US & Canada

Canada army: Report reveals widespread sexual abuse

Canadian troops (15 August 2016) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The survey reveals that about 960 Regular Force members of the Canadian Armed Forces reported being victims of sexual assault during the last 12 months

The head of Canada's military has said he is "extremely disappointed" after a national survey revealed nearly 1,000 soldiers had complained of sexual harassment over the past year.

On average, three soldiers were allegedly assaulted or harassed sexually each day, often by a superior.

Female soldiers (15% of the military) were four times more likely than males to report being sexually assaulted.

Army head Gen Jonathan Vance said the findings were "regrettably sobering".

Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan described the findings as "completely unacceptable".

"We need to do better, and we will do better," CBC News quoted him as saying.

Sexual attacks

More than 50% of the Canadian army participated in the Statistics Canada survey.

About 960 Regular Force members - or 1.7% - reported being victims of sexual assault during the last 12 months, the report found.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gen Vance (left) - seen here with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - has pledged to rid the military of sexual abuse
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Women comprise about 15% of Canada's armed forces

More than a quarter of all women in the military - 27.3% - reported sexual assault at least once over their military careers, according to the survey.

Types of assault and harassment experienced include "unwanted sexual touching, sexual attacks and sexual activity to which the victim is unable to consent".

The findings follow a damning report last year by retired Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps which accused the military of being "hostile" to women and homosexuals. It said steps to address the problem had not been successful.

Gen Vance said 30 officers had been relieved of their command or positions of responsibility for paying no attention to his order last year that all troops should refrain from such behaviour.

"I am more motivated than ever to eliminate this behaviour and the perpetrators from our ranks," he said.

The report revealed that:

  • Only 23% percent of those who said they had been assaulted had reported their ordeal to a supervisor - fewer still (7%) to the military police
  • Members of the military were almost twice as likely as the general population to have been victims of sexual assaults over the last year
  • Nearly half of women who were assaulted had said a supervisor or someone of a higher rank had been responsible
  • The most common form of sexual assault was unwanted sexual touching

"Harmful sexual behaviour is a real problem in our institution," Gen Vance said. "We know it and we're trying to tackle it head-on."

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