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Veterans Call for Halt to Military Sexual Misconduct Investigations and Prosecutions

Veterans and advocates argue that the government’s decision to eliminate the military’s authority to prosecute sexual assault and similar crimes will result in more cases being transferred to an already overwhelmed justice system, which does not address the root issue.

Defence Minister Bill Blair has proposed changes to the National Defence Act to remove the military’s jurisdiction over investigating and prosecuting sexual offenses listed in the Criminal Code.

This change is based on a recommendation by former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour, who found that Armed Forces members lacked confidence in the military justice system to handle such cases.

However, some veterans who have experienced sexual misconduct in the military argue that the civilian system is not necessarily better equipped to handle the problem.

“When we witnessed the crisis in 2021 and saw how flawed the system was, people were desperate for change,” said Christine Wood, a former air force logistics officer.

Justice Arbour conducted an independent review of military culture and made 48 recommendations in May 2022.

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Under the proposed changes, military police would still investigate alleged crimes that occur outside of Canada but would hand over their investigations to civilian prosecutors.

Mr. Fowler highlighted the benefits of the military system, such as military police’s jurisdiction across jurisdictions, including international ones, and much lower caseloads for prosecutors compared to civilian courts.

He noted that the military was granted authority over sexual offenses in 1999 during a period when the integration of women into combat roles raised significant concerns about sexual misconduct.

“Now, we find ourselves in a similar situation, suggesting that we need to remove these offenses from military jurisdiction,” he said.

“However, this approach fails to address the core issue.”

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