Former military members go to court alleging sexual assaults, misconduct

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against the Canadian military by former members and alleged victims over the ongoing sexual misconduct scandal, CBC News has learned.

A notice of action, involving three former members of the Forces, was registered yesterday in Ontario Superior Court, the same day Statistics Canada released a scathing report suggesting the Department of National Defence is struggling to get a handle on the number of abuse and assault cases in its ranks.

The plaintiffs have yet to file a statement of claim with specific allegations about their treatment while in uniform, but documents filed on Monday suggest the federal government failed “to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual assault and battery, sexual harassment and misfeasance” directed at the three women who’ve stepped forward.

The military is accused of “condoning sexual assault and battery,” as well as “intimidating the plaintiffs” and other members from reporting their cases. The suit further alleges there was retaliation against those who did reported assaults and a failure to adequately investigate claims.

No damage figure is contained in the notice of action, obtained by CBC News. 

The plaintiffs will be seeking compensation as well as a “systemic remedy” to ensure that sexual misconduct ends once and for all, said one of their lawyers, Andrew Raven.

The Ottawa law firm Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne and Yazbeck has been in contact with upwards of 45 people who it says have the potential of joining the suit — both male and female.

At the moment, the case involves former members of the military, but Raven said it could be expanded to those still serving, particularly in light of the Stats Canada report.

The latest case is separate from a proposed class-action lawsuit filed last week in Nova Scotia Supreme Court, which has yet to be certified.

Follows StatsCan findings

The Stats Can survey, commissioned by the military, found 960 full-time members reported being victims of sexual assault within the last year.

The results are significant because the alleged assaults — including unwanted sexual touching, sexual activity without consent and sexual violence — occurred amid the defence department’s high-profile Operation Honour, which was meant to stop such behaviour.

The majority of the complainants were women, who were more likely to identify their supervisor or some other superior as the perpetrator.

Roughly one-quarter, 27.3 per cent, of women who said they were assaulted in the last year also said they have been victims of sexual assault at least once in their military career.

At least 79 per cent of those surveyed also said they’ve witnessed inappropriate sexual and discriminatory behaviour in the workplace.

A support group for victims of sexual misconduct in the military, It’s Just 700, said the Stats Can survey results are incomplete because it wasn’t open to former members, nor serving personnel who are posted on training courses.

There has been no comment from the Liberal government about the class-action case.