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.