Police not ready to investigate military sexual assaults, Ottawa warned
According to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the new system of having civilian police investigate cases of military sexual misconduct risks failing complainants without better coordination and resources from the police. from the federal government.
Defense Minister Anita Anand announced last November that cases of military sexual misconduct would be transferred to civilian authorities as the Canadian Armed Forces grappled with a sexual misconduct crisis and complainants criticized the treatment of case by the military police.
The association of police chiefs says it has been pushing the federal government for months to set up a national task force to address concerns about the transfer and establish a framework for handling these cases – including in a letter in Anand in April.
The association says it never received a response from the Liberals, while Anand’s office says she responded saying she was open to speaking about the association’s concerns.
« Without the framework, our belief is that (the system) has a greater potential for failure, and failure a second time for a victim of sexual assault is unacceptable, » said Jeff McGuire, executive director of the association, in an interview.
The association said in a statement this week that a task force could coordinate a clear framework « to collect and share information … that supports an accurate description of the number of reported military sex offense cases (and other trends ) » and possible victim-centered training for investigations in a military context.
McGuire said the government’s lack of action on the association’s proposal was disappointing, prompting the association to release its statement.
« We’ve been very patient, » he said. « Since day one, we’ve been discussing a framework to support prevention, transparency, and build trust, and unfortunately, we just don’t think we’re there yet and we need the federal government. » Let’s make it happen.
The transfer of cases announced last year followed an interim recommendation by retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, who was leading an independent review of sexual misconduct in the military.
Anand has already announced a formal intergovernmental table on the transfer, which met last week at the deputy minister level, and will continue to meet to « systematize » the process of transferring cases, his spokesperson said, Daniel Minden. He added that Anand also spoke with the Solicitor General of Ontario this week about the transfer.
According to Arbor’s final report, the transfer will result in approximately 70 additional sexual assault investigations per year for Ontario’s civilian forces.
The association says in its statement that « additional challenges and complexities » may arise in the investigation of sexual assault cases that have occurred on military bases, aircraft, ships and submarines. He points out that people often move around in the military and that there are special considerations to take into account, such as complainants still potentially working in close proximity to perpetrators.
« We would be doing a disservice to the voices who have been fighting for change if we do not recognize our need for additional leadership, training, expertise and resources to ensure a victim-centred, trauma-informed approach and humility culture in military sex investigations. offences,” the association said in its statement.
“Without being honest about our limitations and challenges, and without the Government of Canada listening, hearing and acting on them, we risk creating a fragmented and inconsistent system.
Arbor mentions some of the association’s concerns in their final report, noting the letter they sent to Anand in April as well as to the Solicitor General of Ontario in January, in which the association said it was concerned about resources, especially for small forces, and “the potential floodgates of historic claims,” Arbor wrote.
She said the association had also identified the need for training in the military context and issues around access to military documents.
But Arbor also countered in his report that under the law, civilian police forces already had « full jurisdiction to investigate sexual offenses involving CAF members, including those committed on defense property. » « .
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