Our military’s disgrace: A preview of our latest cover story

An exclusive investigation for L’actualité, Maclean’s sister publication, uncovers the sexual violence plaguing our soldiers


Rape in the Military. That was the headline on a Maclean’s cover in 1998—one of four cover stories that year stemming from a nine-month investigation into disturbing behaviour in the Canadian Forces. Now, 16 years later, Maclean’s and its sister magazine, L’actualité, are coming together to publish another months-long investigation into the sexual violence that still plagues our military.

L’actualité reporters Noémi Mercier and Alec Castonguay talked to dozens of victims, attended court martials, culled statistics and documents under Access to Information, and visited bases across the country and Afghanistan. Their powerful story appears at the centrepiece of both magazines—the first time ever the sister magazines are jointly publishing a cover story.

Every day, five individuals in the Canadian military community become victims of sexual assault. It is our military’s disgrace. Our special investigation is available now in the Maclean’s iPad edition. The print edition hits stands Thursday.

UPDATE: Defence Minister Rob Nicholson responded to the Maclean’s and L’actualité cover stories Thursday afternoon in the following statement:

I was deeply angered to learn of these alleged sexual assaults in the military.

Since 2006, our Government has continuously fought on behalf of victims and enhanced the laws in this country to combat sexual assault. Sexual misconduct of all kinds will not be tolerated within the Canadian Armed Forces and I have asked the Chief of Defence Staff to get to the bottom of these serious matters.

Chief of the Defence Staff General Tom Lawson also released a statment Thursday afternoon, in which he promised an immediate internal review of existing Canadian Forces programs and policies. The statement, in full, reads:

Sexual assault is a crime. It is an abhorrent and corrosive act that goes against the entirety of our military ethos. I do not accept from any quarter that this is merely a part of military culture; it is not. Sexual misconduct of any kind is not and will not be tolerated within the CAF, and this is a message that I reinforce throughout the chain of command. We will pursue any and all allegations of sexual misconduct and we will protect complainants from reprisals.

As military leaders it is our duty to set a standard of respect in the workplace, to nurture that culture with education and training, and to ensure mutual respect through the clear and unambiguous enforcement of the policies and rules that guard the workplace.

In view of recent surveys which have indicated positive trends in workplace culture, the article published today is disturbing. I have directed an immediate internal review of our workplace programmes and policies, and leadership engagement. Further to this, I will consider options for external review.

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Our military’s disgrace: A preview of our latest cover story

  1. Americans call it ‘rape culture’.

    Actually it’s ‘war culture’ and we’re getting the spillover from them.

  2. This comment has been removed.

  3. @Emilyone – Yes, of course. As we all know, only members of the military ever commit sexual assault.

    • Having a ‘war culture’ doesn’t mean everyone is in the military.

      The US is awash is guns, flags, memorials, weapons, planes and other Pentagon images. Largest military the world has ever known…..not that it does them much good, mind…..but even little kids wear camouflage jammies.

      Americans are war-like…..most other nations are not.

      • And this is relevant to the topic because…..?

        • Rape in the military. Military rape. Rape is a part of war. War has always involved rape.

          See the connection?

          • Yes, but the article is about rape within the Canadian military. Presumably within Canada (mostly). Are you saying that the U.S. is somehow to blame? Military imagery is a poor attempt to explain away sexual assault. I see plenty of people (civilians) walking around in camouflage t-shirts or pants or with camouflage backpacks. Are you saying we should be keeping an eye on these people because they’re potential sex offenders?

      • True, USA spends more on CIA+military than the other top 25 nations combined, as if at constant war with the world….

        Do as our president wishes and give your resources cheap, and accept our electronic counterfeit as America is bankrupt, or we bomb/covert you.

    • In the forces its worse. As it is a form of treason to disable, screw up, harm your own soldiers, as it aids the enemy, drives up costs, lowers moral…..

      Fact is if I was in the CF I would not want to work with a sexual predator as you couldn’t trust them. So why it is tolerated must be a control freek-psychotic sociopath thing. Hazards of not firing and demoting enough as management/officers themselves are grossly negligent.

    • JoeFrmEdm is not saying assault never happens. The CAF is a microcosm of Canadian society, but to say five assaults happen per day is the over the top reporting that is used to sell magazines. In 34 years I have only heard of few assaults and the guilty were dealt with quickly and severely.

  4. Why watch McHale’s Navy when you can get the X rated version of the CF?

    I mean this seriously, as rusty subs, defective F35s, $3 billion missing, a few killers on the way, RCMP cleaning up PTSD cases with a bullet, Sumaru in jail for killing the enemy now sexual predictors abound? If they rape their own sisters and brothers, I can only imagine how many they raped overseas.

    And all they are going to do is a review or donut committee of do nothings? Why not some good old fashioned court martial and demotions for the officers who road block this crime of treason? Oh wait, reviews are about stall tactics…got it.

    What a farce, CF has two meanings in Canada and its synonymous. Why anyone signs up is beyond me.

    • And what is your personal experience with the Canadian Forces? Never served? Then really your comments are not very credible or enlightened.

  5. Five a day??? Seriously? Does your magazine not know that this is virtually impossible given the number of females in the Canadian military? How could that number possibly be correct? This reeks of a hatchet job to cater to the likes of some of my fellow commenters, who obviously have no – zero – idea what the culture and ethics of a modern professional military are.

