of conduct and professional culture.
The stated purpose of the consultation group’s work was to enable individuals affected by military sexual misconduct to have a direct influence on the policies, programs, and services of the Armed Forces when it comes to responding to such incidents and supporting the armed forces. survivors.
The 45 recommendations include measures to better include survivors in the ongoing development of responses to sexual misconduct, better support different groups, such as the indigenous military, and increase training and accountability in the institution.
In a written response to the report, Defense Chief of Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and Defense Department Deputy Minister Jody Thomas say several of the recommendations are already being implemented, while the rest will be considered on their behalf. due time.
Eyre and Thomas do not explicitly mention a duty to report in their response.
This Canadian Press report was first published on December 21, 2021.