April 8, 2021 the Standing Committee on the Status of Women met to discuss the current allegations and incidents of sexual misconduct toward members of the Canadian Armed Forces. A few of the survivors were present at this meeting. They were able to tell their stories and answer questions surrounding their experiences.
First up was Julie Lalonde who is on a mission to educate and fight against sexual assault against women. In 2014 she had been hired to train all officer cadets at the Royal Military College in Kingston, on this very topic and was appalled at the amount of sexually violent comments she heard during her time. There was plenty of victim shaming, things like suggesting that if a woman drank too much she was asking for it. She ended up filing a complaint for both comments made to her and those that she heard.
Lalonde recalls one navy cadet showing courage with his peers during a particular uproar over this topic. “He was sitting among the most boisterous group so I called on him with hesitation. But to my surprise and the surprise of everyone else in the room, he stood up for me. He began to berate his classmates for attacking me, told them they were being babies for being so upset and went so far as to say, quote ‘The way we talk about women at RMC is embarrassing.’ The room was stunned into silence.” She goes on to discuss how the cadets were praised on social media for “being brave enough to challenge the educator.”
She then brings up the thousands of threatening messages, emails and phone calls she has received since voicing her experiences at RMC. Lalonde also states that she can no longer speak at any event about any topic without having personal security. She makes a call for those in the meeting to be brave enough to name the problems and speak out for change.
Another witness was Stephanie Raymond who was in the Armed Forces from 2001-2013. She was a victim of several cases of sexual misconduct and assault, the last one being in December 2011, she reported this incident in January 2012 to the military police. It has taken nearly 10 years for her to hear her aggressor plead guilty to his charges.
During her questioning Raymond expressed that she feels an independent third party to oversee the military in these matters is crucial. She recalls all of the proceedings that she attended were influenced by a chain of command. “There was a lack of confidentiality and there were reprisals against the victim as soon as the victim reported any member of the military who was high ranked or liked.”
She further discusses how the term “misconduct” describes a lot of things but sexual assault is a crime. It needs to be treated as any other crime in Canada toward any other Canadian would. She shares that the accused or the victim are not held to the same rights in the military as in the regular Canadian population.
Raymond later said, “The difficulty is that it’s a though it’s a separate civilization. It’s like a family. We’re told where to train, they tell us how to train, we can’t go to a regular doctor the military decides which doctor we see. We have to respect anyone of higher rank at all times even if we run into them outside the workplace. The people who don’t live in the Armed Forces don’t understand the extent to which there is a hierarchy. Everything goes by rank, everything is supervised, everything you do is decided upon and has to be approved. You can’t just do what you want, you can’t just decide to go where you want, to make a report or request assistance.”