House of Commons Hansard #94 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was misconduct.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Bloc

Louise Charbonneau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charlesfor his presentation.

First of all, I can say that the Bloc Quebecois will vote against this motion. It is not up to the House of Commons to manage the Prime Minister's Office. Assigning the blame for the inaction of the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister to an employee would create a dangerous precedent. Why try to assign the blame to an employee who is only following her boss' orders?

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very relevant question.

It is important to understand the situation. We know that the chief of staff was aware of the facts and that the Prime Minister says he was not aware of the facts. If the Prime Minister's chief of staff, who has an extremely important role in the Canadian government, did not tell her boss, she deserves to be severely reprimanded and, in our opinion, fired outright.

If the Prime Minister was aware, however, then the problem is altogether different. That is what we are waiting to hear from the Prime Minister.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Heather McPherson NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had a member of the military, a young woman, reach out to my office. She did not feel comfortable reaching out to either the Conservatives or the Liberals. She expressed concern that the systematic problems within the military were so deep that it would require such fundamental change.

One of the things I know my colleagues in the NDP have been calling for is to finally have the office of the Canadian Forces and national defence ombudsperson be made a fully independent officer of Parliament, with the ability to independently investigate matters such as this. Would the member agree that it is finally time to make that office fully independent?

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. Having served in the Canadian Armed Forces myself for 22 years, I have seen and experienced many different situations.

That is why the Conservative government of the day mandated Justice Marie Deschamps to investigate and issue a report. The report was clear, and one of the things it recommended was that mechanisms be put in place to enable victims to come forward with complaints. This is what the Liberal government has failed to do for the past six years.

I understand why that individual reached out to my colleague, but I can tell her that we, the Conservatives, have always protected victims and that we are still here today. That is why we gave Madame Deschamps that mandate at the time.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Green

Paul Manly Green Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Deschamps report is very clear. We need an independent body that investigates sexual misconduct in the army. I have heard from constituents who have dealt with sexual assault complaints that were not taken seriously by the military and were not taken seriously by the RCMP. It is clear that women are not getting the service they need when they bring these complaints forward and they are not being taken seriously.

I would support this motion if it were to ask that the Deschamps report and its recommendations be fully implemented. I wonder why that is not what this motion is about. Would the member support that?

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question.

We agree. The Conservatives commissioned the report by Justice Deschamps at the time, but there had been a change in government by the time the report was filed. If the Conservatives had remained in government, we obviously would have implemented the recommendations, which were valid. It is hard to understand why the Liberal government has done nothing with this.

We can also understand why all the victims in the Canadian Armed Forces are afraid to come forward when they see what is happening with the chief of the defence staff and the Prime Minister's Office.

That is why there needs to be change, and soon.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, systemic misogyny persists when silence gives cover to the sins of powerful men. I have heard a lot of sanctimony here today, so let us start with the facts. Every political party that has participated in debate today has members who have been silent and given cover for the sins of powerful men, so let us not kid ourselves about that.

We do not need another report to provide justice for women in the military. We need courage, and we need to stop the garbage that is happening here. I have been in this place for 10 years, and I have experienced systemic misogyny. I have had my rear end fondled, I have been called every name in the book and I have watched other women come behind me and have the same experiences. I have publicly called out my party when I have had instances come to light within my own tent, because I have had to, or my silence would have provided cover for the sins of powerful men.

We do not need another report. We need courage. Every single party here has had it happen in their own tent, including the NDP, the Liberals and the Green Party, which had an article in the Toronto Star. It is enough. I am so tired of listening to people finger-point. Are people really going to blame Stephen Harper? Not a single Liberal backbencher has stood up and said that maybe the defence minister did something wrong.

The only way things change is when people have the courage to speak up and demand change within their own tent. I have watched quarter be given for six years, under the watch of the government, to the most senior people in government. I have watched, at the same relative time as the allegations about General Vance came out, the Prime Minister have an unresolved groping allegation. Not a single Liberal has called this out within their own tent, not one, and if one wants to stand up today and talk about Prime Minister Harper to me, they had better start by addressing that, which has never been addressed.

I watched them unceremoniously can the member for Vancouver Granville and Jane Philpott for daring to speak truth to power. Not a single Liberal spoke up for these women speaking truth, not one, so if a Liberal wants to get up and talk about Prime Minister Harper, they had better speak up about that injustice first.

Then we have the member for Kitchener South—Hespeler, who the Liberals allowed to run for them knowing there were substantiated harassment allegations. Not a single Liberal spoke up about that, not one, so if somebody wants to get up and talk to me about Prime Minister Harper, they had better speak out about that. When a similar thing happened in my party, I trotted myself out into the House of Commons and said, “No. No more. This has to change,” so if somebody wants to ask me about Prime Minister Harper, they had better be asking about that.

