Military police don’t know – or won’t say – how many of the dozens of criminal sexual behavior cases referred to civilian counterparts over the past year have resulted in charges.
This has drawn criticism from some experts, who say such information is key to knowing whether referring such cases to civil authorities has the desired effect.
Defense Minister Anita Anand first ordered military police and prosecutors to start handing cases over to civilian authorities in November 2021, following a recommendation to that effect from the retired judge of the Supreme Court Louise Arbour.
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Arbor made the recommendation during a year-long review of the Canadian Armed Forces’ handling of allegations of sexual misconduct. She said the move was necessary to dispel widespread mistrust and doubt about the military justice system.
In an update earlier this month, the military police revealed that they had transferred 57 cases of alleged sex crimes to civilian police for investigation from Anand’s leadership.
Yet military police spokesman Lt.-Cmdr. Jamie Bresolin did not respond directly when asked last week how many of those investigations had resulted in charges. He also did not respond when asked what the military police were doing to track cases.
“Many of these investigations are ongoing,” Bresolin told The Canadian Press in an email response.
“Further, while we work with our civilian police partners to gather information relating to ongoing investigations involving CAF members, they have no obligation to provide any information to the military police or CAF on the status or outcome of their investigations.
Bresolin also did not provide details on why civilian police refused to take on another 40 cases involving alleged sex crimes, which ended up being investigated by military police.
“We will not provide a breakdown of why these cases were denied by civilian police or identify the police department,” he said. “There are many complexities when it comes to transferring files from one civilian police service to another.
Asked how many of these investigations have resulted in charges, Bresolin said the Army’s top police officer, Brig. Simon Trudeau, “intends to provide a comprehensive overview in his annual report which may provide this type of information as it becomes available.”
The lack of answers didn’t sit well with several experts, who argued such details are key to understanding what’s really going on with cases of alleged criminal sexual behavior in the military _ and whether recent changes are working or not. .
“This is unacceptable,” said Holly Johnson, a retired University of Ottawa professor, principal researcher 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 if this is good policy.”
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Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, who studies military sexual misconduct for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the refusal to provide information on why cases are denied by civilian police was also a concern.
“Explaining why these cases are being denied can give complainants, the department (and the minister’s office), and the public a more complete picture of the issues the CAF faces in terms of jurisdictional transfer,” she said.
Retired Lt. Col. Rory Fowler, who is now a civilian lawyer specializing in military affairs, said without further details that the military police were ultimately just “throwing numbers that we can only attach very strongly to. little sense”.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 26, 2021.
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