Sexual Assault in the Canadian Armed Forces

Photo: Canadian Press

Photo: Canadian Press

In 2015, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) announced a new strategy to combat sexual assault called ‘Operation HONOUR’. They acknowledged that statistics regarding sexual assault in the military are too high to go unnoticed. Operation HONOUR was the CAF’s way of informing soldiers and the rest of Canada that they would not take this problem lightly and that they intended to reduce violence against women within their institution. However, shortly after Operation HONOUR was announced, major news outlets such as the National Post began reporting instances where service people were mocking the initiative and belittling the issue at hand. Among some circles in the CAF, Operation HONOUR became known as ‘Operation Hop-On-Her’.

In late November, over a year after Operation HONOUR was announced, the CAF announced that there were 960 reported sexual assaults in the past year. Similar to most statistics, women were more likely to report sexual assault than men. However, it is important to note that this number only reflects sexual assaults that were documented; including undocumented incidence would undoubtedly worsen this statistic.

The accounts of soldiers ridiculing Operation HONOUR — along with the alarmingly high rate of sexual assault a year after this — are concerning. Though it was launched with good intentions, Operation HONOUR has not been meeting its objectives, and as a result, the lives of women continue to be put at risk within an institution that is supposedly devoted to the welfare and security of Canadians. This is extremely concerning as a Canadian citizen and as a woman.

More research must be done to determine the root causes of sexual assault against women in the CAF. It is unacceptable that, despite efforts to raise awareness, allocate public funding, and consult with survivors, no substantial progress has been made. Safeguarding the safety and security of all Canadians, including women, is a fundamental aspect of our constitution. This issue is further complicated by the fact that the derision toward Operation HONOUR within the CAF is likely rooted in a larger culture of misogyny. It should also be noted that this is not just a Canadian issue, but an American one, as well.

The CAF is attempting to create strategies; however, Canadians should be more aware of these crimes. It is important that we educate ourselves about the injustices in our society and our institutions and voice our opposition when something concerns us. This was a concern for me, so I have since emailed the CAF outlining my worries and am waiting for a reply. For more information, visit the CAF’s webpage dedicated to Operation HONOUR.

(http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/caf-community-support-services/sexual-misconduct.page).