Military to reopen 23 'unfounded' sexual assault cases

Victims of sexual misconduct not treated in 'respectful manner' by military, says auditor

Canada's military is reopening investigations into nearly two dozen cases of sexual assault after reviewing 179 old cases that had been closed as "unfounded."

In each of those 23 files, investigators will conduct additional interviews, seek better documentation or use other investigative tools to review the cases.

Senior military commanders decided to comb through the old cases after an internal review found that nearly a quarter of cases filed between 2010 and 2016 concluded with an "unfounded" label — a rate higher than the rate for cases investigated by civilian police forces.

Reviews by the military and RCMP were launched following an in-depth 2017 Globe and Mail report on unfounded sexual assault cases across Canada.

Of the 179 military police files reviewed in an 18-month period from early 2017 to July 2018, 43 cases were deemed to have been "misclassified" and have been re-coded to "reflect more accurately the findings of the investigations," according to a release from National Defence.

Another 113 cases will remain labelled as unfounded — 14 per cent of the 757 sexual assault cases in that six-year period.

In a statement, Lt.-Col. Kevin Cadman, commanding officer of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, said the review was "beneficial in many ways" and that best practices will be assessed continually to ensure National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces receive the "highest standard of policing service."

The release said the average unfounded rate has been declining; it dropped to eight per cent in 2016 from 17.6 per cent in 2010. The average unfounded rate for Canadian policing is about 19 per cent.