I am just furious. Can members imagine being a member of the armed forces and watching this debate today? Of course we need to call out the people who are at the highest level of power, because they are the ones who give silence to the sins of powerful men. We should not kid ourselves that the Prime Minister's Office did not know about this. It is just ridiculous. Now there will be another report. What we need to be doing is saying no more silence in any political tent.

There should not be quarter anywhere. I am tired of having to do the heavy lifting, as a woman. It gets really tiring to have to explain to people that silence is complicity and that when we cover it up within our own tent, it tells the people in our tent that there will be no justice. That is what is happening with the defence minister right now. In question period after question period, it is Stephen Harper's fault. Members should look inwardly, and somebody should call it out. Somebody should say this cannot continue.

With every program we put in place we can put hundreds of millions of dollars and ask every Supreme Court justice in the world to do another report, but if silence gives quarter to the sins of powerful men, systemic misogyny persists. I have always put my money where my mouth is on this issue, and I have watched other women in this place do the same. I give kudos to Jane Philpott. She went to the wall for her colleague because she knew she was doing the right thing, but silence is rewarded around here. It is rewarded with promotion. Do members know what is not rewarded? It is courage. Do members know what is rewarded? It is covering up stuff like this.

Honestly, that is what is rewarded. That is what is wrong with government and that is what is wrong with power systems in this country. I cannot believe that we are having a debate when Liberal members have not once had the courage to publicly speak out in any form, even anonymously, by saying, “Hey, I have concerns about the competency of the defence minister” or, “Hey, what about the Prime Minister's chief of staff? Surely she must have known something.” Then people bring her gender into it. That is disgusting too. Come on.

Misogyny knows no gender. There are women who cover up the sins of men with their silence and we should not give them quarter just because of their gender either. Something happened here over the last six years. There is evidence upon evidence. We have someone offering to give a lie detector test. A woman in the Armed Forces watching this says, “Get your act together. I do not need another report, I need safety and I need the people who have covered this up to come to justice”.

I have a stepdaughter who is serving in the United States armed forces and she is incredible. She inspires me every day. She is watching this debate. She is watching one of her allied countries and literally watching members of Parliament talk about some other guy who was not here six years ago. He is not the prime minister any more, okay? He is not the prime minister. Somebody else is, and somebody else was in charge of this.

To keep deflecting this, to not have a way forward, to not hold people to account, to give quarter to this is everything that is wrong with this system and it is every reason why systemic misogyny exists. I am tired of having to stand up here and call people to account. It makes me angry, it makes me frustrated and it makes me sad as a Canadian. Honestly, somebody needs to be fired over this, and systems need to be put in place to make sure that nobody ever gets promoted within a cabinet or within a Prime Minister's Office again who knew about this, for now and forever going forward.

My party is not perfect. The NDP is not perfect. The Green Party is not and the Liberals are not either, but they are in power today and they have the power to change things. They are in power, and if they want to show Canadian women that they have any credibility at all on feminism, they have to deal with the fact that they are continually and perpetually silent on these issues, every single time. Any time there is any sort of sexual harassment or misconduct or whatever it is, there is silence and crickets across their backbench. That is wrong and that is what the report is going to tell us. Liberals do not need to pay somebody else to do that or another five years: They need change.

I dare somebody to ask me a question right now about Stephen Harper. Whoever does that had better stand and say what the defence minister did is wrong right now, and that they stand in solidarity with me across political lines, across partisanship and stand up for justice for the women in the Armed Forces and for every woman who suffers from systemic misogyny and systemic racism in this country. Enough is enough. If we stand here and keep bickering along partisan lines to keep protecting the people up our food chains, nothing will ever change.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Pickering—Uxbridge Ontario

Liberal

Jennifer O'Connell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the intervention on some level. I, too, am angry about misogyny and sexism although I find the member's comments incredibly hypocritical given her party's position on a woman's right to choose.

My question does not involve former prime minister Harper, it is about the member's leader now. She talks about people getting a promotion who knew. What about her own leader? He got a promotion to become leader and he knew about these rumours and allegations.

Why is it always women who have to shoulder the responsibility for the actions and accusations of men? The member is advocating for firing a woman for what she supposedly knew, or did not know, yet she is not calling for her own leader's resignation for what he knew.

Why is it always women shouldering the consequences for the actions of men and the perpetrators of this violence?

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, let the record show that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health holds the biggest parliamentary record for missing the point, missing the boat and lack of courage.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, order. The hon. member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her passionate speech. I completely agree with her that we do not need another report. We just need a bit of courage.

Imagine if the Liberal Party got rid of everyone who contributes to this tradition of misogyny and this culture of silence. I suspect that a lot of people would leave, but if they did that, then what?

