Evidence of meeting #142 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was military.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Paula MacDonald  As an Individual

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

How do you think the duty to report all incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour will affect the reporting rate? Do you think it will help the situation?

9:30 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

I think you're getting into where they have mandatory reporting and forced reporting in the Canadian Armed Forces. Although that process is well intended, because it's intended to try to stop the abuse, it does put a lot of pressure on the victim who experienced the abuse.

I don't want anyone to experience hardship like this in their lives, so I'm not sure it's the best way to go to have mandatory reporting. What types of supports are there for the victim? How will you protect the victim's mental health throughout the procedures? Those factors that would be there to support the victim aren't there. I think we need to create a victim-centred way of dealing with the sexual harassment and the sexual abuse.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

Yes.

What is the best advice that you could give us now that we could include in our report so that the government can act on this issue?

What's the top priority for you?

9:30 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

Change the management structure in terms of how investigating...or move the administrative authority from the chain of command to the sexual response centre, as the Marie Deschamps report recommends. Follow through with the recommendations in the Marie Deschamps report.

The next recommendation would be ensure that you have a victim-centred approach in terms of having the appropriate mental health care supports and resources so that the victim can pick up their lives and keep moving. Concentrate on supporting the victims and have some sort of program to deprogram the individuals who are behaving in hostile, sexualized ways in their day-to-day lives.

9:35 a.m.

Liberal

Eva Nassif Liberal Vimy, QC

I have another quick question for you.

The fact that more women...

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

No. Eva, you're done now.

I'm now going to move over to Rachael Harder.

Rachel, you have five minutes.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

I understand that you're using the language that is outlined in the report when you use the term “hostile sexualized culture”. You've described a few instances that you observed or experienced personally.

If you're comfortable with it, I wonder if you can help give us a fuller understanding of what that looks like within the context of the Canadian Armed Forces, either giving specific examples that you experienced or that you observed other women experience within the Canadian Armed Forces.

Again, I understand that I'm asking for you to do something that could potentially be quite tender. I'm certainly not wanting to make you uncomfortable.

9:35 a.m.

As an Individual

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

If you would be okay with it, it would help us gain a better understanding of what's going on.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

I'm going to get involved for a second.

Would you like to go in camera for this portion, meaning that it would be private, or would you like this to stay in public on the record?

It's up to you how you would like to proceed. We can go in private for you so that you can share all your information, or we can stay public. How would you like to do it?

9:35 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

We'll just stay public.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Okay. Fantastic.

9:35 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

While I was trying to advocate for people in the Canadian Armed Forces who were experiencing sexual harassment, there were two newspaper articles done by the CBC. In the articles, they went through the baselines of how the hostile sexualized culture starts.

It starts with sexualizing basically every aspect of your day-to-day life, such as where they're giving a sexualized name to different types of equipment.

An example would be....

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

It's okay.

9:35 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

They would refer to a gun as a dick, or they would call an unformed beret a loose cow vagina. They are using gross ways of explaining their day-to-day life.

In their presentation at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School, whenever they had a letter received from a family member, the course instructor would ask the student who was getting up, “Is she hot?”

We had a guest speaker who came in from Ottawa, a high-ranking NCM, who said that his daughter was hot and that his wife was hot. He was sexually objectifying the members of his family.

A warrant officer told me that all the men in the unit were going to want to have sex with me, and for me not to do it in the corridor. Whenever I complained about it, the higher leadership at the colonel level told me that the warrant officer was advising me on good order and discipline, as though he was counselling me on how to behave appropriately. I'm saying, well, this warrant officer is sexually objectifying me and that's not appropriate.

There are other types of incidents. At the reserves in Saint John, New Brunswick, there was an incident where they were training me to do different types of medical procedures. A higher-ranking member of the unit was describing it in terms of giving manual stimulation of a penis. This is completely inappropriate. This is teenage-boy-gone-wild behaviour, and it would escalate. The behaviours would escalate in the reserves to the point where they smelled my hair. It was escalating—coming into your space and behaving inappropriately.

There were other incidents where these reservists were talking about their sexual lives and what they wanted, or their sexual fantasies, and then they were touching women who were in the group with them. It's inappropriate. There's a sexual intent behind it, because you're talking about it and then you're going and doing it, or you're touching someone in a sexual way. The leadership wouldn't act, so that was an issue.

There are issues in how they design the training at the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School, where they did not use appropriate health and safety techniques. They had the women and the men sleeping in open quarters together, where they would have a sheet separating the women from the men, so you were going to be able to see people changing. You were going to be able to see people doing different types of things.

They had it where you'd go into open showers. There were incidents where female recruits would report being sexually assaulted and the chain of command would not respond appropriately. There were incidents where women got drummed out because of that.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Thank you very much, Paula. We're going to move over to Bob Bratina.

Bob, you have five minutes.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Thanks for your very honest openness about what you experienced. It will be helpful for us.

How many women were your colleagues at the time? Were you by yourself or were there other women?

9:40 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

When I joined the reserves, I'd say that 10% were women, or maybe higher, maybe 15%. A 17-year-old girl joined at the same time, and she dropped out of the military after experiencing the harassment.

When I went through for direct entry officer into the basic training, I would say that there were about 15 women who were there with me. It was the same ratio. It's basically statistically accurate with what everyone is saying is the ratio of men to women.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

I'm wondering, did you get any peer support from either male or female colleagues?

9:40 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

No. My female colleagues said to me that they would never say that there was sexual harassment going on. They wouldn't do it because they didn't want the negative harassment to happen to them.

Because I went forward, I did not receive support. No, nobody supported me. I was like not.... No.

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

As a young woman growing up, what aspirations did you have for your career and what led you to the military?

9:40 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

I always had aspirations of participating in public service. I wanted to do social work, and my master's degree is in international social work, so I thought the Canadian Armed Forces would be a good fit. I had always thought that the Canadian Armed Forces would be a place where I wanted to go, and it didn't work out.

May 9th, 2019 / 9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Right.

Let me ask you this. This is a tough one, because you've experienced things that are unpleasant and unnecessary. The military is training people for a workplace that could be a battlefield such as Afghanistan or the former Yugoslavia.

9:40 a.m.

As an Individual

9:40 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

How would you differentiate the toughness aspect of bringing people along and finding out what they can take, versus the direct personal things?