Military top cop apologizes for failures in investigations, commits to reforms

·3 min read
A report from the Military Police Complaints Commission has recommended a number of changes to how military police officers are trained.  (Rebecca Martel/CBC - image credit)
A report from the Military Police Complaints Commission has recommended a number of changes to how military police officers are trained. (Rebecca Martel/CBC - image credit)

The Canadian Armed Forces' top cop has apologized to two Royal Military College (RMC) officer cadets after a review by a military police watchdog found several problems with how military police investigated a case at Canada's officer academy.

The Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) publicly released its final report on a series of incidents concerning harassment and mental health issues between a male officer cadet and a female officer cadet. The MPCC called on Canadian Forces Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau to apologize to both parties for failures in how the military police handled the investigations.

In a news release, the MPCC said Trudeau had issued "apology letters to the female and male Officer Cadets."

The case began in March of 2019 when the female officer cadet alleged that the male officer cadet was harassing her. She reported the behaviour to the local military police unit in Kingston, adding that the male officer had a mental illness and that she feared for her safety.

A few months later, the male officer cadet alleged that he had given her money with the expectation that a romantic relationship would develop, but it didn't. After a military police officer told the male cadet he would likely face criminal charges for soliciting a sexual service, the male cadet attempted suicide. He later made a second suicide attempt, which left him disabled.

The police did not lay any charges.

The MPCC considered the incidents so serious it self-initiated a review without a complaint being filed for the first time ever.

In its final report, it found that military police did not take reasonable steps to address the male officer cadet's mental health issues after being told about them by the female cadet, and didn't conduct reasonable investigations into the harassment allegation or an appropriate investigation into the sexual offences allegedly committed by the female officer cadet.

On the latter point, the report says the military police officer investigating the allegation "was motivated by moral convictions as opposed to legal ones" and seemed "to have disapproved of the female officer cadet's actions before his interview with her even started."

"In the case of the young woman, in addition to being left unprotected, this victim of criminal harassment was blamed for her situation and her reputation was tainted by the actions of the Military Police," the report reads.

"In the case of the young man, the actions of the military police did not help him deal with his mental health difficulties and may even have exacerbated them."

Report recommends review of military police training

The MPCC report issued 15 recommendations for military police.

At the top of the list is a call to "review Military Police training at all levels in the areas of victims' rights and services."

The MPCC also wants military police to receive training on criminal harassment and calls for the development of a risk management strategy to protect people "who may be in a position of jeopardy."

The MPCC said in the release that the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal accepted all the MPCC's findings and recommendations.

"The MPCC is also satisfied with the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal's responses and actions taken to implement the MPCC's recommendations, most notably the issuance of the apology letters to the female and male officer cadets," said the release.

The MPCC report comes just a day after former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour released a damning report on military culture in response to a flood of allegations of sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces.

In that report, Arbour criticized the culture at military colleges, saying they "appear as institutions from a different era, with an outdated and problematic leadership model."

"There is enough evidence that military colleges are not delivering on their mandate that I believe alternatives must be explored with an open mind," she said.

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