Defence Minister Anita Anand apologized to victims of military sexual misconduct on behalf of the federal government Monday, saying Ottawa has long failed to protect those who willingly signed up to protect Canada.
“I apologize to the thousands of Canadians who were harmed because your government did not protect you, nor did we ensure that the right systems were in place to ensure justice and accountability,” she said during the apology, which was streamed online.
“For far too long, your government failed to dedicate enough time, money, personnel and effort to deal with sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination based on sex, gender identity and sexual orientation in the military and the department.”
Anand’s address was one of three delivered to those affected by military sexual misconduct, with defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre and Jody Thomas, the deputy minister at the Defence Department, also offering apologies on behalf of their respective institutions.
The apologies form a key part of the federal government’s $600-million settlement agreement in relation to several overlapping class-action lawsuits.
The federal Liberal government has faced criticism for not doing enough to address sexual misconduct in the ranks, including allegations against several senior military officers.
Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was important to make amends with those affected by such inappropriate, and at times illegal, behaviour. He said there is much more for the government to do to eradicate the problem.
Anand promised during the apology: “Things can change, they must change, and they will change. It is our most basic responsibility, our most important task, and my top and absolute priority.”
While the military has been criticized in the past for not doing enough to change its culture, Anand said she believed in the dedication of its current leaders to address the problem.
—Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press