The Canadian Armed Forces are preparing for the launch of long-awaited consultations with thousands of former military personnel, serving members and defense officials who have experienced inappropriate sexual behavior while wearing uniform.
The Restorative Approaches consultation will see around 5,000 members of the military and defense officials share their experiences and offer their thoughts on how to avoid similar events in the future.
The process is a key part of the government’s $ 900 million settlement agreement in 2019 that resolved several overlapping class actions brought by victims of military sexual misconduct.
The Civilian-Managed Sexual Misconduct Intervention Center of the Ministry of Defense organizes the consultation in partnership with the military unit responsible for managing internal conflicts.
Denise Preston, chief executive of the center, said limited consultations were carried out in November on a trial basis to ensure that the appropriate support and services were in place before the process began to fully kick off in January. .
Restorative consultations will be different from what is called restorative justice, in which victims have the opportunity to confront those who have harmed them.
Rather, the consultations will see members of the military and defense officials share their experiences and offer their thoughts on how to avoid similar events in the future.
Participants will also have a number of ways to interact indirectly.
“There is enormous potential in this program for healing and also for transforming (military) culture,” said Preston, adding that she would like it to become a regular event and not a one-off response to collective actions by victims.
Those wishing to participate were asked to indicate their interest when submitting their request for inclusion in the settlement agreement. Of the 19,147 people who submitted complaints, 4,935 requested to participate in the remedial process consultations.
Window for complaints
As the window to submit a claim officially closed on November 24, attorney Jonathan Ptak, who has represented some of the claimants in the six overlapping class actions, said it was not too late to submit a request.
“While the filing deadline was November 24, the settlement administrator has the discretion to extend this deadline by 60 days (until January 23, 2022) due to exceptional circumstances or due to the disability of a applicant, ”he said in an email.
“To date, many late complaints have been accepted for review,” he said.
Regarding the objective of the consultation, Mr. Ptak said that it will “allow group members to share their experiences in a trauma-informed manner and will significantly contribute to the culture change within the Forces. Canadian Armies and the Department of National Defense ”.
Participants will be able to share their experiences or make statements in different ways, either directly with “cohorts” of military officials or indirectly through letters, video and audio recordings, Ms. Preston said.
“They could just choose to share maybe a piece of poetry or a piece of art or something that they think represents what they’ve been through and what the impacts have been,” she said.
This flexibility was identified as a top priority in previous consultations with the Sexual Misconduct Response Center, Ms. Preston said.
As for the cohorts, they will consist of groups of about eight people who will work together for three to six months. Ms. Preston said they will be trained in how to interact with people who have lived through trauma as well as the rules of confidentiality before meeting the participants.
“We are deliberately bringing together a range of defense representatives at all ranks and levels of the organization,” she said. This must be the case if the culture is to change. “