Effort to rid the military of sexual misconduct is coming to New Brunswick

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Effort to rid the military of sexual misconduct is coming to New Brunswick

Researchers with the Department of National Defence are travelling to New Brunswick to conduct one-on-one interviews with victims of sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces.

It's part of a mission called "Operation Honour" that aims to eliminate inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian military.

"We do have participants in New Brunswick," confirmed Dr. Stacey Silins, the lead researcher.

But she declined to say how many.

"We do try to protect the identities of our participants so I don't usually give a lot of information about when and where exactly we'll be," said Silins, who works in a psychosocial health section of the department.

Report to go public

Silins invites any member of the regular or reserve forces, serving or retired, to contact her through the Operation Honour website, if that member, regardless of gender, wants to participate in the Victim Support Study.

She said participants will remain anonymous, but the overall findings will be summarized in a report that she expects to go public.  

She said the results will help inform the military as to what a victim goes through, when they complain and whether they receive sufficient support services. In another phase of the project, providers of those support services will receive feedback.

"We're going to be talking with medical officers within the Canadian Armed Forces, social workers. It can include chaplains, nurses and possibly even members of the chain of command in leadership positions," said Silins.

"Anybody who's in a position to provide support to somebody when they have experienced sexual misconduct."

'It might be very disappointing'

One former reservist from Saint John identified herself as a study participant to the CBC. Paula MacDonald said she expects to be interviewed in Winnipeg, where she now resides, in March.

"It's something we, as a country, need to clean up," she said.

MacDonald filed a formal complaint about the hostile sexualized environment she said she experienced in 2015 while training at the Barrack Green Armoury in Saint John. It was investigated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission and will almost certainly be heard by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

MacDonald said she's willing to tell her story to the research team but lacks confidence as to whether it will make a positive difference.

"I don't have any expectations because it might be very disappointing," she said.

"It's taking the Canadian Armed Forces a relatively long time to fix systemic issues that they've been aware of, for a while.

"We'll see what happens."

Damning report

Operation Honour stems from an external review of the military conducted by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps.

In a report released in 2015, she concluded there is an underlying sexualized culture in the Canadian Armed Forces that is hostile to women and LGTBQ members.

She said that culture was conducive to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault.

Among other things, Operation Honour aims to eliminate inappropriate sexual behaviour by measuring the problem. It counts the number of incidents per month and provides those numbers online.

Operation Honour also publishes progress reports. The last one came out in April 2017.

Correction : In an earlier version of this story, the first name of the lead researcher with Operation Honour was incorrect. Her correct came is Stacey Silins.(Feb 22, 2018 10:09 AM)