OTTAWA | The Armed Forces are struggling to transfer investigations of sexual assaults and offenses to civilian authorities, as recommended by former judge Louise Arbor, because some police departments are not ready to take them on.
The Military Police attempted to refer 62 new or ongoing files, but only half, or 31 of them, were accepted by federal, provincial and municipal police services, said Brigadier General Simon Trudeau, Provost Marshal forces.
In a report released Monday, former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor recommended that Criminal Code sex charges against military personnel fall “within the exclusive jurisdiction of civilian authorities.”
“The treatment of sexual offenses by military tribunals over the past 20 years has done very little to improve efficiency, discipline and morale. On the contrary, it has helped to erode it,” Ms Arbor said.
“Therefore, I see no reason for the Canadian Armed Forces to retain jurisdiction over sexual offenses and that jurisdiction should be vested exclusively in civilian authorities,” she concluded.
Police not ready
Defense Minister Anita Anand immediately accepted this recommendation and indicated that the process was already underway in accordance with the judge's preliminary recommendations dating from November. But implementing this key demand of the Arbor Report will clearly require more than goodwill on both the military and civilian sides.
"The transfer and referral of files raises a wide range of complex issues," said Brigadier General Trudeau. Some agencies were unwilling to accept investigations for reasons that reflect the diversity of law enforcement contexts in Canada.”
Civilian police services, however, already handle cases of murder or other criminal investigations within the Forces without problems.
Four soldiers a day are victims of sexual assault in their workplace, or 900 members of the regular forces and 600 of the reserves, according to data published in 2018 by Statistics Canada.