What does my colleague propose as a solution for putting an end to this type of behaviour once and for all?

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, the answer is this: clean house, no quarter.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Calgary Nose Hill, not just for her passionate speech today, but for her standing up for women the whole time I have served with her in Parliament and also for standing up for my own community on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. I do agree that the member puts her money where her mouth is.

We may disagree on some details about the motion today, but my question for her is whether she would agree with me that reforms going forward have little chance of being taken seriously by either survivors or perpetrators if no one pays the price for the silence in 2018.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, he is right.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my friend from Calgary Nose Hill for her impassioned speech. She has been a true champion of fighting misogyny, fighting discrimination and fighting against this type of sexual violence. I want to thank her husband and her stepdaughter for their service in the United States armed services.

I know that she lives this and understands all too well what needs to be done going forward. I also know that, for whatever reason, people are trying to make an excuse for Katie Telford, who may be very complicit in this cover-up for the past three years.

I would ask my colleague and friend if she could talk about what steps need to be taken now so that women and men can feel safe in the Canadian Armed Forces from being harassed.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, I said it before and I will say it again: clean house, no quarter.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very emotional speech.

Earlier I was wondering: If this is what a self-styled feminist Prime Minister does, what would be happening if he were not a feminist?

There is one aspect of these allegations of sexual misconduct that I think is very important and is not mentioned much, but I think it makes General Vance's case even worse. He was in a position of authority when he allegedly perpetrated this sexual misconduct. This is a man with a great deal of authority, which unfortunately makes this situation even worse.

I have two questions for my colleague. First, is there anything pertinent that might come out of this second review?

Second, does she want the Minister of National Defence to resign?

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, nothing will change as long as the men who have perpetrated this type of abuse and the people who have stood idly by and watched it, knowing full well what was happening, are allowed to have continued employment. The government needs to clean house across every place where this has happened, everybody who knew about it, and there needs to be no quarter.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

May 4th, 2021 / 4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member of Parliament for Peterborough—Kawartha.

I rise today to discuss an important issue for the women and men who serve our country, and indeed for all Canadians: how we can best ensure that members of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces are guaranteed a safe, respectful and harassment-free work environment.

All members of this House know that Canadians deserve nothing less, and our government will accept nothing less. Our government has always taken allegations of sexual misconduct extremely seriously. Whenever any allegations against anyone in the Canadian Armed Forces have been raised to him, regardless of rank or position, the Minister of National Defence has acted diligently and referred them to the relevant authorities.

When the Minister of National Defence was made aware of the allegations against the then chief of the defence staff in 2018, he acted immediately and they were referred to the Privy Council, which manages order in council appointments. This is the exact same process followed by the previous Conservative government, including the now Leader of the Opposition.

However, we know we need to do more and we need to create better systems. The minister and our entire government continue to take this issue extremely seriously. Though our work is nowhere near done, we have made progress. Our government established the sexual misconduct response centre, or SMRC, which offers members confidential support 24-7 anywhere in the world. I am happy to say that budget 2021 increases our investment in the SMRC.

Since the SMRC operates outside the military chain of command, reporting directly to the deputy minister, it allows affected persons to access support in a confidential manner. The SMRC offers many programs and services to help affected members. One of them is the response and support coordination program, which helps Canadian Armed Forces members navigate systems from the moment they make contact with the SMRC until they decide they no longer require support. At every step of the way, SMRC personnel accompany those affected by sexual violence, providing whatever support may be necessary.

Canadian Armed Forces members seeking information about the reporting process can contact the SMRC to explore their options while remaining anonymous. Civilian members of the defence team can also access support through the SMRC, as well as through the employee assistance program.

Though the SMRC is an important tool, we have not gotten this right yet and our work is far from over. That is why Canada’s defence team is in the midst of a top-to-bottom change of its institutional culture. This is the right thing to do. It is not just a moral imperative; it is also vital to the success of the Canadian Armed Forces now and into the future. Only when members have complete trust in one another can they perform at the highest levels as a team.

Our goal is to create a defence team where all members feel valued, included and supported by their peers and leaders, an organization where sexual misconduct is never ignored, minimized or excused. To achieve this transformation, we must make sure that members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence who have been affected by sexual misconduct are supported every step of the way.

Last week, we announced some steps to get us there. First of all, the Government of Canada has initiated an independent external comprehensive review led by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour. This review will look into harassment and sexual misconduct in DND and the Canadian Armed Forces and will examine policies, procedures, programs, practices and culture within national defence and make recommendations for improvement. We will learn from what did not work and build on what did.

