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Judy Haiven: Defunding the military, the time has come

Gas Drill by Molly Lamb Bobak (1920-2014), official Canadian war artist 1945. A display of her art, Women in Service: the War Art of Molly Lamb Bobak is here.

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – What is going on in the Canadian military? The military has allowed sexual assaults and abuse of thousands of women in their ranks for years. The military has senior white male officers who have taken advantage of women from new recruits to seasoned professionals. The men have denied the women promotions and careers. And the conspiracy of silence from the top echelons down has covered it up.

Human Resource managers, diversity trainers, equity officers, change agents, talent consultants, career counsellors – all of them are responsible for the military’s corporate hedging, and the sidestepping that resulted in possibly the most ludicrous episode of The Current on CBC Radio One, aired Tuesday. We heard The Current’s host Matt Galloway wading in to question Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre about the 581 sexual assaults in the five years after the Canadian Armed Forces Operation Honour. That’s one assault every three days!

Canadian military’s Lt-General Eyre’s ‘newspeak’

In the cold morning light, we heard Eyre say almost nothing. Is this “newspeak” what they taught him in officers’ school? We heard Eyre utter these clichés on national radio:

● Let’s “make inclusion part of our day to day life.”
● The military’s “cohesion is based on teamwork.”
● “We’re here for the victim.”

When asked about yet another review of sexual harassment and assault in the military, this one by Former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, Eyre enthuses,

● “We welcome and embrace a review of who we are.” Pardon?

When asked about the hundreds of unresolved sexual assault complaints, Eyre declares,

● “Stamping out sexual assault is a goal, not a failure if we don’t get there.”

And we should note that Eyre is possibly the last man standing. By that I mean so many other top soldiers have been caught in lies and denials.

For example: look at Major General Dany Fortin, the man hand-picked by the Prime Minister last November to roll out the Covid vaccine plans for the nation. Fortin, a former NATO commander in Iraq, had to resign on May 14 because he was accused of sexual misconduct – albeit 30 years previous. Apparently he exposed his genitals while at military college. The problem is not so much that this offence took place so long ago, but that his lawyer insisted Fortin “vigorously and categorically denies the allegation” and that the complaint took his client “completely by surprise.

OK, but Tuesday’s On Target column by Scott Taylor, which is syndicated to newspapers across the country, reveals that the Public Health Agency of Canada knew about problems of Fortin’s misconduct in March 2021 though Fortin was forced out in May. The investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigative Service (CFNIS) was complete and handed over to the Quebec public prosecution service well before Fortin was removed. If the CFNIS ended their investigation into the 32-year-old incident months ago, did they never interview Fortin? Because his lawyer insists Fortin was unaware. That does not seem possible. Clearly Fortin’s lawyer has been “economical with the truth” when he said that his client was not aware of the nature of the complaint against him.

And of course Lt. General Wayne Eyre (now the top man in the Canadian Armed Forces) never dared to mention that Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan, and the Prime Minister took no action against Fortin when they found out in March.

Tuesday on The Current, Eyre never bothered to comment about the stepping down of four other military leaders: Chief of the Defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, his successor Admiral Art McDonald, Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson and the hasty retirement of Lt-Gen Chris Coates. All left under a cloud.
With that baggage, what does Wayne Eyre mean when he says, “We need a commitment frame to rise to aspired values.”

What exactly are the military’s values?

Such gobbledygook hardly deserves any comment, but I can’t resist. What exactly are those values? Eyres notes “selfless service” and “integrity of process.” Whaaaat? He explains “there are aspects of our culture we have to retain.” Whatever that means. Eyre assures the listeners, “I’ll continue to “give back” to this institution which has been so good to me.” And that, after 37 years. he’s seen “the best of days and the worst of days.”
But no one was talking about Eyre’s personal reputation. His reputation is merely a distraction.

Will no one answer for the military? Will no one step forward and solve the problem? We could start with defunding the military.

See also: Judy Haiven: The war on women in Canada’s military

Judy Haiven is on the steering committee of Equity Watch, a Halifax-based organization which fights bullying, racism and discrimination in the workplace. You can reach her at equitywatchns@gmail.com

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