Two NDP MPs have introduced a plan to help survivors of sexual misconduct in the house of commons.
Two bills were introduced by National Defence critic Lindsay Mathyssen that would “make much needed changes in the wake of multiple cases of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces,” according to an NDP release.
The bills were jointly seconded by North Island-Powell River MP and Veterans Affairs critic Rachel Blaney, who said “I’m incredibly remorseful that anyone has had to deal with such a horrible experience. Please know that I will do everything I can to keep pushing this government for action on this vital issue.”
The two bills would establish an independent Office of the Ombud that would report to Parliament, rather than the Minister of National Defence. They would also amend the National Defence Act to remove the military’s jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute sexual offences under the criminal code.
“The tabling of these bills is necessary after sexual assault survivors continue to have trouble prosecuting their cases through the civilian courts,” the release says.
Mathyssen says that the bills would help implement recommendations from two reports — the 2015 External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces or “Deschamps report” and the 2022 Report of the Independent External Comprehensive Review or “Arbour report” — the latter of which author Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour told the House of Commons’ defence committee at the time she was “concerned that my recommendations would find their place in the graveyard of recommendations, which is heavily populated in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence.”
“Men and women who serve in the military deserve support and justice. For eight years, the Liberal government has promised to action on sexual misconduct and assault in the military, but they clearly lack the political will to follow through,” said Mathyssen.
Defence minister Anita Anand did instruct the Armed Forces to implement the Arbour recommendations after they were made public in December last year, but Blaney and Mathyssen say there has been no amendment to the National Defence Act to remove the military’s jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute sexual offences under the criminal code.
“Without making this necessary change, victims of sexual assault in the military will continue to face a confusing criminal justice system,” says the NDP release.