Scathing conclusion is among 48 recommendations by Louise Arbour, a former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal tasked with helping clean up a toxic culture within the Canadian military.

Defence Minister Anita Anand says government would immediately move on 17 of the recommendations, and implement the rest after details on how to do so are worked out.
Defence Minister Anita Anand says government would immediately move on 17 of the recommendations, and implement the rest after details on how to do so are worked out. (Reuters Archive)

The Canadian military has failed women in uniform and must hand over all prosecutions for sexual misconduct to civilian courts and rights tribunals, a report has said.

The scathing conclusion on Monday was among 48 recommendations by Louise Arbour, a former prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal (ICT) tasked with helping clean up a toxic culture within the Canadian military. 

In December, Ottawa apologised to its soldiers and veterans for the lapses.

Defence Minister Anita Anand told a news conference that the government would immediately move on 17 of the recommendations, and implement the rest after details on how to do so are worked out.

"If we do not take this moment for what it is and implement the recommendations that identify deep areas of need for change in the Canadian Armed Forces and the defense team broadly, we run the risk of not being a fully effective military domestically and internationally," Anand said.

"We must grab the bull by the horns and make these changes now."

The minister said federal police have already started taking over cases from the military and that would continue.

'Insurmountable challenge'

Arbour said dealing with accusations of sexual assaults, rape and harassment is an "insurmountable challenge" that the military is ill-equipped to handle.

She said in the report that she found no meaningful progress on hundreds of past recommendations to reform the military and stamp out misconduct within its ranks, adding it "failed to adapt to the ever-changing progressive society in which we live."

"The handling of sexual offences by military court in the past 20 years has done very little to improve efficiency, discipline and morale," she said at the news conference with Anand. "If anything it has served to erode it."

"The CAF has to open up to outside civilian partners," Arbour said, referring to the Canadian Armed Forces. 

"The CAF should let others do what they can do better, more efficiently, and concentrate on its operations."

Her review comes after another task force in 2015 found the military had "an environment that is hostile to women... and is conducive to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault."

In April 2021, the military reported to the House of Commons 581 sexual assaults and 221 incidents of sexual harassment had taken place since 2015.

READ MORE: Canada army 'not doing enough' to detect extremist infiltration in ranks

Source: AFP