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Dishonour, disgrace, and mixed-up priorities

April 2021

Let’s recap: Retired Chief of the Defence Staff John Vance is under investigation for sexual misconduct. His successor, Admiral Art McDonald is also under investigation for sexual misconduct.

Now Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, the Commander of Military Personnel Command, is the latest senior officer to be under investigation for sexual misconduct, dating back to the early 1990s.

Operation Honour was supposed to clamp down on this sort of misconduct, but it appears to have been an abysmal failure. Although it obviously comes much too late for the above mentioned three senior officers, and the many more whom have committed similar misconduct in the past, most of whom haven’t attracted the attention of the media.

However, when I was serving as a reservist in the Royal Canadian Navy in the 1990s, we had SHARP (Sexual Harassment and Racism Prevention) training. Obviously that didn’t work too well either.

The Canadian Forces recently decided that the navy should change the names of several junior ranks to gender neutral names, so as to make women feel more comfortable serving in the navy. For instance, my former rank of Leading Seaman is now known as Sailor 1st Class. This follows the example of the Royal Canadian Air Force, who changed the rank of Private to Aviator, rather than reverting to the pre-unification rank of Aircraftsman.

I’m no behavioural expert here, but what might make women feel more comfortable serving in the Canadian Forces is for men, especially male senior officers, to stop sexually harassing and assaulting women.

Just a thought.

Sources: Canada’s new defence chief Admiral Art McDonald steps aside amid investigation | CBC News, Senior military commander under investigation after being accused of sexually assaulting subordinate | CBC News, Vice-Admiral H.C. Edmundson, OMM, MSM, CD – CIMVHR Forum 2021.

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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