CALGARY—This year’s International Women’s Day was marked by the biggest interview of the decade: Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, later joined by Prince Harry, spilled some scalding hot royal tea. What this interview revealed, besides that the Firm is racist, is the culture of silence, resulting in a lack of support that drove the couple stateside.
Silence is violence.
And it was this silence that the Trudeau government seemed to have employed concerning the investigation of the sexual misconduct allegations against General Jonathan Vance, or was it his replacement, Admiral Art McDonald? No, it must’ve been Vance’s successor as commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan, General Daniel Ménard.
Canada’s military command is looking like the fatigue section of Peter Nygard’s clothing empire.
Last week, another bombshell dropped during the House National Defence Committee’s investigation into what the Liberals did and did not know about the allegations against Vance: former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne claimed to have told Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan about the Vance allegations three years prior. The Liberal government of feminists—sorry, intersectional feminists—seemed to have again protected abusers.
Happy International Women’s Day.
In their paper, Gender Harassment: Broadening Our Understanding of Sex-Based Harassment at Work, Emily Leskinen, Lilia Cortina, and Dana Kabat define sexual harassment. The banner of sexual harassment (or sex-based harassment, an updated term that emphasizes sex, rather than sexual desire) has three categories: gender harassment (no, sex and gender aren’t the same), unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion. Vance has been accused of all three, with Major Kellie Brennan’s Global News interview demonstrating how sexual coercion was used to ensure control and the continuation of the exploitation: “When you’re in that situation, you can’t get out. It’s your boss.” Sexual harassment is abusive, and abusers in the military are allowed to proliferate and roam free like uncaged predatory animals.
Brennan’s heartbreaking interview revealed that her commanding officer, upon knowing of her relationship with Vance, also tried to coerce sex from her. The Canadian military is a waste dump of toxic masculinity that goes unnoticed—and even when noticed and complained about, goes unpunished. It’s a demoralizing cycle of toxic male power that goes unchallenged. For people suffering from this harm (as the Lincoln Project affair shows, victims can also be men) there is no recourse, no relief, and Sajjan, in his refusal to hear the complaint, confirmed his silence.
In 2015, former Supreme Court of Canada justice, Marie Deschamps, issued a report on the Canadian military: “One of the key findings of the External Review Authority (the ERA) is that there is an underlying sexualized culture in the CAF that is hostile to women and LGTBQ members, and conducive to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault. Cultural change is therefore key. It is not enough to simply revise policies or to repeat the mantra of ‘zero tolerance.’” This launched Operation Honour, a response to the misogynistic culture of the military. Too bad it was launched by the aforementioned Vance. Imagine launching a complaint of sexual harassment against your commanding officer to another sexual harasser who is supposed to punish sexual harassment. Please stop with the misogynistic merry-go-round.
Anyone who perpetuates the culture of silence that allows abusers to go unpunished should be fired or removed from their post, including the minister of defence. In a post-MeToo world, this response from the head of any organization is unconscionable. This government continues to use women to build their brand, says all the right things, but when their position demands leadership on acting on behalf of victims of abuse, they’re silent. The truth is, the question as to whether or not they believe women needs to be amended to: “what are they going to do about it?” And the answer for this government is, “nothing.”
Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.