Friday, May 22, 2015

Sexual problems in the Canadian Forces

So the recent unforunate news this the completely and utterly unsurprising finding by former SCC Justice Marie Deschamps that grossly inappropriate sexual behaviour mostly toward women is "endemic" in the Canadian Forces.

Let's define endemic (OED):
  1. 1
    (of a disease or condition) regularly found among particular people or in a certain area.
    "complacency is endemic in industry today"
  2. 2
    (of a plant or animal) native or restricted to a certain place.
    "a marsupial endemic to north-eastern Australia"
Lord, nothing has apparently in changed in since the last time the military had it's attention drawn to antisocial behaviour in its ranks. There was SHARP (Sexual Harassment and Racial Prejudice) "training" to try to mitigate these kinds of problems following Somalia and other incidents. Nobody openly took it seriously.

Fastforward almost 20 years, and Deschamps' report basically finds that sexual harassment is still normal and routine occurance in the CF. This means that it is safe to say to any woman joining the military that they are highly likely to face harassment and possibly assault of some form in the course of her duties. The report is saying that this behaviour is an integral part of the institution as it now stands.

Deschamps, as per her mandate, has handed the military a list of ten recommendations for remedying the problem.

The CDS Gen. Tom Lawson accepted two of them and eight in principle in a serious sounding presser. He sounded unpassionate to me, suggesting only that the military will "to the greatest extent possible" try for a solution to the problem and mumbled something about how it is possible to change cultures.  OK, then. Not exactly inspiring leadership there. Potentially disgraceful really, if this report is accurate and Lawson decided to ignore the Deschamps recommendations anyway. (That his go-to on this issue MGen Christine Whitecross appeared surprised to learn of Lawson's that was a conversation.)

Why was he tepid?

My guesses? The report points out the chain of command with its heirarchy of power is precisely what is preventing junior members from speaking up when they are harrassed or assaulted. In fact, as again the report mentions, it can be the case that the harasser or rapist is senior in the chain of command. The chain of command is sacrosanct how the military effectively conducts its business. The Pavlovian response from the chain to anyone violating the chain of command either by skipping a step or going outside is to threaten or punish. Which is likely why Lawson appears keen to ignore study Deschamps recommendations. Except that Deschamps is pointing out that the chain is unable to deal with culturally endemic sexual harassment because well, it's the tool used by the creeps to be creeps. From my read of reports, Lawson does not appear to have a response to that particular catch-22. I mean, if sexual impropriety is really endemic, it means god-knows-what for people in the chain who enable it by omission or commission.

Speaking of sins of commission
, the disgustingly vulgar, childish, and embarrassing response (identical to the response to the SHARP video 20 fucking years ago) of the future "leadership" of the Navy, Army and Airforce at Royal Military College to a civilian expert shows precisely why (1) sexual problems are endemic; and (2) the leadership in the CF might actually be incapable of addressing it in any meaningful sense. Perhaps, as part of the corrective measures, the smarmy little shits can have their sexual assault prevention lectures prefaced by accounts and photos of the rape-murder scenes many former-Yugoslavia vets encountered. And then have the link between their attitude and its ultimate expression in war and peace steamhammered into their infantile minds.

What then for the victims? Well, I suppose "tolerate" it, embrace it, exit the military and try to recover in civilian life, kill yourself, whatever. The green machine is really doing its best to show that it really does not give a fuck. As I've said before,  I haven't met a women who has left or is leaving the military who hasn't cited this kind of thing as a major factor in her decision to leave, and I've witnessed some pretty awful stuff myself. I mean, there's nothing you can do if, even as an officer , your superiors won't support you in disciplining harrassers (or could be themselves, thank you kindly RMC). God help those women without the rank or position to effectively insulate or defend themselves, especially if this Con "promise" is just for show.


ThinkingManNeil said...

Lawson has never impressed me as any kind of leader. The impression I got from watching him give speeches, press conferences, or responding to almost any given issue is that he's a ticket puncher through and through - a hand picked Harper lapdog who reflects the "values" of a regime that doesn't give a flying gnat's ass about women and their basic, essential rights as human beings. Governments are Old Boy's Clubs, and their attendant militaries are the Oldest of Old Boy's Clubs, dripping in testosterone and intransigent, monolithic thinking when it comes facing and adapting to social changes. There's little chance there'll be any systemic change in Canada's military - in anyone's military - when those civilian leaders in power over it aren't willing to make those changes themselves...


Dana said...

Hey Boris. I was hoping either you or Dave would weigh in on this.

Makes me wonder whether the Harperium will still try to sell the "we're doing it for the women" slogan.

Yeah, right.

It's likely closer to 'let them go over there and rape and pillage so they don't do it here'.

Maybe disbanding the college and starting over is the way to go.

Boris said...

Dana, something has failed at RMC if the not-yet-officers fail to accord any visitor or guest of the college anything short of perfect decorum and welcome. The military has it within its power to correct this by taking strong steps in reinstill discipline at the college and remove the offenders from RMC, but it won't. There's little wrong with the college as an institution but people who run it are apparently another matter. I suppose they thought this wasn't a big deal or that it would be better to keep it quiet rather than scandalise the college. Both are failures, especially in the wake of Deschamps report.