Some police forces are “not ready” to take on the Canadian military’s sexual offence cases, the military police says.
The statement comes following a scathing report published on Monday into the culture of the Canadian Armed Forces, which described it as an institution out of sync with the values of Canadian society.
The report, conducted by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour, was triggered by Global News’ series of exclusive reports into allegations of sexual misconduct against senior leaders in the Canadian Forces.
Those revelations and the courage of survivors and victims who spoke out spurred a political and societal reckoning that is underway.
Arbour’s 403-page report, which made 48 recommendations, included one saying all criminal code sexual offences should be removed from the jurisdiction of the Canadian Armed Forces and be prosecuted exclusively in civilian criminal courts. If the offence takes place in Canada, it should be investigated by civilian police at the earliest opportunity.
Her recommendation was a follow-up to an interim suggestion she made in November to the government that civilians, and not military investigators, should handle military sexual misconduct cases.
Defence Minister Anita Anand accepted that recommendation “in full” at the time.
Since then, work has begun on transferring cases to civilian police forces, said Canadian Forces Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau in a statement on Friday.
As of May 30, federal, provincial and municipal police services accepted 22 of 49 cases the military police tried to refer.
Also, nine of 13 ongoing cases are now being investigated by a civilian police force, which those numbers expected to change on a daily basis, Trudeau said.
“The transfer and referral of cases raise a wide range of complex issues. Some agencies were not ready to accept investigations for reasons that reflect the diversity of law enforcement contexts in Canada,” he said.
“Our aim is that civilian police services investigate all criminal sexual offences alleged to have been committed by a CAF member on which they have jurisdiction.”
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His statement reflects the troubles highlighted by Arbour in her report when it came to the transfer of cases as part of her interim recommendation.
“While some external police forces were open to receiving files almost immediately, others refused to accept any files involving CAF members,” she said, adding some forces were concerned about jurisdictions and resources.
“Under the law as it stands, civilian police forces and prosecution authorities already have full jurisdiction to investigate sexual offences involving CAF members including those occurring on defence property.
“The number of cases, spread across the country, with slightly higher volume around CAF bases and wings, and virtually none elsewhere, hardly justifies this refusal to enforce the law. The targeted need for additional resources, if any, can easily be identified and accommodated.”
However, the difficulties encountered in implementing her interim recommendation highlight a “key problem” in maintaining concurrent jurisdiction between the CAF and civilian authorities, Arbour added.
“Prolonging concurrent jurisdiction will, it seems, only lead to interminable discussions about setting up detailed and complicated intergovernmental protocols, as well as similar machinery between the CAF and local and regional police forces,” she said.
“Since, in my view, the civilian system is the preferable one, the best way forward is to provide for the exclusive jurisdiction of civilian courts in all matters of sexual misconduct falling under the Criminal Code.”
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Ottawa has already begun action on 17 recommendations, and has promised to analyze, review and respond to the others, Anand said on Monday.
“The time for action is now and together we will deliver reforms that stand the test of time to strengthen, grow and improve this crucial institution,” she said.
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