    For instance, Emilyone and Dave777 obviously have NO knowledge of how a professional Western army conducts itself in a war zone…and obviously don’t realize that most members of the CF never set foot in Afghanistan. Time for bed, trolls.

    • a) Sexual assault covers a lot of things.

      b) Men get sexually assaulted as well.

      c) I spent 5 years in the military, Flashy.

      • You released from the CF in 1973 which means your miltary experience is is one step above trench warfare. You have no idea what happens in todays military.

        • If you’re going to comment on here, try and be serious.

          • I am serious. In 34 years I have only heard of a few assaults and the guilty were swifty dealt with. You on the other hand resigned (by your own admission) in 1973 and therefore do not speak for those of us that continue to serve.
            I did notice it only took you seven minutes to reply. I guess you don’t have much to do in your retirement except troll Macleans.

      • “…. covers a lot of things” Yup, it certainly does if you take the definition to a ridiculous extreme, as has obviously happened here.

        Five years in 1972 Seriously? Your comments hardly reflect prior service in a modern military. You cannot imagine how much things have changed since you were in uniform. BostonBob has it exactly right (below).

        I spent 25 years and released last year. This story is already highly suspect, but the rest of the media will pile on. The war’s over, so it’s open season on the military again.

        • I know you’re trying to absolve the military on this issue…..but ‘facts iz facts’…….and I was discussing a ‘war culture’, not our military is particular.

          However our military is exactly the same as our society at large….it has all kinds.


    I know you think your experience in life is the only one that counts…..but the world doesn’t revolve around you.

    And you won’t get anywhere by calling people names when they disagree with you.

    I did not resign….I just didn’t re-up when my term ended. It wasn’t a life time career choice….it was a life experience. For all you know my entire family is in the military.

    And I work online…so stop worrying about my time.

    Kindly return to the topic

  7. For Mafav:

    When I say a society has a ‘war culture’ that means the entire society. An inclination to violence, to fighting, to sexual assault, to everything that comes with it.

    Little boys get GI Joes, and camo jammies and bed speads…..they don’t get lab coats,

    • Emilyone – I understand your use of the term “war culture”. What you’re talking about is fascism by any other name and, whatever you might want to think about the U.S., it doesn’t have the political, social, economic or racial homogeneity, nor the national sense of unity of purpose, the autocracy or the government controlled media to be a fascist state. Nor have you explained how this ties into the article.

      • fascism

        A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

        Stop abusing English.

        • Regardless, you’re still avoiding my question.

          • I’ve been crystal clear on the entire matter and answered all questions.

            I don’t have time to play games. Ciao.

  8. I promise you people, you ain’t seen nothing yet. This is only the tip of the iceberg.
    One matter often not considered is the military dependnats that were often sexually abused on base and swept under the rug by the defective National Defence Act.
    In 1998 Bill C-25 was passed that made amendments to the NDA.
    One of the changes made was the removal of the right of a commanding officer to dismiss the charges brought against his subordinate. The commanding officer had this right even if he would have been unable to conduct a summary trial for the offences his subordinate had been charged with.
    Once these charges were dismissed they or similar charges could never be brought against the accused by either a civilian or military tribunal.

    I had been molested over a year and a half period on Canadian Forces Base Namao when I was 7 and 8 years old. From what I’ve just learnt recently, the whole mess involving the base chaplain was swept under the rug by the base commander. The base chaplains in those days were directly subordinate to the base commander.

    I can only wonder how many other kids were abused and then thrown under the rug by the Canadian Forces and the brass at NDHQ

  9. I know much time has passed since this article appeared. I just read it yesterday and feel the need to comment. Since there are so many reported/unreported sexual assaults where no name is attached, it is plausible that somewhere along the line these perps end up in decision-making positions and may themselves be guilty parties. That’s not saying any specific authority person is guilty. Just a general observation. If there are that many occurrences it stands to reason they do move up and out and eventually end up in a squadron or chain of command where re-offending or turning down reports is within their jurisdiction. Further, it’s like the rapist, and the defender of rapes and rapists, is saying so long as raping makes you a better soldier, a better killer of your enemy before he kills you, it’s okay to rape.

  10. Oct 31st was a night that forever changed my own life. It was traumatic, it was humiliating. I’ve never even told my spouse.
    1990 a male sailor crept through the night into the ladies mess, crawled into my friend’s bunk and assaulted her. Not only were there witnesses but he had to be pulled off of her. There was no investigation. A reservist, she was returned to unit while her attacker stayed at sea and was promoted shortly afterwards.
    1992 while on course at CFB Borden (reknowned for sexual assaults) my roommate was gang raped and hospitalized for weeks. She was returned to unit while the attackers were permited to complete their course while the investigation proceeded. They were never charged.
    1993 my civilian coworker at a reserve unit launches a sexual harassment claim against an officcer in the unit. When the military refuses to investigate, she makes a human rights complaint. The investigation is in limbo for over a decade. I am threatened with insubordination, poor evaluations, and personal threats to preent my testifying on her behalf. Eventually, the day after a senior staff member retires out of the military he contacts human rights and retracts his testimonly. My coworker is finally vidicated. Meanwhile her transgresser has gone onto become a senior officer in Maritime Command. I was never promoted again.

    2015 – My life and marraige have fallen apart. I have been diagnosed with PTSD. Unable to work I live my life inside hiding from male interaction on a small disability allowance.

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