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

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

You have 30 seconds.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Okay, it will come back around, and I'll ask some other questions.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Irene, I'll pass the floor to you for seven minutes.

May 9th, 2019 / 9:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Thank you, Paula.

This is very disturbing. What you are telling us goes beyond anything that any of us, I think, could ever imagine.

I wonder about your experience. You said there was a sign or placard that said, “If you can't take our harassment, you are a weak woman.”

9:05 a.m.

As an Individual

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Was that common?

9:05 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

It was strategically placed. They had it placed on the back of a section senior's clipboard. The senior would hold the clipboard up, and it would then be presented to all of the other individuals who were subordinate. It was like, “I have a clipboard. I'm the section senior, and I hold this up”, and then you see this sign that's telling you, “If you can't take our harassment, you're a weak woman.”

They also had slurs. They had things regarding the LBGTQ community on the poster, anti-LBGTQ. I have a copy of it. I can send you that if you want it. I took a picture of it, and I can send it to you if you'd like to see it for yourself.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you. I think the more evidence we have, the better prepared we are to write a report.

It sounds like a hazing.

9:10 a.m.

As an Individual

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Was there a feeling that the military or those who had power over you didn't want women and didn't want LBGTQ individuals? Was it that they simply wanted them gone and would do whatever it took to get rid of them?

9:10 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

For me, it was a feeling that they wanted to sexually exploit me, so I had to deal with a lot of sexual harassment and a lot of things along those lines.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

In terms of victim support, the Auditor General wrote a report about the situation in the military, and he was very critical. He said that the Canadian Armed Forces should make victim support a top priority. I take it that you didn't have any sense of there being support.

9:10 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

When I was in basic training, I called the Canadian Armed Forces sexual response centre to ask them to help me. All they did at that time was the same thing that the ombudsman would do, which was to direct me back to the mechanisms within the Canadian Armed Forces that would deal with the abuse, so they directed me back to the individuals who were sexually harassing me to resolve the issues. There is no way you can resolve the issues with someone who is trying to do that to you.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

You were on a treadmill. You kept going around and around.

9:10 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

It was a circle. You're always being sent back to the person who is trying to...to incidents where you're dealing with exploitation and harassment.

It's still that way. I've asked them, and I've been following along with the changes to see how it's been evolving. The sexual response centre still refers the information to the chain of command. The individuals who were involved in direct positions that created incidents that I think are considered human rights violations.... They did a cabinet shuffle and moved them into positions that were to deal with Operation Honour.

In my case, I believe retaliatory measures were taken and they didn't follow internal policies and procedures in terms of paying me. That would have been done through the colonel in the personnel selection office. Four and a half years ago, he moved into the coordinator of human rights position. He's still responding to my harassment allegations, and he's still responding to the work he did in his previous management portfolio.

It's still an endless loop whereby you're dealing with the individuals who behaved inappropriately and used Canadian resources for their own pleasure in terms of how they were behaving. What else is sexual harassment? You're still dealing with that. People who didn't do their jobs the first time around are being sent in to do this job again, and it's not working.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you.

You talked about the personal attack, and you said that when they couldn't deal with you, you were declared medically unfit.

9:10 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

This was the first time. I was an eternal optimist. I figured that if the Marie Deschamps report says it is a hostile sexualized culture, surely they're going to do something and follow through on what's being said, and they're going to stop this from happening, because this is Canada.

Then, when I was in basic training, they hired a female sergeant to yell and scream at the women. That happened to me, so I said to my chain of command, you can't hire a female sergeant to scream and yell at all the women and make the women's lives miserable, because that's gender-based harassment. You are targeting women by doing this.

Then she physically postured while I was eating dinner as if she was going to hit me, so I couldn't stay there because violence was escalating. I was also experiencing sexual harassment from the warrant officers; they were being really sexually inappropriate, sexually objectifying me. She was going to send me to them for discipline. I can't go there. I didn't sign up for the military to be sexually exploited. I signed up to serve my country as a social work officer. I couldn't stay there.

I had to move for my own protection.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

That's excellent. Thank you very much.

We're now going to move to Rachel Bendayan for the final seven minutes.

Rachel, you have the floor.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Thank you very much, Ms. MacDonald.

On behalf of everybody here, thank you very much for your service, for joining the military in the first place and for spending the morning with us to help us study this important issue.

I was a litigation lawyer before I was elected, and I am particularly interested in the quasi-judicial experience you had. If it's okay with you, I would ask a few questions about that experience.

I think you mentioned that you began four and a half years ago.

9:15 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

I started the process four and a half years ago, and it's still going on.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Was that in mid-2014 or so?

9:15 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

It was mid-2015; sorry about that.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Okay.

You also mentioned there being several different processes that were started. Some were completed and then others began. Maybe you could just walk us through the procedure.

9:15 a.m.

As an Individual

Paula MacDonald

When I first experienced harassment or, let's say, the military trying to have me declared mentally incompetent for complaining about its hostile sexualized behaviour, I filed a human rights complaint and went through the internal military procedures. That would be like filing a grievance. You have to write these documents in the specific way that they want them written, and challenge what happened to you.

I did that, and I also filed two complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. One was based on gender discrimination. They were telling me that they wouldn't allow me to go through for testing to be a social work officer because they were saying that I wouldn't be able to pass it anyway. They were basically assuming that I'm dumb and can't do math, and I can.

Then I filed to try to protect myself, trying to encourage them to follow the law, assuming that there would be some sort of consequence for them if they retaliated against me. It didn't work.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

You mentioned previously that in order to file to be heard at the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, you have to exhaust the measures or the procedures available.