Military police don’t know –or won’t say– how many of the dozens of cases involving criminal sexual behaviour referred to civilian counterparts over the past year have resulted in charges.
That has sparked criticism from some experts, who say such information is critical to knowing whether sending such cases to civilian authorities is having the intended effect.
Defence Minister Anita Anand first directed military police and prosecutors to start handing cases to civilian authorities in November 2021, following a recommendation to that effect from retired Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour.
Arbour made the recommendation while conducting a yearlong review into the Canadian Armed Forces’ handling of sexual misconduct allegations. She said the move was necessary to address widespread mistrust and doubt in the military justice system.
During an update earlier this month, military police revealed that they have transferred 57 cases of alleged sexual crimes to civilian police for investigation since Anand’s direction.
Yet military police spokesman Lt.-Cmdr. Jamie Bresolin did not directly answer when asked last week how many of those investigations have resulted in charges. He also didn’t respond when asked what military police are doing to track the cases.
“Many of these investigations are ongoing,” Bresolin told The Canadian Press in an emailed response.
“Further, while we work with our civilian police partners to collect information pertaining to ongoing investigations involving CAF persons, they have no obligation to provide information to the military police or the CAF on the status or outcome of their investigations.”
Bresolin also would not provide details on why civilian police had declined to take 40 other cases involving alleged sexual crimes, which ended up being investigated by military police.
“We will not provide a breakdown of the reasons why these cases were declined by the civilian police nor identify the police service,” he said. “There are many complexities when it comes to transferring files between one civilian police agency and another.”
Asked how many of those investigations led to charges, Bresolin said the military’s top police officer, Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau, “intends to provide a fulsome overview in his annual report which may provide this type of information as it becomes available.”
The lack of answers did not sit well with several experts, who argued such details are critical to understanding what is really happening with cases of alleged criminal sexual behaviour in the military _ and whether the recent changes are working or not.
“This is unacceptable,” said retired University of Ottawa professor Holly Johnson, principal investigator of Statistics Canada’s first national survey on violence against women. “If we can’t track cases and charges, we have no way of knowing whether this is a sound policy.”
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Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, who studies military sexual misconduct for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, felt the refusal to provide any information on why cases are being declined by civilian police was also a concern.
“Explaining why those cases are being declined can give the complainants, the department (and minister’s office), and the public a more fulsome picture of the problems the CAF is facing in terms of transfer of jurisdiction,” she said.
Retired lieutenant-colonel Rory Fowler, who is now a civilian lawyer specializing on military cases, said without any additional details, military police are ultimately just “tossing around numbers to which we can attach very little meaning.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 26, 2021.
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