Second, the Department of National Defence will work with Veterans Affairs Canada to develop a professionally co-facilitated peer support program to assist Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans who have suffered harm as a result of experiencing sexual misconduct in connection with their military service. This peer support program will be available online and in person and is fully resourced through funding included in budget 2021. Budget 2021 also includes funding to enhance other support services, including access to free, independent legal advice, and will help enable Canadian Armed Forces members to access support without making a formal complaint.

Third, we announced that Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan will begin a new role as the chief of professional conduct and culture, which will unify, integrate and coordinate all policies, programs and activities that currently address systemic misconduct across culture change.

In addition to these steps, our government is following through on its commitment to consult with victims of service offences, which will inform the development of the regulations needed to implement the declaration of victims rights from Bill C-77. National Defence has engaged directly with victims groups and will soon be launching an online questionnaire to collect anonymous feedback from DND employees and Canadian Armed Forces members. To the victims groups that have generously devoted their time and energy to sharing lived experiences and feedback with the government, I want to say this: We have heard everyone; we are taking action and there is much more to come.

Today, I want to highlight some of the resources available to Canadian Armed Forces members to access counselling, advice and other support services. The resources include Canadian Armed Forces medical centres, military chaplains, the Canadian Forces member assistance program, military family resource centres, and the family information line.

Another avenue for members to bring forward concerns or incidents is through one of the 16 complaint management centres, located across the country, under the integrated conflict and complaint management program. This service combines harassment, grievance and alternate dispute resolution approaches in a streamlined fashion. They report, track and resolve complaints of inappropriate behaviour like sexual harassment.

If the nature of the sexual misconduct requires the involvement of the military police and justice system, there are supports for Canadian Armed Forces members during this process as well. The military police have established six sexual offence response teams trained to handle sexual misconduct cases appropriately and with empathy. These teams are sensitive to survivors and help them connect with other resources and support systems they may need.

In addition, the director of military prosecutions has established the sexual misconduct action response team, made up of specially trained prosecutors. Their role, again, is to make sure survivors are treated with compassion and understanding, and that they receive the information and support they need throughout military justice proceedings.

We know that supporting survivors of sexual misconduct is essential, and that is why the military has taken steps to ensure that support is available and provided from the moment a person seeks advice or counsel through investigation and prosecution. Along with future changes, these steps will help build a healthy, safe and inclusive workplace where all people are supported and treated with respect.

We know that there is much more work to be done, and our government will continue consulting with experts and those who have been affected by sexual misconduct.

I know that together we will create a defence workplace where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. We will build the right systems so that when an incident occurs, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence have access to a process that is sensitive, fair and compassionate. We are listening—

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We will need to leave it there. The time for the member's speech has expired, and we will now go to questions and comments.

We will first go to the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how the member can say what she just said. I have laid case after case on the desk, right here in this chamber, of the defence minister so he can follow up on acts of sexual misconduct, sexual assault and brutal rape.

Do members know what happens? The woman gets farmed off to another residence. She is off her course. The perpetrator even admits on tape to the police that he did it, and what happens? He continues on as though nothing happened, and she is sent off to another province. What does the padre say to her? He says that she is in the military now and is owned by the military, and if she knows what is good for her she will forget about it and carry on.

How can the member say that everything is being done and is on the way to being corrected when that type of situation is still happening in our Canadian Armed Forces?

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the hon. colleague that our government has absolutely no tolerance for misconduct. We need to get the politics out of this and focus on how we can change the culture in the armed forces to ensure that [Technical difficulty—editor] place so that when someone wishes to move forward with a complaint, they have confidence that their complaint will be taken seriously.

At the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, we have heard powerful testimony from people who have experienced the toxic culture first-hand. We have also heard many excellent suggestions on how to take on that culture and how to build independent and external reporting systems. I hope the recommendations that our committee will make to the government will form part of the government's comprehensive response to the issue and contribute to positive change and improvement.

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the real issues here is that a culture change typically involves somebody at the top taking some responsibility for what is not going right. In this case, we have already had a number of studies, including one recently, just six years ago, about how to make changes to change the culture in the military to punish instances of sexual abuse rather than allow people to get promoted. The government's response has been for nobody to take responsibility and to have a study of the last study.

How does anybody who is concerned about seeing this culture change take any real solace or comfort, or have confidence, in the proposal of the government in the face of further reports of failure, in this case at the highest levels, both of government and the military?

Opposition Motion—Allegations of Sexual Misconduct in the MilitaryBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Salma Zahid Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that the measures we have taken since we came into government have not gone far enough. That is why we announced last week that Madam Arbour will conduct an independent review of the Canadian Armed Forces, which will include the creation of an external reporting system that is independent from the chain of command and meets the needs of those impacted by sexual misconduct and violence. We owe it to our members and to Canadians to get this right.