Postmedia News, November 1, 2010
Number of sexual assaults is unacceptable, expert says
Williams was recently convicted of the sadistic murders of two women and the sexual assaults of two others
By Amy Minsky
Canada's military police received 163 reports of sexual assault and 505 reports of assault in 2009 -- numbers one military expert says are unacceptable.
Capt. Nichola Goddard, Canada's first female soldier to die in combat, had complained about harassment. (Photo: The Maple Leaf)
The figures, reported in the recently released Canadian Forces Provost Marshal 2009 report, show reports of sexual assaults have decreased slightly, from 166 in 2008, but the numbers are still very troubling, said Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel now practising military law.
"It's the elephant in the room," he said. "When you look at what we know now ... this is supposed to be a professional force. Men and women serve alongside each other. But you look at the context, and you look at those numbers, it's telling us it's not safe."
Two examples -- that of former air force officer Russell Williams, now convicted of not only assaults but murders, and that of Capt. Nichola Goddard, Canada's first female soldier to die in combat, who had complained about harassment -- illustrate the point, he said.
Williams was recently convicted of the sadistic murders of two women and the sexual assaults of two others.
Goddard, while serving in Afghanistan before her 2006 death, told her husband she was a victim of sexual harassment and that she was not the only one. One of her letters home told of one week in which, she said, there were six rapes at her camp.
The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal report is not necessarily an accurate representation of crime in the Canadian military, said a spokeswoman for the branch, which acts as the investigative arm of the military police.
"It's any case brought to the military police," said Maj. Paule Poulin. "So it could involve members, ex-members or civilians."
Poulin said all members of the Canadian Forces are held to a high standard of conduct, stressing that the vast majority of the 60,000 members maintain these standards.
But that isn't enough, Drapeau said.
"We're supposed to be dealing with a very professional force, a very disciplined force and a force that is deployed in combat missions," he said.
"We're depending on this force to be at the top of its game, and you would expect an absence of crime, or pretty close to it."
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